Upcycling a Reading Chair

Patinaed wooden chair with gold patterned turquoise cushions.

Allow me to set the scene: Your belly is pleasantly full of diner eggs and toast. You’ve consumed just the right level of your morning drink of choice (I’m on team tea!) and have made a productive home depot run. While driving home, you remark to your partner/fiancé/friend/husband/wife/sibling/parent/child that you should take the long way so that you can enjoy a short hike before the weather warms up. Stopping at the thrift store just before the trailhead wasn’t really part of that plan, but the parking lot’s almost never so empty and you can’t help it. After wandering around for about five minutes, you find a solid wood chair with gross cushions on it. The price is right. There’s room in the boot (trunk). It would be perfect in the family room and you’re semi confident that you can make new cushions. Would you go for it? We did, went for our hike and then threw the cushions out as soon as we got home.

The chair in question has caused a lot of inspiration and discussion in our household. Do we sand and re-stain it? What about throwing on some chalk paint? How on earth does one sew a cushion? What kind of fabric should I use and how much do I need? Joann’s down the hill sells large amounts of foam… right?

We ended up purchasing 4 yards of denim fabric from Spoonflower and 2 yards of 5 inch foam from Joann’s. Then came the google searching, has anyone done this before? In case you’re curious, the answer is yes! There are a lot of tutorials out there, but when it comes to drafting a pattern for your custom cushion Online Fabric Store had the most straightforward tutorial. Another pro tip we discovered is that a bread knife will work just as good as one of those expensive electric cutters!

Both cushions were sewn up in an evening, the hardest part was the little bit of Frankensteining that I did in order to create the bottom cushion’s t-shape (both sides have a hand sewing piece in order to make the curve). Honestly, it would have looked smoother if I had used matching thread, but you can’t really see it anyway. This is one of the few projects I’ve sewn where the “fit” of the final object would make or break it. Sure, I’ve made dresses before, but you can sort of fix those after the fact.

I’m super proud of the way the two cushions came out, even if the only piece of the original chair that remains is the frame. To the original cushion’s credit, the plan had started out as keeping them and putting new covers on. Even with fabric and foam cost taken into account, we could not have gotten a better chair for our space within that price range. My partner has already fallen asleep in it twice, I think it’s safe to say that this one is not style of substance.

On enjoying the ride…er run

unnamed
Big Lake Half Marathon, 2019

Just got the pictures back from my first half marathon in two years and I couldn’t help but laugh at my smiling face. Nothing about my picture is posed, I had no idea that the camera was there! Or at least, not until after I passed him (her?). I love the mental challenge that is running, the struggle to maintain a pace when people pace you early on (because let’s face it, you end up passing a lot of them later on) and the temptation to skip a water stop because it’s mile 4 and you still have a full water bottle. This is probably the first race where I feel like I did it right, correcting mistakes I made when I ran my first two without being too cocky in my abilities. After all, while I finished the race feeling great, I also finished thinking I could have gone faster.

This is the only of my now three completed half marathons where I did not wear headphones and I can’t help but feel as though not wearing them changed my entire experience. I did not, as I feared, find myself bored at any point in the race. Not wearing headphones actually made the race more enjoyable because I was able to engage in my surroundings and take in those around me. I was able to interact more positively with spectators because they knew I was paying attention to them. As an added bonus, I was less aware of the passage of time which meant I was able to stay motivated longer. At this point in my running career, I don’t really care about how fast I run the race — I just want to be surrounded by people who want to challenge themselves and have fun doing something that I love. Of course, the t-shirt and charity donation that accompanies race entry helps too.

For about a mile of the race, I ran with a woman who was running her 121st half marathon. As we spoke, I learned that she was flustered because she forgot her headphones and her running watch wasn’t charged. There I was, nothing on my wrist by a friendship bracelet and nothing in my running belt but my car keys, cheerily saying that at least she didn’t let that stop her from running. At least she could run. Despite my pointing this out, the woman continued to complain about how she had messed up her running routine and focus on all the times she had done it right. She sped up at some point a little before the next mile marker and I passed her when we hit the rolling hill portion of the course. She made a point of bragging that she hadn’t done any training specifically for this race, while I had been training for months. That’s why I like running 13.1 miles though, it’s all in your head. We both knew we could do it, I just didn’t need a smartwatch to tell me I was doing it correctly. 

received_2484290304935757
New skill: Shirring

It’s one of the reasons I took a break from knitting over the last couple of weeks, opting to practice sewing through the creation of napkins, a pillow, and a dress. Learning that my vintage machine has stitches beyond forward and backward was an exciting discovery, something that shouldn’t overshadow winding my first bobbin or successfully shirring. My approach to crafting is the same as my approach to running, it’s supposed to be fun. Sure sometimes you reach a point in the project where the steps are daunting or confusing or not fun (ie weaving in ends), but that doesn’t mean you don’t like the activity overall.

If you’re not enjoying the ride, perhaps it’s time to step back and consider why you’re feeling burnt out. Maybe you need to cast on a new project or switch to a different craft for a while. Maybe you need to go for a hike instead of a long run. There are times when you need to push through, but remember that the main point of a hobby is the enjoyment of that hobby. Bonus points if taking a break leads to a frenzy of inspiration, but hopefully, the break leads to renewed enthusiasm or a new way of thinking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.