Monday, June 24, 2013

Recovering a Parasol

This is a project I have been working on since March 2012.  Don't ask me WHY.  It's just taken a long time.  And naturally I didn't take good, documenting photos of the whole process.  So this isn't a real tutorial, more a How I Did It.

I'd never considered that I needed to own an antique parasol until a friend found one and recovered it with her own fabric.  I was horribly jealous and I happened to find a nice one in an antique shop soon after.  The parasol I found had a very nice, long, wooden handle.  But the fabric was hideous.

So if you find yourself with a similar problem, the first thing you need to do is study your parasol and how it is constructed.  In this case the fabric was cut in panels which were stitched together and the edges serged together.  The tips of the spines had plastic ends with a hole through them and stitches through this hole held the fabric in place.

Next you're going to need some fabric to replace the fabric it came with.  This is trickier than you'd think.  You really want a fabric that will look good from above and below.  There are lots of great prints out there, but how many look good on the wrong side?  Not many.  So you really need a woven fabric where the pattern goes all the way through.  Or a solid.  I really wanted a pattern, preferably a stripe.   It took me a while to find any acceptable fabric.  I finally found some in a tiny fabric store in Old Town Spring, TX.  It doesn't really match any of my steampunk outfits, but I like all the colors (dark red, dark green, yellow, black) and was mostly relieved to find anything.

You can see the black piece I mean.
The edge is covered in braid
Next you have to take the parasol apart.  I couldn't figure out how to get the black ring on top of the fabric off of mine, so I  just took a scissors to the fabric and cut it off, leaving a circle of fabric around the post.  After I did that, I WAS able to remove the black piece holding the fabric in place.  You should be able to remove this piece.  Mine consisted of a black rubbery plastic piece that slide off the long wooden tip, a metal washer, and some fabric bits cushioning it.  I then cut one of the panels carefully from its neighbors and used this to draw my pattern, adding back seam allowance.  Since my fabric had a hole cut in the center, I simply extended the lines of the sides until they met at the tip of the mostly triangular piece.

If you want your covering to extend further than the original fabric did, in this case to cover the plastic tips, add some to the bottom of your pattern piece.  I didn't and I still had room to pull the fabric mostly over the tips.   Cut your fabric, paying attention to the direction of your pattern, and seam all the pie pieces together.  Leave the center tips unstitched for an inch or so to poke the post through.  I then trimmed my seam allowances very closely and zigzagged the seam allowances.  I considered doing a French seam or something fancier, but decided it would clutter the right side of the parasol and not help the underside all that much.

Now it's time to consider trim. I think a proper parasol needs serious trim.  I decided to go with fringe, but you could choose a beaded fringe, lace, ruffles, or whatever.  Stitch your trim to the edge of your parasol fabric.  Consider if you'd like to add any additional trim.  I originally only had fringe and decided on a whim to add gimp braid, but this was AFTER I'd attached the fabric to the frame and so I had to resort to Ye Olde Hot Glue.  (Cause no way was I handsewing all of that.)

And now it's the tricky part: reattaching the fabric to the frame.  Slide the post of the parasol through the hole in the center of your fabric.  You will probably have excess fabric at the tips, this is fine.  Make sure you do have a snug fit, though.  If you need to close the hole more, do this now.  I then trimmed the excess points and covered the center with the black piece to hold it in place.  If yours isn't really snug, you may need to use glue to hold it all together and keep it from slipping, but make sure everything is positioned correctly before you do.  I'd wait before doing anything permanent until you have the fabric attached to the rest of the frame.

Start by hand-stitching each tip to the end of each seam.  I ended up doing a lot of stitching around the tips because I wanted the fabric to mostly cover them.  So I pinched the fabric around the tip and sewed it into something like a little channel or pouch.  It's not neat at all close up, but you really don't see the stitches from any reasonable distance, and it covered the ugly plastic tips, mostly.

I also stitched the fabric to the arms of the frame at the very center, to prevent any slipping.  I stitched the center hole closed underneath the black rubber center, and then glued everything in place.

After all this, I wanted to add a bit more decoration, so I added the gimp braid with hot glue.  I'm pretty darn happy with the result.


  1. Was this hard to do? I would love a steampunk parasol, and often troll through eBay looking for an antique one with an interesting handle. I've put off bidding on anything, as I thought it might be too hard a job to tackle.

    1. I wouldn't say it was hard. Because I was figuring it out as I went it took me a little while, and mostly I just kept setting it aside for other projects. Hand-stitching the fabric to the frame takes a little while, but it's not hard. Especially the way I hand-stitch, i.e. very messily.

      So no, I think it's totally doable.