Craft Rocks – The Double Upcycle Sewing Unit Challenge!


Craft enthusiast Jo Burgess explores the world of needlecraft in this exclusive column for Mr X Stitch!

Hello! My name is Jo Burgess and I love a crafty project. Fusing glass, sewing, furniture painting, bead work, cross stitch… you name it, I’ll have a go at it. Every month I’m going to share a project I’m working on with you. I love a crafty get together with good pals, bottomless cups of tea, a big chunk of cake, and fantastic music playing. My music of choice if I’m crafting alone is rock – because Craft Rocks!

Today I thought I would share a double upcycle project I’ve been working on with you. I like to work on some cross stitch while I’m watching TV, but I never have anywhere to leave it mid project. So I decided to challenge myself to produce a funky unit for my living room which I can pop my projects into for safe keeping.

Finding a piece of furniture I wanted to upcycle was the hardest part of this challenge. eBay is not short of furniture pieces at bargain prices, but finding one you like that you can collect locally or someone is willing to post to you can take a while. Eventually I found this little wooden sewing stool for £11.50 plus £5 postage.

My original eBay bargain waiting for an update

I went on a furniture painting evening last year and we used Annabell Duke chalk paint. It went on really nicely so I bought some more in Classic White for the stool. I took the legs and top off, unscrewed the hinges and started painting. I wanted it to look quite rustic with a rough matt finish. I painted using long brush strokes from left to right. It took three coats to achieve a good covering but I still had over half a tub of paint left for another project.

I’ve never done any type of upholstery before but I thought I would borrow a staple gun and just go for it. I didn’t remove the original padding and fabric from the stool because it was still nicely thick, and re-using it saved money. Next job, pick the fabric.

For this project I turned to my stash – and my wardrobe. A few years ago my Mum gave me some great Mini Cooper fabric she found in a shop in Northern Ireland (my husband and I met through a mutual love of motorsport and Mini Coopers). I made it into a skirt, but I rarely wear skirts so I decided to upcycle the skirt for this project. It’s quite thick cotton so it’s a good weight for the job.

My Mini Cooper mini skirt ready for the chop

I ironed the fabric and put it flat on the floor with the right side facing down. I then folded it carefully up over the top of the existing fabric and stapled it down on the middle point on each side. Then I folded in the corners and stapled them into place before stapling the fabric down at various points along each side to ensure it stayed down. I didn’t even have to worry about the stapling being neat because it would be covered by a dust cover.

Stapling the cool Coopers on top of the original fabric on the stool lid

The unit originally had a dreary black dust cover so I decided to replace it with some star filled fabric I found in a remnant bin. I used the old dust cover to take measurements for a new one. I then cut the fabric out leaving an extra half inch on each side, ironed down a half inch seam all round and stapled it onto the inside of the box lid.

A star filled dust cover in place, hinges screwed back in, legs back on!

I’m really pleased with the finished product. I think it’s given the original unit – and my Mini Cooper skirt – a great face-lift! It also provides a safe home for my cross stitch projects and means I get to see the lovely Mini fabric every day instead of just when I wore it as a skirt.

Ta dah! The finished product!
  • Best song to furniture paint to: Knights of Cydonia by Muse
  • Best cake for this project: Red velvet
  • Project costs:
    • Base unit: £16.50
    • Paint: £7.95
    • Main fabric: Upcycled skirt
    • Star fabric: £1.00 (in a remnant bin)
      Total: £25.45

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and you’re having a lovely crafty day with some great music playing and a slice of your favourite cake nearby. Tune in next month for another crafty make from me. Have you upcycled anything lately, or do you have any top tips to share – or suggestions of good music to craft to? Please leave a comment if you do. We’d love to hear from you.

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Jo Burgess

Jo Burgess

Originally from Northern Ireland, Jo Burgess is a craft crazy rock music loving gal based in England. With a career including time spent as a motorsport journalist in England, in the film industry in Northern Ireland, and working on ghost tours in Scotland, her background is as mixed up as her love of craft. Jo will try her hand at anything and loves learning a new skill with tea and cake, crafty friends and great music blasting out of her speakers. Cross stitch, electronics, sewing, beadwork, glass fusing - she loves it all, and through this column Jo hopes to pass her love of different crafts, music and (of course) cake on to you. Craft rocks!