It starts with an old chair. One that might look worn and out of date. The layers are peeled off, one by one. Each tells a story. Of time, place, somebody's home.
This particular chair is remarkably heavy and well made. This means it is hard to de- upholster, even if there is only one layer of fabric. It is attached with a countless number of hand applied tacks, no staples in sight. The inside is horsehair and natural wool fiber- this is the first time it is getting re-upholstered.
This is not an easy piece to sand. Lots of curves and crevices. Details and more details. Hard wood and hard varnish. How is it possible that a chair this intricate, this solid, cost only $125? So I tell myself the hours of sanding are worth it. This chair should not be forgotten, it deserves new life. It is almost a shame to sand it too perfectly, it would be like erasing its previous life. Or at least, that is what I think as I struggle to get the hard varnish off the hard wood.
And finally, the sanding is done. the wood is protected with a coat of wax. And then it is time to start re building this chair. One Layer at a time. first, the hessian, which shows on the back of the chair. There is a last minute panic because the chosen fabric doesn't seem right now. Should it be the grey felt? in the end, a natural grey linen seems like the right choice.
The horsehair and wool are stuffed into place and patted into shape. tacks are spaced regularly and left visible. Suddenly things speed up. the new version of this old chair starts taking shape.
Finally, it is done. Was it worth it? the time, the sweat and frustration?....
I learned to upholster because I fell in love with an antique loveseat, bought it and couldn't afford to get it re-upholstered. So I bought a book instead. Much better price point. The idea of upholstery was scary - there had to be a reason it was so expensive. Maybe I wouldn't be able to do it, or ruin the piece of furniture in the process.
It turns out that I like upholstery. It can be frustrating and take longer than I would like it to, but the process, the connection between my hands and the piece, the evolution of the wood and manipulation of the fabric is definitely worth it. I find most items look the most beautiful when I am I the process of re-upholstering them, with raw edges showing and fabric draping off the frame in an interesting way. The end result is almost a bonus. And there is always that little part of me that can't believe I got this done, and it looks this good.
If you are interested in upholstery, try it! it is not hard. Especially For anyone who has ever done any sewing or basic pattern making.
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