Upholstery 101- A scary tale

Warning: this post has graphic and gross images that might give you the heebeegeebees

Yikes!  I did something out of "self-taught" character, I signed up for an actual class!
After years of attendance to the University of Google, I decided to get some hands on experience in the field of upholstery. Why?  In the past I have managed to figure out how to upholster many things, including a couch that looked like it came straight from the set of Boogie Nights.  With all these projects my impatience got the best of me and I would cut corners, like skipping the welting and zippers and other time consuming boring (IMO) tasks.  I just wanted to finish, and I didn't feel confident in those areas, so I just left them out.
Maybe I am growing up or something, but I finally want to do something the right way.  I enlisted in the Upholstery at the Eliot School in Boston (and I dragged my Mom along with me).  It is a 10 week program that teaches you how to reupholster, and you bring in a piece to work on.  I also figured it would give me some good stuff to blog about.

I was all excited.
I've had this chair that I wanted to redo for a while now:
I found it on my neighbors curb and thought it had great lines, I even posted it way back when in a trash picking confessional.  This chair was finally going to have its day!

I brought it to class this week, and in the first class we got right to business.  We were given some pliers and flat screwdrivers and told to strip off the old upholstery, starting at the bottom and working up.  Once it was cleaned off we would be gluing any wobbly legs and such.

I did as I was told, and my first thought was "This is going to be a piece of cake! I should be gluing in an hour..."  I even had some extremely cocky thoughts like "How is this class going to take 10 weeks?  I finished a sofa in a day and a half?"  
Sometimes things are on the curb for a reason.
I got the bottom fabric off and started pulling off the back.
I was greeted with a very nasty discovery.  Mold, lots of mold. 
I had the instructor come over and look, thinking he'd be just as horrified as me.
I was wrong.
"Totally salvageable, see it all the time".
 It looked perfectly fine on the outside, but the vinyl had kept in plenty of moisture.
I kept going, and it only got worse. 
 I wanted to cry. I wanted to put my chair back on the curb.  The freaking chair was alive!
It looked like it had its own network of veins and nerves.. see?
 I wanted a respirator and some gloves!!!!
(we were told to only bring 2 drop cloths and the piece of furniture to the first class)
I had to touch the thing!  
See the horror in my eyes?  I was so glad I wore turtleneck and my glasses:
"It can totally be saved!" is what I was being told.  I just wanted to quit.
I was not making any friends in this class with my cootie chair.  
Even my mother next to me was inching away from me.  
She was lucky, just horsehair and cotton in her chair:

Lets just say I didn't do any gluing. Instead I had to take my chair back home wrapped in a trash bag to "de-mold" it with bleach and Murphy's Oil.  
( I think I scrubbed part of my skin off after that class.)
The chair still sits in the bag outside. I haven't worked up the nerve to open it up.  
I have actually been trying to find a different chair to strip down and bring back to the next class.  
I just can't believe that that nasty thing can actually be saved. 

I will keep you posted and let you know what I do.
Part of me wants to just throw in the towel, while the stubborn part wants to prove that it really can be saved.  What should I do? 
Do you guys want to see me save it or do I just move on?  I promise to document either way.

Regardless, I am bring a mask and some gloves to the next class 
AND I went and got a tetanus shot the following day.  


lizziefitz said...

Jenny from little green notebook would be so proud of you !

Jenny said...

Finish it! I took an upholstery class and used a chair that I had also dug out of a ditch on trash day. It didn't have the mold problem, but the evidence of a former mouse home. I didn't do as good of a job of documenting but you can check out my posts about it here http://goshohemlock.blogspot.com/2012/02/retro-redo-part-1.html
and http://goshohemlock.blogspot.com/2012/04/retro-redo-part-2.html

Lekalia Interiors said...

Stick with it! I have seen some super gross innards with bugs and stuff when I've redone my chairs, but the chair you have is a great frame and it will be such a good story once you are done!
You go girl!

Kimber said...

You can do it! Stick with it, I promise it'll be worth it!!!

My Interior Life said...

Lol. Uggh. I would've been grossed out as well, but once you get all the yucky stuff off of it, I think it could be a beauty. Can't wait to see what you decide. :)

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

That little chair has such great lines! It will be gorgeous once you finish it, and you'll be so glad you did! I hope to see more progress on it here :)

Anonymous said...

Get rid of it, you will always remember it as the filthy wreck it is.

patti said...

You're more than half way there! The really gross stuff is gone, now you just need some washing! Keep with it, it'll be a great story to tell!

Ashley said...

I really admire your tenacity. I mean, I've always wanted to take on my own upholstery but I haven't managed to.

If anyone can turn this chair around, it's you. The instructor has hope for the chair and so do I.

kayce hughes said...

Don't abandon that sweet chair!

Kim said...

First, congratulations on taking the challenge here!! I once found a petrified dead mouse in an old settee I bought at Brimfield ... I promptly took it to the REAL upholsterer ... so I will not be let down if you move on!! I am a Realist!!! Good luck! xo

lemondropdreams said...

Save it!! Don't you want to see how it ll turns out? Accept the challenge, show that chair who's boss!!

Carrie @ Hazardous Design said...

So, like you I "rescued" a vinyl chair from my neighbor's curb and now I am FREAKING OUT that it looks like yours inside. Please stick with it...I need to know that this story has a happy ending.

Dayka said...

Ooohh, you would've had me at the "bare hands" thing. That is awful. I just started the process of stripping my Louis dining chairs to reupholster them and all I had to deal with was a few simple nails. I would've died looking at that mold. SO here's the thing--I can totally imagine how you feel. It could be really rewarding to re-do the chair, but if you don't feel up to it, don't do it, even for blogland. However, the only way that chair will ever get done it is if you do it in this class, so if you want it, do it. It will definitely be worth it when it's done, plus you'll learn some new skills. You've inspired me to take a class!

In the meantime, I might be giving the neighbor the side eye for the next 10 weeks....

Nancy said...

I don't know if I could keep going with that chair. Youre a brave one! Can't wait to hear if you still have feelings for that chair or you found another one.
good luck and great of you to take a class..We love you sharing it!
xo Nancy

monika said...

I bow to you! Finish it and gloat.

Jane Craske said...

Would love to see it finished! Just found your blog and am totally addicted.

Karly Mittens said...

wow! amazing work to be done. what a mess upholstery and to be restored to its new look. I love it!

Upholstery Cleaning Brisbane | Upholstery Cleaning Gold Coast

Fabrik ETC said...

I really like i have bookmarked your internet blog. It seems to be very interesting. You should keep uploading more in future for all of us.

Heather said...

Oh sweetie, if it grosses you out (and it seems like it does - understandably) then I worry that you will always think of the mold when you see the chair. You will worry that you didn't get all of it or something like that. If it were me, it wouldn't be worth it... But either way, I look forward to reading more!

Samantha Baldwin said...

But you DID wear a J. Crew necklace, which must protect from something.

Ara khodijah said...
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