cropped-sku16461-2.jpgChair Upholstery lesson 3: Cutting

The people in the top of this long thin island were busy tying down their garden furniture earlier this week, waiting for cyclone Gita. My inbox held an email from Antonia, warning that the lesson might be cancelled because of Gita. I was kind of hoping it would be, as I had not even started my homework.  Buy material, easy. I had used my spare time for other things, mainly socialising and had missed the window to actually order my material to be delivered to class.

I watched the weather reports, Gita was veering away from her plotted course and we were to expect only heavy rain and strong winds; it looked like we had avoided much worse.  Another email came through that the course was on,  my own veering and avoiding had left me an hour and a  half to find some fabric.


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cropped-20180213_204456-2.jpgChair Upholstery Lesson 2: Structure

Despite Google Maps shouting from the footwell of my car that I should have turned left 200m away, I arrived early last week and waited in my car for the upholstery queen to roll up the door to my learning.  By the time she did, our little gang was complete and eager in the car park.  When we heard the throaty screech of metal moving, we all jumped out, unpacked our homework from the boots of our cars and made our way like broken snails to the workshop.  The girl next to me smiled weakly as her pile of old chair skin fell to the ground.  She tried twice to pick it up, each time she juggled with her mid-century frame and failed.  I was concentrating too hard on my own pile to be of much help, but I did stand and wait patiently until she motioned through gritted teeth that I should carry on. Continue reading “Upcycling”



Chair Upholstery Lesson 1: Pre-work

4 do’s and Don’ts for your first projects according to Antonia and her 23 years experience making mistakes.  We were all told to write down these rules.

Bla Bla Bla, if you are not interested in chair upholstery skip to the bit where I threw the hammer down.

  1. Do not try to upholster a wingback chair.  Why because it is kick ass and you need about 18 months of experience before you attempt this.  Start with a dining room chair or foot stall.  It has the elements you need to master tension, corners, measuring and cutting.  Move on up through headboards, chairs with squabs, padded chairs without arms, simple armchairs with removable wooden arms then your ultimate goal, a wingback chair.
  2. Do not use stripes or geometric patterns until you know what you are doing.  Why because you need to be able to match the pieces perfectly.
  3. Do not use any other fabric other than upholstery grade.  Why because it is stretchy enough to manipulate around corners and provides enough tension for a smooth finish. Upholstery fabric can be cut into release cuts, without it ripping further or tearing at the staple sites.  Other fabrics, even drapery will not do this.  It is false economy.
  4. Do not start on a complete re-upholstery project, i.e taking a chair down to the frame. Why because you need to build experience with the fabric first.  Choose a chair that has good bones, where you can use the existing springs and padding.

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A Broken Orange Chair

‘Ok, we will start, we are only waiting for one more.’ our leader looks behind her at the large wall clock then down at her wrist.  ‘Yes, we will begin’  She leans forward and hits a button that illuminates the white wall behind her.  It shows a cartoon happy person with a speech bubble.  HI, MY NAME IS……..I AM FROM…………

‘You’, she points at me, ‘we will start with you.’

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Nite fire small (3)

I am going to set fire to a washing machine.

I have wanted a fire pit for some time now but have not wanted to commit to a permanent site.  There are plenty of commercial free standing ones out there, but I have been looking for something, robust, mobile and cheap and so far in the looking, nothing has hit bullseye.  Time to upcycle.  I am going to use a washing machine drum. The drums are perfect, with the holes allowing good airflow, good shape and size plus minimal skills needed, depending on how far you take it.  Mine will probably sit on bricks and be used as a BBQ, allowing for toastie feet and marshmallow conversations in the cooler evenings.

I will draw inspiration from these two sources, as they appealed to me, there are however plenty of other options. Get a professional look  from house and fig or copy the mobile atomic version shown in the clip at the bottom of this page. Look up fire pit washing machine and be inspired.  Everybody’s doing it!



The drum could also make a  side-table with lights inside, paint it or cover with fake grass for an outside seat option.  The very light modern drums can be made into impressive light shades.  Who knew there was so much life left in an old washing machine.

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Découpage – Bless you, now pass the paper.

Voices are being raised, shouting global warming.  We are ever aware of the vulnerability of our planet and it’s resources.  My son, made me cry at the dinner table, telling me that Polar bears are drowning because they start swimming to old icebergs, ancestral hunting grounds etched in their memories, in search of food.  The bears do not understand that these ancient pieces of ice, have long since melted, so they die of exhaustion searching. My daughter urges me away from products that contain palm oil and checks out my coffee for the fair trade sticker.  Why then, are we all such greedy consumers, with drawers full of old phones, game consoles, and clothes that are no longer the latest fashion. My suggestions of, “we could cover them in paper, don’t throw that table out, or can’t you just cut the ends off and make shorts”, are met with icy, don’t you dare, stares. 

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Patience, glue, blue tack and time will mend this broken wing.

I am just as guilty, often my first response, if something breaks is, go buy another one. Gone are the days that we fix things that are broken, remove the stubborn stain, or sew the hole.  My son was recently outraged when I darned a two-week old pair of shorts that he had ripped, yet I remember my friend’s nan, unpicking an old jumper and using the wool to make another one.  I sat for an hour or so while she wound the itchy yarn around my two hands, held in a ‘fish was this big’ pose.  Both sets of grandparents had an Aladdin’s cave, not a just a shed for storage, in their gardens.  I remember jars that screwed to the ceiling their bellies full of screws, nails, washers and other things I was forbidden to touch. Garden tools made from two or three other things jostled with old biscuit tins, containing bits and bobs kept just in case. When I left the U.K., 8 years ago, it was actually cheaper to buy, wear, throw and replace clothes, then to wash them; who can be bothered with laundry?  We live life fast and are losing the knowledge and will to recycle and try to fix things.

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