Operation Ugly Frankie; A Bed Upholstery Adventure Pt 1

About six months ago, my youngest child, Ms24 bought this hideous double bed frame with a slat base for $50 from Gumtree which I have since named Frankenstein; I would have left Frankenstein with her previous owners if it were up to me, but alas it wasn’t!

After we picked up Frankie, Ms24 asked me if I would tart her up a bit with a lick of paint; stupid me said yes – I mean helloooo; you can’t make a silk purse from a pig’s ear! If you look closely, Frankie has grooves between each horizontal plank of wood which I detest and i began to think of ways to get a finish that would hide the grooves. I thought of adding a panel of ply but i decided against it; the frame is already quite heavy and if I could get a nice finish without adding more weight then I would. Then I thought about adding wood filler to the grooves. So i spent a good week, layer by layer adding wood filler; alas, the filler kept breaking. So, Frankie was put aside until further inspiration hit….

Inspiration came to me in late June in the form of a text message from my friend Kate, in Adelaide, who sent me this picture of a bedhead project in Caroline Zoob’s book, The Hand Stitched Home.

I admit it; i went a little batty over the picture – it’s sublime! In the book, Caroline Zoob suggested either making a slip cover with the appliqué design or sending a bedhead out to an upholsterer to be professionally upholstered after the appliqué is stitched. I didn’t want to make a slip cover for Frankie, I wanted to give her a full facelift…well actually, I wanted to burn her at the stake but Ms24 would have been rather peeved to put it mildly! The other issue I had was that Frankie isn’t a stand alone bedhead, which could be upholstered really easily – Frankie is a complete bed and has hardware for the side slats which sit right where the upholstery would need to be attached. Ironically, Frankie would need to be upholstered in a Frankenstein fashion to accomodate all that hardware.

Being the creative adventurer that I am, I decided to tackle upholstering Frankie – and I don’t mean a syringe full of botox kind of upholstery job; I mean a full-on surgical facelift upholstery job…you know, the upholstery facelift that’s permanent and has been done by an accredited plastic surgeon.

So here we are…you, me and ugly, ‘before surgery’, Frankie! Are you up for a series of ‘how to’ tutorials showing you how you can give your own ‘Ugly Frankie’ a pretty and perky make-over? Come on; you won’t be disappointed…I promise.


As a hobbyest upholsterer with some level of training, I have a reasonable arsenal of professional upholstery tools for rip-down and doing traditional upholstery. Lucky for you, this is a modern upholstery job and we won’t need a massive arsenal of dedicated tools. Most people have a few of the following tools, so with any luck you’ll only need to shell out for the professional upholstery staple remover. Truth be told, I’m hoping that you catch the upholstery bug and will want to do more upholstery which will make the purchase of the staple remover, the first tool in your upholstery tool box. Believe me when I tell you, that upholstery is addictive and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next tool purchase. I say this with full confidence as a person who, in a little over three years, now has a decent sized dedicated upholstery tool box filled with all manner of tools! HAHAHA

Sharp scissors or shears

staple gun*


staple remover***

blunt wire cutters (use course sandpaper to blunt the edges)

wooden mallet****

Electric knife (second hand stores or op shops are great for these)

Regulator (i have two and have found the 6″ all metal regulator to be most useful for this project – an awl will work fine too)

*(I have an air compressor and pneumatic staple gun, but if you can’t beg/borrow/steal these tools you can use an electric staple gun from somewhere like Bunnings or a manual one – a manual one can be really hard on your hands, so do yourself a favour and invest in an electric one if pneumatic isn’t an option.

** Get staples that will fit your stapler; I use 80 series staples which fit both of my pneumatic staple guns.

*** An upholstery staple remover is something you really need to have. I know there are lots of YouTube video tutorials/blog tutorials that say using a pair of pliers and a screw driver will work but just fine, but trust me; you can do a lot of damage to your wood and fabric with pliers and a screw driver. You can find an upholstery staple remover at any online upholstery supply stores like Padgham, DIY Upholstery, Oz Upholstery etc Just Google ‘upholstery supplies, Australia’ (or whatever country is relevant to you) and you can order quickly and easily. I’ve used all of the suppliers listed and never had an issue.

****Cover one end of the wooden mallet with several layers of scrap fabric and staple it in place.




Adhesive Spray (I used 4 cans of Shelley’s Kwik Grip purchased from Bunnings)

Bonded Dacron**

Cardboard tacking strips  (purchased from an online upholstery supply store: i used 6 x 50cm strips)

Cover Flex/Sharks*** Tooth (purchased from an online upholstery supply store)

Calico (for closing the back of the header  neatly and 20-30cm wide strips for making a compressed rolled edge on the foam )

Top Fabric****

Metal tack strip *****

Silicone Spray

* I went to Clark Rubber and purchased a piece of 1″ thick, high density foam. I made sure that the foam was bigger than both the header and footer by a couple of inches all round to allow me to compress the edges.

**You can get buy bonded dacron from Spotlight, however it’s low quality (holes pull out easily) and is about $10 per meter. For the same price, plus shipping you can buy high quality dacron from the online upholstery supply stores mentioned above. I recently purchased a decent sized roll of good quality bonded dacron from Reverse Garbage, a local recycle store here in Brisbane for $7 for the entire roll that was more than wide and long enough for this project. There are similar businesses in other states. The one in Adelaide is called It’s Not Garbage.

*** Cover Flex/Sharks tooth is an edge forming metal strip that we will use to close up the back of the header and footer so that we get a professional finish.

****I bought 100% linen from IKEA at $12 a meter and purchased 5m for this project. I needed to cover the front of the header, completely cover the header legs, cover both the front and back of the footer and make piping for both the header and footer. Remember to account for ‘pull’; this is a couple of inches all round for stapling and pulling the fabric from the front to the back of the boards.

*****You can buy metal tack strips at the suppliers mentioned above. I only needed 3 strips (about 60cm long each) for the headboard legs to create a closed finished edge with the top fabric.

You could get away with not purchasing the metal tack strips if you are willing to ladder stitch the edges closed on the legs of the headboard; I went with the metal tack strips as it’s quicker and easier.

Other than fabric meterage, I haven’t given you any indication of how much foam and bonded dacron to purchase; this is because your ‘ugly Frankie’ upholstery project won’t be the same as mine unless you too have the exact same double size, ‘ugly Frankie’ bed that I’m upholstering. You’ll have to measure up what you need to buy; just make sure you add a couple of inches on all four sides to your head/footer board measurements. The purpose of this tutorial series is to show you the skills you’ll need to complete this type of non-typical up-cycle upholstery project on your own preloved bed. So obviously, you’ll need to work with not only different measurements to this project but also different challenges. If you find that you need help with your project, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments in any of the blog posts in this series.

So, this draws us to the end of Part 1. Make sure to come back and join me for Part 2 where begin the process of giving Ugly Frankie a facelift.





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