4 Chair Makeovers

Everybody’s got the thing that they have way too many of in their house, and for me that thing is chairs. I don’t know how it’s happened over the years, but we have seating for twenty in our house. You’d think we threw parties all the time, but really it’s that I have a soft spot for chairs.

Given my inability to pass a chair in the alley without bringing it home (“Yes, I see that it’s broken and water damaged and covered in mud, but look at those bones!”), I tend to also get swept up in the plethora of chair makeover ideas out there in internet land. Got a chair weakness of you own? Here are my five favorite chair makeover project ideas–

1. Wool Blanket ReupholsteryI love that this project blends two totally classic, midcentury looks– a Pendleton blanket and white Burke chair. Sometimes the “reupholster with this gimmicky thing” projects are annoying, but the blanket has such a graphic look to it, it’s almost hard to place what it was originally, and the rounded lines of the chair are a fun contrast to the horizontal stripes.

2. Folding Chair FaceliftThe painted folding chair phenomenon is all over the internet. Though I generally try to avoid projects that rely on spray paint, a friend of mine painted a handful of folding chairs when she got married last summer, sprinkling them throughout the rest of the seating for a super cute effect. It was sweet and simple, and now her guests have a happy place to rest their rears during the holidays.

3. DIY Woven Chair I love the heck out of this project. I have such a weakness for aluminum patio chairs, and even though we have four of our own, it’s hard to pass them up. Now whenever I see a ratty one with a still-good frame, I just know the image of this woven little beauty is going to dance through my head.

4. DIY ReupholsteryTrue, we should all be so lucky to find a chair with a shape this great (and for $10 at the thrift store!), but I like that this post walks you through the steps of adding new batting, a process that even with my love of all things seatin, I find I’m irrationally afraid to try.


Soviet Fabrics

I’ve written a few times about the soft spot I have for vintage Soviet design. I’m a fan of good design in any era, but there’s something fascinating and puzzling about so many of these pieces. Earlier era items mix propaganda with a (seemingly?) real sense of idealism, resulting in an effect that’s almost quaint. Later items have more of an edge, and as an American viewing them, they are all at once familiar and also slightly odd.

I came across a post about Soviet fabrics the other day and was totally fascinated by them. The patterns have a definite deco and constructivist feel, and remind me of something you’d find on an Ayn Rand book book cover. They incorporate all the requisite industrial touches, of course– factories and locomotives of a new, modern era, stoic workers gazing off into the distance toward the brighter tomorrow they’re helping to build. It’s a strange, romantic way to wear ideals literally on your sleeve.

via Leftways.

Felt Outlaws, and How I Create Custom Puppets

I completed a fun custom order the other day for set of Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings finger puppets. The customer I worked with had purchased my Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash puppets already and wanted to get the other two to complete “The Highwaymen” for her husband. Thinking about Kris and Waylon, it was clear that they would make excellent puppets– Waylon with a big, dark cowboy hat and Kris with his signature hair and squinty eyes.

Since it was such a fun set, I thought I’d walk through the process of creating custom puppets, from concept to piecing to the puppet’s completion.I start any puppet by gathering images of the character for research and listing out the details to be included in the puppet. For custom orders, I ask the customer to list details that they’d definitely like to see, and note what jumps out to me as being really characteristic of that person. For this set, I found that the bottom of Waylon and Kris’ jawline/beard would be important in capturing them– Kris with a rounded beard and Waylon’s coming to more of a point. Though finger puppets don’t have chins, these sort of details hint at it and help distinguish the character.After the sketch, I’ll begin to cut out felt shapes and piece them together until I have a set that seems to be capturing the subject pretty well. I generally cut all the felt elements at once, so as I lay them out I imagine how the embroidered details will fit into the overall look of the puppet. Above is Kris with that wispy, wing-y hairdo that just screams 70’s singer-songwriter right after I added the first stitches.Most puppets tend to come together pretty quickly once everything is cut out, but Waylon’s cowboy hat took an usual bit of felt engineering to get just right. The hat sits on top of the puppet, and had to be stitched decoratively on top without revealing the stitches underneath holding it on, and the puppet itself together.Here are the completed Kris and Waylon along with a Willie and Johnny for the completed”The Highwaymen.” Who knew felt could make for such perfect outlaws, right?

Got a brilliant idea for a custom puppet? Get in touch and we can make it happen!

Stitched Corner Store

As a gal who appreciates a hand-stitched oddity (not to mention a clever statement on consumer culture), British artist Lucy Sparrow’s new project, The Cornershop, is totally my new favorite thing. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sparrow spent the past seven months creating plush versions of the snacks, drinks, personal products and sundry items you’d find in an any other local corner store, creating a site-specific installation that’ll function as a real store and workshop space throughout the month of August.The store occupies a formerly abandoned laundromat in East London. Sparrow explained in her Kickstarter description that the “felt politics” of the project “Lucy’s work develops a politics that is at once humorous, grotesque and gentle. It is a politics that for all of this is no less insistent, requiring that we engage with our unquestioned practices in consumption spaces, face up to the fetishism of consumption, and draw to the fore the changing politics of the British consumption landscape, and the demise of our cornershops as spaces not only for consumption but also for community building.”It’s so inspiring to see this style of conspicuously handmade items used in such an accessible, yet radical, space. I always appreciate artistic statements that are truly rooted in people’s everyday lives and accessible, both physically and conceptually, to anyone who walks in off the street. And though the project poses questions about contemporary consumption habits, I also really love the inherent contradiction at play with nostalgia for a locally-owned cornerstore stocked full of corporate products. Not to mention the idea of an artist turning herself into a sort of sweatshop worker churning out the sheer volume of consumer goods it takes to fill even a small space like this!In one of the interviews on the project, Sparrow said that after Cornershop was all over, “I’m going to lie down in a dark room for two weeks and just not move and have someone feed me grapes.” As a gal who’s shut herself away for weeks to obsessively sew little felt things in anticipation of holidays and craft fairs, I have to admit, I can totally relate.

Via MessyNessyChic.



5 Things I Love Right Now: Summer Edition

1. Jenny Lewis, Voyager


First off, let’s just all agree that Jenny Lewis is the coolest lady we wish we knew. Her new album, “Voyager,” as a friend put it, “scratches a musical itch I didn’t know I had.” Listening to it, I’ve been struck by how fortunate it is to find an artist that you can grow up with. Old Rilo Kiley albums are still wonderful, but the angst is a 20-something’s angst. The songs on “Voyager” are about grown ups (with lines like the heart-stopper “when I look in the mirror all I see is just another lady without a baby”) and remind me that, though we like to say that it’s more interesting to be young, there are plenty of emotional complexities to being an adult, too.

2. Summer Reads

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I’ve been a reading fool lately– blame the long days and evenings when it’s too hot to do much else. The three recent books I couldn’t put down: Philipp Meyer’s The Son, about a family of Texas cattle/oil barons. Not usually my speed, but it had the kind of plot momentum that makes a book impossible to put down.

Also, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver was a perfect summer read, reveling in the creeping, crawling, growing details in the wild. Also, apparently nature is totally sexy. Who knew?

And finally, Mary Coin by Marisa Silver is a really interesting re-imagining of the lives in front of and behind the camera in Dorothea Lange’s famous “Migrant Mother” photo.

3. Couch Dreaming

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Our living room is in need of a new couch. The current eggplant-purple loveseat was one I inherited from my mom’s downsizing to an apartment. It was my favorite place to do homework in high school which means that it’s easily close to 20 years old. These days the springs are poking through to the floor and the seat looks precariously concave. That said, the irony is not lost on me that the only couches I can imagine replacing ol’ eggplant with are low-slung midcentury sofas, not 20 but probably close to 60 years old. Yet another illustration that titles (“it’s not old, it’s ‘vintage'”) are everything.

4. Hippie Cult Movies

The Source Family: spiritual weirdos and style icons

For whatever reason, I seem to be consuming more than my share of hippie cult movies lately. Blame it on the weather– this sort of mild summer and we’ve all gotta be having some back-to-nature daydreams about living in tents and letting our hair grow long. Have you heard of the Source Family before? Apparently they were pretty nationally-known in the 70s, parodied in an early SNL and their vegan restaurant featured in Annie HallThe doc was overseen by former(?) members so it’s not exactly hard-hitting, but the sort of Hollywood-meets-spiritual-guru aspects of the movie were pretty interesting.

Not so much a cult, The Commune is a documentary about an intentional community– Black Bear Ranch was founded in the mountains of California in the late 1960’s and continues today. Having had my own hippie experience for a while back in college, there were plenty of moments and characters that felt familiar. Fun fact: Peter Coyote was a member for a while, and every interview with him immediately transforms the movie into a Ken Burns doc.

5. Basil Seed DrinkScreen shot 2014-08-02 at 8.44.47 PMI picked up a can of “Basil Seed Drink” on a whim at the grocery story a few months back and these weirdly-textured drinks have quickly become my warm afternoon go-to. I’ve always been a fan of tapioca and other gummy-textured things, and basil seeds have a similar jelly-like feel to them. Apparently they’re also good for controlling blood sugar, and are packed with nutrients, like all seeds. They’re popular in Thailand so if you’re an adventurous drinker, check one out in the Asian section of your grocery store. It’s the best bizarre/delicious summer drink around.