DIY French Grain Sack for a Bench Makeover

UGG.  Have you ever updated a piece of furniture and thought you did a pretty awesome job but then it sat and sat and sat in your booth and no one bought it? 

So finally you brought it back home to live in your basement for a few years because you refused to just let it go for peanuts?  (Just because a piece isn’t selling doesn’t mean you should practically give it away.  There are other options to try first.)

Here’s a little upholstered bench I brought home in 2015 (yep 4 years ago):

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

That summer I gave it a makeover with fresh white paint and an antique embroidered pillowcase (read all about it Here) and I thought it was so pretty.  Isn’t it pretty??

Bench makeover - Girl in the Garage

Apparently it wasn’t the right style for most people, so after almost a year I brought it back home.  Thankfully it was small and didn’t take up much room in my booth.

After all those years of waiting I finally figured out what to do with the bench for this month’s Furniture Fixer Uppers project: a faux DIY French grain sack makeover.

First I unscrewed the seat and set it aside.  I didn’t want to repaint the wood, but I did want it more roughed up and distressed looking so I sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

* This post contains some affiliate links so you can easily find the products I use and recommend.  Learn more about all of my favorite DIY products and tools here.

Next I carefully removed the embroidered pillowcase that I had used to recover the seat the first time.

Using an upholstery staple remover like this one really helps the job go faster – I really don’t know how my hands survived so long without it.  It also helps to have needle nose pliers nearby in case a staple breaks while still lodged in the wood.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

The seat and padding were still in pretty good shape so I opted to just recover it again.

I cut cotton batting first (I buy it by the yard – this type is my favorite) to add a little bit of extra softness and a light color for under the new fabric.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Next I used a heavy duty staple gun to attach the batting, and sometimes had to tap with a hammer to make the staples go in all the way. 

I used to use a basic upholstery stapler from Hobby Lobby but after using it so many times it really couldn’t keep up with my projects.  It’s fine though if you’re just starting out or only planning to do 1-2 simple upholstery projects.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Be careful when folding the corners so you don’t have too much thickness – and don’t cover up the holes where the screws go!

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

How to Make a Faux DIY French Grain Sack:

First start with painter’s drop cloth from the hardware store (or order here online).  Wash and dry to make it softer and in case it might shrink. 

Funny story: I bought this drop cloth for one of the furniture makeovers in my upcoming book and I decided to get the largest size, not realizing it was about 9ft x 12ft – it will last me forever!  haha

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Cut the cloth several inches wider than the bench on each side and then iron it.

Staple it over the batting, folding the unfinished edges under as you go for a neater look.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Staple one side and then turn it around and do the opposite side, pulling tightly.  Then do the last two sides.  Finally, finish the four corners.

It will look something like this from underneath:

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

It doesn’t need to look perfect but it shouldn’t look like a big mess either.

Next for your faux DIY French grain sack you will need a stencil like this one.  Center it over the seat and tape it in place.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Then take a sponge pouncer and lightly dip it in black paint (I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite), then blot it onto a paper towel to remove most of the paint.  When you’re stenciling, less is best.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Use the pouncer to paint the French stencil onto the fabric.  When you run out of color on the pouncer, dip it in the paint and blot again.

The color doesn’t need to be vibrant or even consistent – it’s supposed to look vintage, so it’s okay to look faded and imperfect in some places.  That adds to the charm.   🙂

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Once the middle section is finished, use a grain sack stencil (or just use painter’s tape) to add stripes on both sides.  I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Coco and a Martha Stewart pouncer this time, curving the stencil on the edges of the seat.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

And here is the 2nd makeover of that little bench from four years ago…

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

View from the top:

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Closeup of the faux DIY French grain sack (I just love how the drop cloth looks so beautiful and authentic when used this way):

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

It’s time for this little bench makeover to head back to my booth!  I have a feeling it won’t sit for several months this time.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

And here’s a handy before and after comparison again – feel free to Pin it for easy access later.

How to make a DIY French grain sack with drop cloth and a stencil - Step by step bench makeover tutorial by Girl in the Garage

Friend, I would love to know what you think of this bench makeover-makeover.  And I’d be so grateful if you’d Pin or share this online so others can learn and be inspired too.  I’ll be sharing more tips soon for things you can try if a piece has been sitting too long without any bites.

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Now it’s time for Furniture Fixer Uppers day with my creative furniture makeover friends.  Every month we get together and post our latest projects to inspire YOU.

Furniture Fixer Uppers

Below are the Before photos – visit the links underneath to see the amazing Afters and to learn how they did it:

Furniture Fixer Uppers1. Prodigal Pieces
2. The Interior Frugalista
3. Just the Woods
4. Confessions of a Serial DIYer
5. Petticoat Junktion

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26 Comments on DIY French Grain Sack for a Bench Makeover

  1. Pam A
    February 28, 2019 at 5:53 am (3 weeks ago)

    The bench is awesome and I bet it doesn’t last long!

    Reply
  2. Nancy
    February 28, 2019 at 6:57 am (3 weeks ago)

    How clever using a stencil to give it that antique grain sack look.

    Reply
  3. Shelley
    February 28, 2019 at 8:21 am (3 weeks ago)

    I am about to “Try to” reupholster 4 barrel chairs With drop cloths for kitchen table chairs. I love your linen towel effect, I think I can add that to the backs.
    Question: When you use drop cloths on a chair or bench, do you spray it with some kind of fabric protector? Although the fabric is inexpensive, the labor is still pretty time-consuming, so I don’t want to have to do this again if it is stained. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Dixie Lee
      February 28, 2019 at 4:10 pm (3 weeks ago)

      I spray everything i reupholster with scotchguard fabric protection spray.

      Reply
  4. Denise Zdziennicki
    February 28, 2019 at 9:06 am (3 weeks ago)

    Adorable makeover Jen…. doesn’t even look like the same bench! Pinned!!! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Christy James
    February 28, 2019 at 10:18 am (3 weeks ago)

    I love how this turned out so much, Jen!! I too have had to bring a few pieces home and redo them. I have a feeling this won’t last long! XOXO

    Reply
  6. Marie
    February 28, 2019 at 11:16 am (3 weeks ago)

    Girl, you should have no problem selling this bench now! I love all things French and if I lived near you I’d buy this in a heartbeat. Really like how you stenciled it with both graphite and coco.

    Reply
  7. Debra A Wise
    February 28, 2019 at 2:05 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Love the grain sack bench makeover! It should sell in a hurry. Where did you get the grain sack stripe stencil?

    Reply
  8. Gertrude Holleman
    February 28, 2019 at 2:54 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I love it. It looks too good to be true. I’m trying new things but it takes time and patience.

    Reply
  9. Cynthia Johnson
    February 28, 2019 at 3:59 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Love the new look, but I love the pillow case also. It is beautiful and should sell immediately.

    Reply
  10. Kaycee
    February 28, 2019 at 5:08 pm (3 weeks ago)

    This is just gorgeous. I love the stencil you used, it is perfect!

    Reply
  11. Cate
    February 28, 2019 at 6:15 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I LOVED the white one and I like this one as much! Good job!!

    Reply
  12. Gail
    February 28, 2019 at 9:25 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Third time the’s charm! At least for my tastes; but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the first two makeovers.

    You are so talented.

    Love your site; learn so much and want to tell you just how much I appreciate your taking all of your valuable time to share your knowledge, talent and skill.

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      March 4, 2019 at 1:12 pm (2 weeks ago)

      Gail, you are so sweet – you made my day with your comment. Thank you!!

      Reply
  13. Marcie Lovett
    March 1, 2019 at 8:42 am (2 weeks ago)

    It’s so sweet, I can’t imagine it will sit around long this time, Jen! I always forget how versatile the humble drop cloth can be – thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  14. Marcie Lovett
    March 1, 2019 at 8:43 am (2 weeks ago)

    It’s so sweet, I can’t imagine it will sit around long this time! I always forget how versatile the humble drop cloth can be – thanks for the reminder, Jen.

    Reply
  15. Kathy Owen
    March 1, 2019 at 9:31 am (2 weeks ago)

    This is my favorite makeover. I love the colors and design on the fabric cover!

    Reply
  16. kandice kullmann
    March 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm (2 weeks ago)

    this is so cute! It was cute the first time, but even cuter now! Love that staple remover – I think I may need to get one 🙂

    Reply
  17. Heather Taylor
    March 1, 2019 at 5:33 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Looks gorgeous! Did you seal the paint with anything?

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      March 4, 2019 at 11:44 am (2 weeks ago)

      Thank you! I did not, but it could easily be protected with Annie Sloan’s clear wax or a spray fabric protector.

      Reply
  18. Robin
    March 2, 2019 at 7:53 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I think that the reason it didn’t sell the first time with the embroidery is that it is sized to be a bench under the makeup counter in the bathroom. Sitting on embroidery every day would probably have damaged/pulled the threads after a while. Also accidentally dropping makeup on white fabric is not so good. Pretty but not durable. Now your design is much more practical.

    Reply

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