Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's talk about headboards

There was this interview question that became notorious at my organization when I worked in public art, and it went kind of like this: Ho do you make a sandwich?

There was no wrong answer, but people invariably froze up when it was asked because it felt like a trick. What your answer supposedly revealed about you was how detail oriented you are, but I also think it's a good test of how good you are at giving instructions. (As a side note, it was often revealing about personality. My favorite ever answer came from a young woman just out of college who said that first things first, she would ask if anyone else would like a sandwich, and I will tell you, I'm not sure I've met a sweeter or more generous person.)

What does this have to do with anything? Well, here's the thing. I'm no expert DIYer, but I'm pretty resourceful and, generally speaking, if I want it done, I will get it done. And now there are a TON of resources out there--tutorials, videos, pictorial step-by-step guides. But so often, as I watch/read them, I find that they skip over the part that I don't know how to do, as if getting that part done is just magic. I was just looking at a tutorial for pleated lampshades today (yes, I know), and there were TONS of detail about the stuff that seems no-brainer to me, like how to remove the old lampshade from the frame, but when it gets to the construction of the new one, you just get the directive "now start to pleat." But, I found myself thinking, I'm reading this TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE A BOX PLEAT on a lampshade. I'm sure I could just figure it out, but I was hoping to skip a step by seeking out advice.

So. Headboards. There are videos out there. They show you all about cutting the plywood and the foam and wrapping them in batting and stapling on the fabric. Fine and good. But when I went to make the girls' headboards, I realized there was a little glitch: I didn't know how to deal with the curve in the corners and get a nice smooth finish.

Especially since I was using 3 inch foam, which I know now is absolutely only for professionals. If you don't have the right equipment, only use 2 inch foam. There, I said it, tip number one.

Since I was using a thick, faux-suede fabric, it got all bunched up in the corners, and it wouldn't lie close to the edge in the middle of the curve. I thought it might just be a matter of pulling it really, really taut. For a while, I thought I just needed extra strength, or an extra pair of hands, and tried to coax the hubs into helping in his scant free time. No dice. I moved on to other projects, and while I was researching the cornice, I came across this diagram.

[Sunset Curtains, Draperies, and Shades]

And the key phrase, "fabric clipped at curve." So there you go, I'm filling in a missing piece of headboard how-to's: when navigating a curve, snip the fabric is long strips perpendicular to the edge, and fan it out. Staple at the top of each strip. If you're nervous, snip incrementally until you get close enough to the edge for your smooth finish.

Figuring that out was by far the hardest part of that project, and there you have it. (To be honest, I still haven't figured out how to get the fabric to wrap around the bottom of the headboard and the side of the leg. In the girls room, I just upholstered the outside edges as if the headboard was one big piece, even though it has legs cut into it.)

(Posting those pictures kind of feels like airing dirty little secrets.)

As for the guestroom headboard, it was really a simple matter of stapling new fabric over the old. The hardest part was matching the pattern for the side seams (my fabric wasn't quite wide enough to cover the width of a queen headboard), and keeping my 4-year-old off the thing while I was working.

I recently read an article with Julie Taymore talking about her new Spider Man musical, where she spoke at length about the beauty of the sets and her insistence on finishing them on all sides, even the vantage point that would never be seen by any audience. I have to say, this headboard was finished professionally, front and back, and looking at the nice trim covering the seam along the back edge I felt a little guilty coming in with my rogue staple gun, but my budget was already busted without buying yardage that would never be seen by anyone.

I cut the welting off the edges as recommended by Jenny, here, then simply laid out my seamed fabric and stapled around the edges, pulling taught as I went and flipping the thing over once in a while to make sure the pattern remained straight.

I used the trick from the diagram above when things got hairy around the curve. I even had enough fabric left to cover the wooden legs, including strips matched up and stapled in along the back edge.
I felt sort of like a poor man's Julie Taymor as I made sure that these little bits and pieces were taken care of, and a good thing, too: they totally show in the room.

After all the drama over the fabric, the actual re-covering was a cinch. Ta-da!

So there you have it. Now that the headboard is installed in its room, I kinda sort want to paint the walls indigo.....And with one thing inevitably leading to another, I finally understand why Domino was called "domino".


  1. That looks FAB! I can't wait to see it in the room.

  2. Heather, that looks great. It's great to see the fabric that caused such sturm und drang in action.


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