Alina Sewing and Design

Shelbi’s Side Chair and Shara’s Wingback: Before & After (+ a Custom Roman Shade)

*PHEW* I’m finally back! A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and update my Mac OSX to Mountain Lion (I was still running Leopard!), which means I was three system updates behind! It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t play videos or music because my browsers weren’t supporting flash or java without updates that required an updated OS. So….I finally did. What.a.mess. It crashed my harddrive. Luckily I had backed up with Time Machine a few days before, but when I restored everything, it had somehow managed to NOT capture any of my photos from the last two months. Then, I couldn’t back up anything with Time Machine using my existing external harddrive without completely erasing it and reformatting it (so now I have nothing saved that I don’t already currently have on my computer…I hope there’s nothing I needed!). THEN, none of the programs in my Adobe CS4 Design Premium would run. No Illustrator. No Photoshop. Nada. I uninstalled everything and was going to reinstall with my original disks, but they wouldn’t run the setup.exe file. I contacted Adobe multiple times and they were maddeningly unhelpful (and this is coming from someone who is very calm and kind to customer service reps…I know it’s not their fault!)….long story short, it was a long and arduous battle, but I finally got CS4 reinstalled this morning, so I can finally edit/watermark photos for blog posts again! So, you may be happy (or maybe not) to know I have a lot of backlogged posts coming this week. 🙂

So, first, I bring you two more recent upholstery jobs done!

This side chair came to me in the below shape. it was fairly obvious that it had several layers of paint on it, including green below the cream. Structurally, it was in great shape, it just needed a cosmetic update!

Shelbi Chair Before

And here she is after fillings in some cracks with wood putty, a few coats of glossy black paint and some luxe gold & cream fabric!

Shelbi Chair After

Just goes to show you how far some vision can go!Shelbi Chair Before and After


When Shara’s husband dropped off this wingback chair, it had definitely seen better days. Turns out, she had seen it while driving through a local neighborhood having an estate sale. And it was $5! She convinced her husband to buy it and have it reupholstered and it would be more like a $1,000 chair! Shara Wingback before

It had definitely seen better days; something (cats, I think) had clawed the life out of it, and it must’ve sat in the same place for many years, because one side was severely faded compared to the other side (that’s not just the lighting in the last picture above! It was really that faded!).

After spending a couple of days with it, it was a brand new chair! It got a brand new cushion, the wood got a refreshing coat of oil and, obviously, new upholstery.

Shara Wingback AfterShara Wingback Before and After copy

Some seriously dramatic differences, huh? I love my job!

Oh, also, if you follow the MYU facebook page, you’ve already seen this, but I also finished and sent off this custom roman shade for a client last week! The wide white and red canvas stripes are going into a little boy’s pirate-themed bedroom. So fun!

Justin Roman Shade


P.S. Here’s a sneak peak at what’s coming tomorrow! My favorite natural moisturizing oil combo + recipe.


What have you guys been up to?! I, for one, am glad to be back!


Thrifted Coffee-Table-Turned-Ottoman Gets an Update!


Do you guys remember when I turned my $20 thrift store coffee table into an ottoman a couple of summers ago? If not, let’s refresh our memories.

When I finished college and moved to Kansas City to start my first “big girl” job at an ad agency, I didn’t have much in the way of furniture. OR much money. That’s where thrifting became a huge part of my life (and subsequently, the current content of this blog). When it comes to thrifting furniture, it MUST be solid wood. I can’t claim I’ve never bought a rickety chair, but it was ALL wood, goshdangit. 😀

So, I found this coffee table for $20 one day and brought it home (in my tiny little 2-door ’99 Honda Civic!). I lived with and used it for quite awhile (over a year) before attempting to change anything about it. I never really loved it, but I wasn’t going to change it until I thought of something I could do that I did love. If you remember the story (or just read through the old blog post, linked above), you’ll know that one day I DID figure out what to do and I was inspired out of my mind. I’ll quote my old post here…

When I moved to Kansas City (two years ago this past Monday!), I didn’t own a coffee table. In classic Alina fashion, I stalked Goodwill until a decent one showed up. It was solid wood and heavy as all get out (a requirement for me to buy a piece of furniture from Goodwill. It MUST be solid wood. Pressed wood and particle board make me shudder). It was in pretty good shape with only some minor wear and tear on the top, it was mostly modern/clean looking, it was simple and it was marked for $20. But I didn’t love it. I never have. It’s just kind of…blah. Nothing inspiring about it, you know? And I don’t like to be surrounded by things that stump my inspiration. ;) (Additionally, the lip around the edge makes it painful to rest your feet on since it cuts into the backs of your ankles. No bueno!) I’ve toyed with the idea of painting it, stripping and re-staining it (to take care of the damage on top), and I’ve even thought about tiling the top with some kind of glass tile. But none of it really struck my fancy.

Enter Pinterest. There I was, sinking deeper into the abyss, when I saw this: [enter picture from Pinterest of a DIY-ed tufted ottoman]

I stopped everything and immediately straightened up from my slumped position (I might have even stopped breathing for a second). I looked at the blog post behind the pin, looked at my coffee table, looked at the picture, looked at my coffee table. And the biggest light bulb to date arose above my head. I immediately pinned it, “DIY Tufted ottoman…yes, I will!!!”
And yes, I did. Within five days, I had started this project with no intention of stopping.

Ottoman Before 1

And LONG story short, that’s how that^ coffee table became the below ottoman.

Ottoman Before 2

Now…fast-forward a couple of years. Overall, the ottoman is still in good shape. It’s sustained many a dirty shoe, stinky sock, entire cups of spilled coffee (itwasntme), wet dogs, being used as a make-shift couch between weekend moves back and forth from KC to Wichita last year, holding pilesandpilesandpiles of stuff, and more. Really, I could not have asked for this ottoman to be in such great condition after all we’ve put it through.

Ottoman 1Ottoman 2

But, it was beginning to show some wear, in form of sagging, loose fabric. I had been noticing it for awhile, but didn’t think about updating it until Saturday morning.

I had just finished with Ginger’s chair the night before and was still swooning every time I looked at it. I wanted something fun, too! All of the sudden, those wrinkles and sagging fabric were a bigger issue than ever before.

And when that inspiration hit, it hit fast and hard. I mentioned it to Cowboy…”I’m thinking about reupholstering this ottoman…” I said into the morning quiet. “Mmhmm, OK,” he said, without looking up from his computer screen and coffee.

And, just like that, a sly smile crept onto my face. My mind started racing…”but what colors, what kind of fabric? Why did I choose this weird, gray microsuede? Oh, yes, it was on clearance. I need real upholstery-weight fabric this time. Maybe in black and white? Maybe a fun color and pattern like Ginger’s chair?”

And like a flash, I was out the door to go check out all of the local fabric shops to see what would strike my fancy.

Aaand, three fabric stores and two hours later, I was still empty-handed, unsure and uninspired.

One thing my mom taught me was to always have neutral furniture than can be updated with pillows and throws. I wanted to like a bold print & color combo, but I just couldn’t commit. Later that afternoon, I was back home and I remembered one of my favorite pieces of furniture. The Erin chair from World Market.

Erin Chair 2VIA

 So I took it to the mattresses went digging for fabric scraps in my studio and to see how much canvas dropcloth I had in stock (yes, the kind you buy at your local home improvement store…it’s what I make my grocery bags out of).

Ottoman 3.5

I had plenty of dropcloth (furniture looks great upholstered in it! It’s a durable and is a superdupercheap alternative to upholstery-weight linen). And within a few minutes, I had picked out enough scraps to recover the buttons and was pulling out all of the staples.

Ottoman 3
To recover the buttons (and this is totally and completely NOT professional, nor how I would do someone else’s piece of furniture…but it was for me and it was free and it worked, so it won out):

1) I cut out all of my circles (using the template that I still had from the first time I covered the buttons) from scraps.

2) Using the plastic button-covering kit that comes with the buttons, I placed the fabric wrong-side-up on top of the plastic piece, placed the button on top of that…

3) Pushed it all into the plastic piece, ran a line of hot glue around the back of the button…

4) …and pushed the fabric down.

5) Voilá…recovered buttons.

Ottoman 4

And then came the tufting and upholstering! I started working on this when Cowboy left to hang out with his brother for the evening. And it was back in the living room, finished, by the time he got home at 11.

Ottoman 6

Best part? It was F-R-E-E! I used dropcloth and fabric scraps and buttons I already had. And well, I do this for a living, so I obviously had plenty of button tufting twine and cotton to pad the sides with. If I had to count up the materials I would have bought though, it might add up to $10. Maybe.
Ottoman 7 Ottoman 8Ottoman 9

Amazing, right? I’m so glad I spent my Saturday night updating it. I realized while I was working on it that it was literally the only thing in my house that I had upholstered. Consequently, anytime someone was over and found out what I “do” and asked to see some of my work, it was the only thing I could point to. And, while it was just fine, it was my first-ever upholstery job. It did need to be brought up to current “standards,” just like a graphic designer would update their business card as they gained more experience.

So let’s see the lifetime of this coffee table all together now…

Ottoman 9.5
Worth the $80 I’ve now invested into this coffee table/ottoman, right?!

I try to not work-work on the weekends, but do projects for us instead. It keeps me inspired and fresh. Other times, I just need a rest and spend the weekend hanging out with awesome people. 🙂 What did you guys do this weekend?

Stripping Old Upholstery, Rebuilding Seats and Reupholstering: Ginger’s Chair & Ottoman Play-by-Play

You guys…I am in love with this chair and ottoman. Seriously. But before I show you the finished product, let me first tell you about its meager beginnings with me. 🙂

When Ginger text me a picture of this chair, it definitely looked like it needed some love…in form of a completely rebuilt seat. When she dropped it off, she told me she had picked it up at a garage sale; the man she bought it from had tried to upholster it himself, but he suspected it was at least 60 years old (and he hadn’t bothered with the seat at all). This is the beginning of a verrry interesting story the chair began to tell me as I stripped back the original upholstery…

Let’s start here: the before. A collapsed seat and a chair entirely upholstered with tacks (i.e. abnormal). And the dust cover on the ottoman was hangin’ a mess. Not sure how or why, but it was. And, this may be something that only I pay attention to, but when you’re working with a pattern, you want it to be centered and/or at least line up with other parts of the furniture. I think, if all of these stripes lined up, the end result would have been much more impressive and aesthetically pleasing.

Ginger Chair 1

As I started to work the fabric off of the ottoman, I quickly realized that the previous owner had simply upholstered OVER the “original” upholstery. And then…THEN, I noticed what it was stuffed and padded with.

Ginger Chair 2

Let’s zoom in here, shall we? Hay. That’s hay in there. The stuff that horses eat. I’ve found some interesting things in furniture (lost sewing needles, anyone?), but never hay. That’s the stuff I only read about. “Congratulations,” I told myself, “you’re a REAL upholsterer now…”

Ginger Chair 3

I quickly texted Ginger about my discovery (after thanking the Lord that I don’t suffer from allergies!) and made sure she was OK with me stripping it all clean and starting fresh. She was. So, I pressed on to the hundreds of tiny little gold staples (is that what they used in the 70s?).

Ginger Chair 4

As I started pulling off the green, I noticed strands from other fabrics that must have graced the furniture previously–in blue and red. So, by my estimations, this was at least the fifth time this furniture (or at least the ottoman) has been reupholstered!

Ginger Chair 5

Did I mention I was grateful I don’t suffer from allergies? My husband would be a goner if he got anywhere near MOST of the furniture I upholster.

Ginger Chair 6

Once I had the ottoman stripped clean, I moved on to the chair. Yep, also stuffed with hay. Also: fun fact…you don’t use the jute webbing with black stripes for seats as it’s not strong enough to take the abuse in the long run. Always use jute webbing with the red stripes for seats. Save the black for arms (like inside of a wingback) or seat backs. Exhibit A: black striped jute…collapsed seat.

Ginger Chair 7 Ginger Chair 8

At the end of day one, I had completely clean frames (halelujah!), ready for rebuilding. If you’re doing this yourself, here’s another great place to stop and look over the frame itself. Watch out for weak/loose joints, cracks in the frame, rotting wood, etc. Any one of those things and you’ll need to spend some time with the frame itself. Or, you may decide it’s not worth it. Either way, know that this is your foundation; if it’s not strong, it won’t matter how well you upholster it.

Fortunately for me, Ginger and this chair, this frame was in perfect condition. Unbelievable condition for being 60 years old. The most it had going against it was the hundreds of staple holes from being upholstered so many times.

Ginger Chair 9

Day two: rebuilding the seat! First, the jute webbing (remember: red for seats!).

Ginger Chair 10 Ginger Chair 11

Then, the foam…

Ginger Chair 13

Then, the cotton…

Ginger Chair 14

Then, the actual upholstery.

Ginger Chair 15
Repeat process on ottoman…

Ginger Chair 12
And FINALLY…the finished product! You can see why I’m in love here, right?! Ginger is a photographer here in Wichita and there’s already been talk of using the ottoman in a newborn shoot. Killer. A piece of me goes with every upholstery job, but this one is really special, and I think it’s the ottoman that puts it over the top for me.

Ginger Chair 16Ginger Chair 17Ginger Chair 18Ginger Chair 19Ginger Chair 20Ginger Chair 21Ginger Chair 22Ginger Chair 23

I know…incredible, right? I asked Ginger if I could keep it and she said only if I stayed in Wichita…temping, friend.

Ginger was given my name and number by a mutual friend who heard she needed someone to upholster a bench back in Deeember. So, this is actually the second upholstery job I’ve done for Ginger! Be on the lookout for the blog post about her bench–she found it in a dumpster and it was missing a leg, so she ordered a replacement leg (ha!) and is waiting for it to arrive, and then will snap some “after” pictures for us! (Mine are just of a legless bench sitting on the ground, haha!) Ginger is SO sweet and we were fast friends AND she’s so talented. If you’re looking for a photographer in the Wichita area, Ginger would be so great to work with!


Linda’s Cottage Cane Chairs

Good morning, friends!

If you’ve ever worked with me or gotten an upholstery quote from me, you know how I do things: you e-mail/message/text me a picture or two of your furniture, I ask my questions (i.e. do you want it re-tufted, do you want the cushion to have a zipper, etc.), and then I give you a quote.

A few months back, Linda, of Embellished Rabbit (she is a vendor inside of The Cottage Collective!), started a conversation with me about upholstery and redoing some pieces she wanted to sell. That conversation has grown to include multiple pieces of furniture and continues to be ongoing. She’s SO great to work with–she has a vision that she can communicate clearly and is so, so nice. She even warned me to protect my eyes when she sent me the below “before” pictures. 🙂

Let me stop here to tell you how talented this woman is…if you’re local to Wichita, you NEED to get to The Cottage ASAP to see her room. She never ceases to blow me away with how beautifully she styles her room. And she does it all–furniture, accent pieces, signs, antique and vintage knick-knacks, handmade items, then styling it in such a way that you feel you need to either take it all home or not buy anything so as not to disturb the beauty (but of course you buy whatever it is that caught your eye because you can’t possibly go home without it). Seriously…talent. And I don’t say that lightly. My mom and I LOVE her room.

OK, back to the matter at hand: her chairs. She sent me the below “before” pictures of two cane chairs she had picked up. Before she brought them to me, she actually stripped them back and painted/distressed the frames. (see? talent.)


I didn’t get a good picture of what they looked like when she brought them to me, but you can see them below in one of my Instagram photos!


And after a day with them, I had them back in clothes. 🙂 They’re upholstered in drop cloth, which gives you a beautiful linen look that will be very durable. The end result was completely a team effort between Linda and I and I LOVE how they turned out.

LindaChairsAfter1LindaChairsAfter3 LindaChairsAfter2LindaChairsAfter4

There are two available and she’s going to be selling them in The Cottage Collective–make sure to contact her!

FREE Antique/Vintage Chairs!

A few months back, this lot of antique and vintage chairs found their way into my possession. And they’re hanging out in my garage, begging for love and attention. They’re just the bare bones–if they even have a seat/seat back, the guts are falling out of the bottom. BUT, they’re so unique and SO beautiful…they’re in the perfect stage to be completely customized for someone.

MYU Antique Vintage Chair Deal

So since I don’t want to move them across the country in a few months, I’m offering them up for free–all you have to do is pay for the materials and labor. Paint, stain, distressing, waxing, fabric…you customize every detail!

The middle three are rocking chairs and the two on the ends are regular chairs. And actually, the middle guy is already sold for a client’s nursery!

Consider this the preliminary introduction–check out the album on our facebook page to see lots of detail shots!


Meet Monroe.

Antique Chair 1

And Serena (my personal favorite).

Antique Chair 5

Winston. (Who’s already sold!)

Antique Chair 7

This is Sadie.

Antique Chair 10

And, finally, another favorite, Isybella.

Antique Chair 13

Make sure you check out the facebook album to see the rest of the pictures!


P.S. If you are a hardcore DIY-er and want to fix/finish and upholster the frames yourself, you may buy the frames for $99. (Still a steal for antique frames!)

Becky’s Suzani Chair

Good morning, friends!

My latest upholstery job was picked up by the owners this morning. This chair was totally unique to me, both in how it was upholstered and how new it was (i.e. newer methods of upholstery, whereas I’m used to furniture that is 20+ years old!). This chair was just over 10 years old, so it wasn’t brand new, but it was in great shape–just needed some new clothes!

Becky had been eyeing this awesome fabric and then, after some time, found it on clearance (like less than $10/yard!) and bought all 5.5 yards. Seriously an awesome deal! I, too, had been eyeing this fabric for awhile, so I was more than excited to get to work with it!

I will say that this chair is MUCH bigger than it reads on-screen. When Becky was asking me for a quote, she texted me a picture of the chair (that’s pretty much how I do business ;)…then her husband brought it by. Here’s a picture of me (average-sized 5’4″ person) in it. I posted this picture on the MYU facebook page earlier this week (like us on facebook for constant behind-the-scenes stuff!), so you may be seeing this again, but isn’t that crazy?

See? Ginormous. I had to essentially crawl into the chair just to upholster the back.

Now for some detail shots…

Love me some zippered cushions…
Unless the corners are uber-specific…these had me up until 4 am. 🙁
Mmm…double welting! Fun fact: between the double welting on the chair frame and piping on the cushions, this chair took over 40 yards of welting cord. That’s 120 FEET…nearly half of a football field! It never ceases to amaze me how much piping I have to sew for upholstery projects. Needless to say…after all of the piping that’s been created for various pieces of furniture over the past year, my sewing machine and I are pretty much professional piping makers now. 😉
The back was upholstered, too!
I love how it turned out and Becky did too. And I’m happy when my clients are happy! 🙂
On another note…look what came in the mail this week…
I’m simultaneously thrilled to death and scared to death every time I use it. It’s AWESOME. There’s a whole new world of sewing to learn now. I ultimately decided that if people are paying me to sew slipcovers and upholster furniture for them (plus, buying items from my etsy shop, now!), then the seams need to be professionally finished, without spending twice the time on french seams. If anyone has any serging/overlocking tips, feel free to share them! I’m mostly hoping Raechel Myers decides to do a series on overlocking, since her “Sewing 101” series was seriously the most helpful thing I’ve found in my sewing lifetime! I first recommended it here, and I still completely back the fact that everyone should take it, either as a beginner or as someone who might need a refresher course!
I start another upholstery job this week (I’m actually booked through the end of the year–woohoo!) and then we have Thanksgiving! Enjoy and be safe during the holiday week, friends!


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