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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Quick winter project: re-covering work as play

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."   ~ Carl Jung

"Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder."

~ Mason Cooley


I love this chair that I adopted and then neglected. Now I'm gonna play with it.

I bought it fifteen years ago at a garage sale of a prominent businessman for $20. It is hand-carved, and although it is not meant for comfortable sitting, I like how it looks. It could be pretty old, I haven't had an appraiser look at it. I found fabric at Calico Corners to re-cover the seat, since I didn't particularly care for the colors and pattern of the one it had. The distressed-look linen I bought conjures Louisa May Alcott or Jane Austen. Drool. For years the chair has served a fine purpose as a "bookshelf" in the bedroom, with the fabric I bought lying on the seat under the books, well protected. A chair that you don't sit on much, because it might be more for decor than function, is called an occasional chair. This one could be called a never chair.

When we rearranged the living room recently and took out the bulky dining table we almost never used, I remembered the bookshelf occasional chair. Transporting it from a dark corner of the bedroom to the warm light of the occasional room, minus the books, renewed my interest in re-covering the chair.

This was a fast, easy project (about an hour). Quite silly that it took me fifteen years to get to this and enjoy the chair. Note to self: Play with the things you love now, don't put it off.




I took the ribbon trim off the edge of the seat, exposing the staples. I didn't need to take the fabric off; I just put the new fabric right on top.




I made a muslin pattern first, then cut the linen following it. While I cut the muslin I was thinking about the muslin dresses Jane and Elizabeth Bennet wore in Pride & Prejudice. Wouldn't I have loved to be one of the Bennet sisters . . . one of the elder sisters. I also thought about the younger sisters remaking hats with new trims. I felt connected with all those Bennet girls -- re-using, recycling, remaking.

Don helped me with the staple gun, stapling the new fabric onto the wood base, because I lack wrist strength (carpal tunnel). Then I re-attached the trim with a glue gun.



















Here sits the occasional chair in the corner with a Paris pen & ink, 200-year-old poetry books from my dad's collection, and a few things I inherited from Grandma Olive, herself a very good re-user and re-maker -- a re-creator): Cupid lamp, lyre table, tea box, oriental carpet, and Navajo rug.

This has been a nice Sunday activity, and it gave me something to blog about. (I know, I always have such a hard time coming up with something, don't I? Pshaw!)

And as Mr. Darcy said to Miss Elizabeth Bennet:

"Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."

A great many things from the past give me pleasure!
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75 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful! What a gorgeous chair, and the (new) cover is really something.

How serendipitous that I am listening to an audio version of Pride and Prejudice right now while I catch up on my favorite blogs.

Maureen said...

Love what you did with the fabric. It was a perfect choice.

Great quotes here, too.

Jane Lancaster said...

This is so inspiring..AGAIN! It all looks so beautiful and satisfying. Those Bennett girls.. I sometimes muse over the fact that when Ron and I get married I will be called Jane Bennett! Another satisfying thing. Also I have to say I'm not a bit surprised you've got carpal tunnel!!! Although I'm sorry you've got it...
thanks for visiting my blog this week Ruth..as always much appreciated.

Cusp said...

Beautiful chair..and better still with new fabric. I've just spent weeks remodellling my daughters bedroom and painting furniture. Really satisfying...when it's finished :O)

M.L. Gallagher said...

I don't know if I feel inspired or... inadequate!

LOL -- that's just because I have a number of seemingly 'easy' projects leaning into 'hard'.

Okay. Okay.

Inspired.

Definitely inspired.

tinged with a teensie weensie bit of inadequate. :)

Hmmm... now where did I tuck that glue gun?

(the occasional chair looks lovely as does its corner of the room.)

kenju said...

The carving is gorgeous and the chair looks great now (although I liked the before photo too.)

Andrew said...

Good work! It looks lovely.

deb colarossi said...

gorgeous.

and I need to do my dining room chairs as well.'
but the fabric I bought about 6 years ago with good intentions no longer works in the room... sigh.

Bruce Barone said...

Not only is it beautiful, it inspires me to get to work restoring an old ornate picture frame I recently acquired.

Bonnie said...

The chair is so beautiful that I actually like both the before and after! Lovely work Ruth.

I do love to use what we have and rearrange furniture from one room to another to give a brand new aspect to the room and a rejeuvination to the spirit. My children joke that one must never enter a room here without the lights on ... as Mom may have re-arranged the furniture <>, and one could surely stub a toe!

Bonnie said...

The word "AGAIN" was in the second last line, after the word "furniture". Guess it moved to another place too!

lesleyanne said...

it looks so beautiful! and that fabric, gorgeous. it's new but it has an old feeling to it. now i remember seeing that chair for years with the fabric sitting on top of it. so glad that you found the time to re-cover it!

you should submit before and after photos to DesignSponge! :)

More Than Meets the I said...

What a lovely Sunday treat! I love the chair and the way you remodelled it, Ruth. The fabric is gorgeous, to say the least. I also love your study corner and the way all those details are interwoven. Perfection!

ellen abbott said...

a fun and creative Sunday afternoon activity. it looks beautiful.

The Bug said...

That looks great! I took an upholstery class about 15 years ago & I learned three things:

1. We use a LOT of staples in our upholstering!
2. I do not like to sew, nor am I good at it.
3. Using an air staple gun is the only way to go!

Loring Wirbel said...

Upholstery too? Dagnabbit, what DON'T you do with grace and beauty? (Well, OK, I haven't seen you do a valve job on an old eight-cylinder engine yet.) Truly remarkable.

rosaria said...

I would have no idea of how to proceed re-covering a chair. It sits as a thing of beauty and history and that's a pleasurable thing to behold.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Yes, as you say, a great many things from the past can give us pleasure, but sometimes it is nice to work with the anonymous past, isn't it? A past without us or our family or any of our known forebearers in it. A past we can harmlessly and painlessly recover from a garage sale to diligently re-cover its artifacts.

Well, now that you've eliminated the bookshelf chair, I guess you'll have no choice but to buy yourself a kindle.

I'll have you know that procrastination is a much disparaged and highly underrated activity! Why, I've spent much of this weekend pleasantly whiling away a bit of my future on procrastinating of one form or another.

Friko said...

Lovely job.

It is always the easiest jobs that get left on the 'to do' lists for longest. How very silly we are. A pretty chair can add such a lot to a room, as you have shown here.

I am glad the doing gave you such pleasure, I hope you will use the chair occasionally. Furniture wants to be loved and appreciated too, you know.

erin said...

I could spend a lifetime in just that piece of fabric. The wear of it (faux or not) is enough for me, never mind the colours. And that it took you so long, well, it makes me feel a little better. Don't change:)

xo
erin

VioletSky said...

even an occasional chair needs to show off occasionally. glad you gave it an opportunity!

Snappy Di said...

Nice chair. I've never seen another one like it and I love one of a kind items.

Di

Dutchbaby said...

This avid recycler loves this project! You selected the perfect Austenesque fabric and the chair looks perfect in that corner.

Now I would like to know more about that Navajo rug...

Patricia said...

Good job! This chair has such a marvelous form and the patina on the wood is really wonderful. Age does that sort of thing sometimes.

I always joke about the number of chairs in existence that never seem to be used at all. You see them in houses, in yards and in public spaces with rarely a body upon them.
This one looks like it is ready for a new life as a chair!

Oliag said...

What a unique chair! And I have to say that the new material is far superior to the old..I love it:) Mr O's bedside bookstand is an old chair too:)

This is the time for soup and projects...

Terresa said...

Beautiful results! My mom does this to her chairs, changes them up every few years...

who said...

It's an awesome chair Ruthi, I like it for it's originality. Spirals are hard to turn out on a lathe, especially ones that spiral counter to typical staircases of those days.

Because of the spin, I would assume the majority of the owner's securities were left handed.

Ginnie said...

It's funny how many times I have been in your bedroom, Sister, but haven't noticed that chair! Now I'm trying to picture your living room without that table. I bet it looks spacious and cozy at the same time. Does it make you want to sit in there (if it's warm enough), I wonder? I love how creative you are. You always inspire me!

Gwei Mui said...

WOW is there anything artistic that you cannot turn your hand to!

Ruth said...

Hello, Elizabeth, and thank you! I like that synchronizing of P & P, and that yours was the first comment here. :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen, I'm glad you like the fabric too. Actually, I'm glad that I still like the fabric. :)

Ruth said...

Jane, I could have mentioned, and didn't think of it, that Grandma Olive was a Bennett. My brother who passed away was named for that side of the family.

Who me? You aren't surprised that I have carpal tunnel? You think I blog a lot or something?

;)

Ruth said...

Cusp, thank you. I've noticed that one project often (not always) leads to another, since you get a momentum going, and also one thing looks nice and you want to spread the joy. Nice to enjoy what you've completed now. I always regretted it when we waited until selling a house to get projects done, then we couldn't enjoy them!

Ruth said...

Louise, I hope you will not feel inadequate on two counts: One, it took me fifteen years to get this done; two, this is super easy "reupholstering."

Ruth said...

Thank you, Judy. When I look at the chair in the corner photo, it doesn't look that different than the previous version. Well it's just the seat after all.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Andrew!

Ruth said...

Hi, Deb, I'm glad you like it. I am quite surprised I still like the fabric after all this time. Too bad about yours, but fun that you can pick something new. Maybe find someone else who might like be able to use the old one.

Ruth said...

Welcome and thank you, Bruce. Well that's good then, good luck on that project. I love your blog.

Ruth said...

Bonnie :) I tend to leave things the same too long. Thank you, I'm glad you like the chair. It really is one of a kind, it seems.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Wesrey, yes, it should be quite familiar to you in a shadowy sort of way. :)

Do people submit things to Design Sponge like that?

Nice that we were both putting on our crafty selves this weekend. :D

Ruth said...

Welcome and thank you, More Than Meets the I! I didn't expect the chair to end up there, but the light is nice, isn't it?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Ellen. I think putting all the mess away was more work than the project. ;)

Ruth said...

Dana, good lessons. I first tried Don's electric staple gun, but the staples didn't get into the wood far enough. An air staple gun would be awesome.

Ruth said...

Aw shucks, Loring.

Eight-cylinder engine? What's that?

Ruth said...

Rosaria, I'm sure I probably didn't do it exactly right, but it really wasn't difficult. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, yes I hadn't thought about it that way, that there were no considerations about the chair project involving family ties. I have regretted getting a family Windsor chair stripped that sat at my mother's secretary all my life, and I loved it. For some reason we thought it should be refinished. The tiger maple revealed is truly a wonder, but the old black stain was precious. We should have just had the seat re-caned. It is no longer my mother's chair. :(

I am resisting a kindle and a smart phone, but I have a feeling it's just a matter of a short time and we won't even be talking about these things any more. I just read on the weekend that there are more and more e-readers in kids backpacks.

Don't worry, I'm not procrastinating procrastination. This was a fluke. You on the other hand could maybe use a little more of it?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Friko. I enjoyed the actual project, but not so much cleaning up the mess and putting everything away. Don't you think that's a big reason we don't tackle these projects?

Ruth said...

Erin, I know, thankfully I still love the fabrilicious fabric. And don't you worry, procrastination is one of my middle names. Hopefully I'll get just a few more things done in my lifetime like this. I really like crafty things, but I do little of that now.

Ruth said...

Violetski, sometimes I think we should clear everything out of the occasional room and make a roller skating floor.

Ruth said...

Hi, Di! The chair is an oddity, a pretty one though. It's kind of like a throne.

:)

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I'm glad you like this fabric, chair and corner!

About the Navajo rug: I wish I knew more. My mother's grandparents, Arthur and Carrie, were great adventurers. They climbed mountains like Pike's Peak, and the Himalayas. Apparently they picked this up in the Southwest on one of their treks. I think they died in the 1930s, so the rug could be 100 years old. It is one of my prized possessions.

Ruth said...

Patricia, thank you! I really like getting validation from an artist.

Your comment made me think about the fact that I like chairs. Period. They don't need to be functional for me to like seeing them just sitting around. Don asked me yesterday if I had sat in the chair yet. My answer: No.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I'm gratified that you love the fabric too, and that Mr. O reaches for books from a chair.

Yes, winter is good for this sort of thing. Are you saying I could do more projects? I was thinking one a season was enough. :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Terresa! Some chairs aren't too difficult. I'd like to tackle a slip cover for another chair sometime. That will take more than an hour.

Ruth said...

Dusti :)

The design of the chair is a little odd, I think. The spindles on the side, and the flat work on the back. I wish I knew more about its provenance. (I've always wanted to use that word.)

Ruth said...

Boots, you see, that's exactly my point. How could you notice it in the bedroom, in the shadow of the little Paris bookcase, covered with books?

Yes, I want to sit in the living room more, the light is so great. It's not as warm as the family room where the wood stove is, of course, and that is the only reason I don't very often. When I do, I just take an afghan along.

You are the queen of recycling. Maybe you'll find some treasures in the Netherlands that you can rekindle with your artistic touch.

Ruth said...

Hi, Gwei Mui! If you knew how easy this was, you would not be so impressed. But thank you.

Susan said...

Oh, I love that colored toile! It looks more antique now than it did with the other fabric. Perfect choice, m'dear! And you placed it perfectly, too. I am not surprised by either choice.

It's so funny how items we see every day in our homes can disappear from our vision.

I've been on a sewing kick the last couple of weeks and having so much fun with my new projects, which I'll be showcasing on the blog soon. It's a good feeling to feel creative.

George said...

I love that chair, Ruth, and what you have done to it is magnificent. I have long treasured this Jung quote because all creativity, which is the life blood of civilization, begins with play. Even Einstein admitted that all of his accomplishments began as play.

Ruth said...

Susie-licious!, I'm glad you like it! I wonder if you do this sometimes, rearranging the furniture? We keep wondering what the heck to do with our living room, since it's sort of a passage more than a place to park. rauf suggests I do senior portraits in there. Hey, nice thought with the corner!

I look forward to seeing what you are sewing. I was just thinking after having Inge and Lar over Saturday that I need some small cocktail napkins. And you know I have a LOT of fabric. Hey . . . . see how inspiring you are, hehe, I could make some from what's left of this linen toile! Wish I could crochet, I'd edge them in ecru. I don't them too fancy, but I like a little farmy lace, you know?

Ruth said...

Dear George, the longer I live, the more convinced I am that the best accomplishments are begun in play. We can be playful and creative in all of our work, I think. And if we can't, then I we should re-think the work!

Montag said...

Well done. It inspires me to re-cover some of my mother's chairs that made me cringe at Xmas time.

The fabric is perfect and has just the right and surprising Jacquard-and-George-Washington-sat-here look!

Margaret Bednar said...

Your fabric selection is a much needed update! I LOVE chairs, their beauty, their lines. I have a stunning chair that isn't the most comfortable, but I bought it because my eyes loved to rest on it! I have drawn numerous sketches of chairs (talk about hard!) and I am thinking of framing them. The chair you have shown us is a work of art and it looks great in it's own little corner.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Montag. I love Jacquard. Speaking of, my daughter just purchased and put together a small home loom.

Good luck on those chairs of your mom's. Sounds fun!

Ruth said...

Margaret, chairs are fun. Drawing chairs: not fun. I like looking at the chairs drawn and painted by van Gogh, Cézanne, and others. They don't worry too much about being perfectly aligned realistically. Cool to frame your chair sketches!

Babs-beetle said...

You've just reminded me of an old gate-legged (Barley sugar) table we had. We spent a long time trying to find chairs that would go with it, and not look too unmatched. We finally found a set of six chairs on Ebay. It was a pleasure re-covering all the seats and re-padding where necessary. I spent most of my younger life revamping old things. It's so enjoyable.

rauf said...

Its a sin to sit on it Ruth

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

You make it look quite simple and the end result is beautiful indeed, Ruth.

ds said...

Cool chair! And yes, the new fabric does make it look older--perfect choice. You make it look so easy...

Ruth said...

Babs, what you describe is an adventure. That's what I love about finding old things, far more than buying new. I love the sound of "Barley sugar."

Ruth said...

rauf, but maybe for portrait shoots?

Ruth said...

Amy, it was rather simple, it just took the extra step of the pattern, which I wasn't expecting. Thank you.

Ruth said...

ds, it wasn't hard, believe me. I'm glad you like it. :)

Barb said...

This chair is for gazing upon and wondering about its history - who cares if it's not comfortable! You have re-created well, Ruth. It is now in the company of some other treasured possessions to make it even more special. Wabi-sabi for sure.

Jeanie said...

All I can say is WAY GOOD for you! It looks fabulous -- I really love the fabric you chose and it just fits perfectly in your own little corner! What a great winter project!