Recent Restorations

Since getting the dining room in order (for the most part) I am NOT permitted to restore a room till spring. It may have snowed a little today, but here it is, finally SPRING !! and I am chomping at the bit to tear apart another room int he house.

Since I had no opportunity for creative outlet in the house itself, I have been "Captain Project" the past few months. I have been honing my skills at Deep Buttoning Upholstery (and some other upholstery restoration work) and Antique Picture Frame restoration.

Seat looks like a foot went through it. The top "rail" of curved wicker was cracked (barely visible at the top of the photo) probably from too many people picking the fairly heavy chair up by the thin top edge

This is a Victorian Fancy Chair found in Indianapolis. It was probably a photographers prop, or maybe a little conceit for some nouveau rich family. The seat and the four legs are shaped wood and each leg ends in a large brass cap on the foot. When found it was badly beaten across the curved top. My first course of restoration was to restore the broken wicker. I used a wood epoxy and carefully realigned the wicker bits back together.

Then I had to tackle what to do with the seat. I could have it recaned, but every chair I ever had with a caned seat broke through. So I pondered this for over a year. I researched period photos. Thankfully, there were a lot of them, since this was probably a photographers prop. Tons of images of fancy Victorians standing behind very similar chairs were at my disposal. In very many of those period photos, the seat on the chair had a fancy cushion, usually tufted and fringed, or tasseled. I have been wanting a small project to learn deep button tufting (the kind that results in small diamond folds all over the surface, with tiny fabric covered buttons nestled down in the recesses) and this seemed a perfect opportunity.

Next I researched how to button. I read old musty books about it; I read new ink-smelly books about it; I watched YouTube, too much, to learn about it and finally, when I thought I had it all figured out, I read and watched some more. I opted for a wooden seat, shaped to match the chair seat frame, covered with layers and layers of Dacron batting and a little left over hunk of foam (I did not have enough traditional hair and straw and cotton in my stash to use on this new seat).

I cut out the seat shape and drew up the diamond patterns on my computer, then cut out the old cane to get rid of the dangling fray in the center of the seat. I layered those stuffing materials, drilled holes through everything to clear space for the buttons and spent 3 days working on this little seat on the kitchen counter.

It turned out fairly well, I think for a first try. I started out with about 9 inches of stuffing that was drawn down to a little over 2 inches once the buttons were in place. Keeping the fabric square was the hardest part.

The seat from above. The new wooden seat is velcroed onto the old chairs seat frame. that way I can easily remove it, with NO damage to the chair if I ever want to restore the original caning.

Another Chair that had been sitting for a long time while I figured out what to do with it was this little Renaissance Revival side chair. We bought it at an antique show in Lexington Ky. anticipating that it would "go well" with the sofa we have. It looked odd since the sofa is blue mohair and this little chair is apricot. So something had to change about the fabric on it - oh, it was stained and smelled a little, too, yuk.

So I pulled out a few fabrics from my stash of "extras" and settled on a blue that was very iridescent and close in hue to the sofa its supposed to match. It also needed a little "umph" so, with my newly learned buttoning skill, I decided to button the back of it in a typical pattern and "ruche" the seat edge. Ruching is a technique of hand-stitched tiny gathers of fabric all along the edge of the seat to add a bit of frill and drama to a plain seat. It also permits a "squarer" seat edge since the flat fabric on the seat top is stitched to the top edge of the seat, then the ruche is stitched on the side of the seat. This eliminates the rounding over of the seat edge that pulling the flat seat fabric over the edge would create.

Buttoning the back was FAR more difficult that my first attempt. I did not have the firm wooden seat frame to pull the buttons against (the back is a series of webbing strips pulled across the back wood frame) so the buttoning was not holding as it did on the wood. Also, I was using cotton and hair on the chair back, rather than many many inches of polyester stuffing and it was far harder to get smooth curves. BUT, It was a greater learning experience than the first one, since I was challenged with different shapes and materials (those vertical channels on the bottom half of the back were a "bear")

Another view of the chair int eh morning sunlight that streams into the parlor ever day (well, if there are few clouds)

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