Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Upholstery - part two

Our office has a bay window and we wanted some seating, but not too heavy. I found an Ebay listing with only 30 minutes to run, did a quick measure, put in a bid and won an Edwardian bench sofa. For the princely sum of £41.46. Buying unseen is always a little nerve-wracking but on this occasion we were lucky, the woodwork needed some t.l.c. but overall it was sound.

Pub-brown vinyl

The brown vinyl had been put over the existing Regency style fabric.

Original covering

Stripping old furniture can be a messy job as there's usually lots of 'interesting' layers.

Layers of straw, hessian and coir

You can see in this shot where the colour of the wood has faded, probably been in the sun. I needed to get the wood clean and all the old finishes off. As a rule of thumb you use methylated spirits on 'antique' finishes and white spirit on newer furniture, although I would always advise a patch test somewhere discreet first. I used meths and very fine (0000) wire wool. Gently rub the wood with meths soaked wire wool and then wipe off with a clean rag.
I then needed to bring the colour back. The wood is mahogany but for me this colour stain is too red so I used a medium oak. Oak stains are really useful as they tend to have a more natural hue, we always used them when staining old pine.
Once stained it had a few coats of French polish. The final polish and wax didn't get done until calico stage as I was worried about it getting knocked about.



Next was putting on new webbing and then the springs, fortunately the original ones were still good to use.


Once you have this base the layers start to go back. First a heavyweight hessian through which you stitch ties and then stuff with coir fibre. Then a looser weight hessian to make a stitched roll which gives a shape and firm edge.

Stitched roll

And two layers of wadding.

Layer one
Layer two

Do you like the protective socks?

Finally a thin layer of foamy fibre and the calico.

Penultimate layer

Finally the top cover. I find choosing fabrics for us quite difficult as I have a tendency to assume what Andrew may or may not like. Also I try to avoid trendy fabrics but I also like the quirky. And of course the budget is never quite enough! This time we agreed easily with not too many samples arriving.

Finished - just need a radiator cover

Sunday, 17 February 2013


For ages I've coveted a madeleine tin. I don't usually buy specialised tins, I'd end up with a cupboard full of rarely used bake ware. But there's something about madeleines, perfect for that mid-afternoon pick me up with a shot of espresso.

And guess what? My Valentine surprised me with this on February 14th.

Madeleine tray

Oh! in case you were wondering this is my Valentine.

My Valentine!
Now I've not made madeleines before but eventually settled on this recipe using vanilla caster sugar and substituting vanilla extract for lemon juice.They tasted good but rose a bit too much so wobbled on the plate.

First attempt
If anyone has a good recipe, please share!

Just in case you think that it was not a terribly romantic gift (although it was to me) I did get chocolate as well. An eight pack of Tunnock's, possibly in case the madeleines failed?

Tunnock's - true love

P.S any one got 20 million spare?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Washing lines & bananas

This post started out as a slight confessional on my love of washing lines and then got hijacked by nostalgia which then turned into a lost afternoon.

I read Margaret's post and was filled with joy, there are people (quite a few if you read the comments) who love washing lines as much as I do. I even take photgraphs of them....

Washing on a snowy day
I have to say though (this is the confessional bit) I had to go back out and rearrange the clothes. The colours didn't flow right, the fleece, third from the left if you're interested, was in the wrong place and had to go at the beginning of the line. I do this all the time, clothes are carefully selected before pegging. My wardrobes are the same: black;grey;grey-blue;blue;blue-green - getting it now? If something is out of place I get eye ache. Can't help it.

So where did the wasted afternoon come in? When we were sailing I used to take photographs of other peoples washing lines, particularly if they were attached to a ramshackle building. I would even get my sketch book out. Somewhere I have these photographs but this afternoon I couldn't find them (did I hear sighs of relief?) so I thought I would have a look at our cruising website and see if any were there. They weren't but I had great fun remembering our adventure and I found this photo that we took in St.Lucia.

No idea!
Several years on we still have no idea!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Marmalade making

Regular readers of this blog will know that I can be a little obsessive on the jam & chutney making front but the one I'm forbidden to make is marmalade. This is Andrew's domain and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise. I'm not a great marmalade lover, I think it's the shop bought ones that put me off but I do like Andrew's. Actually it's a family recipe which apparently I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.....have a look at Kalba's (interestingly it's her partner who makes marmalade, who'd have thought it was such a manly thing?) for a good recipe.

By mid-December Andrew starts to get twitchy as supplies are getting low, it doesn't appear on the table when we have guests to stay and he starts haunting the local fruit & vegetable shops until the first Seville oranges arrive. So although the recipe stays a secret I thought the photographs add a spot of colour in this season of grey.

Sevilles - a burst of sunshine


Flesh scooping (I think)

Pip boiling

We like a chunky zest

First batch

The second batch has now been made, my stock of jars is low but he's still eyeing up the Sevilles in the shop. Obsessed.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Upholstery - part one

Years ago when I had an antiques shop we restored quite a lot of furniture. My father took charge of the restoration and I did the upholstery, mainly dining chairs and stools. I enjoyed it but hadn't done any for a very long time and really forgotten more than I knew. A couple of years ago we gained a couple of Parker Knoll wing chairs. They had been Andrew's grandparents, and then his parents had them recovered and used them everyday. Because of the U.K regulations regarding fire retardent fabrics (pre-1950 furniture is fine, anything else has to be labelled) they were unable to be sold at auction or even given to a charity after Andrew's father had died. But there was no way I was going to let these very comfortable chairs be destroyed, even though we had no room for them at the time. So they sat in storage.

Move forward to the new house and I felt I had the perfect spot in front of the log burner. I had never tackled wing chairs before and as I was new to the area thought that joining the local upholstery evening class would be a good way to meet people and do the chairs. Five terms in I'm still there!

I love the class and the projects people tackle, ramshackle pieces of furniture are made beautiful. I'm amazed at the talent that these people have.

Our workshop

This chair had a hideous covering but Tom's choice of colours is just fabulous.

The buttons are turquoise velvet
I just love Kate's 1930's club armchair and desperately want one. She was given it by a friend but is going to give it back to her as a surprise 50th birthday present. That's true friendship.

Club chair
Someone wanted to make a headboard which has given me food for thought for one of the guest rooms.

Buttoned headboard
The other interesting thing is what you find when you strip back the old upholstery. Most of the time it's a filthy job but you sometimes find scraps of the original fabric. A lot of furniture has old repairs done with whatever was to hand at the time.

Old repair
Anyway back to my Parker Knoll chairs. For some reason I can't find the early photographs but trust me re-upholstering them is not for the faint-hearted. Each one took between eight & ten hours to strip. They had been done by a specialist P.K. company and there were layers of staples, plus really nasty jagged metal strips used to lock fabric in place. Reupholstering them is exciting at first because you get some fabric on quite quickly but then it just goes on forever.

Back & arms

Midway through the second term I was sick of them! I'm used to lifting quite heavy stuff but the more layers that went on the heavier they got. It was usually dark when I was lifting them in and out of the car and each time the tow ball got me, my shins were bruised and sore for weeks. A lot of the time I was hoiking two about, so Nick our tutor could show me on one and I could replicate it on the second. My finger tips hurt from pulling the fabric taut and rarely did a class finish without some mis-strike with a hammer.  But eventually after two terms and hours of work at home they were finished. And a perfect place for mid-morning coffee.

Pride of place
I've just started my fifth term and my fourth project but more of those another time.