The opera company I work for maintains a warehouse of props and furniture, and just like at home, the amount of incoming stuff exceeded the available space decades ago. So every few years there's a small purge of stuff that is damaged, over-stocked or unlikely to ever be used again.
This spring's discards included this Victorian "slipper" chair, which is a nice piece of 19th c. furniture, but in the 30 years I've been with the company has never once made it onstage. (The problem is that it's about 4 inches shorter than normal - these chairs were meant for ladies in wide skirts to perch on while putting on their shoes and admiring their dainty feet - and is too awkward for performers to sit on onstage.) I've always liked this chair, in spite of the 1980s dusty rose velvet, but it isn't something I'd have in my own home even if I had room for it. But my friend Jaene has just moved into a new apartment and is setting up a second bedroom as her "bellydance cave". If anyone could sit on a chair like this gracefully, it would be a bellydancer, so I claimed it from the give-away pile and re-upholstered it as a house-warming gift.
I like the combination of antique furniture and very contemporary fabric, and when I found this psychedelic print I knew it would be perfect. It was only a cotton broadcloth, though, so not really sturdy enough for upholstery. I got around that problem by quilting it into a backing fabric, which also gave it a bit of added dimensionality.
Reupholstering a piece of antique furniture is a bit like renovating an old house - you never know what you're going to find when you start stripping it down. Sure enough, although the sprung seat had been replaced with the plywood and foam rubber I expected to see in a prop chair, the back still retained its original buttoned horsehair upholstery, buried under a layer of foam. The horsehair fabric was disintegrating, so it had to be removed, but beneath it the stuffing of horsehair and sisal, and even most of the of burlap covering it, was still perfectly sound. (Victorian furniture was often upholstered in woven horsehair fabric, which was extremely durable and easy to care for. But although the horsehair is usually still as glossy and strong as it was 150 years ago, the cotton warp thread it was woven with has a much shorter lifespan and is usually disintegrated to dust.)
I was afraid the frame might be in worse condition than it seemed (sometimes the upholstery is what's actually holding a chair together) but it only needed a bit of glue and clamping for some loose joints and it was good to go. I removed the back padding to tighten up the webbing, but there was no reason to replace either.
Ironically, my job usually involves removing spring from antique furniture and replacing them with foam and plywood (theatrical furniture may look luxuriously padded, but it usually has to be hard enough to stand on), but in this case I had to do the opposite. Only the original springs could give the necessary height to the seat and still make it be comfortable.
First, a layer of webbing has to be stretched across the underside of the seat.
Next, the individual springs are stitched onto the webbing and tied to each other and the frame in a way that locks them together and forms the shape of the seat.
When it's firm enough, a covering of burlap, a layer of firm foam rubber (this would originally have been more horsehair padding), some polyester batting and a final covering of unbleached cotton gives it a proper shape. The back is much easier, as it just needed to have the original button-pockets in the horsehair filled in and covered with a layer of polyester batting.
The last step - and often the easiest - is actually attaching the covering fabric. I like to pin the fabric in place with metal push-pins first (especially when it has a bold pattern like this) until everything is straight, tautly-stretched and even. Only then do I staple it down and trim off the excess.
Finally, and I don't have photos of it - all the stapled edges were covered with double welting that I sewed from the black-and-white checked part of the fabric. The Tim Burton-ish look it added was my favourite part of the chair!
The entire process took about three days. Stripping the old upholstery took at least a day, the webbing and springs most of another, and the final upholstery the remaining day.
I was asked by tapestrymlp to be her partner in the recent Invite Your Partner swap, and since she's a serious fan of all things Harry Potterish, I decided to make her a birdfeeder in the shape of Hogwarts.
I based it on photos of Hogwarts from the movies and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with a lot of reductions and simplifications. It looks like a cluster of separate buildings but actually is a single hollow box, made mostly of thin plywood. I added windows, doors and details by carving them into pieces of even thinner plywood and gluing them on the outside. Extra bits of thin wood are glued and tacked on for additional mouldings, door frames, etc. I tried to simplify it as much as I possibly could and without making it look too flat, but I wished I could have spent more time on details. (For instance it just kills me that the towers had to be straight all the way down, instead of flaring out at the base the way they ought to. But I'll live with it.)
Some of the towers, like the two square ones on the end, are cut from pieces of solid pine, with details carved directly into the wood. I shaped the little pointed roofs on the turrets from pieces of wood and fixed them on with little pieces of dowel or screws. The large, round turret roofs were turned on a wood lathe.
The large Staircase Tower is a piece of heavy cardboard tube, as are most of the smaller towers and turrets. The roofs are all made of thin sheet aluminum, to make them durable for the outdoors. Because of the way the roofs fit together and into the surrounding towers, I had to first make paper patterns by trial-and-error until they mostly fit, then cut and re-cut a series of cardboard mock-ups til I got one that fit well enough to cut in metal. The aluminum, which is sold in hardware stores for roof patching and eavestroughs, is easy to cut and fold with scissors and a straightedge. I fastened the roof pieces together where necessary with pop-rivets and nailed the edges down with tiny brads.
The conical roof of the Staircase tower is removable, as is a section of the roof from the opposite end, to allow birdseed to be poured in. The seed comes out openings cut into the "rocks" under the castle and into the surrounding tray for the birds. The rocks are sawn scraps of pine board, roughly carved into rocky shapes and sealed with a layer of tissue paper and glue. They're glued and screwed to the to the tray and the castle is glued on top of them. I never like to rely just on glue for something like that, but as the edges of the walls are quite thin, there really wasn't anything else to attach them to. I used "No More Nails" adhesive, so I'm hoping it will hold.
While I had a lot of fun building this - too much fun, because it took me weeks past the send-out date - I had made several near-catastrophic errors in planning. First, I roughly sketched out the plan and started cutting out walls, but quickly realized it was going to be too big. So I scaled it down by about 25% and started again. (The final size is about 14" x 22" by 18" high, or 32 cm x 55 cm x 45 cm.) Then I assembled the main body of the castle and the high Astronomy Tower cluster simultaneously (so that I could work on one part while glue was drying on the other) and when I put them together I realized I'd barely allowed enough room for the tower! Then I built a lovely seed tray with little turned wood spindles along the edge (left over from another project), only to realize I'd mis-measured and it wasn't actually long enough to contain the castle. There was no way to alter the dimensions of either, so the tray had to be rebuilt (simpler, this time.) Finally, when it was all finished, and I'd found a box the right size to ship it in, I went to slide it into the box and discovered that I'd measured the height of the tallest tower before I glued the rocky base on the castle, and now it didn't fit into the box. So at the last minute I had to literally saw the top inch off the turret and make it removable! If I had thought it through from the beginning, it would have been much more sensible to make the whole central tower removable for shipping, but I was having too much fun and wasn't paying attention.
I'm not convinced it's the most practical birdfeeder ever made, but I don't think that matters too much. This was the first model building like this I've made, and now I want to make more! I can easily imagine Hogwarts as a multi-occupant birdhouse, for example. That's maybe a bit ambitious, but smaller individual birdhouses with little towers and turrets would be fun too.
I am so embarrassed at having posted so little in the thread lately. I don't think I've ever participated so poorly in a swap before! And this is such a great one, which makes it even worse.
And now my partner, the always-amazing tapestrymlp, has sent me a wonderful package before I've even finished hers. She asked if I would like a hoopla embroidery, and I said I didn't have wall space for it, but a sofa cushion cover would be great. I was really vague about preferred colours, designs, etc, and somehow she absolutely nailed it anyway!
I love the rich burgundy colour, and the Celtic crow design is brilliant. But just look at this embroidery!
At first I thought it must be machine-embroidered, but a close look at the back shows that it most certainly isn't. I can't do satin stitch half as good as this! And I think the blue edge stitching really lifts the design off the background. (Jenn's husband was apparently skeptical of it, but I think she wins this one.)
Thanks again for this fabulous piece of work. I'm looking forward to admiring it for years to come. It's going to take a lot of effort NOT to instantly drop work on your long-overdue package and sew up a cushion to fit it, but I have to force myself to focus on the project at hand. It'll be added incentive to finish sooner!
Here are my FIVE epic stamps received yesterday from WideEyedLife and kosmicgirl.
First, the now-familiar clever packaging that WideEyedLife's came in:
Now, a human bot-fly and a grub wouldn't have been equally loved by all recipients, but they were perfectly chosen for me! Beautifully fine lines, and I love the fly's little feet! (I'm glad you didn't decide to include every hair, as that might have been going a bit too far!)
And then, the three (!) I from kosmicgirl in Germany.
It's a chambered nautilus! I put "sea life" on my questionnaire with some trepidation, thinking people would probably interpret that as "fish", when in fact what I was really hoping for were things like starfish, seahorses, or cephalopods! So this is kind of spooky. The eye and the ampersand are brilliant, too! The eye has so much character.
Thanks for these, ladies. It's been lovely swapping with you.
Oh, I almost forgot, kosmicgirl sent me one of her great Steampunk cards too, and this bonus postcard from IKEA. (Why doesn't our IKEA have such cool stuff?)
I made this page for heini in the first Fabric Art Journal Pages Swap. She had listed "nature" as one of her themes, and as that covers much of what I like to do, it gave me a lot of leeway. "Koivu" is "birch" in Finnish, which is where heini lives. I was working on this in the dead of winter, it seemed an obvious choice!
The trees and background are linen and cotton, and are held down mostly by the bark detail and limbs embroidered in cotton floss. The letters are metal brads. Overall dimensions are 4 in. by 6 in.
I couldn't figure out what the circle one on the left was until I stamped it. Then I recognized "It's an eyeball!" Am I right, elyxandra? The grooves on the hand are so fine they're barely visible on the stamp, but they show up just fine. There's a tiny dent in the rubber (from shipping, probably) on the cuff, which is located just right to read as a button! And I especially love the cockroach!
Thanks, elyxandra! Your guess at what I might like was exactly right!
My package from Birdbones arrived on Wednesday, but the evil postal delivery man didn't bother to knock on the door, so I had to trek out to the post office to pick it up. Finally managed to do that today.
Though my expectations were high, she succeeded in completely astounding me anyway. First of all, the package itself was epic:
It must have made postal workers smile across two continents!
Then when I opened up the box, I found THIS staring up at me:
I stared at it a moment trying to get my head around exactly WHAT I was looking at. Still baffled, I removed the chocolate packing material and pulled out my new mutant companion.
<several minutes of speechlessness> Wow.
Spidery legs and leaves on its back:
But look - the face with all the eyes isn't actually attached; it's just kind of mask that's tied onto a leather garment the creature is wearing. What's underneath?
I thought I couldn't be more surprised, but there was more to come:
The shiny steel tusks (which I couldn't get a good picture of) pull out to reveal a drawer. No wonder he didn't eat all the chocolate - his mouth was already full...
...of eyes! Birdbones remembered that my own collection had gone missing, so she sent me some to re-stock the eye bank with! They're wonderful! One can never have too many eyes.
Birdbones was being overly cautious, and used more packing material than was strictly necessary for shipping, but better safe than sorry.
Thank you so much for this WONDERFUL whatever-it-is! I can't take my eyes off it. (And vice versa, of course.) I only hope you enjoy your new mutant friend half as much as I do mine. (She's very different, but special in her own way.) And I hope the surface mail to Germany doesn't take too punishingly long.
Was I the last to receive? I'm sorry I didn't make inquiries while I was away - I could have at least reassured everyone that it'd arrived, even if I still had to wait to see the fabulousness inside. And then I had to wait a bit longer while I read the lovely three page letter that came with it, explaining the process that led to the block's creation, the origin and significance of some of the material it, and lots more.
And it was SO worth the wait...
Linda has identified me very accurately here - I'm not an artist, not really a crafter, I make things! I love the colour of this old map background, and the crazy-looking hat on the top is actually a cabinet handle. The feet are mis-matched rusty screws (carefully positioned so it stands up - couldn't have been easy) and there are rusty nails around the sides.
The sides are beautifully weathered and distressed to match the rusty hardware. One side has an old gate hook on it, which is there to make the piece "interactive".
The hinge is the feature on the other side, with a very important-looking spring below it. But why exactly is there a hinge at all?
Because the entire front swings open! And inside is more of the map (1966 Philadelphia), with annotations, and on the other side a beautifully antiqued photo of me wearing my pixie hat knitted for me by MamanTattoo in last year's Yule Present swap. This is such a great surprise when you open it up!
The back of the block has another treat - a tiny pair of pliers - and the rest of the vintage measuring tape.
I love this SO MUCH! It's my absolute favourite thing right now. I loved the stories in your letter, Linda, and I can't believe you sort of threw it together at the last minute as you claimed. You've nailed (no pun intended) my taste and interests so perfectly!
So I guess that's it - no more wonderful blocks to look forward to in the gallery. For now...
I FINALLY got my package from cmarion3 today. We haven't received any mail for about a week, so I knew something was up. Sure enough, today the mailbox was stuffed with letters and packages that had been accumulating somewhere.