Sunday, September 19, 2010

My New (forty-year-old) Chair

I'd been looking for something to make our master bedroom a little more cozy.  I thought a "reading nook" might be just the thing, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a piece of furniture that wouldn't get used all that often (since we have so much seating downstairs.)

I found this chair for $20 on Craigslist:

And somehow it became THIS:

I still can't believe I actually did it!  I know a professional could have done it in a day or two.  It took me six weeks of working on it in pieces.  But, somehow, slowly, it all came together (even with my serious lack of sewing-know-how) and I ended up with a chair that I love!  And the owner of a sewing shop that reupholsters furniture said I probably saved $500 by doing it myself.  Even if you subtract the cost of the chair itself, the fabric, and some supplies, the total for the chair still comes in at about $100.
Like most of my other sewing projects, it's certainly not perfect.  But I'm so proud of it and I can't wait to cozy up in it with a good book!


Now, for anyone who might be googling around for reupholstery tips (like I did), this is what I learned along the way...

Do your homework.  Having never attempted reupholstery before, I knew I needed information.  I borrowed the book Complete Step-by-Step Upholstery from my local library.  I didn't have the book open in front of me while I worked or follow their directions explicitly, but the book was a terrific source of information about the process.  I also stopped by a local upholstery shop and spoke with the owner.  He said the Sunset magazine series has a great issue on furniture upholstery.

Tool up.  The books might tell you to get fancy tools, but from my personal experience a flathead screwdriver, good pair of pliers, sewing machine, hot glue gun, and staple gun are all you need.  My chair was FULL of staples, so I was convinced I would need a special tool to remove them: a staple lifter.  But after checking with four hardware stores and a few fabric stores, I couldn't fine one.

The owner of my local upholstery shop told me I really didn't need one if I was just going to dabble in reupholstery.  So I used a flathead screwdriver and pliers and got all the staples out.  Don't get me wrong, though, it was not a quick task.  I devoted a few hours in the afternoon on three different days to removing fabric and staples.  And, a word of caution when removing staples.  Some of them are going to be tight.  Make sure that nothing (hands, legs, eyes, etc.) is in the path of the screwdriver.  (I even kept safety glasses next to me just in case I had to get close.)  It is all too easy for the screwdriver to slip on the most stubborn staples and go flying.  (I've heard that the staple lifter can make a HUGE difference, if you're willing to spend between $25 and $40 for one.)

As you take off each piece of old fabric, try to keep it as intact as possible so it can be used as a pattern.  It also helps if you cut your new pieces just a smidgen larger, so you're guaranteed to have enough room for stapling.  My old fabric was is such terrible shape I wouldn't even sit on the chair until it was all removed!

Find a fabulous fabric.  The cost of upholstery fabric adds up quickly.  I chose to search for fabric at Joann's because they frequently put their 54" fabric on sale (for 40 or even 50% off) AND because as a teacher I get an extra 15% off that sale price.

I took a yard stick to the chair to estimate how much fabric I would need (I figured four yards) and it turns out I was right.  Fabric stores usually have a book that shows different styles of furniture and how many yards of fabric would be needed to cover each.  Sure enough, the book said four yards, but as a nervous first-time reupholsterer, I bought five just in case.

I picked a fabric that I loved...without thinking about whether it would be good for my first reupholstery project.  Picking a solid fabric definitely would have made my life easier, but it turns out the pattern wasn't as difficult to work with as I had feared.

All buttoned up.  The back cushion of my chair was buttoned.  The book recommended taking your buttons to a professional to get recovered.  Which was what I was planning to do until my mother-in-law said I could buy a simple button cover kit for a few dollars.  I bought this one at Joann's, which included the two round "tools" to cover the buttons along with four buttons.  Once you have the tools, you just buy the packages of button cover refills (which are even cheaper) until you have all the buttons you need.


I had to buy VERY LONG upholstery needles to thread the buttons through the cushion and out the back of the chair, but they were relatively inexpensive at Joann's.

Bring out the big guns.  Chris has an air-powered staple gun and boy does that thing pack a punch!  I think it would have been incredibly difficult to use a manual staple gun on forty year old hardwood.  

We had to use tacking strip to create a finished edge along the top edge of the back of the chair.  This was the only edge that wasn't covered up with glued on double piping.  The tacking strip seemed simple enough, but it turned out to be a HUGE headache because we laid the fabric over the front of the chair while we worked instead of just holding it up like a tabletop from the back and working from underneath.

See what happens? Attaching the back with the tacking strip was the LAST difficult step of the process.  I just knew this moment was going to be big finish!  My husband was humming "Chariots of Fire" to mark the end of our loooong chair recovering process when...

Luckily only the back edge was a finished edge.  The rest of the pieces were just stapled on, as is, and then the rough edge covered with double piping.  I though this was going to be difficult to make, but it was actually one of the easiest steps.  I used a zigzag stitch (with the piping foot) to sew the pieces together.  Then I just folded one side over the other and used a straight stitch to hold it all in place.

Then I used a regular hot glue gun on the high setting to attach it to the edges.  And that was the FINAL STEP!  Wahoo!  :)

I'm so happy that I saved money AND saved an old chair!  Although if time is money...I may not have actually saved any money in the long run...but I still had lots of fun!

Big thanks to my two helpers.  Chris helped me pull out some of the toughest staples and also did ALL of the stapling.  Bailey...well, Bailey just did what he does best: jumped in the middle of the project right whenever we needed a little encouragement.  :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Giving back.

Today the church that Chris and I attend had its annual Great Day of Missions.  There were three different service opportunities to choose from, but we opted to go to Jericho Partnership in Danbury.  Jericho is a collaboration of Christ-centered ministries and congregations serving the youth, homeless and other at-risk populations.  A lot of churches in the area support the church and at least two other churches were there with us today.

Chris and I thought we were going to be picking up trash or working on the grounds, but as it turns out we ended up doing something completely different!  Jericho needed a group of people to walk to the homeless and drywall the ceiling.  Chris' recent experience with our half-bath made him a natural choice for this group. 

They also needed a group to sort through and organize their storage space.  I'm talking food for their food pantry, clothes, school supplies, furniture, books, plates, utensils, etc., etc., etc.  You name it, there was a TON of it down there!  And as nice as it would have been to work with Chris, I knew as soon as I heard organize that that was where I was supposed to be.  :)  We both had a great time, and got to know people at church a little better too.

They fed us lunch at Jericho, but we realized when we got home that we were both wiped out!  So we went to Demitasse Cafe for coffee and a snack to perk us up.  Demitasse is our new favorite coffee shop that opened up in the space formerly occupied by our old favorite coffee shop, Mocha.  We were pretty bummed when Mocha closed at the end of May.  Luckily we think Demitasse's coffee is even BETTER.  And the owners are great too.  And guess what we finished when we got home???

I'll give you a hint: it starts with "ch" and rhymes with "stair"!!  :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's cookin' good lookin'?

How many women can say that their husband is a fabulous cook?  I'm part of a very exclusive club.  :)  My husband became such a great cook out of necessity.  He missed his mom's wonderful cooking so much when he moved to Beaumont for work that he had to try and replicate it!

I'm a rule and recipe follower (which makes me the better baker), but Chris' tendency to follow his instincts and just toss in whatever he feels like makes him the better cook.  So cooking together has always been something we love to do, especially when we get to try out new recipes and they turn out to be winners!  Here are a few new ones we tried out over the weekend.

When we were in NYC with Evie the weekend before last, we stopped at Alice's Tea Cup for iced teas.  And a white chocolate raspberry scone...yum.  Which reminded me of the one I had when Chris and I went to Vancouver way back in 2005.  Which made me want to try baking some myself!  So I used this recipe that Chris found online and I was more than happy with the results.  I always thought scones were difficult to make but they weren't bad at all!

I was excited that they matched my shirt.  :)

Once school starts and we're both busy again, we like to make big suppers on Sunday night so we don't have too much cooking to do through the week.  We've been enjoying grilled chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese with a smoked chile cilantro sauce and toasted Israeli couscous with vegetables and lemon-balsalmic vinaigrette.  I take terrible pictures of food but trust me, it was delicious!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poor little shed.

This is our shed.

It's sad, I know.  Chris painted it awhile back, which made a huge difference, but he decided what the shed really needed (and ideally before winter) was a new roof.  Always one to try new things, Chris did a little research on roofing and now the little shed looks like this!

It was great for practice, because the big shed also needs a new roof before winter.

Chris actually wanted to start this project on Saturday (since I was spending the day with Evie who came up from NYC for the weekend- yay!), but I think I convinced him that a super-windy, post hurricane day was not the best time to be standing on a roof.  Thank goodness.  :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Driveway Do-over

The area that borders the front of our house is enclosed by lovely belgian bricks:

The area directly across from it, just on the opposite side of the circular driveway, was not nicely enclosed with belgian bricks.  In fact, the shrubs there were bordered with good 'ol rocks.

But underneath the deck we found a whole stash of leftover bricks, so we assumed the former owners had intended to line both sides of the driveway.  A few trips to Home Depot for cement and mortar, plus a trip to Lowe's for a few extra bricks, and now our driveway looks like this:

Didn't Chris do a great job?!!  I helped ferry bricks up from the side of the house, but that's about where my help with this project stopped.  Chris can handle 80 pound bags of cement and rocks...reason #137 why marriage is awesome.  :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who doesn't love a busy weekend?

Well, you know school has started when I don't get around to blogging about our weekend until Thursday night!  On Monday, the students' first day back, I managed to visit 8 schools...that's a personal best.  All while the temps are in the 90s and the aforementioned schools aren't air-conditioned.  Not to worry though!  Last weekend (which you're about to read about) was gorgeous and this weekend (after Hurricane Earl, of course) is set to be equally lovely.  Fall is right around the corner...I can feel it!  (And drink it- had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season yesterday morning at Starbuck's!)

So back to the weekend.  Last Saturday Chris spent the morning working on a project out front: putting a border on part of the driveway using Belgian bricks.  I was no help during the cementing part of this (80 pound bags of concrete...what could I do?) so I figured I wouldn't be much help during the mortaring part either.  I was correct.  I went to help pull weeds at church.

When we were both done, we loaded Bailey into the Porsche and headed to Kent!  Our first stop was Macedonia Brook State Park where we took a very quick hike up to this spot:

Nice view, right?  But that's not my regular hiking backpack in the picture.  I was wearing a special picnic backpack that we received as a wedding gift.  The front compartment has two plates, sets of utensils, cutting board, etc., and the back compartment is insulated to keep things cool.

Turns out the side of a big hill isn't really the ideal place for a picnic.  So we headed to Lake Waramaug, where we could spread out a blanket and enjoy the cheese, salami, crackers, and olives I'd packed for the afternoon.

And I also packed these!  How cute are they?  It's hard to tell from the picture, but it's one of those tiny little bottles of wine that have the screw top.  I'd always wanted an excuse to buy one...or four...and I thought a picnic would make for the perfect opportunity.

And cheap wine makes my husband pose for some awfully funny pictures.

The "Zoolander" usual.

But the "Clint Eastwood" face is a new one.

Then we took a bunch of pictures of Bailey.  Because that's what DINKs do.  :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Red Velvet

So after years of searching for a good red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting recipe (including one attempt when I didn't realize exactly how much red food coloring was needed and I ended up with a pink velvet cake)...I think I've found a winner.  The cupcake itself is certainly tasty, but it's the cream cheese frosting that puts it over the top.  Aren't cupcakes terrific?  :)