because it was there …

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on gratitude last week.  Such moving and thoughtful words – I feel not only encouraged to count my blessings, but to remember that we all approach the world with such unique eyes and hearts.

Well … not really :-)  Just *being* on the footpath is not enough to make me stop.  But this gorgeous piece … oh my!  There I was, on the way to collect Abby from school, already running a wee bit late, on the phone to my Mum, venting about the really crappy enrolment issues I’m having with my university, when I spied it.  Perched on the very edge of the footpath, about to topple into the gutter.

I couldn’t stop – I was in mid-rant and would be dreadfully late for Abby if I tried wrangling it into the car by myself.  So, I crossed my fingers that it would still be there on our homeward bound journey.  If it was still there, I was meant to have it.  If not … well so be it.

It was still there.  We were still chatting to Mum, but as soon as I chucked a u-turn and pulled up in front of it, Abby knew what to do.  Out she jumped, cleared the boot, and surveyed the territory.  What a girl!

She looks for defects, my girl, and yes this has a few obvious ones, but nothing that can’t be easily fixed.

“It has graffiti Mum!”  Pah!  Bit of metho and that will come off in a twinkle.

“Ahem … the springs are poking out!”  Yes but look what perfect condition they are in – no rust and not distorted – all it needs is new webbing and those springs will stitch right back into place.

“Its kind of missing part of its top here.”  Hmmm … that will be the hardest thing to fix – I’ll try to find something at the traditional timber products store up the road or maybe I’ll find me a woodturner who can make me a new one.  Small price.

And as for the damaged rattan – that’s where my Mum comes in :-)  She’s an expert at that, having restored several of those lovely antique American dining chairs that always have seats made out of it.  I don’t think she’s ever found one with the seat still intact, but after a quick lesson from the lady selling the supplies, Mum is now a whizz at cutting the rattan, wetting it to press it perfectly into place, then wetting the cane “piping”, and shaping it into its snug groove, followed up with some subtle tacking.  There you go Mum – you’ll need to pay a visit soon :-)

I think this armchair must be quite old – definitely pre-war.  The techniques used were very traditional and there was nary a staple to be seen – all lovely sturdy old blued tacks, with a beautiful hand stitched hessian roll at the front.  Unlike modern tacks, these ones even came out whole (the heads break off the modern ones as soon as you whisper to them, very annoying).  The fabric is kind of cute – but completely had it.  And we didn’t rescue the cushions – they were atrocious – definitely peed on … definitely!

So after three very satisfying hours work – in which I channelled all my university angst into ripping those tacks out – the old upholstery is all off.  Apart from those tacks you can see at the front, all the rest are out.  And I’ve scrubbed down the closest arm.

It’s lovely English oak – see Abby!  All the graffiti came off!  I must say, those rounded melon things at the front are a bit tedious to scrub.  But they’ll be worth it :-)  And I’m definitely taking the funny little castor wheels off – they detract, most ridiculously, from the lovely heaviness of the clawed feet.

It really is the prettiest chair!  I’ve yet to decide on new fabric – I think something simple. Maybe a stripe?  Or a check?  I’ll have a bit of an explore and see what I can see.

Tomorrow – why a bit more scrubbing!  Nothing like a good dirty project to focus and occupy the mind.  And when it’s nestled into a corner of Bootville, with one of us all comfy and snug in it, we will giggle and reminisce about how we go it home.  Hee! hee! hee!

the thrifted birthday armchair

We never did give you a good look at the finished birthday armchair.  So, on this dreadfully hot day (40 degrees celsius – ugh!), since we were going that way, we decided to take the armchair back to its site of adoption for a wee photo shoot.

Yep, here we are – on the nature strip of Dandenong Road / Princes Highway.  Miles from the city.  Where the trucks roar past and the view is bleak.  (No girl children or crazy mamas were endangered at any time during this photo shoot – we were parked in the parallel, one-way, dead-end service street.)

This is one of my favourite hard rubbish finds (I always say that, don’t I!).  Despite it’s rather hideous dark olive green vinyl cover, it was in beautiful condition when I picked it up.  It had clearly been very well made.  Once the original vinyl was off, the materials and workmanship underneath were impeccable and thus, very easy to work with.   I saved the original metal label and reattached it when I was finished – Van Treight – furniture of distinction – gorgeous!  I think they were based in Sydney – the label on the bottom declares this to be a Visitor’s Chair.

I did an upholstery course when Abby was a toddler.  Every Saturday morning, for a whole year, I traipsed along to a local trade college where I rebuilt a genoa armchair (one of those armchairs from the 1930s with hugely fat, rounded arms).  With the help of a marvellous tutor – Ian, a retired master upholsterer – I learnt how to sew in springs, put in webbing, build an arm, seat and back with the traditional layers of material, make my own piping and attach it, button backs, to upholster first a “petticoat” of calico, then the special fabric on top.

I learnt that you can NEVER pull the fabric too tightly.  That I always left too much fabric behind when I attached a piece – Ian would hack it back without mercy.  That if you can’t see it, use scraps of whatever happens to be laying around – thrift is the name of the game.  That if you start with a sow’s ear, you will end up with a sow’s ear no matter how much effort and money you put in. And tack, tack, tack, tack, tack … and then tack some more.  We had air pressured staple guns – woot! Were they empowering or what!  I really loved the course, and whilst I know I don’t have the skills, expertise or experience to pull off something like a genoa by myself, the more I have practiced over the years, and the more I push myself, the better I get.  Every piece of fabric I cut or staple, I can see Ian standing beside me, exhorting me to do better, try harder.  He was awesome.

It is such a comfy chair – it sits in Abby’s room, under her window.  She spends hours sitting in it, reading or drawing.  Often, at night,  it becomes Julian’s or my chair, we sit beside her before she falls asleep and she tells as all about her day, or the latest book she’s read, or anime she’s found, or drawing she’s finished.  Or we read – sometimes aloud, sometimes parent and child just reading their own thing in companionable silence.

As for cost – the fabric was reduced to $5 a metre at Spotlight and I only used two – what a find!  The tacks were less than $5.  A new cushion for the seat (the old had DEFINITELY been peed on) was about $40 – I bought a really good quality upholstery/memory foam from Clarke Rubber which the young man meticulously cut in the required wedge shape. The rest of the supplies were things we had around the house – thrifted blanket for the petticoat – gives it such a smooth finish – staples, covered buttons, red flannel, strong crochet yarn, and a random piece of cardboard to give the top edge at the back a lovely sharp line.

An absolute gem – and a much loved birthday present.  One that I hope Abby will enjoy for years and years and years to come.

Oh, I do so love hard rubbish!  Such a shame there were none of our birthday chair’s relations there today! (Julian’s wiping his brow with relief :-)