Sunday, February 12, 2012

Out With the Icky

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I did not have even one solitary chair to sit my butt down in. I had two large bags and a guitar. The rest was being shipped. The only shoes I brought with me were a pair of flip-flops, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of cowboy boots. I had a knitting project I was working on, a book I was reading, and my laptop. I brought my teddy bear with me, and some bedding. That was it, folks. It was a weird time. (Incidentally, my first box to arrive came two weeks later and it contained nothing but hats and bathing suits...I was so bummed.)

The guy who had my room before me was kind enough to leave me a bed and a desk, and Arvi, my new roommate--a friend of a friend who I had met only once--gave me a chair. It was a simple wooden chair with shiny red vinyl on the seat. And it was one of the first things that started to make me feel like I had a home. Some time soon after I received the chair, it developed a small crack in the vinyl, and thousands of horoscopes later (yes, I was a horoscope writer when I first came to New York), I had turned that crack into a lightning-bolt shaped shred that ran from one end of the seat to the other. 

Five years passed in this manner, and each time I looked at the chair, I though yick. That looks terrible. But for some reason, the thought of fixing it never really crossed my mind. 

Which leads me to wonder, how many things do we look at in our lives each day and think, yick, that looks terrible, before we just move on? For me, that list is long. And honestly, if I took a good hard look around my home and asked a question as precocious as "what can I make better?" the answer would most likely be EVERYTHING. From the state of the junk drawer to a dusty lampshade in a corner to the overcrowded mini-trunk where we keep our hats to our couch cushions which have somehow revolted into unruly plump ovals. Individually, I don't really care about any of these things--I'm not going to lose sleep because we don't have enough hooks to hang our coats--so I am usually content to turn the other way. But cumulatively--like, when each room in your house has two or three of these eyesores, and your hair isn't looking all that good, and you realize that all of your favorite clothes are either missing buttons or are ripped--when looked at all together, these things can start to get you down. 

And so, I must say this: Don't underestimate the power of sewing on a button. You can't fix all of these things in one day--you just can't. And I literally just tried this weekend and it was miserable and I failed. But just one small improvement--not even every day! Just, like, one a week. Or one a month even! That one little improvement could be the thing that keeps you from slipping into the swamps of sadness. (Well, that's my opinion on the matter anyway.)
So about that chair. This week, I had a revelation. You see, I bought a bunch of upholstery fabric a couple months ago to make my Modern Carpet Bags, and much of it has just been sitting around. But then it hit me: one uses upholstery fabric to upholster things! Like...ripped chair seats!

This revelation occurred on a Tuesday night, while Robb and I were home in our pajamas. I held up three pieces of upholstery fabric before him, he picked the only option that wasn't hot pink (surprise surprise), and we flipped the chair over to start our reupholstering pajama party!

Robb got out his drill and removed the four screws that held the seat in place (though one could easily do this with a screwdriver.) We spent some time fiddling with the staples under the seat, using the back of a hammer, pliers, and various shivs to remove them. Then we realized we could just lift up on the vinyl and the staples popped right out. Voila!
We cut out fabric to fit the seat (plus a few extra inches just in case), and folded the fabric up and over the back of the seat, pulling it tight on opposite sides.
 And then we stapled it in place (Camper approved of our work.)
 Camper then helped me miter the corners. (Thanks, Camper!)
It's actually a little tricky to get the corners just right since you don't want the fabric to pucker on the side of the chair that will show. I found I could get a nice smooth corner if I folded little bits of fabric on top of each other in a fan-like fashion.
And then you staple-gun the bejesus out of it.
Once the fabric was pulled nice and tight and securely stapled, we trimmed away the extra fabric and screwed the seat back in place. All in all, about one hour's worth of work. One hour and five years, that is. Because that, sometimes, is how long it takes to realize that you can fix something. And that it might actually be easier than you think.


  1. I love this post, and I hate you for reminding me of the million-and-one little projects I've been "meaning to do" around my apartment.

    But I feel inspired. I'm going to pick one. An easy one. A one-hour project. Curtains? A new towel rack?

    1. Yes, an easy one! Like reupholstering your couch, perhaps?

    2. Hahaha, can you imagine reupholstering that couch? That would literally be the worst project ever. Difficult, kind of gross, and pointless!

  2. Yes, Erin - let's do your couch!! Yikes! Liana, I love your new chair. Doesn't it just lift your spirits?

  3. you should show more of camper helping... he feels under appreciated..

    1. I agree 100 percent with this comment.