Greetings! It has been some time since I have given you an update on the French Button Back Chair (FBBC). You may recall in the late summer when I found her, she looked like the photo below.
Really, she was in good shape but her upholstery was old, dated and dirty. However, she was an extremely well made chair. This chair is of a quality and type of furniture that you don’t see very often today.
So when we were living in the apartment, I set to work on removing the old upholstery, along with the 5,000 staples that kept it in place. I also recovered sections of the chair with new batting. Finally, I sanded and painted her legs using Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in the color Typewriter.
Then I was unable to find my pneumatic stapler, which attaches to a tank of compressed air. For simplicity, I refer to the pneumatic staple gun as the “kerchunker”. It was buried in a box in a dark corner in our storage unit. Without the kerchunker, I was dead in the water and unable to make any further progress on the chair. The kerchunker stayed buried in that unknown box until we moved into our new home.
I was one happy lady when I finally unpacked the kerchunker. Then I found and unpacked my heavy duty sewing machine.
Finally, I was back in business. This weekend, I was able to devote a fair amount of time to the chair.
First, I stitched together the antique hemp fabric (which by the way is close to 200 years old) so that I would have pieces wide enough to use as upholstery. It’s important to note that I used upholstery weight thread when stitching the fabric together. Then I pressed the seams flat so that there would be minimal bunching and bulk.
Then I decided to start upholstering the chair in sections. The seat was the first section, the left arm a second section, the right arm a third section and the “button back” of the chair the fourth section. Below you can see me fitting the fabric for the seat. You can also see the seam where two pieces of fabric were joined together.
There is really no way to keep an orderly work station when working on upholstery projects. It always looks like a bomb went off in the room where I am working. There is a sewing station, an ironing station, a cutting area, and finally an area with the compressor and kerchunker. There are usually scraps of fabric and thread all over the floor. There are scissors strewn about along with a variety of small tools. It’s always a mess.
Anyway, upholstering the seat and arms of the chair went relatively smoothly. I love how the hemp fabric looks on the chair. It has such beautiful appearance. It looks as if the fabric has been waiting for this particular chair for 200 years.
When I got to the “button back” portion of the chair, I knew it would be challenging. Getting that diamond tufting would definitely require some time and skill.
I used upholstery needles to get the buttons on the front and the thread to the back of the chair.
I put all the buttons in place before tightening them. The “tufting” occurs when the buttons are pulled tight through the back of the chair and then tied off. I just loosely tied the ends of the thread so it would not accidentally get pulled through to the front of the chair.
It’s probably good for you to know, in advance, that upholstery can be hard on your hands and fingers. In addition to occasionally poking your hand with the needle – you are pulling fabric taught. The combined efforts can make your fingers sore.
Anyway, I got to the point where I was going to start the tufting and I decided that I didn’t like the way the fabric panel looked on the button back section of the chair. Yup. No kidding. There was too much bunching at the base and the diamond tufting wasn’t coming out as I envisioned.
So, I decided to undo all the buttons, remove the fabric panel and start that button back section all over again.
Yup. It happens.
All of this is to say, progress was made on the chair but it is not yet complete. After redoing the button back, I still need to finish the panels for the back of the chair. Regardless, it’s fun to work on this project and I always love to see really good quality furniture be transformed and brought back to life.