Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Upholster a Chair

Upholstering is an often overlooked way to update older chairs or to change them to match your style. It's easy (yes!) and lots cheaper than replacing furniture. Plus, there's just something about having old furniture... it's so much more more sturdy and classic than anything you can buy new. Plus, it often has special significance, like these dining chairs that were my husband's great-grandma's. There's no way way we were getting rid of them, but the fabric on them just didn't really match the look we are going for in our dining room. I decided to re-upholster them and I was able to do all 8 in one night!
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You will need:
  • chair(s) with cushioned seats
  • screwdriver
  • upholstery fabric
  • staple gun with staples
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The first step is to carefully measure the chair seat(s) to be upholstered. Add 4-6 inches of fabric to all sides, depending on how cushy the seats are, and you're all set. We purchased our upholstery fabric at Joann's Fabric. I believe that most Joann's stores carry *some* upholstery fabric, but we went to a "Super Joann's" for the most selection. They had tons of choices, from very classic designs to super contemporary. We brought along paint chips for color matching and that worked great! Also, if you shop at Joann's often, you'll know to be sure to clip a 40 or 50% off coupon from the paper before you head out because upholstery fabric is kind of pricey (though still cheaper than a new chair!).
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After you have your fabric, remove the seat from the chair. (Not all chairs are made the same... some seats are not removable, some have cushioned backs, etc. You will just have to adapt this tutorial to fit the chair(s) you are working with.) My seat was attached to the chair with screws at all four corners and I found it easiest to un-screw the screws by *carefully* placing the chair I was working with upside-down on top of another. This put an even amount of pressure on all four corners, even after some of the screws had been removed.

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While the chair is seat-less, it's a perfect time to get out the dust cloth and furniture polish and go to town!

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It also helps if you have a cute assistant to hold your screwdriver until you need it again!

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Ok, back to the upholstery. As I noted before, there are lots of types of chairs and therefore lots of ways to do this. When I examined my chair seat, I realized it had a covering on the back and I decided that instead of removing all the fabric and then trying to replace the backing, I would just upholster over the previous fabric. Another bonus to this is that everything I am doing is now reversible, should we ever decide to revert back to the old fabric.

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Cut your fabric to fit your chair seat, leaving 4-6 inches extra around all sides. If your fabric has a large symmetrical pattern (like mine does below), you will probably want to make sure that the center of the pattern is in the center of your piece - before cutting! Then after you cut, line up the fabric on your chair seat, being careful that everything is centered and straight (this is not really an issue with some fabrics - solids or those with small repeating prints or patterns, but was a BIG issue with the fabric I picked).

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When you are satisfied that everything is centered nicely, start folding the top and bottom edges snugly around the seat.

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Put a single staple in the center top and bottom of the fabric along the outside edge of the back of the seat. If you don't use a staple gun often, you may have to practice a little to get your technique down. Make sure to use even, heavy force throughout the gun. I put extra pressure on the top part of the gun as shown below. If the staples aren't going in straight, you can pull them out with a pliers and start again, or you can tap them in a little farther with a hammer.
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Check again to make sure everything is lined up and then put a single staple in the center of both the right and left side. At this point I took some time to make sure everything was lined up perfectly because it was still easy to remove staples. Later it will be harder to do, so make sure it's straight and just how you like it!

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Once it's all lined up and each side has a staple holding it down, start tacking down the rest of the fabric with staples. I like to work symmetrically, it keeps the fabric from pulling and getting wonky. (Wonky is a bad thing when upholstering!) I would add a couple staples to the top (usually one to the right and one to the left of the previous staple(s)) and then do the same thing on the bottom. Then the same to the left and right sides of the seat. Staples should be 1-2" apart from each other for the best hold. You'll want to make sure the fabric is snug as you're working (so that you don't get wrinkles or loose fabric), but don't pull too tight otherwise the fabric will stretch irregularly and your seat will turn out wonky (see, there it is again!). Check as you go to make sure everything is still lined up correctly Keep this up until you have staples along the length of each side up to about 3" from each corner.
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Now you can trim the excess fabric. I left about 1/2" to 1" of fabric along the staples, just so nothing comes loose. I also left extra fabric in a strip at each of the four corners so that I could fold them up nicely.

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Here's how I did the corners. I tucked the extra fabric underneath the center strip so that I had one long strip and then pulled the fabric tightly from the corner of the seat to the backside of the cushion. You may have to fanagle it a little to get it straight and pretty. Also don't be afraid to trim more fabric so that it lays nice and flat. Then I stapled it down really well. My staples went in really tightly, but if you are concerned, you can put a few extra staples in the corners.

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Then just trim off the excess.

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Do the same for all four corners and you're done!

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Now just screw the seat back onto the chair (I used the same chair-upside-down-on-another-chair method and it worked great because I could use pressure on the screws while not harming the chair).

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Flip your chair over and VOILA! Just like new!

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As I mentioned in the beginning, all chairs are slightly different, but most aren't too difficult. Just don't be afraid to play around with the fabric until you figure it out. With a little TLC, even an ugly chair can become your very favorite!

Greetings from Paris!

Paris, Texas, that is!


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On Saturday, hubby and I took a little trip. We love antiquing and couldn't pass up the chance to take a drive and look for cool old stuff! We got a late start, so we decided to go to Greenville, Texas because we checked online and there seemed to be several (5-6) decent looking shops. One thing about antique shopping is that most stores don't have good websites, in fact most have no websites, and you are lucky to find a listing in an antiques circular or local webpage. In fact, I think that the best ones are those that have no advertisements... mom-and-pop-type stores that look like they've been there forever... dust half an inch thick... I love it! Those are the kinds of places where you feel you could make a great find, because *anything* could be hiding under a pile of boxes in the corner!

The store pictured below was not one of them (lol, kind of crappy) but was a beautiful building!

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Our favorite store in Greenville was this one called "Muzzy's Alley". Half of the building had been a sports bar or cafe and parts of the restaurant were for sale right along with the antiques. There was everything from player pianos, to motorcycles, to boats, to carnival rides and everything in between. The main floor of the shop was chaotic, to say the least. But then, we ventured upstairs. This place was crazy cool. Like the old, dilapidated, freaky, floor-might-fall-out-from-under-you, or something-could-grab-you-from-the-shadows type of cool.


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Seriously, to actually see all the stuff up there you would need a flashlight. But the excitement of knowing that you *could* find something special that has long been forgotten made all the potential dangers fully worth the risk.


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We didn't actually find anything in the freaky attic (though we might have to return later with a flashlight!), but hubby did find a treasure in the main part of the store - a Tom's Peanut's tray that would have been carried around a man's neck and sold at baseball games. My husband has lots of Tom's items and hadn't ever seen one of these... so he had to have it!

Here's another unique building we saw in Greenville. It used to be a car dealership, but is now a costume shop.

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We didn't find any more treasures in Greenville (though I did find a beautiful buffet with a mirror that would look great in our house... if only we had a spot for it!), and after we ate lunch it was still early, so we decided to venture on a bit further. We drove to Commerce, Texas which had a gorgeous old town square... very Western-ish with brick-paved streets and low-slung buildings with awnings and front porches. Unfortunately no pictures. Also, unfortunately it was almost completely empty. Like a ghost town. We found only one antique store, though there were signs that there had been others since closed. The one antique store was closed for the day, but it looked pretty neat. Too bad.

So, then we were more than 2/3 of the way to Paris... and if you're that close, you just have to go... if only to see the miniature Eiffel Tower! So we drove out there and lo and behold - they have a TON of antique stores in Paris. We went to as many as we could in the short time before the stores closed and found a couple more treasures. Hubby found a coin-operated postage stamp dispenser that was in great shape and cheap. I picked out some fabric that was so ugly that I just had to have it. It has text and pictures of Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley all over... not only that but the colors are pink and purple. hehe. Not sure what I'll be doing with that, but I couldn't just leave it in the store now, could I?

After that, we quickly drove out to the Eiffel Tower for a photo op just as the sun was setting. We had a long drive home, but it was worth it after such a lovely fall day! :)

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkin pie bites for breakfast

Yes, Thanksgiving was lovely. I made pumpkin pie bites and pecan pie to bring to our Thanksgiving celebration with hubby's parents and their close family friends. The pumpkin pie bites, while not as pretty as Bakerella's, were quite cute and very yummy. The pecan pie looked lovely but I overcooked it by a few minutes. Dang. After almost 6 months here, I'm still trying to figure out our oven. It was very edible, nonetheless. We had plenty of leftovers, so you can guess what we had for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving!

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In other news, we finally have fall colors down here in Texas. I didn't suppose it would ever really happen, and it's true that many of the trees just turn brown and start dropping their leaves, but quite a few have turned orange, yellow and red, giving us a beautiful show of *late* fall beauty. At the point in the year when the rest of my family is shoveling snow, we have just started raking our lawn, and more than half of the leaves are still up in the trees! Here's a picture of the view across the street from us. (please excuse the many power lines!)

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The roses are still blooming, too!

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Here's a hint of what's in store for us for the rest of the weekend. Finishing the painting in our dining room! We did take a day off today and go on a little roadtrip, which I will hopefully share with you tomorrow. However, we have lots of touch-up work to do, as well as the [hopefully easy] reupholstery of our dining room chairs. Then we can finally put the room back together and hang things on the wall! It's been a little hard on us that we haven't really been able to decorate our new home, but we feel it's best to wait until each room is painted. And the whole house needs it, so it will be a slow process but I know it'll be worth it!

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Finally, my friend Sarah is hosting a giveaway on her blog In the Light of Truth, so you should head over there to enter for a chance to win some adorable handmade baby gear from the Etsy shop Already Love You. As Sarah says, even if you don't have a baby yourself, you can still enter and if you win you can save it for a gift for someone. I just love the little cupcake apron, which it what I would choose if I won... nice, I don't even have a baby, let alone a toddler/preschooler to wear the apron. Might be awhile but the apron is so cute that it would be worth saving, and I can think of so many fun projects it would be great for! The giveaway is for a great cause, as the lady who owns the shop and makes the items with her mom is saving up to adopt a child from Africa and all the proceeds are going into her adoption fund. So be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY HERE through Friday, Dec. 3!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dealey Plaza: 47 Years Later

Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I had the opportunity to spend some time at Dealey Plaza to observe the impromptu "ceremony" that occurs there every year on November 22. I have to say, it was kind of a surreal experience... definitely different than I expected! I was greeted in the parking lot by a truck handing out Monster energy drinks (!?!) and there were lots of news and radio stations on site. Quite a few people showed up, but those who had attended in the last few years said the crowd was a bit smaller, though that is likely because for the last couple years the anniversary occurred on the weekend and this time it was a Monday.

Here are a couple views of the crowd, the first showing the Texas School Book Depository Building (now site of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza), where evidence of a sniper's nest was found and investigations found that Lee Harvey Oswald *allegedly* shot President Kennedy from the far window on the sixth floor.






I have to say allegedly, because the location and especially the anniversary causes the conspiracy theorists and demonstrators with signs and banners to crawl out of the woodwork. No matter how crazy the theory, there always seems to be somebody interested in listening, picking up a pamphlet, or buying a book. Below is a photo of one of the more popular conspiracy advocates and his elaborate presentation and spread of items for sale.


The man below believes that JFK's assassination and the collapse of the twin towers on 9-11 are both government cover-ups. And he was happy to explain his theories to anyone willing to listen. He was talking a news camera as I left.


I don't know the story with the man on the concrete column videotaping in the photo below, but I was able to observe that he was using the exact same Bell & Howell model video camera that Abraham Zapruder used to capture the assassination on film from the same exact location in 1963. The Zapruder film is the single most important piece of evidence in the entire Kennedy investigation and it is still the most important historic event ever caught on tape.

More people began showing up as it got closer to 12:30, the exact time that Kennedy was shot.



At 12:30 a moment of silence was *supposed* to be observed. I thought it would feel more meaningful than it did. The man with the microphone at the front had his own agenda (opening the remaining JFK, RFK and MLK records in the National Archives) and he went on about it forever, missing the 12:30 mark. By the time he finally announced the moment of silence several minutes later, hardly anyone was listening anyway, and it was only observed by some of the people there.

Some makeshift memorials did bring back the purpose of the gathering, however. Many people brought flowers and flags to decorate this little shrine.



I watched a man set this framed picture up minutes before the moment of silence, and afterwards he packed it up safely into a pillowcase... saving it for next year, I guess.




The last photo I'll share is this small white X in the middle of the road. It marks the approximate location of President Kennedy when he was hit by the fatal shot 47 short(?)...long(?) years ago.


To close, I'll leave you with this lovely quote:
Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions,
slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.
And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, the pursuit must go on.
- John F. Kennedy

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Six Seconds that Changed our World

In between yard work and painting the dining room (maybe I'll share before and after pics when it's done!), my husband and I had the chance to attend a very special event today. The event was a panel and book signing at the Sixth Floor Museum with the authors and collaborators of the recently-published book The Kennedy Detail.

Two of the panelists were Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, retired Secret Service agents who were on President Kennedy's Secret Service detail for his Texas Trip. Blaine, who wrote the book with journalist Lisa McCubbin (also a panelist at today's program) was not in Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated, he was in Austin getting ready for the President's arrival later in the day. Clint Hill, however, was the agent who leaped onto the back of President Kennedy's limousine after hearing the first shot. (search the Collections on the Sixth Floor Museum's website for photos and videos) He has rarely spoken to the media about that day, in fact he has stated "I don't talk to anybody about that day... It is only because of my complete faith and trust that Jerry Blaine would tell our story with dignity and unwavering honesty that I agreed to be involved." The resulting book, The Kennedy Detail, is the first published account written by the Secret Service men who were charged with guarding the President's life on that fateful day.


It was a bit surreal to hear these men speak, especially Clint Hill, who is probably the most well-known Secret Service agent ever. The one thing that he said that stuck with me the most was that he came back to Dallas with his wife in 1990 - having never been back since 1963. He visited Dealey Plaza and the museum, examined the area from every angle and finally concluded that there was nothing more that he or the other agents could have done to protect Kennedy... that they had done the best they could have with the resources and manpower available. I think that realization probably helped him get past some of his feelings of guilt over the incident and finally move on with his life. Listening to these men talk was certainly fascinating and I can't wait to start reading the book! (which we were able to have signed by Hill, Blaine and McCubbins)


If this is a topic of interest to anyone:

* The book can be purchased on Amazon or at bookstore.

* Also the Discovery Channel has filmed a documentary based on the book (part of it filmed at the Sixth Floor Museum over the summer), which will air on December 2.

* Finally, today's program was filmed and will be broadcast on C-SPAN Book-TV at some point, though I haven't heard yet when it will air.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I won!


Oh my goodness! I can't tell you how excited I am! I just found out that I won a giveaway from Libby at her blog Bonjour!

Guess what I won? ... a Cake Pops book from Bakerella!



Bakerella was in Dallas a few weeks ago for her book tour and I really, really wanted to go. Like, I added it to my calendar and everything. Unfortunately, she was only going to be at Williams Sonoma in the middle of the day (like 12-1:30pm or something like that), and I had to work. Boo. :(

But, Libby was able to go and she brought back a signed copy to give away on her lovely blog. This totally makes up for not being able to be there in person!

Thanks Libby! I know what I'll be working on over the holidays! :)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

For Those Who Have Served

In honor of Veteran's Day (I know I'm a few days late, but that doesn't make the thought less valuable), I'd like to share some of the photographs my grandfather took during World War II. He served in the European Theater... as a member of the 831st Engineer Aviation Battalion of the U.S. Army. He was a part of the Company A Mess Unit in charge of cooking and distributing meals. We have type-written menus he brought back from the war, titled "Ben's Beanery" (his name was Ben) at the top and decorated with various sketches and pencil drawings... sooo neat! If I ever get the chance to scan those, I will add a few to the blog. In the meantime, here are some photos. Thank you to everyone who has served our country!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My latest project...

Well, if any of you know me personally, you know that I love to be crafty... and that I'm always trying to think of new things to make. Here's my latest project:


Lovely little photo holders made out of vintage blocks! These are also great for holding recipes or little notes. Cute, cute, cute!
Here's one up close:

I just love these, and I've listed them for sale in my Etsy shop, Dandelion Wine! (click on link here or along right side of blog to check out my shop!) For now, I sell these block photo holders and vintage buttons, but I hope to expand shortly, with more vintage and vintage-inspired items.
Bye for now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What's in a name?

So yesterday was All Saint's Day and that made me remember the time in fourth grade when we had an assignment to look up our patron saints and write a short report about them. As there is no Saint Amanda (there should be!), I had to get a bit creative and ended up with St. Amandus... Well, he may have done great things, but I didn't really like the idea that I was named after a BOY saint!! That ruined the project for me right there.


Truly, I wasn't named after St. Amandus. I was named after my Great-great Grandmother, Amanda, who married my great-grandfather Peter in 1893 (that's who my dad was named after). Peter and Amanda lived in Iowa and had a whole slew of children (and please believe me when I say that I mean that in the most respectful way), one of whom was my Great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly before I was born, so I have never met him or my namesake, who died in 1946. I wish I knew more about her. My grandmother (the baby in the photo at the bottom), was the historian of the family. She died in 1996, and since then I have done my best to pick up where she left off (let me tell you, she left some BIG shoes to fill, I'll be lucky if I even come close). I've done some family genealogy and I hope that one day when I'm rooting though boxes in the attic, I'll find a little something about the life of the Amanda I was named after. Until then, I will content myself with looking through old pictures and imagining what life must have been like in those days... raising 9 children before electricity and public plumbing, before advances in health care, transportation, and communication... she must have been a strong woman... and I'm proud say I was named after her. Peter and Amanda (center and right of center) and their children.

A four-generation photo of my namesake, Amanda, her mother, my great-grandfather Nick and my grandmother Carmella as a bitty baby.