To say I’ve been obsessed with upholstery is an understatement. Its hard not to get passionate when the universe keeps providing signs that this is what you are supposed to be doing! And I will take the signs of cute, all be it sad and neglected, free pile furniture as a sign. Dan would be quick to tell you its a sign of a future episode of Hoarders. But I take it as a sign I’m supposed to give life to once grand pieces.
Over the past few weeks it went from 90 degree summer weather (Seattle had a HOT summer) to nice fall days. With this weather change I’m ready to clean the dead plants off my porch, put away the grill (even though Dan is not), start cooking with the oven and crock pot again, dig out the jeans and boots, maybe even a coat, and of course, blog. Its not that I don’t want to blog during the summer or even that I don’t do projects in the summer, I just get busy with, well, summer things. And this summer has been no exception! While we didn’t go on vacation we did travel to Eastern WA several times to visit my family . At work I was busy helping customers with their projects. I helped customers with everything from how to use salvaged material for small craft type items to giving advice on a bathroom remodel. But don’t think for one moment I did not take my work home with me, because I would be a liar if I told you otherwise.
When not at work, spending time with family and friends, or enjoying my patio with Dan and cats I spent my days (and nights) learning everything I could about upholstery. With every book I read and every free (or nearly free) project I acquired, the more obsessed I became.
I’m sure you have figured out by now that I have a “thing” for decorating for the holidays and seasons. Recently I became bored with my decorations and began thinking of something different and new. Dan made the observation I had very few patriotic decorations. This isn’t due to being unamerican or anti-patriotic. There just aren’t as many decorations out there to support the love of these holidays. So when I found a picture of a wooden stair spindle turned Uncle Sam on the great wide world of the internet I couldn’t resist. I immediately went shopping in the huge wooden spindle section at work and found the best one for Uncle Sam’s body. I then trimmed it down to be level on both ends (which also made him shorter). I used the extra wood that was cut off for his hat. I also used 1×4 and 1×6 scrap material for the base and the base of his hat. With a little bit of painting and a lot of fun playing with star buttons, I created my new favorite decoration.
1 wooden stair spindle
2″ square for hat
Scrap wood for the base and hat base
Blue, Red, White, and Flesh paint
Patriotic Star Buttons
3 Large wooden hearts
1) Sand the spindle so the paint will stick.
2) Prime the entire spindle; this makes it easier to paint and you will use less paint in the long run.
3) Paint the mid section of the spindle blue; apply several coats as needed. This is his body so don’t paint the solid square parts as they are his legs and face.
4) Once the blue paint has dried, paint the lower square section of the spindle white. Also paint the wood (hat) square white. Apply several coats as needed.
5) Once the white paint is COMPLETELY dry, tape off stripes in the spindle base and hat.
6) Once the stripes have been taped off, paint over it with white paint; this will “seal” the tape and you will have less bleeding under the tape.
7) When the white paint has dried, paint over it with red paint. This gives his pants and hat stripes. Remove painters tape once paint has dried.
8) Paint the hat base and wood base solid red.
9) Paint his face flesh colored.
10) Hot glue the base to the spindle, hat base to the top of the spindle, and the square onto the hat base.
11) Use the large wooden hearts to build a mustache. Cut 2 of the hearts in half with a knife (Think of a “ying” shape). Glue the 2 yings to the 3rd heart. They will be the “handle bars” on his beard/mustache.
12) Paint the beard white.
13) Glue the beard on the face of Uncle Sam.
14) Using a small paint brush and white paint make 2 small white lines on face as eye brows. Then with a permanent marker make 2 round black dots for eyes.
As every body knows I kind of have a thing for up cycling and re-purposing. I also have a thing for decorating my apartment. Recently, while changing my decorations to early spring (pinks in February and greens in March) I needed an easy to change centerpiece for my table. So I was constantly keeping my eyes out for the “perfect” item. At work I love the light fixtures known as “bare bulb” lights. They were used in the early 1900’s and these beautiful fixtures (also known as pan lights) had decoration in the sides and in the fixtures but no glass shades over the bulbs. The idea was that if you were lucky enough to have these fixtures in your house you were also lucky enough to have these fancy new things called a light bulb. And by showing off the light bulb you were showing off your luck. But what strikes me about these light fixtures if how detailed they can be and how most look like flowers.
As I was putting away a new stack of these fixtures (all badly broken, heavily painted, and less than perfect) it struck me. The single light fixtures could be used as candle holders! I grabbed three of my favorite ones and started to strip the paint. I then swapped out the fairly nice light sockets for ones that no longer worked with my lighting lady at work. Because why do I need to have working sockets hold candles on my table? Once all the paint was removed and sockets placed inside I became kind of sad, the metals of the fixtures weren’t very pretty. So i bought a very pretty purple can of spray paint (Krylon Rich Plum) and spray painted a nice solid color on the three fixtures.
They were still missing something. That’s when I took them to work and showed my coworkers. My lighting lady pointed it out almost immediately flowers aren’t one solid color, they are several colors. So with a lighter lavender and a pink we spray painted the tops at an angel as the paint just glazed the fixtures. Adding depth and color to my new flower candle holders.
Around the apartment there are items we date with the letters BD (Before Dan). I started doing this because I honestly can’t remember when I got an item/project . I can remember when I got it based on my relationship with Dan. Right around the the time I met Dan, I acquired an amazing mid century teal chair. It was perfect! This sexy little chair had its original teal vinyl upholstery, dark stained legs, and brass feet. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it! I had no room in the apartment for it, and my Mom who was with me when I fell in love, only encouraged me in to needing it. So the chair came home with me.
As it would be pointed out by Mr. Practical Dan I was wearing rose tinted glasses (seeing a pattern with me?). The chair wasn’t perfect. The upholstery had two giant tears in it, the legs were in desperate need of refinishing and the brass fee…to the untrained eye would have thought them to be rusty steel. But it was “perfect” and found its way into my living room where a blanket would cover the tears. Fast forward 2 plus years to December of 2014 when I discovered a new passion…Reupholstering.
This is something I have wanted to do for a while but never got around to. So as a Birthday/Christmas present to myself I paid for an upholstery class. I walked into class that first Monday of December with my coffee and chair and was ready to get down to business.
We started by removing all the staples, tacks, and nails in the original upholstery. For my chair it went quickly (others were not so lucky) and within an hour I was on to the next step, buying fabric!!
I was panicked! I had no idea what fabric I wanted. I was worried the fabric would only look good on a small scale but over a whole chair, it would be tooo much. I was stressing and finally narrowed it down to two fabrics. Good old inny-minny decided the chair’s fate and I began cutting out the pieces needed to put my chair together. I left the first day of class in LOVE!! I was enjoying it soo much that I couldn’t wait for the next class.
Weeks two and three flew by in a blurr of stapling, laying out fabric, cotton stuffing, and sewing chair welting.
My chair was coming together nicely until it came time to repair the chair itself. Over the years, one of the wood joints had popped out of its socket and needed to be pushed back together. Sounds simple enough..WRONG!!! I bought a bar clamp to squeeze it together and used Dan’s muscles to tighten the clamp to apply even pressure to pop it back into place. Within moments, the bar clamp was bowing and creaking while the chair wasn’t moving at all. Then, the clamp handle snaps off because we were cranking it too hard. Quickly, we grabbed a wrench added it to what was left of the handle and tightened the clamp and chair together. Add some wood glue and let it sit for several days (neither of us wanted to pull the clamp off) and it was ready to be finished.
As I walked into class for week four I was both sad and excited. I didn’t want my class to end, yet I couldn’t wait to see my chair finished. Within 3 hours it was complete! It even has a dust cover on the bottom! You know the piece isn’t from Ikea when you have a dust cover! I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself and my chair! And I can’t wait for spring when I can take another upholstery class!!
When refinishing my chair, I not only had to pad and reupholster it but I had to do something with the wood itself. The chair and wood weren’t too terrible just really worn and dull. Which, if I was a 70 year old chair I would probably be dull too. Since I had everything off the chair and it was just a wood base/legs I figured now would be the time to do something about it. So I spent two nights hand sanding the frame down to the bare wood. It is important to note, IF one is staining wood a darker color than what it currently is, it does NOT need to be sanded perfectly down to the wood; just the top coat needs to be sanded off. Since I was unsure of the end wood color, I did a complete sand.
Once it was sanded, I stopped by Home Depot to pick out a stain. Since it is a mid century chair, and mid century is known for dark, rich woods (especially mahogany) I decided to go with Varathane “Red Mahogany” stain. I got home and was all ready to stain.
Do I stain my chair with a brush or with a rag? You ask anybody who has worked with stain and they will both tell you it depends on your comfort and the size of the project. I did my research and found that since my chair was round and had smaller work areas, I went with a rag. I dipped my rag in the stain and started slowly working in a downward motion (so I would always been wiping up drips and the drips wouldn’t ruin my work). I did the first coat alone.
Dan was worried that the color in the jar was too dark but after the first coat, he was shocked and impressed. I ended with three coats of stain, to make it look like mahogany. I then added a clear coat for protection and to give it that nice finished look.
I then added the clean brass feet, and took it to class to finish the upholstery. Everybody kept oooohing and ahhing over it. Now Dan wants to refinish all the wood in the house mahogany……
The brass, vintage feet from a mid century chair, was in desperate need of polishing. Now I’m sure everybody is thinking, ummm she is going to write a whole blog post about how to use brasso?! And my response is simply no. Brasso is great, don’t get me wrong. It will polish brass quickly and remove the grime, the patina….and the look of 70 year old brass. So I used my own advise I give customers…polish them with Ketchup.
Sounds gross I know, but the acid in Ketchup works wonders on cleaning the tarnish off brass (and silver). Having never used the ketchup method on anything but faceplates (and didnt want to stain my carpet) I went about it a little differently. Poor Dan watched in both awe and horror.
Step 1: Using warm soapy water, gently clean the brass. It might be that you like the look of the piece once the dirt layer is removed.
Step 2: Lay the dry brass on a rag (I would use a dark colored one since the ketchup will stain) and goop on the ketchup.
Step 3: Practice the P-word (patience) and let the brass and ketchup sit and “marinate”. The longer it sits, the more the acid will break down the patina (my feet which probably had never been cleaned/polished/loved took over being soaked over night, but I’ve seen it work in as little as 10 minutes)
Step 4: After the ketchup has sat on the brass and helped break down the dirty, tarnished patina, rinse it. Grab a clean lint free rag and start polishing.
Polishing took a while; even if i’d used Brasso, polishing would have taken awhile. They were REALLY bad!! But the end result was great!
1 2″x 2″x 2′ piece of lumber
1 1″x 2″ x 4′ piece of lumber
2 1.5″ round wood doll heads (found at the craft store)
1 3/4″ round wood disk (found in the same aisle as the doll heads)
1 wood star (about 1″across)
3 colors of paint (I used blue, Green, and white but fought the urge for lavender and teal)
1 Piece of burlap roughly 4″ x 6″
Twine long enough to wrap the people twice
Hot Glue Gun
a few nails and a hammer
1) Cut lumber into following pieces 1 @ 2″ x 2″x 6″ (Josephs body) 1 @ 2″ x 2″ x 5.25″ (Mary’s body) 1 @ 1″x 2″x 3″ (baby Jesus’s body) 2 @ 1″x 2″ x 9″ with 1 end having a 45degree angle cut (this is the barn sides, the angles will help the roof connect) 1 @ 1″x 2″x 6″ and 1 @ 1″x 2″ x 5.25″
2) Paint Peoples Bodies and star. I used a paint brush and was super streaky to give it a more rustic/vintage look
3) Once paint drys hot glue heads onto bodies
4) Lay “Mary” down on top of the burlap bring the top two corners into her middle (it will cover her head slightly like a hood) glue… a picture is best to explain how the back looks. Mostly because I can’t explain it with hand motions in a blog
5) Hot glue Mary and Joesph together AND then glue Jesus’s body angled on top.
6) “Tie” the family together with twine.
7) Now to build the barn: Nail the two shorter 1 x 2 pieces together at a 90 degree angle making the shorter piece the “bottom”so both will equal 6” long
8) Pre-drill pilot holes into angled roof where the 2 sides will connect. Line the angled sides up to match the roof so it will all be 90 degrees. hammer nails through the roof and into the sides. (you could also use wood glue if that’s easier just make sure to let it full dry before standing it up)
9) Paint or stain the Barn if you wish. I left mine plain because again it looked more vintage/rustic
10) Hot glue yellow star to the top of the roof
11) Set up and enjoy!
When I was a little girl I loved to help set up my family’s nativity scene. The Nativity Scene was a gift from my Dad to my Mom and every year he would give her a new piece to add to the scene, which in turn gave me another piece to play with…I mean set up. I was so into “setting up the Nativity scene”that it changed daily and mom had to rubber band baby Jesus into the manger so he wouldn’t get lost….
Fast forward a few years its safe to say I still love the nativity scene and I still secretly love playing with it. I now have several, a hand made one from Mexico, a recycled paper one from Africa, and one that every year my Grandparents add to.
Each year I get just as excited as I did when I was a little girl about setting up my Nativity Scenes. I arrange them all several times until they are perfect! And every time I see a cool set in a store, magazine, or at somebody’s house I have to stop and admire the beauty (and secretly wish I had a spot for another set).
The other night while I was laying in bed cruising Pintrest I came across a board with tons of pins for nativity scenes. I instantly became wide awake as I drooled over each and every one plotting my next move! And then I found it, the cutest handmade, wood nativity people ever! So what did I do? I went to work the next day dug through the lumber rack, found me some materials and made me one (and a barn because I can’t have baby Jesus getting wet and sick).
“The Coffin” is a 1930’s art deco, wood locker that was heavily painted a DARK DARK DARK brownish purple black color. It has the beautiful straight lines of a vintage locker and really funky deco hardware. This amazing piece of furniture was brought into my bedroom where there was NO room and smashed against the wall. That one piece took an open feeling room and made it wall to wall furniture. I was not happy.
I took the door off to make it visually lighter. Then I rearranged the bedroom so the “coffin” would fit better. I used bleach to wash the inside because it had a wonderful smell of rotting flesh….I mean mildew…in it. Once it was clean (ish) Dan put his clothes in it and that was that.