Here’s the cool ’50s fabric I’m planning to do my new chair up with – just hope it’s not another year before I post the end results.
This atomic fabric is getting so expensive now, there seems to be a huge demand for it out there (at least on Ebay). It’s nigh on impossible to find it in the old haunts too (charity shops, junk shops don’t even seem to exist any more) so nab it where you can.
Here’s the latest addition to my upholstery cannon which has been cluttering up our house for the last few months looking sorry for itself. I honestly thought I’d finish that big old bird sooner but it dragged on, and in the meantime I’ve acquired a few more projects looking at me forlornly and accusingly: ‘you said I’d be looking great in a couple of months’.
This patient has a broken back and a couple of splits but a bit of aruldite, some splints, a bit of rubbing down and a lick of paint should sort it right out. I bought it at an antique shop down the road for a fiver, so nothing to lose. I’m planning to use a scrap of 50s fabric, although I might change my mind as it comes along.
My first blog entry was a lengthy description of the battered up old chair I was planning to re-upholster and a promise to blog about my progress as I went along. You might be forgiven for thinking I’d ditched the whole idea as it has never graced these pages since (my niece-in-law recently wittily commented on the entry ‘glad you kept us all updated’, sarky miss). Well if you did you were WRONG – I’ve only gorn and finished it. *Mumbles* only took me a year and a half.
Pretty chuffed overall, although Chairman Miaow the fat cat is putting the springs to the test, so I can’t really see it staying pristine for much longer. Also a good place to hide Lucas’ train track underneath which you can just see peeping out. Now onto the next …
I’ve started making up some cushions for the v.stylish antique shop down the road – they seem to have this never-ending treasure trove of vintage fabric which they sell to discerning customers for soft furnishings generally. Style-de-jour is the loose-woven linen sack material so sought after at the moment, and a customer needed a couple of cushions made up at short notice, so here they are. Three antique French buttons (of course) close the back, and I’ve overlocked the edges to prevent fraying.
I’m using a similar fabric to upholster my chair (on which the cushions are so stylishly modelled ahem) but have only just reached the fabric bit, so it was good to try it out on something smaller first. It’s quite tough and slubby at times, but so hard-wearing and forgiving when it comes to a household full of cats, dogs, 2-year-olds … at least that’s what I’m hoping.
God I hate that term, but I suppose it sums up the fabric I’ve bought to re-do la chaise (well it certainly has a shabby look about it anyway). Had a quick look in the antique shop down the road and they’re selling this wonderful hemp linen sacking (probably French) and got all excited until I saw astronomical price so I turned to my old friend, ebay, and found a kindly bearded and bespectacled Austrian gentleman (well that’s how I pictured him anyway) selling huge rolls of the stuff for about a quarter of the price.
Maybe it’s not vintage, maybe someone’s cottoned onto the fact that this stuff is fashionable now so they’re re-making it … whatever, it looks great and I love it.
I was showing the fabric to a friend and saying how cheap it was, then we realised what a ridiculous world we live in where we’re saying £9 a metre is cheap for old hemp sacking. My how those French farmers must be laughing … actually probably just shrugging and looking disdainful at the stupid English.
So I’ll start this blog with my current obsession … upholstering my chair.
Prompted by the good Mr W, I had a good look at what I wanted to do with myself earlier this year, post-baby ‘n’all, and I came up with the over-ambitious idea that I wanted to do a textiles degree, maybe go into restoration for museums and stately homes (ahem). Coming back down to earth and realising I needed to keep bringing in the bacon (plus keep some FOCUS in my life), I figured a more realistic aim would be an evening class of some sort.
Upholstery just fulfills a need for me … it somehow fits in quite neatly with my web coding head need for step by step mind numbing detail. Although it can be creative, it’s not wildly artistic and there are a set number of steps you need to go through to achieve an end result. I love working with the frame of the chair, all the effort (by someone else!) that went into carving it, bringing it back to life. The creative part sneaks into the construction – how do you want to shape it? What fabric to use? Do you use buttons? How are you going to finish the wood?
Dark wood furniture is out of fashion at the moment so you can pick things up relatively cheaply – criminal really, considering the amount of thought and work that went into these things in the first place. I picked up a couple of Edwardian chairs at the local auction house for £70 (including commission) and sold the smaller one for £25 to another upholstery newbie. It had some badly tacked-on pink velour covers (see above – nice huh?) over the original, green, incredibly faded chintzy fabric (see left). But it had a faded grandeur and a dignity about it that I loved.
I got all artsy and analytical about it at first, the fact that it was made pre-WW1 at a time when the Empire was fading but there was still a bit of time and money left to put some effort into things, before ideals got blown to bits along with a generation. I loved the carved back, the idea that this was, at the end of the day, a fairly common chair made out of cheap wood (as I found out pulling the tacks out and another splintered shard fell off), but a good deal of craftsmanship had gone into it.
Now I just love it as a good old chair that I’m bringing back to life … I’ll keep posting my progress, it’ll be fun to look back on when it’s finished!