Monday, November 23, 2015

Upholstery Studio

Well I did that thing, that thing I said I never wanted to do, I opened a little shoppe. Or rather an Upholstery Studio. It is located in the back of a new local Antique and Art mall. I have a retail area and a workroom where I can do upholstery and create. It's kind of an unusual place for an Upholstery business to be but that's what I like about it.

When I first started thinking that I wanted to have a retail space to work and meet with clients the main objective was to get out of my house. I have been working from home for over 3 1/2 years and it's been great. It was a season of my life where I wanted to be alone with my work and just learn my craft. Then something changed.  I started to really miss working around other people. You know being able to have coffee breaks and a chat. Talking with customers. Experiencing those occasional random and wonderfully strange people walking in. I love to laugh and well you can't just laugh by yourself all the time, it's weird. I started to look at locations in my town and realized if I rent a location by myself I'll be working alone again just away from my house. At this point I don't have employees and I don't need a lot of space. I have a home studio so adding a huge expense of renting a retail location seemed silly just to get out of the house. After thinking it through I just kind of figured it wasn't going to work out. 

But the dream wouldn't die. I just kept thinking about it.

Then I walked into the store my new landlords own. I've been shopping there for years.(btw I bought Ben from them, if you know what that means you get a cookie)I was telling them about what I wanted to do, just to put it out there in the universe you know, and he said "hey I bought the building next-door and we were thinking of renting spaces and turning it into an antique mall. Maybe you could do something with some of the space." So we went over and took a look and I thought, this could work.

Here's why I think it works. I have the ability to go behind a closed door and work and still be available when someone wants to talk to me about upholstery. Either by appointment or walk in. I also don't have to worry about the walk in traffic that doesn't want to talk to me. Like if someone just wants to buy a pillow there is someone else running the mall that can help them. Another benefit is I'm able to rent just the space I need not a whole building. Being in a mall gives me more foot traffic then I would get just being a stand alone upholstery shop. That gives me an opportunity to sell smalls, which do add up and help pay the rent. Of course best of all is I'm not working alone all day. When I need some social time there will always be someone around to play with.  

Just to be real I realize that of course there are a few things that may not work out. Like if I get enough traffic that I cant get anything done. (or I cant stop chatting with people long enough to get anything done) Another thing is if you have a creative business you know it's a lot about branding, location and knowing your customer. If I'm in a mall I don't have control over the look and feel of the entire space. Right now that's not a problem the other vendors are great. There is art, gift items like cards and candles, lots of great small antiques. I literally have bought something every day. It's different then what I'm used to but since my main goal for this space is custom work I think it works.  Things may change down the road but even if you rent a whole building you never know if the owner could sell and you have to move or who could move in next door, right? So I'm not worried about it.

Right now I've got the showroom portion of my Studio complete. This is where I have pieces on display/for sale to showcase my work. I will be selling some vintage decorative items, pillows and special order upholstery fabric. I will also sell supplies like foam, batting, burlap by the yard, nail heads, etc. that people can purchase for there own DIY projects. My main focus for the studio is custom upholstery work but since I have the retail space as well it'll be fun to be able to sell different things. It will probably take me a while to figure out what sells but I will figure it out. 

My workroom is getting close to being finished. I'll be painting this week. It will be my place to do upholstery work and create. I plan to be there three or four days a week and work from home the other days. I will have to see how that plays out. I am kicking around the idea of teaching classes or possibly one on one time that people can pay by the hour for me to teach them. I'm not sure when or if that will pan out. We shall see.  

Shelton is a small town. I wanted to open my business where I live and be part of my community. With that said, I have amazing custom clients in the Tacoma WA area, and I still plan to work with them and also continue to sell my pieces at The Modern Cottage Company. I love the girls of MCC. Alison, the owner, Amanda (Ferpie and Fray) & Devon (Bride on a Bike). They have become a dear friends. You just don't find those kinds of kindred spirits that often in life. They support me, inspire me and make me dream big. Plus I love seeing my stuff it that store it's just gorgeous. 

It's funny how dreams start so small and you didn't even know you wanted it and then it grows until you can think of nothing else. I'm excited for this new chapter. I think it'll be great. If it doesn't work out I'll just keep going until I find what works for me.

The Studio is located inside The Off The Wall Gallery & Cota Street Emporium (new name) at 114 W Cota St, Shelton Wa. Hours currently are Thurs-Sat 11-5 but will change to include Tues & Wed soon. I am not working there until the work room is finished but am available by appointment. My showroom/retail space is open during mall hours. 

One last thing, I have to say thank you to everybody who's been so supportive of me from the beginning. My friends and family who were my first customers that let me practice on them. My former coworkers who bought those first little shelves I made, the people who let me sell my things in their stores. All the people who have bought my stuff or let me work on their own special pieces. Those who follow my blog, Facebook and Instagram. Thank you. Every nugget of kindness is like a little brick that help build my confidence and gave me the courage to keep going. So thank you!
- Michelle

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Monday, August 24, 2015

"Deconstructed" Chair Transformation

I absolutely love the look of deconstructed furniture. I love using burlap, little exposed tacks, webbing, all of it.  This piece was perfect for it because of the chunky exposed frame. 

It was at this point after I stripped all the fabric and old foam that the idea struck me. 

So I promptly ripped the caning off. I know I took off perfectly good caning but it looks so much cooler with upholstered arms. I chose to paint the frame because the stain had the tell tail seventies black speckling. I used General Finishes paint in the color driftwood. It's a gorgeous grey but its coming off purplish in my photos. Grey always does in my workshop. 

Another element of deconstructed furniture is exposed webbing and burlap.

The linen fabric is attached to the frame with tiny steel upholstery tacks. Tedious yes, but so worth it.

Same thing with the arms and upholstered seat.  

Such a difference I love this one so much. 

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Matching Patterns in Upholstery

I recently found a unique high wingback with a carved wood frame that screamed for something different. I lean towards neutrals because that's what I like in my home but I really wanted to step away from that. I loved the shade of blue in this bold HGTV Home fabric but knew doing the whole chair in it would be too busy for me. So I tried something I have been meaning to do for quite awhile. Inspired by a photograph from Traditional Home I decided to sew two different fabrics into a stripe pattern for the chair.  I have to laugh at myself sometimes because if I had just chosen one fabric I would have been able to do this project in half the time. My goal is to make money with my pieces after all. It seems I'm always trying to reinvent the wheel but trying new things is what keeps me going. 

The difficulty in this piece was elevated because there was a separate seat cushion. I not only had to match the stripe but also the pattern.  

I decide I wanted my stripe ten inches wide. I cut my patterned pieces at 11" and sewed them to the white fabric with 1/2" seams.  I sewed another stitch right next to the first stitch just for extra strength. 

I find the best place to start when matching a pattern is to sew the cushion first.

I started with the boxing. It needed to be four inches so I cut my piece at five inches for seam allowance by 11 inches making sure my pattern was centered. The back of the cushion does not need to match up because it has a zipper and wont be seen.

Next for the top and bottom pieces find where the pattern matches and don't forget to allow 1/2" for the seam allowance. I actually left a little extra on both front and back to give myself room for error. Once those pieces were cut I sewed my patterned fabric to bands of white fabric to form a square. Then I laid the old cushion fabric as a pattern on top matching up where the front needed to be, pinned it, then cut out the shape I needed for my cushion.

I used tons of staples (yep staples not pins) across the front to make sure everything stayed lined up when I sewed the pieces together. 

Once the cushion is done I do the bottom under the cushion. That you kind of just have to eyeball the pattern. It's more forgiving then the cushion. Only the front 6 inches or so has the pattered fabric the rest is just white. Next up the back. Tuck in the sides and bottom then place your cushion back on before you staple to make sure it all lines up.       

The frame is painted with driftwood milk paint and sanded back. The white fabric is a Hemp Canvas that I have used several times now. It has a heavy linen texture that I love but it's kind of like wearing white jeans. You can see every lump and bump.  Kind of maddening being the upholster but in the end it always looks good.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

DIY Sawhorse Console Table

I'm back. At least that part of me that wants to build things is. I thought I'd lost her for a minute. Truth is I have been so busy growing my business this past year that I kind of lost that thing that makes me, me.  Building things out of discarded other things and also wood.

Recently I decided to build myself a console table.  I have been looking for something for awhile but although I have seen a lot of cool pieces nothing was quite right. Plus I just wanted to build it. I have seen a lot of great DIY versions of this table it's not something new I came up with all on my own but I still love it. 

I started with this oak door I picked up at a salvage yard for $20.  It is solid wood with panels and I thought it would make an interesting top. To make it work for my table I cut off the top panel and a little of the bottom to make it symmetrical.

Then I went about creating the sawhorse legs.  My dimensions are unique to my table so I had to wing it to figure out the angles and lengths.  There is a great tutorial out there for a similar style standard table which I will link to at the bottom of this post for those of you that would like more info on how to build your own. 

I started with standard 2 x 4 lumber.  I decided to rip the curved edges off my 2 x 4's with a table saw so they would look less 2 x 4 ish.  This is not necessary but I like the look of the square edges better.  I took 1/4" off each side so now they are 3".

Then I figured out my angle for the legs was going to be 13 degrees.  This made the legs open up to 16" on the bottom which looked good to me.  They are attached to a 2 x 4 at the top. Then I cut the support for the bottom using the same angle on both sides.  Then the 2 x 2 stretcher that goes between the two supports.  I also added a little chunk of wood to the make it look like a peg was holding the stretchers.  Well maybe it kinda looks like that, I like it.

DIY Saw Horse Console Table

To attach everything I found it easiest to first glue and brad nail with my nail gun all the pieces together.  I let that dry overnight and then pre-drilled and used screws to attach everything together.  That is an extra step but it makes it easier to handle things and make sure everything is straight and square before screwing.  2 x 4's are not the straightest lumber. I filled all the nail and screw holes with wood filler.

DIY Sawhorse Console Table
I attached the legs to my top from underneath and then figured out the angles for the cross pieces.  That was by far the hardest part since I don't use math I use the eyeball and cut 10 times method.  I got it eventually. For the cross pieces I used 2 x 2's.

Next step was to stain with Minwax Puritan Pine. I plan to do a wash of off white milk paint over everything eventually because I have too much wood in my living room. It will also help blend the two different wood types. The grain in 2 x 4 lumber can be a bit random. This piece is supposed to go behind my sofa but I am enjoying it right now too much in my dining room so it may be awhile before I put it there. 

DIY Saw Horse Console Table

I really love this style of table. It is a easy DIY that can be done in a weekend.  I spent $20 on the door for the top and less than $20 on the rest of the lumber. The most important part about the whole thing was that is it was great to build something just for fun.  Here are some links that inspired me Here & Here and of course everything that is Pottery Barn. 

For plans for a similar table check this out Build a simple sawhorse table by Ana White.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Kitchen Makeover Reveal

Oh wow.  This kitchen remodel has been in the works for over three years.  It all started when I found enough granite at a garage sale to re-do my tiny kitchen counters for $20.  Crazy deal.  That got me started with the plan.  Notice there is no granite in the kitchen.  By the time I got to the point of changing the counters I had changed my mind.

The first thing I did was paint the cabinets a custom mixed medium gray color. Previously they were maple and had yellowed something fierce. For the paint I used Benjamin Moore's Advance Paint in satin finish.  It's made for cabinets and worth every penny of the $60 a gallon it costs.  The sales person recommend satin finish because it won't show as many imperfections and I'm glad I went with that. I did not skip any steps in the prep. I washed down the cabinet with tsp then lightly sanded with 220 grit. Then I used liquid sandpaper after that. Then I applied two coats of primer and two coats of paint. I purchased a sprayer for this job because I figured I would use it again on furniture projects. The sprayer I bought was an airless made by Homeright. The finish came out great and it was easy to use. 

Next I built a shallow pantry on the wall across from the stove.  To see the blog post on that click here.  

Then months went by.

Then back to the counters because we were going to be having guests over.  Since we were changing the counter top I decided to add a small cabinet to the side of the four drawer unit we already had.

I built the cabinet out of 3/4" birch plywood.  It doesn't hold much weight so I built it with only one side and attached it from inside the drawer cabinet.  I then made a face frame out of 1x2 clear pine. For the door I used one I had in my stash that was the right height. I cut it down then put it back together the width I needed.

This space is so much more functional with that extra six inches of counter and the cabinet is perfect for cookie sheets and the cheese grader.

Next I made a small change to my DIY cabinet and took the plate racks out.  I like it so much better without them and it holds more dishes. To see how I built the Cabinet click here.

Then came the sink. I love apron front farmhouse sinks. My sister asked me why I wanted this sink so bad. I was like cause it's pretty and I love it. Enough said. Well I will also say I know it was a total splurge that I did not need. I thrift, salvage and DIY a lot of the things I bring into our house and really don't buy new very often, by choice. I just wanted to treat myself to something pretty. Oh and I love the shiny new faucet too. It's Lindley by Moen from Home depot.

The new sink meant we needed a new sink cabinet. Our old one was way to twinkie to support the weight of the sink.  I built one out of 3/4" birch plywood.  The new face frame had to fit around the sink so I built that out of 1 x clear pine. I was able to reuse the old door but it needed to be shorter.  To accomplish that I cut the bottom off then glued a piece of thin trim on the bottom to mimic the paneled look. Once painted and it looks good as new.

Next up finally installing the counter top.  I mentioned earlier that I had found granite for $20. I had planned to have my husband and I cut it but three years later it still wasn't done.  So I checked with a local Granite shop and they wanted over $500 to cut it!!! See how small my kitchen is? I could have looked harder for someone to cut it but I had really fallen out of love with the idea of sparkly black granite once I painted the cabinets gray. It would have been to masculine looking for my taste.  The butcher block I chose really warms up the gray and blends better with the casual vibe I'm going for. My husband loves it so that makes it even better.  

The counter top is American Cherry from Lumber Liquidators. Is was quite a bit less expensive then having the granite cut and it is beautiful. I sealed it with Waterlox which is a penetrating oil based sealer. It does darken and warm up the color of the wood so keep that in mind if you use it. I am happy with the finish it seems like it will hold up well. 

I changed the drawer pulls too.  I like these chunky bin pulls, they keep it casual looking.  

Butcher Block really is a great option for the DIYer. I made all the straight cuts using a skill saw and a straight edge clamped to the surface. My husband cut the sink hole out for me with a router and a straight bit. That part is a little tricky so I had him do it. He is more meticulous and patient then I am with things.  That's kinda how we DIY. I do all the stuff I want to do then call him in to do the things I don't.  Seriously though he saves me all the time when I get frustrated. 

I am happy with how things came out.  I still need to do something about the island top.  It is a different wood and I either need to sand it and re-stain it a color that blends better with the other counter or paint it.  I was thinking of painting it the same as the base to look more like a piece of furniture. Maybe a fun color.... I will figure it out eventually.  

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Upholstery Tips & Tricks

I have been doing upholstery work for a few years now.  I started with a $5 chair for myself and have built it into a business.  People ask me all the time how I learned how to so this. I always say I learned by doing it. Tearing things apart will tell you how to put them back together. Take pictures.  Make notes.  I have learned so many techniques by looking at how the person before me did it.  I have also learned by reading everything I could find on the subject and watching tons of You Tube Videos.  They have been a huge help.  (Well not all of them some are better than others.)  Now that I've been doing this awhile I watch videos not to see the technique they are demonstrating but to hear the little tricks they throw out that they don't even think are important. I love it when people start rambling.  That's when the little nuggets of gold come out that you learn from doing. Tricks of the trade. People sharing information. It's a beautiful thing. Oh and last but not least I learned from the employees at the places I get my supplies.  I used to just ask for what I thought I needed but once I decided to use them as a resource I got some great info.   

I decided to write this post for those people out there like me that haven't had the luxury of formal classes but are learning as they go.  All the tips I am sharing here are small things but so helpful.  Little Nuggets.


Upholstery Sewing on a "regular" Machine

If you don't have an industrial sewing machine and are using a regular home sewing machine use the longest stitch possible.  For some reason I thought when I first started upholstering that a smaller stitch would be better.  After talking with an expert she recommended a longer stitch to avoid bunching and pulling of the fabric.  It makes a difference.  I have since upgraded to an industrial machine to read my post about my machine go here.

Removing Hot Glue from Fabric

Sometimes it happens.  You're attaching gimp or welting to finish off your masterpiece and a little spec of the dang hot glue drips on the fabric.  Or perhaps the trim slips and some hot glue gets where it has no business being.  Here's a tip to remove it. 

Lay a piece of clean cloth on top of your hot glue spot.  Warm the glue with your iron and the hot glue will transfer to the piece of cloth.  You may need to do it a few times to get it all off.  Make sure you use a clean location on the cloth if you move it so you don't transfer the hot glue to another spot on your piece.  Always test on a scrap piece of fabric before using an iron on your finished piece.  Results will vary depending on the fabric.

Smoothing out Lumps and Voids 

Once in a while, heaven forbid, there may be either lumps of batting or small voids where there should be batting in your finished piece.  I find it often happens where the arm meets the back especially on wing back chairs.  When this happens use an upholstery pin or large needle to gently move the batting to where you need it to be.

Different fabrics may show the hole from the needle so test in a hidden area before trying on your finished piece.  

Steaming out the Wrinkles 

I swear some fabrics are like a white pair of jeans, they show everything.  Some fabrics just lay better than others.  To help smooth out wrinkles or areas where the fabric may look a little stretched out use steam.   Your iron may have a steam option but if you do a lot of upholstery work you may want to invest in a portable steamer.  I purchased a Shark Steamer and I have been very happy with it.  Always test on a scrap piece of fabric before using steam on your finished piece.  Some fabrics could melt.   

Freshening up old Foam

Another great use for a steamer is to freshen up old foam.  I give my clients the option of reusing their old foam or replacing with new.  Most people choose to reuse what they have if it's in decent shape because foam is pricey.  A steamer can freshen up old foam and also sanitize it. 

Staples instead of Pins

I have shared this tip before but it is a good one and bears repeating.  When sewing cushion covers use staples instead of straight pins to hold your pieces together.  The best part is not getting poked with pins.  Just be careful not to staple on the line where you will be sewing.   When you are finished sewing simply remove the staples with a staple puller.  For more details check out my post about sewing better cushion covers.


Keep your Spray Adhesive from clogging

Spray adhesive nozzles get hopelessly clogged rather quickly.  Nothing is more annoying than spray adhesive shooting out the side and landing where you don't want it to be.  To help avoid this after you done using the spray adhesive simply swipe the nozzle across the foam.  This will clean the nozzle off. 

Cutting Foam with a Bread Knife and Silicone Spray

I used to use an electric bread knife to cut my foam but when I recently purchased a professional foam saw the salesperson recommended I use silicone spray to lubricate the blades and help it cut through the foam better. It made me think, maybe I should just buy a can of silicone instead of the spendy new tool and stick with my bread knife. I decided I cut foam enough to justify the expense. For those who rarely cut foam an electric bread knife does work.  What makes it work better is lots of silicone spray. I have heard about using an electric bread knife to cut foam many times but it never occurred to me to use silicone spray

I hope you found something helpful to make your upholstery life just a little easier.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Perfect Cabinet

Recently I purchased a fabulous cabinet from The Modern Cottage Company, the store where I sell my furniture pieces.  I've been looking for just the right piece for quite awhile now.  If you remember a few months back I even dragged that old green cabinet out of my potting shed and tried to make it work, it didn't.  


That is not my cabinet. It's one of my inspiration pieces.  I wanted something with a place to display and store pretties and also storage that is hidden for the non pretty stuff.  I also love the weathered finish and muted color of this piece.

Here's the cabinet I bought.  It's awesome, almost exactly what I wanted.  I just need to make a few tweaks and it will be perfect. The size is right.  The doors and sides are paneled and it has great trim on top.  I love the drawers and feet as well.  It's really well made and was built to come apart.  The top comes off then the side panels can be removed from the front and back panels. It had previously been used to hold clothes so I had to add some shelves.   To hold the shelves I screwed in 1 x 2 shelf supports.  To make it extra sturdy I attached the supports to the front and back as well as the sides so now it wont come apart until the screws are removed.  I used my a pocket jig to make the holes.

To make it just what I want I plan to cut out the top panels on the doors and replace them with glass.  I played around with my photo editing software (above) just for fun to see what that would look like. It will be perfect, I'm so excited.

I also plan to paint it once I decide on a color.  Here's some more inspiration.

Of course I love grays but kind of want it to be a fun color.


Loving this color. Greens and blues are my favorite.

Or a neutral wash.

or bold color. :)  All I know is that the finish will be milk paint, distressed and chippy.  I'm in no hurry, I love the process.  First I need to get this kitchen remodel finished.  We finally decided on counter tops and will be installing those in the next couple weeks.  Then I need to decide on what color to paint the kitchen Island, then I will decide on this piece since it is across the room from the island.  I will share it all once it's done.   For now I am enjoying it just as it is. 

What color are you loving right now?   I'd love to hear. 

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