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The Stool That Nobody Wanted Made Into an Ottoman

How to Make an Ottoman Using an Old Stool 

I have a tale to tell you today about a little piece of furniture that nobody wanted, not even me.

Old sewing machine square stool before makeover

I found this wood stool with a paint splattered seat cushion two years ago at a yard sale.  It was $4.

I bought it to use as a piece to demonstrate how to make and paint furniture with DIY chalk paint at a craft event I was invited to speak at when we first moved to the lake. The stool was perfect for the demonstration for a few reasons, mainly it was small and easy to transport, but was perfect that I could show the progression of the chalk painting steps on each of the legs. I left the first leg untouched to show the original finish and then used the other 3 legs to show the 3 steps… painting, distressing and waxing.

Once the speaking engagement was over, I brought the stool home, but didn’t have anywhere to use it.

I asked my daughters and friends if they would like the stool if I finished it and added new fabric to the cushion, but they all declined. I tried it in a few rooms in my house, but I just could not find a spot for it, but I couldn’t part with it since it was a classic and sturdy little stool. I put it in my garage and that is where it sat for two years until I found a use for it last weekend.

outdoor chair cushions, pillows and open book on rattan rocker.

Ed and I were out on the deck reading and relaxing on these rattan rocking chairs. To make ourselves comfy we brought over one of the deck dining table chairs to use as an ottoman to put our feet up.  That is when I said to myself, “I need to buy an outdoor ottoman to use with these chairs.”  At the same time in the back of my mind, I was also thinking that we can just make do with using one of the dining chairs as living at the lake has taught me I don’t need need, need, need everything to make me happy.

Then pop…the lightbulb went off in my head and I remembered the stool in the garage that nobody wanted and went to the garage to get it.

An plastic gelato container being used to hold turquoise chalk paint. It is placed on the unfinished stool with a paint brush.

The seat cushion is leather and although it looks pretty bad, it is intact. I still had the chalk paint I made for the furniture painting demonstration and finished painting the wood part on the stool.

TIP: If you make chalk paint and like Talenti Gelato, the containers make excellent paint cans to store your DIY chalk paint. 

To make the stool outdoor proof, I used the leftover fabric I had from the outdoor cushion covers I made and posted about 2 weeks ago. The fabric is indoor/outdoor, but since it was going to be used for our feet, I wanted a way to keep it as clean as possible since I would not be able to easily remove the fabric and throw it in the washer as I can the chair cushion covers. I added fusible iron-on vinyl over the fabric and then attached it to the seat cushion.

Completed painted small square stool with turquoise and green fabric and iron on clear lamination to protect from water.

As far as the chalk painted wood. It will slowly wear with time and give the paint a natural weathered look. I don’t want to poly it since that won’t help being left outside.  Using wax is not an option either as it would just soften and melt with the heat and sun.

Close up of newly covered stool next to rattan rocker. The fabric on the stool matches the cushion on the rocker.

When the stool, which I now refer to as the outdoor ottoman is not being used, I will place it under the section on the deck that is covered from the second floor deck to protect it from the elements, but even as it does weather, I am OK with that as it will take on a rustic vibe that will go with the lake side of the house. :-)

Close up of the top of the newly painted turquoise and fabric covered stool.

I am so happy that I kept it. It just needed a little time to come back to life. :-)

Two rattan rockers with painted stool between them.

I added a sailboat pillow to one of the chairs that goes well with the fabric and the lakeside setting. I will share more about the pillow very soon…. it is very exciting so stay tuned.

Blogger Diane sitting in chair reading a book with feet up on finished stool.

So the $5 garage sale stool that nobody wanted is now one fine looking outdoor ottoman that I have already enjoyed using quite a few times.

2 Ways to Make Any Fabric Outdoor Safe

Option 1: Iron-On Vinyl

Note: If you would like thicker coverage of clear vinyl, you can buy yards of clear vinyl in many different thicknesses at the fabric store. The heavier/thicker vinyl is more durable. If you do this, there is no need to iron-it on. To attach you would just place over fabric and staple on the underside of top cushion as shown below.

Heat N Bond Iron on Vinyl package

Iron-On Vinyl adds a clear iron-on protection onto fabric. It is water-repellant and can be easily wiped clean.  It comes pre-packaged (Heat’nBond brand) and you can also buy yardage made by Pellon at most fabric stores. It comes in matte and gloss finishes.

Step 1: Pre-heat a dry-iron to medium heat setting.

Using an iron to press heat n bond vinyl onto fabric.

Step 2: Place fabric right side up on ironing board. Peel vinyl from white release paper and place sticky side of vinyl down onto fabric. Smooth with hands.

Peeling Heat n Bond vinyl from fabric.

Step 3: Place the shiny side of the release paper that was just removed on the top of the vinyl. Press and hold iron onto the release paper on top of fabric for 8 seconds. Do not allow the iron to make direct contact with the vinyl. Repeat by lifting iron onto a different area and holding for 8 seconds, slightly overlapping until you have pressed over all of the fabric.

Step 4: Flip fabric over and iron the back of the fabric for 4 seconds. Repeat by lifting the iron onto a new area and pressing for 4 seconds, slightly overlapping until you have ironed all over the fabric.

How to Attach Vinyl Covered Fabric to Stool Seat Cushion

Stool before makeover showing top lifted off of it to show that you can store things inside.

To remove cushion to cover it with the vinyl covered fabric, use a screw driver to unscrew seat from the underside of stool.

Using a staple gun to attach fabric to stool's removable top.

Lay fabric right side down on work surface, center seat cushion right side down on top of fabric.  If your fabric has a pattern on it, make sure you center it as you cover the seat cushion. Wrap the ends of the fabric tightly around to the underside of seat cushion and use a staple gun to attach.

Two rattan chairs with stool between them. Stool has book on it and sunglasses.

Place the seat cushion back into stool with screws.

Option 2: Waterproofing Spray

3 Fabric spray brands to waterproof outdoor fabric

If you want an instant way to waterproof fabric so you can use it outdoors, using one of these waterproofing sprays will protect the fabric.  Follow the direction on each brand’s label. Here are a few outdoor waterproofing sprays to try:

Thompsons Fabric Seal 

Rustoleum NeverWet Outdoor Fabric Spray

Scotchgard Water Shield

Image graphic with chair and stool. It says How to make any fabric outdoor safe.

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38 Comments

  1. Your ottoman turned out beautiful. It was originally a sewing machine stool. I have my mother’s sewing machine in the cabinet and the matching stool.

    1. Hi Kathy – I love that the stool was once a sewing machine stool. :-) It is one well-made one that is super sturdy even after being out in the elements. I used it all weekend long.

  2. Amazing!!! This DIY brought tears to my eyes!!! This stool is identical to my Mother’s sewing stool! Unfortunately the sewing machine died in a fire about 25 years ago. But the stool was elsewhere and therefore survived. I have it in a guest room but now, will do what you did to use it as a footstool in my new gazebo!! The footstool must be at least 60 years old as I remember sewing on it when I was 10 on up! I turned 70 a month ago!! Now my Mom can share my gazebo with me (she’s been gone 27 years now but not a day goes by that I don’t have wonderful memories of her.). It will be my new outdoor Zen space during this COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Linda – There are a few other readers who wrote saying the same thing. :-) Since the stool is still in solid condition it says a lot for how it was made. You know the saying… “They sure don’t make things like they used to” does not pertain to this sewing machine stool. It makes me happy that my post made you smile happy tears.

  3. That is just like the Singer sewing machine bench my mother bought with her 1948 Singer machine.

    1. Hi Elaine – I think that is what my bench must have been – a sewing machine bench. A few other readers thought the same thing and had fond memories of it. A very common piece of furniture. It works perfectly on my deck. :-)

  4. Hi Diane! I just subscribed to your blog-love the ideas! And I LOVE that there is a fuseable vinyl for weatherproofing – that solves so many problems that have stopped me from making pillows, cushions and covers for my deck at home and rv patio on the road. Quick question-can you use it for sewing and if so, how would that work? I have a good sewing machine but it’s not industrial. Would I be better served to use a spray for things like cushions or can I use the vinyl either before or after sewing? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Sarah Jane – Thank you for subscribing to my blog. :-) For small cushions like I covered with the fuseable vinyl, the vinyl works. On larger cushions where people sit and the cushion gets scrunched down, after awhile the vinyl may come off. So I would use spray fabric protector for these. Also, since it is vinyl, people’s legs would stick to the cushions when it is hot out and make the cushions uncomfortable. The vinyl is only 24″ wide so for any larger projects you would have to overlap the vinyl and I have found this doesn’t hold up. The vinyl is better for smaller projects.

      I have not used it for sewing. I think it may be too thin to be sewn. The needle would break the vinyl apart and eventually come off. If you have a sewing machine and want to sew vinyl on, you may want to use vinyl sold by the yard that is not fusible. You don’t need an industrial machine as long as the vinyl is not too thick and you use the right sewing machine needle. I would look into using this: 4 Gauge Vinyl 54″ – Clear

  5. for the stool that nobody wanted I think it came out just awesome!!!! Isle of the blue color!! You did a fantastic job..!!

  6. I have a stool just like it. It was my mother’s sewing stool. It still has her picking shears inside. She would be turning 100 this year. You have inspired me. I will make it pretty & it will be my sewing table. Thank you!

  7. I have that same bench. It is from an old 1930’s singer sewing machine that belonged to my mom. It match the cabinet the machine was in. It is It has been in my attic for 26 years. I now have a purpose for it! Thanks for the idea!!

  8. Yes! A sewing machine stool with storage under cushion. I too have repurposed many of these. Too uncomfortable for today’s sewing rooms I guess ??‍♀️. I actually shorted the legs a little for a footstool/ ottoman. Keep up the good work I’m enjoying your blog. ☕️??

  9. Quite a transformation! I too really enjoy upcycling furniture. It’s incredibly rewarding and also great for the planet – much more eco-friendly to reuse, rather than discard perfectly sound furniture unnecessarily. Well done.

    1. Thanks Joy. It feels great not to have to deal with hair dye anymore. It is liberating and I feel better than I have in years. Who knew that would be an outcome of embracing my natural hair color. :-)

    1. Hi Ellen – I could use poly on it, but with the heat of the sun, poly, especially water-based could eventually raise and peel. With the chalk paint by itself, it will slowly age and wear. You got me thinking… I should do an experiment. I think I will. :-) I will poly one side and leave the other unprotected. After the summer I can do a post showing how each side has held up. It will be interesting to see for sure.

  10. Super cute – I love repurposing! I bought that same fabric in the grey/aqua/cobalt colorway for our outdoor cushions and I am super excited to get at it … and to try one of the waterproofing sprays. We lost our 14 year old cat Mr. Minty in February and he was the reason my outdoor cushions are so shabby – it is time to refresh and redo … and not having to keep gobs of white cat hair in mind is a blessing. Though we do miss his excellent mousing skills and affectionate purring.

  11. I had the same reaction as Jeri when I saw this old stool! My mother had one that was very similar too from HER Singer sewing machine and how I also remembered all the sewing projects my Mom worked on. It was just from watching her that I learned enough about how to sew so I could make my jeans and pants as tight as I could get them when I wass a teenager! Oh how those WERE the days! Great repurposing! I especially like how you resisted just going out to buy buy buy something else when you can make do with what you have. It looks great and the only thing missing from your life on your lake view deck is a container full of Talenti filled with GELATO! Yum! Great choice! (Coconut’s my weakness!)

  12. What a flood of memories when I saw that stool. It goes with a singer sewing machine from way back when. Trust me I had not thought of that stool one time, but the second I saw it I recognized it from my past. My mother made all our clothes and that sewing bench saw plenty of action!

  13. It isn’t so much the stool but what you did with it! That is a pretty little stool! See, it was worth $5! And so nice to see you relaxing (with lipstick) and enjoying it!

  14. Love what you did and thanks for the waterproofing ideas. I too have this stool!! I have chalk painted it white and covered the leather top with a black and white ticking type fabric which is actually curtains that IKEA used to sell. Sure wish they still did. My top wasn’t ever attached and it makes great storage too.

  15. I love it! And I love reading how you took something and made it fit your need – and look good doing so. Thanks for sharing. It looks super relaxing on your deck with your book.

  16. I love your little stool! That happened to me with a chair I bought at an estate sale a few years ago. It sat in my garage because I thought I might buy mix-matched chairs for my dining room table. That never happened because I bought a nice oat table and chairs. So the chair there. I was always afraid my son when cleaning the garage would throw it out. He didn’t. I was looking for something to put by my front door outside to hold a planter and the chair came to mind and I had some bright yellow paint which was perfect! I’m so glad I didn’t get rid of the chair. It is perfect where it is now.

  17. I have this very same stool, which belonged to my seamstress grandmother and now houses vintage patterns in my sewing room. I recovered it with white faux fur and it looks quite glam. I use it nearly every day, and think about my grandmother each time I see it.

  18. Great idea! It’s important to keep a few unwanted pieces of furniture around for those “light bulb” moments! When it happens to me, my husband finally says “you were right” to keep it! LOL

  19. Gorgeous…as usual. Who ever sold you that stool had a lot of nerve charging four bucks. I would have charged you either a dollar or I would have just probably given it to you for free. If somebody left that eyesore on the side of the road it would have just sat there for days.

  20. Diane, your ottoman redo is wonderful. I like the info on weatherproofing fabric too. Outdoor cushions take a beating!

    I think your ottoman may be a sewing stool that came with a Singer sewing machine cabinet. My mother had one. There is storage under the seat which lifts off. Storage=Bonus!

    1. Yes, that is a sewing machine stool with storage underneath the cushion. My mother had one identical to that and kept her bobbins, threads, and sewing attachments as well as other items in that stool. Love your repurposed stool!

  21. Pretty stool. But the best part is wearing lipstick to read a book on the porch. I love that you are fancy.