Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reuse Project: Domestic Archeology

The week before Christmas I bought a fabric remnant because I liked the colors. I tried to sew a case for an iPhone 7+ out of it for my mother based on dimensions online, but when snuck over to her house and tried to fit her phone in it on Christmas Eve it didn't fit because of her bulky case. So instead of sewing the strap on the case I just wrapped it up and gave it to my aunt as a glasses case. She loved the fabric so much she made me go back to the store to buy a whole yard of it so she could put it on this chair. She got it at an antique store because she thought it was a lovely chair, but she hated the needlepoint seat. She thought it was too bulky for such a delicate chair. After I left the fabric at her house she emailed me photos of the chair and admitted she didn't know how to redo the covering.
Chair photo my aunt sent me
How did they wrap that around those legs so neatly?

Looks like ordinary brass tacks in the bottom. I have some of those
She brought the chair to my house and I set up to work on it on my bench outside. It would be useful to be able to get to both sides of the chair. We pulled all the tacks out of the black gimp covering the bottom first. The best tool for this was a 5-in-1 tool and some wire cutters. Then we decided to pull all the tacks out of the needlepoint cover too. What we got down to was two more layers of fabric.
This is more like it

My aunt was excited at this point to see that the original fabric was so much like the stuff she picked out. She knew a shiny stripe was what this chair needed. We decided to keep removing stuff because the stitching on that original stuff was rotten and fell apart when we tugged on it. When we got down to the original fabric it was so delicate and destroyed we were amazed. We imagined Victorian thighs wearing away at the fabric.
I wonder if this is silk? It looks like silk
We did a burn test on the fabric to see if it was silk. It was
From an online burn test chart:
Silk is a protein fiber which burns slowly and curls away from the flame. It leaves a dark bead which can be easily crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves ash that is a dark, gritty, fine powder. It smells like burned hair or charred meat. It gives out little or no smoke and the fume has no hazard.
Original chair cover, intermediate, most recent
We also got a bit of yarn from the needlepoint and did a burn test on that. It was wool.
Wool is a protein fiber which burns slowly. It sizzles and curls away from flame and may curl back onto fingernail. It leaves beads that are brittle, dark, and easily crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves harsh ash from crushed bead. It gives out a strong odor of burning hair or feathers. It gives out dark smoke and moderate fume.
Underneath the silk and some cotton batting was more black gimp. This was not totally rotten, but the thread sewing it to the strapping was pretty bad off.

We cleaned all the cotton remnants off and cut a new piece of black cotton duck using the non-disintegrated middle piece of fabric as a pattern. We put a piece of craft foam underneath the new fabric to try to muffle the loud rustling of the horsehair stuffing. Then my aunt settled down with a curved needle and some waxed thread from my Speedy Stitcher and she sewed the fabric to the webbing. While she did that I searched my lab for cotton batting. I found it before she finished sewing. We wrapped the black fabric with the batting and then started tacking on the final fabric. We used the hemostat to hold the tacks and hammered them in with a small hammer. I failed to take photos of this step. 

But I did take a photo of the tools I found useful for tucking the fabric around the legs of the chair. I got these dental spatulas at the same place online where I got the hemostats. Very handy and only $5 for a set of 4. 

Here's how the chair turned out.

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