Learning a new trick

Every now and then I need to learn a new trick.  Not just learning a new thing – that happens every day (or it should).  I mean, something that challenges my brain and hands in a new way.  Husband and I are very much in step on this point.  Both of us are nearly always tinkering with something new.

There is a club chair that I have been carrying around with me from apartment to apartment and house to house.  The chair used to live with my great-grandparents, where I have fond memories of huge family gatherings (with four generations under one roof, they were naturally large gatherings) and playing in their front yard while my great-grandmother supervised from the porch.  It was my great-grandfather’s chair for TV watching.  I remember it being super cozy and curling up in the seat for a snooze on Christmas Eve when the adults were taking too long to put us to bed.  I was in college when I inherited the chair.  (My great-grandparents enjoyed a very long life together!)  It was very well-loved by that point, so it sat under a slipcover in my living room for many years.

Until the moving day where it rained.  It was inevitable, you know.  When you’ve moved 16 times in 21 years, there is bound to be a moving day that includes rain.  You know what happened next – the chair got wet.  Add the damp to its advanced age, and it became a health hazard.  Every time I sat in it I developed an allergic reaction.  And so the chair was exiled to whatever storage room was available at the time, waiting for the day that I had the resources to restore it to health and usefulness again.

Now here’s where Husband comes in.  One day he said, “I’m signing you up for the upholstery class that starts this weekend.  We need to get that chair out of the garage.”  I enthusiastically agreed – it was time to reupholster the chair, and this class would help me do it.  Not only would I learn the techniques, but I would learn on my own chair (as opposed to one provided for the class).  It was three full Saturdays of tiring, backbreaking work.  But so worth it!

IMG_20140823_093344_clr_trm_smHere’s the “before” photo on the first day of class.  Mom and I estimate that it was likely part of the home furnishings my great-grandparents purchased when they married and set up housekeeping in the 1920’s – 1930’s.  We also estimate that the chair was reupholstered sometime mid-century (before her memory, anyway) and that the fabric shown here was the “new” fabric at that time.


The blue striped fabric is assumed to be the original upholstery fabric. The darker blue around the edges of this remnant is the original color, the lighter blue shows the degree of fading and wear.


The naked chair frame, ready for new materials.

The instructor showed us how to break down the chair to the frame and whatever springs that included.  So many staples to remove!  The existing padding was discarded, as that had contributed to my allergy issues.  All along the way, we compared this adventure to an archaeological dig – we kept finding new and exciting things hidden under that top layer.

IMG_20140904_125327_clr_trm_smLayer by layer, I built the form of the chair back up from the bare frame.  The springs only needed a minor adjustment and a little spray paint to ward off rust.


Husband inspecting my progress.


At this point it barely fits in the car to go back and forth to class!

And then I added the fabric.  The fabric acquisition required a last-minute dash to all of the upholstery grade fabric stores in my area, as I hadn’t made myself stash some beforehand.  Why didn’t I snag a good buy back in the days when I was doing professional design work…ah well.

IMG_20140913_141914_clr_trm_smA note about the feet.  I have both original front feet.  At some point in all of that moving around one of the front feet fell off.  I stashed it in a “safe” place among the rest of my possessions.  And now I can’t seem to put my hand on it.  Not to fear, it will turn up – my missing knitted shawl did.  Meanwhile, I purchased and installed two new front feet.  The one I removed is now safely included in the time capsule bag I stashed inside the dust cover on the bottom of the chair.  (Since I’ve publicly noted the location, hopefully this will prevent further “I can’t find it…” episodes.)  When I find it’s mate, they’ll be reinstalled instead of the new feet.

The class instructor suggested the time capsule idea since the chair is a family heirloom.  I wrote a little note about the history of the chair, and included a bit of the two old fabrics I encountered during deconstruction.  This was zipped up in a bag with the front foot and wedged into the seat springs.  The next person to reupholster the chair should find it.

I hope that’s me, as I expect to get many good years of use out of this chair, but I know that the fabric will wear out long before the chair and I do.

IMG_20140928_143053_clr_trm_smI think it makes a fine addition to the knitting station.  Don’t you?

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2 Responses to Learning a new trick

  1. Mom says:

    It looks fabulous!!! You did a fantastic job! Mema would be so proud and Papa would not believe you did it!! Did you save some of the horsehair stuffing as well?

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks! 🙂
      No, none of the stuffing was saved, including the horsehair. There was no easy way to separate it from the dust and other nasties while we were working in the classroom.