Thursday, August 18, 2016

Recover a Victorian Chair

                                                       And My Sanity to Boot


Eastlake style Victorian chair

 My Eastlake style Victorian chair had been looking pretty sad for years. Not only was the circa 1970's fabric grimy, I never did like it. I recall a time when it was covered in a crushed and ancient burgundy velvet. That's when I fell in love with it and it's husband. My grandmother's chair set beside the French windows in her Victorian living room. But the thought of using velvet made me wince. I did this during an August heat wave and the very thought of velvet made me queasy. 

While drawn to larger patterns, I realized that a large print would cost more in yardage. So I limited myself to a smallish print, one that was on sale. The elephant print in my chosen fabric made me smile. It suited the chair as well as the rest of the room. Think British Colonial India. Think PG Tips black tea. Think gin and tonic with a slice of lime. 

The fabric needed to match a long piece of trim that had been on the shelf. Why waste it. That stuff's expensive!

As I pried off the old Laura Ashley style material (just what a 1970s mom would pretend her teen-aged daughter actually wanted for her bedroom) I noticed some nasty scratches. Rooting around in the supply closed, I found a bottle of Old English scratch cover for light wood. I also found a bottle of cheap liquid shoe polish. Blending the black polish with the oil on a piece of very fine steel wool, I rubbed the chair frame using a little elbow grease on those disgusting, glormy oft touched spots. The next day, I went over the wood with a soft cloth. 

I filled all the old tack holes with wood filler. Face it, that chair had been redone several times in its long life. 

Before attaching the fabric, I stuffed batting under the old padding and resewed the padded roll around the bottom of the seat. After all, I wanted the chair to be comfortable as well as attractive. 

After watching several youtube demonstrations, I decided not to use the old fabric as a template. Mistakes can be made. I jut laid the fabric on the chair, lining it up in a pleasing manner. Then I tacked it down first on one side, then the opposite repeating for the front and back leaving 3 inches or so between tacks.

 It's a good idea to keep checking and smoothing as you go. 

After the initial tacking (or stapling if you prefer)  fill in the gaps between the tacks so there is only 1/2 inch or so between fasteners. 

I once made the mistake of hemming fabric before tacking it down on a chair. This made the edges too bulky. Adding the trim with a hot glue gun will prevent fraying. 

I was quite happy with the result. At the time I was recovering from a personal tragedy. Grief can leave you feeling unmoored. But following logical steps toward an obvious conclusion allowed me to focus and gave my life some sense of order and accomplishment. I may still be sad, but at least the chair looks good.

Victorian chair with its new look

Close up of the old chair with its British Colonial look

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