Patio Furniture Makeover: Vinyl Strap Chair to Hammock Chair
I recently received a reader question on my patio furniture makeover from last year:
“Can you please tell me how the paint is holding up on the vinyl? Looking to do the same. Wondering how well it wears? Looks beautiful!”
The paint itself held up beautifully. Again, it is really cheap spray paint done in just one coat. We left the chairs outside in sun, rain and even winter snow and the paint held tight. In general, the black spray paint hides a ton more dirt than the white paint (no surprise there) and tends to look a little better. There are a few dings and nicks on the metal parts of the chairs from last fall’s bumper crop of acorns. The vinyl parts seem to be just fine.
The vinyl on our chairs is really old and brittle and even has moldy spots in some places. We threw out one chair last year when my lightweight daughter stood up on the seat and several of the vinyl straps snapped beneath her. While the sanding and paint could have weakened the vinyl, the vinyl was in pretty bad shape to begin with. It is probably over 10 years old and has spent a harsh life outside. When you sit on any of the vinyl strap pieces, you get a little sense of unease that the vinyl is stretching beneath you and possibly could snap.
This year, we needed to make a decision on the vinyl chairs….fix them or get rid of them. Since vinyl strapping is kind of hard to find and expensive when you do, I had to exercise my creative thinking to come up with some inexpensive alternative that would extend the life of these chairs just a bit longer.
Inspired by this spring’s Ruly Ruth post on spring and summer fashion trends, I was reminded of a macramé pattern I have for covering a director’s chair. Could macramé work on these chairs?
I knew that given the wet and shady conditions of my yard that cotton rope was not going to fare well and would probably mold. So, in the hardware/fishing section of my local Wal-Mart I found a selection of polypropylene and nylon rope that promised to be “rot resistant.” The polypropylene rope in particular comes in a variety of great colors.
I was tempted to try out some neon pink chairs but then remembered how versatile my black and white color scheme was. I settled on a simple white 3/16” nylon rope.
While I have never done a macramé project before, I assumed it couldn’t be much harder than following a knitting pattern. I looked over the instructions I had and did a small sample test trying out both complex and simple macramé designs. In the end, I decided that while the macramé looked nice, it didn’t look all that comfortable to sit on.
So, I scrapped all the complex designs for a very simple weaving pattern. I read a couple of instructions online (from fishing sites, curiously) about how to make strong, secure knots. Most of those knots were too hard to execute in the nylon rope so I again did the best I could improvising in this area.
First, I washed the chair frame and cut off the vinyl straps. The straps are surprisingly thick and could only be cut with a pair of pruning shears.
The denuded chair needed a little touch-up paint to catch the spots where the straps hid the frame so I used a little of the excess spray paint from last year.
Next, I took the nylon cording and cut a piece that was approximately double the width of the chair plus about 6-8 inches.
With the cording folded in half, I put a slip knot around one side of the chair frame.
I pulled the cording as tight as I could, running the loose ends underneath and around the chair frame, crossing the ends on the front side of the rope and tying a square knot on the back side to secure.
I then repeated the process all the way down the length of the chair seat alternating the sides for the slip knot and square knot. (I didn’t want all the square knots to fail at once, causing one side of the chair to fall down.)
After all the width ropes were done, it was time for the weaving. First, attempting to follow a fly-tying knot, I took the end of the rope, put it over the top frame of the chair, twisted one end around the other several times to create loops and then pulled the loose end through the loops. From my experience, the exact method of making the knot doesn’t seem to matter, just make sure it is strong when you are finished.
The weaving is simple over, under, over, under down the length of the chair.
If you are lucky, you will have a frame bar at the bottom to wrap the cord around and wind it back up toward the top. If, like me, you don’t have a bar at the bottom, when you get to the end of a row, just wind the rope around the last rope width and head back up. When you run out of rope, tie it off to the frame (using a strong knot) and start a new piece.
Because I was trying to conserve rope, I left a lot of space in between each row of weaving. If you want a tighter look, you could put the weaving lengths closer together but be warned that you will use A LOT of rope. When you are finished, your chair will look something like this.
All that is left to do is deal with all those untidy ends of rope.
To finish off the ends, I experimented with several types of knots but the one I liked the best was just to take the loose ends and criss-cross them several times around the rope width.
Then tie them securely in a square knot in the back.
Trim the end of the rope with scissors close to the knot but leave about ½” extra.
Now, for a little pyromania! To prevent the rope ends from fraying, use a little flame to seal them up. You only need to flame the ends for just a few seconds. Be careful to avoid getting the flame near the other rope parts of the chair. The flame will leave a little black or brown mark on the rope but given my black and white color scheme I didn’t mind this.
Voila! A hammock chair!
We have been testing out the chair for a few weeks now to make sure the rope will be strong enough. So far, so good! There is something about the appearance of this chair that makes it more inviting to sit in than the original black vinyl. The only downside of my technique is that the weaving ropes get a little mussed in the seat portion when someone sits in the chair for a while.
These can be quickly combed back into place with your fingers in about 10 seconds, however. If you do a tighter weave with more rope, you probably won’t have this problem.
Each chair needs about 3 spools of cording to complete, for a cost of about $12 per chair. (If your climate will permit the use of cotton clothesline instead of the nylon, you can probably cut this cost by 50-75%). This is more expensive than just spray-painting the vinyl but still less expensive than buying a new chair and hopefully durable for many years.
What do you think of this makeover? Please share in the comments.