Upholstery 101- Trunk Lid Tutorial

It’s Thursday, and I am thrilled that not only did I get a post up before Sunday, I also completed this project off my to do list in one evening!  At $40 in supplies and 2 hours of time, it was the perfect way to relax after a day of work and try my hand at upholstery.

Upholstery is a craft I have wanted to learn for a long time, yet it seems to be a dying art.  While the YouTube videos and tutorials are endless, there are details and tricks you learn from an expert dedicated to their craft that you cannot pick up from the Internet.

Until I find that expert willing to teach, I am taking the route of teaching myself through trial and error.  Below is a look at the first piece I am choosing to take on:

woodlid.jpgThis wicker trunk is one of the first furniture pieces purchased when I moved into an apartment after college.  It has traveled from Kansas City to Ohio, survived 8 different apartment moves, and is STILL here.  It’s nothing special but it has always fit my decor and is great for extra storage.  Currently it is sitting in our living room, collecting magazines and random clutter.

trunkbefore2.jpgThe whole space is a little too beige for me, and lacking in seating.  This area is right off the kitchen so it has become a gathering place when we people are over.  I always thought the trunk would be great as extra seating, but the wicker lid cannot support the weight of someone sitting on it.

Not only would the trunk be more useful as seating, but it was an especially easy piece to start my new hobby.  Before we get into the tutorial and picture overload, below is a list of supplies to get you started.  Keep in mind your list might vary depending on the type of project you choose to upholster.

Supplies List:

  • Object to upholster
  • Wood board cut to size for support (if your item is a weak material that will not support a person’s weight)
  • 1-2″ foam sheet cut to the measurements of item to be covered
  • E6000 Glue
  • Batting (found at craft stores)
  • Fabric (thick, tighter weave fabrics provide the best results.  NO stretchy fabrics!)
  • Staple Gun & Staples (I prefer the Arrow Brand Power Shot and 1/4″-3/8″ staples)
  • Mounting hardware and screws (see photos later in post)
  • Hardwear clamps (see photos later in post)
  • Extra set of hands are always helpful

Okay, so now we have supplies it is time to start upholstering!  I wanted to make sure the trunk lid was still functional, so for this project I am going to upholster the foam board and then attach to the trunk lid.

To begin, I chose to glue my foam to the board using E6000 glue.  This was a huge help, as it keeps the foam from moving and sliding when you wrap the batting over it.  Take the glue and make dots along the border of the board and through the middle then place your foam on the board and press down gently.  I suggest gluing the foam down then gather all your supplies and iron your fabric while letting the glue dry for about an hour.


Here is a visual before you start adding batting and fabric.  I went with a dense 2″ foam that will provide extra cushion, but also maintain it’s shape.  Foam sheets can be expensive, so plan to buy when you have a 50% off coupon for JoAnn Fabrics or your local crafting store.beforefabric

Next step is batting– this will ensure your finished product has a consistent thickness on all sides, and pads the hard edges of the bottom board.  Start by laying out your batting and placing the cushion on top, cushion side down.  Be sure to give yourself enough extra batting and fabric; it is always better to cut off excess rather than come up short.

I started by wrapping the long edges first.  Pull tight and staple close to board edge, starting in the middle and working your way out to each edge.  When you get to the corners, try to fold in your edge as smoothly as possible.  I chose to tuck the short edge in, then pull my long edge batting up and over to staple.  I also moved my folds in slightly so that when I add the fabric, I don’t have the bulk of two folded edges sitting on top of one another.

Now that your batting is secured, it is time to add the fabric.

**Disclaimer** I took this photo BEFORE ironing my fabric panel.  Be sure to iron your fabric panel before starting your project!  While you will be pulling the fabric taught, you want to minimize as many wrinkles in the fabric as you can.  It makes the job much easier on yourself if you start with a smooth fabric panel!


Now you are essentially completing the same steps used to attach the batting.  Be sure you are not stapling into the same place you have a staple in the batting.  Here you can see I staple really close to the edge because it keeps the fabric tight, with less room to wiggle and come loose with wear.fabricstape

Wrapping the corners can be difficult the first few times, but it does get easier with practice.  Keep working the fabric until you can smoothly tuck away excess and wrap the corner.fabriccorner

Once you have your layers in place, secure with 2-3 staples along the folded edge.fabriccorner3

I officially just completed my first upholstery project!  Not bad right?!  Now it is time to take that finished cushion and attach to the trunk lid.  My hubby had the genius idea to use these hardware clamps to hold the cushion in place while we attached it to the trunk.  The clamps will compress your foam, but since they are used for such a short period of time, your cushion will bounce right back.clamptopclampinside

These metal screw plates were perfect for attaching the cushion.  I used 4 total, one in each corner of the lid.  Since the weave of the wicker is horizontal, I chose to place the screw plates on the vertical for additional support.mountinginside

And now for the finished product!  You can see on the left side of the picture, I pulled my fabric just a little too tight in places, causing it to look become wavy.  Lesson learned, and hopefully those waves will disappear as the seat starts to get used and broken in.finishedproduct

The upholstered cushion and a few new plants add some much needed color and pattern to the boring beige.  The trunk now has purpose, other than collecting clutter.  I replaced the gold cushions with the stacked crate and and picnic basket to serve as a side table.  If someone is sitting on the trunk, I want them to have a space to put their drink.  Also- the picnic basket is a great way to stash magazines and clutter before guests arrive!trunkafter

While it was a very easy place to start, I now feel confident in tackling more upholstery projects on my own.  I also love that for $40 and 2 hours of my time I was able to transform what was once a boring piece of furniture.

Let me know what you guys think!  And if anyone in the Columbus, Ohio area knows of an upholstery shop willing to teach, please pass their info along to me!


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