Upcycling a Reading Chair

Patinaed wooden chair with gold patterned turquoise cushions.

Allow me to set the scene: Your belly is pleasantly full of diner eggs and toast. You’ve consumed just the right level of your morning drink of choice (I’m on team tea!) and have made a productive home depot run. While driving home, you remark to your partner/fiancé/friend/husband/wife/sibling/parent/child that you should take the long way so that you can enjoy a short hike before the weather warms up. Stopping at the thrift store just before the trailhead wasn’t really part of that plan, but the parking lot’s almost never so empty and you can’t help it. After wandering around for about five minutes, you find a solid wood chair with gross cushions on it. The price is right. There’s room in the boot (trunk). It would be perfect in the family room and you’re semi confident that you can make new cushions. Would you go for it? We did, went for our hike and then threw the cushions out as soon as we got home.

The chair in question has caused a lot of inspiration and discussion in our household. Do we sand and re-stain it? What about throwing on some chalk paint? How on earth does one sew a cushion? What kind of fabric should I use and how much do I need? Joann’s down the hill sells large amounts of foam… right?

We ended up purchasing 4 yards of denim fabric from Spoonflower and 2 yards of 5 inch foam from Joann’s. Then came the google searching, has anyone done this before? In case you’re curious, the answer is yes! There are a lot of tutorials out there, but when it comes to drafting a pattern for your custom cushion Online Fabric Store had the most straightforward tutorial. Another pro tip we discovered is that a bread knife will work just as good as one of those expensive electric cutters!

Both cushions were sewn up in an evening, the hardest part was the little bit of Frankensteining that I did in order to create the bottom cushion’s t-shape (both sides have a hand sewing piece in order to make the curve). Honestly, it would have looked smoother if I had used matching thread, but you can’t really see it anyway. This is one of the few projects I’ve sewn where the “fit” of the final object would make or break it. Sure, I’ve made dresses before, but you can sort of fix those after the fact.

I’m super proud of the way the two cushions came out, even if the only piece of the original chair that remains is the frame. To the original cushion’s credit, the plan had started out as keeping them and putting new covers on. Even with fabric and foam cost taken into account, we could not have gotten a better chair for our space within that price range. My partner has already fallen asleep in it twice, I think it’s safe to say that this one is not style of substance.

On that time I sewed a dog bed from pillows

The first moment where I felt like a homeowner was not putting the key in the front door. Nor was it having to call a plumber due to a leaking pipe. Painting didn’t do it, paying the mortgage didn’t do it. No, my first moment feeling like a homeowner comes from buying curtains and hanging a curtain rod.  More specifically, agonizing over choosing the correct curtains and hoping they matched everything else that I had decorated my living room with.

The same feeling emerged a few weekends ago when I purchased new pillows for my bed. This time, I laughed at the feeling because I’ve been purchasing pillows every few years for the last 10 years or so. This was not a new event, but man was I proud when I laid down on my new pillows and drifted off into a deep sleep.

There was nothing wrong with the pillows I had replaced — other than having gone a little flat for my side sleeping habits — which is probably what lead to the “I’m a homeowner” feeling. In other words, I don’t think it was purchasing the new pillows. I think it was the desire to repurpose the old ones.

Two pillows sewn together using mattress stitch.Enter my dog Loche. Due to various reasons, he found himself in need of a new bed (probably the number one reason is he’s spoiled and needs multiple beds around the house). Between the old pillows and the fleece fabric sale at Joann’s, it was destiny.

The first thing I did was spray the pillows with Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray (I don’t have fleas, just thought it was a good idea and I like the smell). Afterwards, I broke out my hand sewing skills to sew the two pillows together using mattress stitch. In my mind, this would allow the two pillows to stay connected as Loche situates himself on the bed. Knowing that Loche prefers to nuzzle between pillows, I sewed the indents facing inwards and the fluffier bits facing outwards.

A zipper being attached to fabric using a sewing machineThen I took my fabric (~2 yards of fleece) and folded it into a square. The first thing  I attached was the zipper, which I stuck on the shortest side so that I didn’t have to invest in a giant zipper. Then I sewed the other two edges closed and added the pillows. I ended up with just a little bit of extra fabric, which I put on top of the bed so that Loche could nuzzle into it.

The result? A cute little dog bed for <$20! Does he even use it? He kept trying to climb into it while I was “trying on” the pillow cover — and then he napped on it all afternoon. I think it’s safe to say this project was a success.

Loche on his new dog bed -- a navy bed with smores on it.