Cover Me.

Over the years, I've inherited a lot of furniture from my family - most of it cast-offs that were "donated" to help me furnish whatever place I was living at the time. To my benefit, my family's hand-me-downs are usually pretty nice. I ended up with some antiques that have a lot of sentimental value attached.  Also, my home ended up looking like my mother's, but that's a different blog post altogether.

Not my actual furniture...

One chair, in particular, was always a favorite of mine from my mother's house. I couldn't believe it when she offered it to me early in my adulthood. Over the years I've come to realize why she was willing to give it up - it's a monster of a piece of furniture. It's an unusual wing-back chair in that the "wings" aren't angled against the back. In fact, the back is concave, creating a huge expanse. The thing is easily four feet tall at the back and the wingspan is a good three feet wide. You really have to have a room that can handle a chair like that.

At some point, my mother had a slipcover made for the monster. The original upholstery was something sort of boring and "classic." The slipcover, on the other hand, was all-'70's-all-the-time - sporting massive poppies on a field of white. When donated to my first apartment, it came to me this way - with old upholstery and a screamin' loud slipcover.

After a few years, I had the chair upholstered in an appropriate fabric for the time. It was the '80s. Need I say more?

In 1997 I started looking into having it reupholstered again. Somehow, in the intervening years, the cost to have this work done had more than doubled. So, I lived with the crappy '80s fabric by using a pillow and throw draped on it to detract from the hideousness.

One day in the early 2000's (the "aughts" as I like to call them), I heard a rumor about an adult education upholstery class at one of the local colleges. According to legend, the class would fill up so fast that, unless you had an "in", you'd never get a space. That scared me off trying to register for a few years. Then, finally, I gave it a shot. Sure enough - class, full. Waiting list, long. Argh. That experience delayed me another couple of years. You might infer that I didn't really want to take the class and, frankly, you might be a little bit right. Even when learning a useful skill, it's still school.

One day one of my co-workers overheard me talking about this mythical upholstery class. Turns out that his wife was one of the lucky few who had actually taken the class for a few semesters. He offered to talk to her and get some insider info for me. Believe it or not, it was like negotiating detente in the Middle East. He would come back to me with questions. I send answer back through him. Eventually, I got the name of the instructor (there were a few - some better than others), a class day and location, and some tips on how to get in. My procrastination paid off and, using the tips provided, I managed to get in to the fall semester 2009.

1st completed project - Grandma's chair
So began my upholstery education. I didn't want to tackle the crazy wing back chair first, just in case I sucked at this art, so I did a chair that had belonged to one of my grandmothers. Turns out, upholstering is way easier than one would imagine and project number one came out pretty good. Second semester, I did the wing back. The damn thing was so complicated that I'm actually just finishing it now - three classes into third semester. Next on the docket is a Lincoln rocker that I'm upholstering for a friend.

I have two more chairs of my own that I'd like to upholster and will probably continue to take the class in order to do them. That way, I don't have to buy any equipment and, if I get stuck, the instructor is there to help. This is the the reason people never "drop out" - as long as you've got stuff to recover, you never leave fold. It's rather cult-like actually. Hopefully, when my chairs are complete (two more semesters??) I'll be done with the class - unlike some of my classmates who scour craigslist and yard sales for new projects. I have a total of 1,500 square feet of living space and there's no room for anything else - unless I furnish my unfinished basement.  Hmmm.... maybe I can take the class indefinitely!

- Alex

The Infamous Wing Back - not quite finished.

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