It's always so satisfying to upcycle something and give it a new life. This stool was a roadside find, and despite the awful dark timber and black pleather seat I could see a fun and unique piece of furniture just waiting to be created. After painting the timber, I made a fabric cover for the seat top that can easily be removed and washed, or swapped with another one if the mood takes me. This tutorial is for a stool with a round seat, but the same principles and techniques will apply to a square or rectangular top too.
- A stool.
- Acrylic (house) paint in two complementary colours.
- Paint brush.
- Painter's tape (optional).
- Fabric in two co-ordinating designs.
- Matching thread.
- Sewing machine.
- Air erasable fabric pen, drafting chalk, or a plain old pen.
- Tape measure.
- A plate or salad bowl roughly the size of the stool top.
- Rotary fabric cutter (optional).
- Self-healing cutting mat (if you use the rotary cutter).
- 6mm wide (quarter inch) elastic.
- Safety pin.
- Sewing pins.
Step 1: Choose Your Paint Colours and Fabric
Choose the coordinating fabric first, then decide on paint colours that either match or contrast with the fabric.
Step 2: Prepare and Paint
Give the stool a thorough clean - the legs, seat and underneath too. See if any parts of the legs need to be sanded. If the timber is varnished you will need to give it a sand before painting. Wipe it clean again before painting. Or you can apply a coat of product formulated to allow you to paint onto any surface.
Consider the length and design of the stool's legs and decide where the colours should meet. The shaped legs of our stool made this decision for us. It will look balanced if the bottom colour is less than a third of the length of the legs. Our stool would also have worked if the tangerine only came up as high as the first sphere.
As a general rule, the shorter the stool legs, the smaller the bottom colour should be in proportion to the legs. So decided on a point and place a line of painter's tape around each leg. If the legs aren't shaped, make sure you measure each leg to get the position right - it's really important that it's the same on all four legs.
Paint the lightest colour first and allow to try. See whether you need to apply a second coat. When the paint is dry remove the tape and apply new tape to mask off the first colour. Paint the second colour with as many coats as you need to get a good coverage. Set aside to dry.
Step 3: Measure the Seat
Measure across the diametre of the seat, including any piping. Then measure the side of the seat and around the outside circumference. Jot all the measurements down.
Step 4: Measure and Cut the Fabric
You need to allow a quarter inch seam allowance around the edge of the seat top, so add half an inch to the diametre measurement. Find a salad bowl or serving plate that has a diametre as close as possible to the top of the stool plus a quarter inch. Place the bowl on the main fabric and trace around the edge. My plate was the exact size of the stool top, so I had to cut the fabric a quarter inch out from the traced line to allow for the seam.
Add an extra inch and a half to the width measurement for the side piece, and an extra two inches to the length of the side piece. You will get a much more accurate result cutting a long strip of fabric using a rotary cutter - if you use scissors do your best to cut straight and evenly.
Step 5: Hem the Side Panel
Fold a scant quarter inch of one long edge and press it with the iron as you go.
The fold it over again by half an inch. Press as you go.
Top stitch along the bottom edge as close as you can to the fold. The elastic will be fed through the space in the hem, so it's important that the stitches are close to the fold so it will fit.
Step 6: Join the Side Panel to the Seat Top
Place the fabric pieces right sides together as shown in the photo below. Pin the two pieces together, with the pins about an inch apart. The first pin should be about half an inch from the edge of the side panel.
Make sure that the edges of the seat top and side panel are lining up all the way around.
When you get back to the beginning stop pinning about an inch from the end.
Using a quarter inch foot on the sewing machine (for a quarter inch seam) start with a few back stitches about a half inch in from the end of the side piece.
Sew around the edge, being careful to follow the curve of the seat top fabric.
When you're near the beginning again, fold back the beginning edge of the side panel so it's folded where you started sewing (refer to photo below left). Continue to sew the side panel in place until the stitches almost meet the folded fabric (refer to photo below right). Finish with a few back stitches.
Step 7: Sew the Side Seam
Press the beginning edge of the side panel over as shown below. The pressed line will be your seam guide. Do the same on the other edge of the side panel.
Then open the pressed edge out flat again. With wrong sides together pin the two ends of the side panel together so that the pressed seam guides align.
Sew the side seam along the pressed line, joining with the first seam - indicated where the pin is pointing in the photo below.
Trim off any additional fabric.
Step 8: Press the Seams
Press the side panel seam over to one side, then press the seam around the circle down towards the side panel. Don't press it in towards the centre of the circle or the bulk of the seam will show through on the top of the seat.
Step 9: Insert the Elastic
Snip a small slit on the inside of the side panel's folded hem (made in step 5), being careful only to cut the fabric on the inside. The slit will need to be big enough to pass the safety pin and elastic through (see the fourth photo below for an indication of size and placement). Cut a second slit to the left of the folded hem in the same way.
Cut the elastic so it's about one inch shorter than the circumference measurement you took of the stool seat and secure a safety pin to one end. Attach the other end to the side panel with a couple of pins, to the left of the side seam.
Pass the safety pin through the slit on the right of the side seam and thread it and the elastic all the way around and back to the second slit.
Remove the pins and safety pin and tie the ends in a knot.
Spread the gathers so they are evenly spaced.
Step 10: Put the Cover on the Seat
Turn the cover right way out and place it over the seat.
Look at the difference!
What do you think of our upcycled stool? Do you think you might try this at home? We'd love to hear your thoughts - tell us in the comments section below.