Jane Garvey & The Chair

Recently Woman’s Hour asked people to tweet in pictures of what they were doing whilst they were listening.

My delight was pretty unbounded when I sent in a photo of the chair I was upholstering and Jane Garvey, no less, said’ ‘Someone upholstering a chair, I am very impressed by that.’

I was very nearly name-checked by Jane Garvey – it boosted my day no end.

I do realise that upholstery as a hobby is a pretty sure definition of a Sussex housewife, but I would like to say it is harder than you might think.

So, whilst not exactly stretching the grey matter to degree standard, it does require some thought and a lot of help from our teacher.

Most of the chairs I re-upholster get sold ( for a bargain pittance, I may add,) on eBay or Gumtree and the proceeds go towards Syrian refugee appeals.

If we had a retail outlet, I could charge more but then they would have to be shall we say, more perfect.

I am at the slapdash end of upholsterers. I am not sure that my tacks – which won’t be seen until the next upholsterer strips it back – need to be in an absolutely straight line, just by way of a small example.

An upholsterer friend said, usefully, one day,’ If a man on a galloping horse can’t see the problem, there isn’t one.’

I have that very nice chap in mind quite a lot.

But this brings me on to the local tip.

The tip shop is where I get a lot of my chairs – not least since the local auction house moved to smaller premises and no longer has the house clearance stuff that you could pick up for a song – or a last minute bid of not very much.

Anyway, chairs at the tip are usually ugly ducklings, and very cheap ones but they can be transformed with a bit of imagination and fabric.

But the tip and therefore its shop, was threatened with closure. A stupid idea if ever there was one.

It is very well run and very busy, and the nearest ones are about 12 miles away – fly tipping, bring it on.

As far as I gather, it has had a reprieve but the powers that be have come up with the nearly as stupid idea of not opening at the weekends until 11 and closing at 4.

There are queues to get in at the weekend – and that is when it is open at 9.

Anyway, I know all this because I have been haunting the tip lately – being an almost daily visitor – looking for a chair.

In this case not just any old manky small duck, but a button-backed chair.

Previously, I had absolutely refused to countenance anything which needed such an eye for detail, patience and a neat way of working – all skills which I possess in minute quantities.

But I found some fabric.

I am a cheapskate when it comes to fabric and like hunting down bargains and this was a roll of more than three metres reduced from £20 per metre to £1.99.

And, if I may say so myself, I am rather good at fabric choices – doing various bits of the chairs in different fabrics, contrasting piping and all that.

( Should you be at all interested, I have just mastered making piping and now don’t know why I made such a fuss about it.)

Anyway, I found a roll of lovely stuff which I hesitate to describe as pink lest you pull a face and think badly of me – suffice it to say, it is a very interesting shade of pink.

My plan is to do the chair in this pink and make the buttons a sharply contrasting colour – yet to be decided.

But can I find a cheap button-backed chair? No I can’t.

Up until I decided I wanted one, there were hundreds of them at the tip, in auctions across the county, going for nothing on Freecycle, being given away locally etc etc, but now there is a strange dearth.

Button-backed chair owners everywhere seem to have decided, unaccountably, to keep them.

But one day my chair will come and for now, I am on very friendly terms with the men at the tip.

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