Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Seats Are Finished

In an earlier post I discussed that I was changing the color of my interior of my car from grey to black.  I posted some previews of some of the stuff that I have done.  Since this time I have finished the the seats, but they have yet to be installed in the car.

I am going to start of by saying making your own seat upholstery is not easy.  If you are deciding to do this, you will need to really consider a lot of things going in and if you are up to the task.

Some of the tools you will need to accomplish this task:

1.  Sewing Machine - Not your typical one, one with metal gears and can handle sewing multiple layers of heavy material.
2.  Scissors - You are welcome to use your typical pair of frisker scissors if you want, but when you start cutting thread and want to thread the needle, you will understand why I said a good set of scissors.
3.  Rolling Disk cutter - This is what you are going to use to cut your foam and materials for the seats.  This is much easier than using scissors to cut and it doesn't kill the scissors on the foam.  Your hands will thank you for it as well.
4.  Hand stitching needles
5.  Bobbins
6.  Box Cutter and fresh razor blades
7.  Sockets and Ratchet
8.  Torx sockets
9.  Hog Ring Pliers - buy a good set, don't go cheap on it.
10.  Fabric Marking pen
11.  Thimble
12.  Sewing Machine Oil
13.  Lots of sewing machine needles.
14.  Pliers (regular and needle nose)
15.  Holding pins
16.  Heavy duty set of wire cutters.
17.  Craft cutting board

Now that you have your tools, we need to discuss the materials you will need to accomplish this task.

1.  Exterior seat fabric.  You can estimate this at about 4 yards for your 2 bucket seats and back seat.
2.  1/2 inch foam.  I used about 12 yards of this.  Keep in mind this isn't square yards.  This stuff isn't as wide as the material is.
3.  Muslin.  You will need about 3 yards of this as well.
4.  Spray Glue
5.  Thread.  This needs to be UV safe thread or the sun will eat it away.  I  used about 12-15 spools of this.
6.  Zippers.  There is one on the bottom of the back of each bucket seat.  Even though you may think you can re-use your zippers off the bottom of your buckets, I would not recommend it.  These are 14 inch jacket style zippers.  I could not find the metal ones like were on the seat, so I  bought some plastic ones.  They really don't have a lot of tension on them so they will hold just fine.  These are not the easiest thing to find.  Just know that you cannot go longer than 14 inches.
7.  Hog Rings.  I thought buying a box of hog rings meant I was going to have a ton of extras.  Nope, used the entire box.  The Hog rings are used to hold the material to the seat frames.
8.  Same Colored Heavy duty fabric.  This is going to be used for the listing wires.  Typically you can reuse what you have there, but when you get to the back seat, it wraps around the outside of the seat and you want this to match the same color of the fabric you are putting on your seats.  Or at least a good accent color.  (don't ask about accent colors because I know nothing about that)
9.  Listing Wire.   Although most of your listing wire will be able to be re-used, inevitably you will run into some that has been rusted or is just plain in bad shape.  You will need to make your new wire for this.  I used 12 gauge galvanized wire for this.

So now you know what it is going to take to make your seats.  You can go out and get estimates on the materials and also tools and you will know if it will be cost effective for you to tackle this job.

Once you get your estimate, you will need to ask yourself if you are under a time crunch to finish this job.  This is not, I repeat NOT a weekend and it's done job.  Especially so if you have never sewn in your life before.  If you are experienced at sewing you will probably finish much faster than I did, but even with that I see it taking at least 5 days worth of work.  It took me about 14.  This included time to go find the materials and pick them up as well as learning how to do maintenance to a sewing machine and learn how to use a sewing machine.  There are all kinds of different things you need to know about the machine before you can use it.  One good example is stitch pattern.  The best example is how to fill a bobbin and thread the needle.

Ok, you are ready to get going at this point.  I am assuming you are already familiar with your machine and know how to sew.

First thing you need to do now is remove your seats.  I would start with the passenger side bucket seat and remove the back seat.  I want you to note that I didn't say to remove the drivers seat.  This will allow you to move the car if needed.  You will also be able to drive the car as long as that seat is in place as well.  So if this is your daily driver, you can take your time to finish the seats.

Something that is handy to know up front is that the drivers and passenger seat covers are identical  The difference comes when cutting the holes for the seat release as well as the holes for mounting the seat back to the seat bottom.  The material is the exact same pattern.

Knowing this, you can make two identical copies of every piece of your passenger seat and know they are going to work for your drivers seat.

Carefully take apart your passenger seat and remove the covers from the seat.  When working with a fox body Mustang, you need to unbolt the top from the bottom and remove any plastic pieces that are mounted to the outside of the seat.  I would start with the seat bottom as that will be the easier of the two pieces and will give you enough knowledge to finish the top without a problem.

Remove the seat rails from the bottom of the seat.  Put them in a special location so that you can put them back on after you are done.  You will see 4 plastic clips at the bottom of your seat.  Note their locations so you know exactly where to put them when you are finished.

To the left is a picture of what the seat botom looks like and those plastic clips I am talking about.

Once you have the plastic clips unhooked, then you will need to get the material off of the lower seat frame.  Although this may seem like it would be an easy task, when you are dealing with 20+ year old vinyl, it is not as easy as you would think.

With the seat material pulled up, you will find there are 3 sets of listing wire that need to have their hog rings cut so you can get the seat bottoms off.  This is where a heavy duty set of wire cutters comes in handy.  There are typically 2 hog rings per listing wire.  The listing will run one up each side of the seat and one across the front of the seat.

Once the hog rings are cut, your seat bottom should lift off with no problems and you are ready to cut all of the seams to make the pattern for your new material.

The seat back is another story all together.  Here you have to remove the headrest first.  To do this lift the head rest as high as it will go and shove a piece of wire down the front where the groove is on the head rest and it will release the head rest to come the rest of the way out.  Once that is done you will need to put your arm up the back of the seat and feel for the plastic piece that is there.  You will feel where the other latch is holding the plastic piece in and you can release that.  This will let you remove the plastic piece.

Once this is done, you will need to release the listing wire from the seat back.  This consists of cutting the hog rings that are at the bottom of the seat back near the zipper area.  you will see an L shaped wire on each of the sides of the seat.  Once those are cut, you should be able to pull the wires out.  Don't expect this to be an easy pull, these wires have been sitting in here for many years and will have some rust and may be stuck in the material.  Just work the wire back and forth until it is free of the material and pull the wires out.

The top listing wire is going to be a chore.  The reason I say this is that the material has lost it's flexibility over the years and you won't be pulling it off like you would put it back on.  The installation starts with the cover inside out and rolling it down.  Since this stuff is no longer flexible, you will have to reach up in there with your wire cutters and cut the hog rings.  Like I said, there should be 2 of them one on the left and one on the right.  Once they are cut, the cover is ready to pull off.  This too will take a little bit of work to accomplish.  There is no advice I can give on how to make this easier.  Just do your best to keep the fabric as in tact as possible because you are going to need it to make your pattern for the new material.

The headrest is probably the easiest piece to take off.  make sure you note how the material looks.  I would suggest taking a picture or make a quick sketch of it on paper so that you know which way is the front.  To get the material off of the head rest, you will need to remove the 2 screws that hold the seat belt holder to the headrest and remove the nail from the other side. Once this is done, you just simply pull the cover over the foam and you are all set.

Now that the seat has had it's cover taken off you are ready to begin the disassembly of the seat covers. This involves cutting the seams of each piece and marking them where they go and the order they should be sewn.  I would suggest marking all of the pieces before you start.  Note where the listing wire is and where it starts and stops so you can put it in the same spot on the new seat.

In my case I am changing the color of the seat, so I opted to not use the piping that goes around the seat.  It is your call on if you want to put this back in.  Just know that you will need a machine powerful enough to drive the needle through all the material and that piping piece if you decide to reuse it.  This basically means you need an industrial grade machine (not a heavy duty, industrial grade).

Did I mention to mark all your pieces and where they go?  This is very important.  I would suggest lettering them so that you can draw an arrow and put the letter of the material that goes there.  Since this is your old material and you plan on discarding it, I would write on the bottom with a sharpie.

You can use your box cutter to cut the seams of the material.  Make sure you are very careful and are only cutting the thread.  If you actually cut the material off, your pattern will be ruined.

Although you are going to cut all these pieces however best uses the material with the minimal scraps, you want to keep your pieces in their individual piles  This keeps them organized and you will be able to reassemble them better.

Once all your pieces are cut apart, you are now ready to start tracing them on the new material.  Yeah, I am not thinking this is happening the same day.  The disassembly of the seat takes some time.  Especially considering that you need to mark where everything goes.

This process will most likely take 2 people.  It can be done with one person, but it is a lot easier with two because you can have someone hold the old piece while you are tracing around it.  When you trace around your piece you will want to use your fabric marker so that none of the colors bleed through to the top of the fabric.

Use your cutting disk to cut the material.  Make sure you put your craft cutting board under the material so that it does not damage the surface underneath.  Once you have your material pieces cut out, it is now time to trace the pieces that have foam on their back to put new foam there.

Once the foam is cut, you will do the same for the muslin.

I had been asked, what is muslin and why are we using it?  When I did my seats, I didn't use pure muslin, I picked up some unbleached thin cheesecloth.  This serves the same purpose as the muslin in that when the thread comes through the foam, it doesn't just cut the foam and go to the back of the material.  It helps give the actual design feel by holding the thread for you.

Now that the material is all cut out, you are ready to begin assembly.  The first step is to use your spray glue to hold the foam to the back of your seat material, and then to hold the muslin to the back of the foam.  You will want to do this outside because the glue sprays all over the place.

Once all of your pieces are glued and ready to go back together, you will start by making the design in the seat back or bottom depending on the piece you are working on.  Since the bucket seats are identical, I recommend doing both at the exact same time.  Since you will be measuring to put the lines in the material, you can measure both and they will match and you won't have to worry about oddities in that the lines on one seat are higher than the lines on the other.

These lines are made by running the material thru the sewing machine which compresses the foam and you get that nice line.  There are 2 lines that will be where the listing wire goes.  These too get that line sewn down the middle, then the material is folded over and sewn again.  This time you will be doing it with the listing wire case along the line.  I actually made 2 passes for mine.  The first was to make sure the line looked good, and the second was to put the listing wire on.  I think it helps, but it tends to be a little harder on the needles.

Once you have your patterns done, you are ready to start pinning the pieces together and sewing.  This is a good time to point out that you need to make sure you have the correct needles for the application.  I used heavy duty universal needles 110.  Although I was sewing through faux leather and the people at the fabric store said to use leather needles, I found that these worked best because the leather needles got too hot going through the foam and bent or broke.

Have fun sewing your seats, here are some pictures of what my seats looked like after completion.

Here are the front buckets.  I think they turned out pretty well.  The lines are in the same spots and everything looks good.
 This is a before and after shot of the front seats.  I had the passenger seat completed prior to the drivers seat.
 This is a shot of all of the seats.
 This is a shot of the back seat.
Passenger side bucket again.

There is a flaw here in that I put the hog ring too far up the listing and it made a small indent in the material.  I am going to take the seat apart and fix that.  It should be a quick fix before I put them back in the car.

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