Did Someone Call Jimmie Johns?

I’m pretty sure the only person who’ll object to this post is my Jimmie Johns, not the “sangy” shop.

Jimmie is one of my best upholstery students ever! (He’s so good, I think he secretly takes classes somewhere else and then comes in as a mystery shopper to spy on me.)

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist posting his recently completed spinning, mod, moulded fiberglass chair project. Over the years, I’ve had many emails from MCM optimists who purchased one of these uber groovy chairs, only to become more perplexed and confused when they removed the old fabric. Well, here’ s a darn good step-by-step of how to tackle one of these behemoths.

When he brought in chair #1, as I recall, he had already stripped off the old fabric. What was left was this orangey, crumbly old foam coating on top of a fiberglass shell. We discussed our strategy right here at this point out in the parking lot of my studio.

If you can see right there where he’s got the scraper, there was an indentation in the fiberglass form that allowed for thicker foam in the lower back area. He cut and scraped all the foam away and ended up with a hard, fiberglass chair shell. I’m without a photo of the bare naked chair since he works so fast.

You can see that indentation with the thicker foam padding. After all the foam and debris were removed, he cut a piece of 1″ foam to fill the lower back area. Next, the simply placed 1@” foam pieces on the fiberglass shell and cut the foam to fit. Upholstery spray was used to adhere the new foam all around the chair.

Once he attached foam to the back of the chair shell, he began making the fabric covering. These photos make it seem like we got it right the first time, but no, no, no! It took three tries to get the fabric covering just right. The secret was to place each cut fabric piece wrong side up on the chair and pin fit it snugly, like a tight slipcover, leave a seam open so that covering could be lifted off the chair, sew the covering, turn it right side out and then carefully pull it down over the padded chair.

Here’s where people get very confused. Not all upholstery requires sewing. Some fabric coverings are just cut, wrapped and stapled over padding with fancy-pants folds, tucks and pleats so you can’t see any cut or raw fabric edges. This chair, and most modern chairs, especially Mid Century Modern, have thinner, sheath-like padding. They are not billowy and puffy like traditional styles. Instead of attaching one piece at a time, or “upholstering” piece by piece, a tight, sewn covering is made to be pulled down over the chair and attached underneath to the base. This chair has a wooden cut out seat base where the sewn cover is attached. By the way, we had to repair the wiggly wooden base right where the fiberglass mesh material wrapped around it. A 2 part epoxy worked just fine.

I have to be honest here. The following photographs were taken during the pinning and sewing of the 2nd chair covering. Oh,did I forget to tell you? He has two of these sweeties.

He placed each piece of fabric on the chair to get ready to pin fit it.

Next, he just placed the pins where the seam lines will be.

Next, he just stitched part of the two back seams and the big seam holding the border to the entire back piece.

He’s leaving the two back seams open part way down so that once the front of the covering is stitched, the entire cover will be able to fit down over the chair. The seams will be hand stitched closed when the covering is adjusted.

In its natural habitat.

This post was originally published in July, 2012.


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