The fact that I’m not as crafty as I’d like to be never manages to stop me from attempting the most asinine of projects. Take, for instance, my wingback chair.
This chair was bestowed upon us at the onset of our marriage by a couple who was upgrading their living room furniture. We were the proud heirs to the wingback chair and a matching sofa, both pieces outfitted in a lovely cornflower blue floral print reminiscent of the 1980’s. Never let it be said that I turned my nose up at free furniture.
I handily slip-covered the sofa in a solid blue cotton with coordinating plaid throw pillows. The only thing Dom had to remember was to not grab hold of the top back of the sofa, lest he become intimate with the family of stickpins which held my handiwork together.
In due time, our puppy Mason would eat the sofa (yes…the whole sofa), but the wingback chair managed to survive where it stood proudly in what I called “the sitting room.” For the next 13 years the chair provided a comfortable place to read, relax and chat. Since the blue floral print fabric was a bit dated for my taste, I constantly sought more pleasing fabrics to drape over the chair, giving it a new – if not wrinkled – look every time the mood struck. Without fabric properly cut and sewn to fit, my chair always looked like a laundry bin, though I tried to keep it tidy and inviting.
Dom didn’t exactly share my love for the chair. He found it utilitarian at best, and would gladly sit in it when he needed a place to rest, but I think he would have been perfectly content with the idea of leaving the chair as a permanent fixture of the house that we sold. I was having no part of that, and insisted that the chair come with us to the new house.
“Can’t we just buy a new one?” Dom complained. “I don’t understand your attachment to this chair.
“It’s a good chair!” I insisted. “Besides, I want it to live in the office at the new house. It only needs a facelift. I have the fabric already; I just need to find someone to re-cover it for me.”
My plan was to recover the chair in a fabric that my Aunt Penny had found – she had recently sent a bolt of a pretty gold-and-chocolate print upholstery fabric my way. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for the chair, and thought about covering throw pillows in the fabric instead. Then I unrolled the bolt and figured that if I found an alternate coordinating color for the back and sides of the chair, I would not only have enough of the print fabric for the main parts of the chair, but also enough to recover a footstool to match.
Keep in mind that the whole time I envisioned this transformation, I never once envisioned myself as the muscle behind it. The only things I have ever successfully re-covered look painfully homespun. I do not have the knack for making anything, save cakes, look store-window worthy.
But, as with all my projects, desperation and an unnerving desire to NOT spend money began to settle in my bones and I sort of convinced myself that re-covering the chair on my own might be an easy project (stop laughing) and surely it couldn’t be thaaaaat difficult. (Really. I said stop.)
Dom helped me hoist the wingback chair upstairs to the bonus room where I could work on it to my heart’s content and not disturb anyone with my mess. Using a small flathead screwdriver and a pair of needle nose pliers, I began to pluck staples out of the bottom of the chair, revealing the springs, padding, wood frame and (dear goodness) more staples. Mabel felt the need to stay with me while I worked, at least until she heard the dog bowls rattling downstairs, at which point she was a puff of black dust in the doorway.
I worked on the chair for about an hour before my hand began to cramp and I noticed red grooves from the pliers’ handles marred into my skin. I looked around the room and took inventory: one back and half a side of the chair uncovered, three metal tack strips that surely could be used as medieval torture devices but had only served to secure the fabric to the back of the chair, and about 200 plucked staples neatly piled in the curve of a Babe Ruth commemorative plate.
I believe there was a still, small voice in the back of my mind as I tidied my mess that evening which told me I could very quickly get in over my head, and that this project surely was not going to be all rainbows and sunshine. I also believe I told the voice to shut the hell up as I turned out the light.
The next day we had some rowdy power surges at our office which left the electric company working on a nearby transformer for the better part of the day, so we were granted the afternoon off. I decided to spend this unexpected free time working on my chair. Approximately fifteen minutes into the continuation of the staple pulling, my screwdriver slipped, viciously ramming my knuckles into the wood frame of the chair. We have a saying in the Mainiero household that declares NO project is going to turn out well unless somebody bleeds in the process. The evidence dripping down my hand suggested that my adventure in furniture re-covering was going to be a raging success. I slapped a band-aid on my index finger and proceeded to pull more staples.
Two minutes had not passed before I realized the soaked band-aid was about to float away, and more blood was running down my hand. I soaked through two more band-aids before throwing the pliers onto the ground, huffing in Mabel’s direction, and storming downstairs with a confused pup hot on my heels. The little voice in my head had only one word for me:
Before my browser had completely launched, I was already employing my six good fingers to type the words, “furniture upholstery shreveport.” A list of local businesses popped up and I began to dial numbers on my phone. Five phone calls later, I understood that most folks want at least $700 for labor on a wingback chair. (Egad!!) One lady broke my heart when she said her late husband was the one who did the furniture upholstery, but he passed away last December. She would gladly make me a slip cover for my chair, however, but I needed to put all the fabric back on my chair so that she could work with it. I already knew Dom would wrinkle his nose at the mention of a slip cover, and the mere thought of re-attaching all that fabric to my chair made my finger throb. Another location offered to charge considerably less than everyone else, was located on my side of town, and would be open until 5pm if I decided to bring my now blood-stained chair on over to them. With that news, Victoria graciously helped me load the crime scene furniture into my van, and I was on my way.
When I arrived at my destination, the gentleman who had spoken with me on the telephone walked out to my van to retrieve the chair. “You wouldn’t believe how many people call us in your situation,” he said.
“What… frustrated and bleeding?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he laughed. “Actually, if you hadn’t called today, you would have called once you got ready to sew on this fabric and realized your machine at home couldn’t handle it. People usually break the machine’s needle before they call.”
I hadn’t even foreseen the problem of sewing on upholstery fabric with my little machine. I gave him the fabric I wanted to use, and he helped me pick out a coordinating fabric from his stock for the sides and back of the chair. He also pointed out that I have a really good chair “worth keeping” because of its solid wood frame. I couldn’t wait to share the chair’s redeeming qualities with Dom.
So, in roughly six weeks I should have a newly recovered chair and healed knuckles. And maybe, just maybe, Dom will be proud of this chair I refused to give up.