Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Vintage Linen Basket - Upcycled

Hello and welcome to my latest upcycling project.

This linen basket (laundry basket) was a constant in our bathroom when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies.  I remember Mum proudly mentioning that it was a Lloyd Loom, a wedding present in 1953.  Fast forward several decades, and this linen basket made its way into my garage after Mum had to move into a nursing home, three years ago.  She is 93 now.

My sister was ready to throw it away because the inside always smelled of dirty laundry (think sweaty socks... ugh!).  It still smelled, even after a few years in my garage!  I don't think the inside had been painted since it was made!

However, a jolly good wash, followed by a few coats of paint has helped matters immensely!

I don't want to use it for dirty laundry, as I suspect it just hasn't got enough ventilation (hence the constant unpleasant odour) but I figured it could be useful for storage, and I really love that it has such strong memories for me.

I researched vintage Lloyd Loom, and I think it is more likely that it was made by a company called Sirrom, who copied the Lloyd Loom style.  

Like Lloyd Loom furniture, it's definitely made from woven twisted brown paper (you may be able to see this in the picture below where the paint had flaked off). But Lloyd Loom furniture included a steel rod as well as twisted paper, and this linen basket is definitely not attractive to magnets!  Despite being made of woven paper, it is surprisingly hard wearing - this has been in a bathroom since 1954 (apart from the three years in my garage) and I remember Dad standing on it to change a lightbulb!

In the picture below, you can see the remnants of a stay chain on the upper left.  This had broken and subsequently been painted in, many decades ago, and I did eventually manage to prise it off with pliers.

The wood underneath the hinges had split, so I filled that in ready for new ones - the old ones had seen better days.

I decided some foam and fabric would make this into a nice occasional seat. I had some of both left over from my ottoman project.  I cut the foam to size, and measured up some fabric to go over the top and under the edges.

I'm no upholsterer, but this was a fairly simple project.  I eased the fabric in places, and folded it in others before stapling it into place.  Like I was always taught in dressmaking classes at school, I also cut away some of the bulk of the fabric at the corners.

I also used scissors to push into the corners and create a neater edge.

 I glued the raw edges in place with PVA, before gluing a contrasting piece of fabric in place (also using PVA) … 

… then completed it with some ribbon edging.

I love this vintage ads fabric - I bought it in about 1978, not having any clue what I was going to do with it.  I've used some on various projects over the years (including this sewing kit).  The fabric possibly says a lot about the 1970s as well as previous years - it's mainly a mixture of old adverts for smoking accoutrements and alcohol, paired with baby's prams.  Maybe it's now a statement on social history! I hadn't thought about it that way before now!

I put the new shiny brass hinges on to fix the lid in place (disappointed B&Q didn't have silver/chrome ones in stock - what is going on? A pandemic?).

I also needed a new stay hinge, to make sure the lid didn't flop back when it was opened.  I decided to go for a fabric hinge, because the previous chain hinge had damaged the wooden frame by getting caught in it. Plus, fabric was the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly option. 

So, the fabric was measured, cut, folded, ironed, daubed in PVA glue ...

… and hung out to dry on a typically Great British Summer's grey day (a tiny tip if you are going to do this too: cut an inch longer than needed and don't glue the top inch - that way you won't glue the pegs or washing line up too!).

And there it is, complete with stay hinge stapled in place - this method makes for a surprisingly strong stay hinge and is so easy to do.

I could have left it here, but I thought one more small detail would complete this project: a little piece of fabric at the front to act as both a focal point and a kind of handle to lift the lid.  Once again, I decided to go for the option of use-only-what-I-have-already-got.

A scrap of fabric - measured, cut, folded, lined and ironed ...

… with a little wooden heart - painted red, with a vintage button sewn in place …

… plus a scrap of embroidery thread, a little time, and easily stapled to the lid. The heart and button match the ones on my ottoman.

I figure we can store blankets, cushions or throws in here - maybe even by the back door for the garden.  I love bringing new life to something that's old, unwanted or unloved!  

This linen basket was possibly all three but , although it's still old, I feel it will be loved and wanted for quite some time now! 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Toadstools and Mushrooms

Hello!  Hope you are happy and well!

I have a thing for decorative mushrooms and toadstools... possibly makes me a little bit weird, but I think I can live with that!

I bought three of these mushrooms from a chainsaw carver at a craft fair about 15 years ago.  They were natural, untreated wood - I even watched him carve them! 

When our very cute little would-be guide dog puppy arrived 6 years ago, he thought they had been placed in the garden especially for his own chewing delight.  They suffered greatly, and were moved into the garage.  They almost got thrown away as they had become so ugly, with great chunks missing.

So ugly that I didn't even get a "before" picture!  I didn't think they were really salvageable.

Well, roll on furlough and lockdown (and with a house move looming) I figured some paint might just resurrect them.  It was worth a try - I figured I had nothing to lose but a little paint.

The wood is surprisingly still sound, and I left the bottom part bare wood.  As well as the chewed off chunks, there is a big split in each mushroom.  I don't mind this - it's a reminder that this is a natural product, and if it's a problem, the split could always be put to the back.

I am sorry I didn't get any photos of the process of painting these - but it was pretty simple: I painted a few layers - white, then red, then white spots, then some protective wax.  I think they will have a few more years left in them now - as long as the dog can leave them alone now he's a bit older!

Friday, 26 June 2020

My Little Cottage

Hello, and welcome!  Happy Friday to you!

We should have been moving to our new house today, but yesterday our seller's solicitor discovered one of their documents was out of date.  This means they need a new valuation, and it might take another couple of weeks.  It is a bit scary, too, as a new valuation might mean a new (increased!!) price (they had a help-to-buy mortgage, which means the government valuer sets a price and there is no room for negotiation).

In the meantime, I've created myself a new little home.

Welcome to my tiny cottage!

This was a very unassuming piece of wood, about to be thrown on a wood burning stove. I looked at it and saw a cottage so of course I felt duty-bound to rescue it.

Dave thought I was mad.  But once the white paint was on, I think it did start to look a bit more cottage-like! I'm not sure Dave agreed.

It's amazing the difference a little paint and sandpaper can make!

I went for a slightly na├»ve style, nothing measured, nothing planned.  It was extremely therapeutic to be creating a little cottage, when my real life house was so up in the air!  

The roof is the original bark of the tree, of course.  I kept getting tiny flakes of bark falling off onto the cottage walls, so I used good old PVA as a sealant.  I put it on fairly thick, making sure drips didn't form.  The weather here (north west England) yesterday was scorching, so it dried quite quickly.

I think the cottage should have a little painted sign with its name on.  I'm not sure what to go with as a name, but maybe Covid, Lockdown or Furlough should feature...if you have any ideas, please share with me in the comments!

It didn't take very long to complete this little cottage... such a shame the real house we are moving into has had so many delays and possibly qualifies for one of the most-delayed house moves ever!

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Jewellery Box Upcycling

Hello! Hope you and yours are safe and well!

It's a bit of a stretch calling this part of my Furlough Furniture projects, but it is furniture, just on a very small scale!

My mum bought this for me when I was 16 (in 1976).  It's been on my dressing table and in continual use since then, despite me being someone who doesn't wear a lot of jewellery.  The water bottle is for scale!

It was looking very tired and a bit tatty.  It's not really had any TLC since 1976!!

I decided to go for multiple colours on the drawers.  They were soooo quick to paint, being so tiny!

I then decided to sand the main part of the jewellery box, aiming for a faded, natural look.

The varnish was tougher than I expected, and hand sanding wasn't quite enough.  I got out my electric sander and the drawers fell apart under the strain!

It was only glued together, so it was luckily very quick to reassemble.  I waxed the sanded wood and painted drawers, giving the whole thing a nice, smooth and hard wearing finish.

After waxing, the wooden finish came out out a bit darker than I wanted, but I think it still looks good.  The dark wood will be a nice contrast to everything else I've painted, which seems to be all white, pale blue and map prints!

I'll be happy to have this grace my dressing table in my new house!  And the dark wood of this goes really well with the natural wood finish on the dressing table.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Upcycled Bureau

Hello!  How are you? I'm still painting furniture!

My latest upcycled project is a bureau (or writing desk) which I found at a car boot sale some years ago.  It was quite tatty when I bought it and I did paint it at the time...

...but it was a bit of a rushed job, and I wanted to change the colour anyway to more white, less cream.  It also needed a new stay hinge, as it didn't feel very secure when you used it.

I didn't actually use it much.  It sat in a hallway, acting as a bit of extra storage.  I knew it could be more useful than this - and better looking!

It makes a great little fold-out desk and is even big enough to use a laptop on.  Because our new home will be much smaller than our current home, I think this little piece of furniture could prove quite useful - it doesn't take up much space.

As soon as I started painting, it became clear I would need to dig out the stain blocking paint, plus fill the holes created by the stay hinge.  I'm not sure what the pink stains are (my guess would be felt pen!) but they were seeping through the painted finish...

It isn't the most well-made piece, but I feel like it was at least made with love and care.

I love that it's not been churned out in a factory, and while I've been painting this I can't help wondering about its history... was it made by a granddad for a little girl to do her homework, or a husband for his wife to write letters?  In my imagination, it is always made by a male and used by a female, but maybe it was made by a woman? Or perhaps it was a young person's first foray into joinery?  I may never know, of course.  But it does make it more interesting than a plain old IKEA unit!

I started with what is fast becoming my signature blue, and played around with the white and blue for a while...

I decided the maps might make an appearance on this piece of furniture, and the front of the bureau was the most obvious place, with a natural frame around it.

I tore the map pieces into rectangles, arranged them, then glued them on with PVA.  I made a mistake here though, and glued under and over the maps all at the same time. It was just too much for the map paper to handle, and unfortunately the wrinkles just didn't dry out.

I decided to go with it, and sanded them down.  I figured if it didn't work, then I'd need to sand it all off anyway, so at least I was making a start!

The resulting worn look is actually quite pleasing, if unintended! It fits in with the whole shabby chic and worn feel - the sanded back maps look great on here now.

The finishing touches were the robust stay hinge (an eBay purchase), and sanding then waxing.

It works well as a pop-up desk, houses a laptop - and the laptop will stash conveniently too.

Hopefully all this furniture will be in its new home very soon, as we should (fingers crossed!) be moving house in a week's time!