Operation Ugly Frankie: A Bed Upholstery Project – Pt 4

So, Part 3 in the make over of Ugly Frankie saw us get her to the stage where the appliqué needs to be applied. If you need to go back to Part 1 or Part 2, go ahead and read what we’ve done so far. This is the part where we move into the sewing room. Are you ready? Okay then; let’s get cracking.

First, decide on your design and get it blown up to size or photocopy it from a book. I have two copies of the design I’m doing and i flipped one over and then used a lightbox to trace the design so that i had two mirror images. Then, using the light box and some Vliesofix (a double sided web bonding from Spotlight or quilting stores) I traced each element of the design on to the Vleisofix with a fine Sharpie pen and gave it a number and then put that number on the design sheet so that i can put it together correctly later. Make sure that you draw on the paper side of the Vleisofix and not the webbing side.

** Take note, that if you’re only doing one complete design, rather than the two that i’m doing, you’ll need to flip the design and then trace the flipped image so that it turns out the same orientation of what you have planned rather than in reverse.

Then I cut out each element, making sure that I cut outside the traced line – you can be a little generous with the space outside the tracing line. Keep each side of the design in separate zip lock baggies. Then get your appliqué fabric and iron it; I used a napkin from a tablecloth/napkin set that my grandmother-in-law gave us as a wedding present. I liked the personal touch of using a fabric with a family connection since this bed is for a family member. Starting with the branches, peel the paper off the fabric and then put the appliqué piece, webbing-side down on the top fabric and iron it down. If you flipped your design when you were tracing onto the Vleisofix, your appliqué will turn out the same orientation as your photocopy; if you didn’t flip your design when you were tracing onto the Vleisofix, then your appliqué design will be a mirror image of your photocopy.

Once you have ironed your design onto the top fabric, you’re ready to move to the sewing machine and zigzag each element to the top fabric. My design has a lot of small elements and it took about 4 hours of sewing to complete the entire design.

Iron the top fabric so that all the creases from sewing are pressed out and move back to workroom to staple the top fabric to the headboard. Get your stapler ready for use; if you have a pneumatic stapler, turn on your compressor and add a couple of drops of oil (special machine lubricant oil; not food grade oils) to the bottom end of the staple gun, attach it to the hose and then ‘blank’ shoot the oil out of the gun. Wipe down the stapler so no oil gets onto the top fabric. Load the staples into the gun  (I used 10mm staples) and you’re good to go. Don’t forget your safety glasses and keep your fingers away from the end of the staple gun.

Before I started stapling the top fabric onto the headboard, I realised that I needed to add wood to the back of the fabric to allow for room to staple, not only the top fabric, but the piping and the Cover Flex later on. So, I had a quick detour where I added extra wood to the top cavity on the back of both the header and footer. You can see the extra boards further on.

Time to add the top fabric; use the basting as a guide to lay the top fabric evenly on the headboard. When you’re happy, begin to staple it down. Start at the top middle, then move to the bottom middle along the bottom edge of the foam. The staples should be gently pushed next to and parallel to the foam along the bottom edge.  Then go back to the top and staple either side of your original staple; repeat on the bottom. Then begin the same motions with the side and start to meet at the corners. Make sure that as you’re stapling, using you other hand to stroke the fabric from the front to the back so that it lays flat and somewhat taught.


Also make sure to make any release cuts as required. You can see that I had to make them on the edge curves. You can be generous with staples, but make sure that they aren’t placed at the edges of the bedhead; you want them further toward the inside of the headboard because you’ll be stapling the piping and Cover Flex close to the edge so you don’t want to overload this area with staples.



Trim off excess top fabric and tidy up any areas by flattening the fabric and stapling it down.

Flip that baby over and and don’t forget to take out the basting cotton before moving on to adding the apron.

Next, you’ll need to add a strip of top fabric to cover the bottom section of the headboard – I’ll call this the apron; remember that we stapled the top fabric to the top side of the headboard at the bottom – the apron will cover these staples and then cover the bottom of the headboard and the tops of the legs.  Lay the fabric, right sides together on the top fabric and staple the apron fabric.

You don’t need a lot of staples; we’re only putting the apron in place with these staples.  Grab yourself a couple of strips of cardboard tacking strip and lay it along the apron; butt the edge right up to the foam so that any staples in the under layers will be hidden. Bring the tacking strip right around to the back of the headboard. Make sure that the staples are laid down diagonally about an inch apart and sit them at the top edge; this will stop the cardboard strip from bending in half when we fold the apron down and pull it in place.

Once the cardboard tacking strip is secured down, trim any excess fabric that sits below the bottom edge of the header.

Pull the apron down over the legs and gently but firmly make sure that the fold you have created is nice and sharp.

Make release cuts on both sides of the middle leg and on the inside of the two other legs. Fold the apron flaps to the back of the headboard and staple them, making sure that the staples aren’t placed close to the edge. Trim any excess fabric on the back.

Flip the headboard back over to the front and trim the leg apron pieces; cut them about an inch below the bottom edge of the headboard so that they can be hidden by the leg fabric. Add some staples to each leg of the leg apron fabric; making sure that they too are below the bottom edge line of the headboard. Add some staples to the equivalent area at the back as shown above.


Well, upholsterer’s, I think we’ve achieved an enormous amount of work today. So, I’m thinking it’s time to hang up our staple guns for moment to have a rest. Join me for the next instalment of making Ugly Frankie pretty again, when we give her legs a spa treatment.


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