Upholstery Repair—Needlepoint Stool Cover

My friend Gay’s mom owns an upholstery shop in Tennessee. They had received a lovely Victorian needlepoint-topped stool that was in disrepair, and needed help restoring it to its original condition. Gay’s mom removed the needlepoint and sent to me.

 

There were holes in the canvas, plus tears in it that affected both canvas and yarn stitches, which you can view if you click on the photos above. Critters had nipped at the wool yarn and removed either all or part of the stitches. Plus, the piece was dirty and needed a cleaning. This is an all-wool work, and thus had to go into the freezer for a de-bugging before anything else was done. Next came washing and blocking (done face-down, which keeps the stitching uniform):

 

washed and blocked another angle    washed and blocked upside down

I also stitched a fine netting material around the piece, which makes it easier to pull it for blocking, and also keeps the edges from raveling. Thanks, Bid! She’s my friend and fellow needlework repairer who also designs canvases. We share lots of great tips. See my blocking table? That was also a tip from her. It’s a hollow core door from Home Depot, with a checkered oilcloth stapled onto it. That makes it easy to line up fabric.

Step 3 in this repair job was to begin stitching up the canvas tears. I had some good black tapesty wool for the job, and used some sturdy upholstery thread to reweave the canvas. Here are some photos of that work:

Once the canvas was stabilized again, I could start the actual stitch repair:

For large size canvases, you may wish to purchase a pair of canvas pliers.  The large grooved teeth are great for gripping canvas and stretching.  These are available at art supply stores.

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Plus there were other little repairs to single stitches here and there.

And here are the photos of the finished piece:

And here is the finished stool. Didn’t the upholstery shop do a great job?

finished stool--Nelms Upholstery

Daughter’s Favorite Afghan Needed Help

Katy L from New Jersey texted to ask if I did repairs on afghans. Her daughter’s much-loved granny square afghan, done in pale yellow, baby pink, mint green, and periwinkle blue, needed some TLC.

IMG_0610  square with issues

square out

My first challenge was to find matching worsted weight acrylics for the job. For some squares, I could harvest the yarn and re-crochet with it, which is the way to keep the color as consistent as possible. I do this when the yarn is in good enough shape, but not when it is old, brittle, fuzzy, etc.

Actually, I had *this* much that I removed as I pulled out areas that had been destroyed/come loose/needed redoing:

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I did have to shop for more yarn, though, and had trouble finding the same shades as were originally used. Ventured out to several stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and a few yarn shops) before I found what I deemed satisfactory.

So the crocheting began. And yes, I’m left-handed, so it’s backwards to what you’re probably used to seeing:

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Had to make up several squares–I forget how many–but I know I crocheted at least eight. At one point, I sat at my 94-year-old Aunt Dot’s house, with Mom and my husband, and worked away while discussing the family history. My aunt used to produce the most lovely hand stitching—beautiful crewel work pillows,  cloth dolls whose seams and clothes were lovingly stitches by hand. Oh, she could work a sewing machine, but like me, she preferred the more tactile approach, cloth against the palm of one hand, needle gripped between forefinger and thumb.  I must’ve inherited the gene from that side of the family. Recently, I saw on an ancestry.com census that a great great aunt was listed as “Seamstress” for her occupation.  Oh, and while we sat that day in my aunt’s all-Victorian-furnished sitting room, I asked her for the one thing I really, really wanted to inherit from her: the set of chair covers that she had embroidered. She got right up and went to get them, saying she was happy that I wanted them. I knew where she kept them. I watched her go slowly over to that chest in the corner, where she’d shown them to me a few years ago. Her back is hunched now, her Collins blue eyes blurry now from macular degeneration.

Would you like to see what I wanted to remember her by, one day?

Let me run take some photos!

And here are my treasures:

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Aren’t they great? They’re Erica Wilson’s designs on linen. I don’t have them on chairs yet. I don’t even own chairs to put them on. One day, I’ll buy some, though, just for these. Or I’ll frame them, I haven’t decided yet. I just know when I look at them, I’ll picture Aunt Dot sitting there, looking down at her needle going in and out of that linen, over and over. And I’ll remember her handing them to me, and telling me, as I thanked her, that she was happy I wanted them.

I really digressed! But to bring it back to my customer’s repair, let’s just say that the crewel I inserted in here illustrates just why I have customers in the first place: needlework means something to people. It means someone cared enough to create something and pass it on.

And so, I work to complete the repair on Katy’s afghan. Once I’ve completed new squares, I sew them in:

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This picture below shows *a few* squares out at that time. There were others.

afghan with damaged square out

Not a bad match! My stitching is newer, so it appears not as, soft? as the rest, but it’ll all even out over time.

And once we’re all seamed up again, as I often do, I tuck in some loose ends. This takes a while, but it’s well worth the time and the expenditure. When yarn or thread has been cut too short when it’s tied off, as is often the case, that knot can pull loose SO much more easily then when the original crocheter leaves long ends. So I pull the knots out, take it back out of stitches, add yarn or thread, and then re-knot and re-stitch or replace within a seam. I hope that makes sense! Here is what I’m talking about. I did a LOT of these. Like, 40, maybe? Many were pulled out, pulled back, added to, and recrocheted. You get your money’s worth with me. Seriously.

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And finally, finished!

completed repair

Apologies for the dark photo. This was off my iPhone.

Crocheted Bedspread Repair

Jon M phoned to ask if I could clean and repair a white cotton spread he had purchased at an estate sale. He said it looked just like one he’d seen here on my site—and amazingly it was the same crochet pattern as my customer, Kay’s. When he brought it over, I couldn’t see it very well in the den lighting, but once I got it into my sunny, well-lit crafting room, I saw that it had a lot of yellowing. This was probably due to having been stored in plastic for many years. Plastic is not a good thing to store fabrics in. It prevents air circulation and can actually trap dampness in there with the fabric. Here is some advice directly from the Smithsonian (online) about textile storage:

“Textiles should have no direct contact with wood, blue tissue, regular tissue, or other wrapping paper. Most paper tends to be acidic; acid is especially damaging to textiles. Instead, textiles can be wrapped in clean, white cotton cloth, such as an old sheet or pillowcase, or in muslin. Because textile fibers need to be in an environment where there is some air movement, fabrics should not be sealed in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent damage from moisture condensation. Also, because some plastics give off fumes as they decompose with age, they should not come in direct contact with antique textiles. After wrapping the textiles in cotton muslin or sheeting, they can be loosely encased in an unsealed plastic wrapping. The best place to store antique fabrics is on top in a drawer. Storing them at the bottom of a drawer under heavy items can cause sharp folds, which may be difficult to remove and which may cause splits in the cloth.”

Jon’s repair job involved tucking in all the loose ends of thread that for some reason the bedspread maker hadn’t sewn in, or maybe they’d come out in washing? Not sure, but there were a LOT of them left out. Also, the store-bought tassel trim was loose where it had been whip-stitched around the finished crocheted spread for its border. And finally, there were a few (very few) places where I caught some stitching that had come loose.

Here are some photos showing where the border has loosened from the bedspread:

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And here is the bedspread: I tucked in about 125 knotted thread ends, which took over 4 hours:

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My only thing that didn’t make me totally happy involved the washing of Jon’s spread. I took it to the textile cleaner I use, and she washed it white as snow. Only problem was, once she got it white, she saw that it wasn’t *all* white. In other words, someone had made some squares white and others with an ecru or off-white thread. It was nearly half and half, and randomly stitched in. You could not see the difference really well, and especially if it were in a not-super-sunny bedroom. However, I hate it that we (the cleaner and I) had no way of knowing before it was cleaned that it wasn’t all made from the same color of thread. Yellowing can make such differences imperceptible. But as they say, “everything comes out in the wash” and the thread difference was revealed.

I know why the person who crocheted the spread may have used different threads. I’ve been making my own crocheted bedspread off and on for 10 years. It’s painstakingly slow, this labor of love. And the thing is, when you go and buy individual spools of cotton at Michael’s or Hancock’s or wherever she may have purchased it back then, you get a bunch of spools that all look the same and say “no dye lot.” Well, that “no dye lot” means there can be variations in the color! I’ve had the same problem with my 155 spools of Aunt Lydia’s Fast Five, which isn’t even made anymore. I picked up spools every time I could, and as I’ve been making my 40+ squares for my knitted spread, I’ve done some that had a yellow tinge to the ecru and some that had a gray tinge.

It’s hard to get around this issue if you’re buying a textile you don’t know the history on, as in Jon’s case. Because my textile cleaner won’t clean a piece until after I’ve done the repairs. She doesn’t want the liability of splits turning into more splits, stitches coming apart more, etc,…which makes total sense.

Canopy Repair—Handing down an Heirloom

Bruce G. of Atlanta wanted to eventually pass some of his furniture down to his children. He had had pieces repaired, but one of the bed’s canopies needed fixing and he called me about it. As this was a quick turnaround type of repair, I told him I could work it into my lineup and get it back to him pretty fast. These canopies have been made for many decades. You can find them at Heirloom Canopies of North Carolina, in a price range of $170-225, so it’s thrifty to be able to have them repaired if there are a few knots that have slipped apart.

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Somehow, I missed a photo of the area in need of repair, but it was just that a corner had come loose where the netting fits over a post. It had to be re-knotted. And here are all four corners. Can you tell which one I repaired?

These are the corners, with the tassles:

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The Dog Ate my Needlework!

A woman from CA emailed me to ask if I could repair a needlepoint pillow that a puppy had chewed. She sent photos, I replied with an estimate, and she then told me that my repair would be a surprise for her employer, 1940’s era movie actress Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Jane Eyre):

dog damagefront dog bite

(above photos showing damaged pillow backing and cording + bite out of needleworked piece)

Ms. Fontaine had worked the needlepoint herself. I looked her up and discovered that Vanity Fair had done a somewhat recent article on her (2006.) She is still beautiful, with lovely pulled-back silver ponytail and statuesque posture. She’s now in her 90’s, and continues passionately helping dogs through the ASPCA. With 5 of her own fur babies, it’s no wonder a few household items get gnawed on. The one who ate her needlepoint pillow was a 1-year-old German Shepherd rescue. I can totally relate, because I have an Aussie cattle dog rescue, a lab/pit rescue, and two cats.  Winking smile

I always love getting to know my customers and hearing them tell about their treasured items they’ve brought for repair, and this client sure was a special one. I emailed back to Ms. Fontaine’s assistant to say that Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite movies. She plays a beleaguered new bride with a husband (Sir Laurence Olivier) whose ex-wife casts a pall over everything. Even from the grave, she seems bent on ruining the present and future for the new Mrs. DeWinter. It’s classic gothic DuMaurier novel, set to film by master of suspense, Hitchcock.

My work began with much cutting of fabric. Then I sat down to repair the needlepoint. I didn’t have a perfect match of blue for the background, but some vintage yellow I own was bright enough. My purchased canvas was a wee bit smaller squares per inch than what was originally used, but nevertheless I cut a square and put it under the original. Then I worked through both layers and after a while, I had it all re-stitched.

pulling back of damaged threadsstitching through two layersalmost completed re-stitching

Once I’d hand-stitched the bitten area, I went about the task of cutting out new velveteen for the casing, creating the piping, etc:

showing dog bite finishfront with sides onfront and back

And finally, Joan’s pillow is revamped:

joan f pillow finish

Thank you, Joan, for your business, for your caring for animals Dog face, and for the incredible talent you shared with the world. Red heart

 

Oops! Bedspread Returns for More Repairs

Well, I’m dreadfully embarrassed to say that one of my repair projects came back to me. My customer, Kay, was very understanding, though, and I do appreciate it. Kay’s crocheted bedspread had so much handwork in it that it is easy to see why areas would come loose and need work. After six or seven hours’ worth of putting things back together, however, I do believe that several other areas literally “came out in the wash.” My textile cleaner June does a great job, but though the spread was nice and white and looked great after its bath, it sure had many places that needed to be re-stitched. The spread is, however, so beautiful, and Kay says that her mother worked on it while pregnant with her. What a great piece to own! I know she sure is glad to have it all nice now. Here are more areas I worked on lately. The rest of this story is in an earlier post:

And here are a few more action shots of the bedspread repair. Kay marked spots with her safety pins, but I found a bunch more and marked them for her with orange thread that she can snip off once she receives the bedspread. Thanks for your patience and understanding, Kay!

Pineapple Crochet Project: a Tablecloth

Gayle K, a repeat customer, had a beautifully-worked round tablecloth in the familiar pineapple pattern. This pattern is really a lot of crochet chain, single, double and treble stitching. It’s just the sheer volume of work that makes it a long project. The pattern booklet Gayle sent with the project looked as if it came from the 1940’s. This is it in the photo to the left, I believe. I’ve already sent it back to Gayle. She also sent plenty of thread, and I used the ball that was attached:

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The pattern was pretty easy to follow. Took me a while to see where the original needle-worker had left off, and I definitely had to get to working on it before I realized how much time was involved in covering one round! The piece was probably about 70 inches already, but it wasn’t blocked. So just going the rounds I did on it pulled it out and then I did a lace finish on it. Here is how the tablecloth looked as received:

Very nice! And then the work began, and here are the first 2 (believe it or not) trips around:

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They don’t look like much but due to the pattern and large circumference took hours and hours! Each little circling of that hole you see at the hem is 24 double treble crochets all the way around (I think 22 of them) + the pineapple chains in between, x 2 rows!

So, for each double treble stitch (one row= 24×22 double trebles) here are the instructions:


  1. Yarn over hook three times, then insert hook into next stitch.
  2. Yarn over hook and draw yarn through stitch (there are five loops on the hook).
  3. Loop yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now four loops remaining on the hook).
  4. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now three loops remaining on the hook).
  5. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now two loops remaining on the hook).
  6. Again, loop yarn over hook and draw through the last two loops on the hook (there is now one loop remaining.)
  7. This completes one double treble crochet.

Double treble is a fun stitch that adds the needed fan appearance on top of each pineapple. But since adding whole pineapples at that point would’ve involved *far* too much time/hourly expense, Gayle and I opted for a nice finish that was a little lace border. Here is more of it, but then a final finishing row pulled the pineapple tips down a little more, which you see below in the last photos:

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Once the hand work is done, it’s time to clean the piece. I enzyme-washed the cloth and then block stretched it to shape it. It dried overnight. I actually blocked it twice because after the first time, I was not happy with the level of lightening on some of the dark brown “rust” stains so I spot-treated them to get them lighter and lighter, carefully using various stain removing agents. If you attempt this at home, I would suggest you do your research first, as there are plenty of times I won’t clean an item and instead will refer people to a textile cleaner I know. Too much room for error, in my opinion.Below are the dark spotted areas. Overall, because the cloth was stored in plastic, there was a lot of yellowing that would come out in the wash:

And now for the finish! Here are the results! Nice and white-clean, and with a little border that looks feminine. It fits on a round 4-seater table or I’ve shown it on a little parlor table.

One Mother, Two Beautiful Bedspreads

After I had repaired Bob of CO’s crocheted spread (see previous post) I was very happy when his sister Kay from CA contacted me. She, too, had a beautiful bedspread their mom had made for her about 75 years ago. Hers was in need of repairs as well.

With Kay’s spread, there were quite a few split threads in the cotton, simply from age and use. That doesn’t bother me a bit, since why *have* a bedspread if you don’t use it? There is SO much work involved in crocheting or knitting a bedspread/counterpane. So many hours. When people go to the trouble to make them, they imagine many, many years of gracing someone’s bed. Which reminds me, I once made some felted slippers for a dear friend, and when she opened the package, she said, “You *made* these for me? I’m putting them right up in my closet.” I said, “Um. You’re supposed to wear them.” And she said, “Oh, no way. You made them for me!” I appreciated the thought, but really, when people make you functional items, they intend for them to be used.  Smile

And so the repairs began, on various double crochets, single crochets and chain stitches. (the popcorn stitch (baubles) was all intact):

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Kay3Kay4

 

Kay7 (3)Kay8

Kay5Kay6

Some are re-weaves and some are crocheted chains where a chain link is missing.

There were many hours involved in this project, as I had to very carefully check each motif area and see if there were any loose threads at all. And there were many. If I had to estimate, I would say there were at least fifty tiny spots that needed some sort of repair. Some of the splits were more evident than others that just needed to be tacked or reinforced. All of the fringe was in good shape, and there were only a few areas at the border that needed to be whip-stitched back in place.

Once my repairs were completed, I put the spread on one of my beds so that Kay could see how it looks now! It’s a really lovely spread. There are small “rust” spots in several places that my textile cleaner partner, June, will remove for my customer. June is a very talented woman who has been cleaning every type of textile imaginable for over thirty years, and she did Bob’s bedspread and he was amazed at how well it came out!

Here’s the spread, repairs completed and before going to June, as displayed on one of my beds:

“Diaper Dazzler” Embroidery Completion for Client

Just completed a finishing job for repeat client Gayle K from CA. Gayle’s mom was a member/student of White Pines Michigan Embroiderer’s Guild, and she chose some really complicated patterns to attempt! I’m impressed. The needle artist and instructor for this project was Ann Strite-Kurz: who was certified by the National Academy of Needle Arts, Levels 1 and 11. Not sure what that means, but having completed two of her pieces, I can tell you that she knows how to stitch and design like few do! Here is a bio I found online:

Ann Strite-Kurz
Biography

Ann Strite-Kurz
Ann Strite-Kurz has been an active teacher and designer for seventeen years. She is certified in canvas embroidery by the National Academy of Needlearts (NAN) and teaches regularly at seminars sponsored by the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and the American Needlepoint Guild. She is available for workshops and programs for local chapters of these groups and taught three group correspondence courses for EGA for over a decade. She also holds a Master Craftsman certificate in canvas from the Connecticut River Valley Chapter of EGA. In 1992 she published her first book, The Heart of Blackwork. Her second book, Potpourri of Pattern, was published in June, 1995. Both of these books explore innovative styles of open patterning which have become the hallmark of Ann’s recent work. Ann continues to teach and to publish a line of commercial designs and pamphlets and is a regular vendor at both the TNNA and INRG tradeshows. She has recently published three additional books on pattern which include CDs to display the illustrations in full color.  These titles are Backgrounds: The Finishing Touch (2003), Creative Canvas Couching (2005) and Diaper Patterns (2007).  An expanded resumé on education background, teaching experience, and noteworthy needlework accomplishments follows.

Here is an example of her patterns and instructions:

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Here’s the first area I did finishing work in Area 3, combining alternating diamond and cross units:

(Diamond Eyelet Variation with Double Straight Cross Tiedown + Four-way Tied Oblong Cross Cluster with Double Straight Cross Variation Tiedown)

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Second area: Area 4 (turquoise) with Combo of Double Straight Cross and Diagonal Hungarian Units in a Cluster, followed by Double Straight Cross Units in Two Colors:

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The next step was Blackwork (not always done in black thread on white, but always a colored thread in white background) which I’ve never done before, but enjoyed very much. That’s the red part above that looks lacy. It was used on cuffs and collars back in the 1600’s in Europe. Fancied things up a bit! Spain and England were fond of it.

Here are a few historical examples :

      

And here is how my blackwork took shape:

Here is the finished piece. Wish you could see it close-up. The colors are richer, like in the photos above.

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Cotton Counterpanes–Bedspreads of Yesteryear

My client’s crocheted bedspread repairs are completed, and it’s ready to go to the cleaner’s. Here are a few more steps I took while finishing up my work:

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The above photos show a bad place that needed repair, and the 2nd photo is taken from further away but shows the reweaving/re-crocheting.

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These two photos also show an area that needed repair and was fixed

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This (above) is a shot of the pattern. Shows the lovely popcorn stitching

 

Now everything is coming together in the main counterpane. On to the fringe repair:

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The fringe had several issues. First, parts of the crochet chain stitch to which it was knotted had come undone, so I had to repair that. You can see it in the left photo just above this writing. Once that is repaired, then everything has to be unknotted. See the little fringe hanks that I’ve taken off? They all follow a knotting pattern from the top, down. So you have to un-knot the top ones and take them off. Then un-knot everything else. Re-do the top knots, and then re-tie the other two levels.

And now, here is the bedspread at it looks with all the repairs completed!

 

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This got me to thinking about my own counterpane/bedspread, for which I once accumulated over 150 small balls of Aunt Lydia’s Fast Five cotton thread!! (Yes, it IS in a very large plastic tub in my attic.) This particular counterpane pattern I’m knitting is from Knitting Counterpanes by Mary Walker Phillips, c.1989. I know I began working on mine around 1990. I think I have 24 squares (the quarter units of the big square.)

I’ve pulled it out lately to see my progress. When people ask me how long something takes to complete, it’s really hard to gauge because I do have things I do other than knit or do needlework. However, I’ve noticed that with my busy schedule, when I’m only working on a knitted square for my counterpane, it takes a whole week. Each ball of thread is ONE unit, and each unit is ONE-FOURTH of a complete square for the pattern stitch.

So, here are a few pictures of mine, which Ms. Phillips created based on her sketches and photos from a late 1800’s counterpane she viewed in Larnach Castle, New Zealand:

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This (above) is 4 units (each unit taking 1 week to complete) sewn together into one pattern square

Look how many I’ve done so far:

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Once I complete all my quarter units + sew them into the larger squares, then I have to do a border insert. Once the border insert is completed, then there is a lace edging to be done.

Three thoughts:

1) I am a glutton for punishment, as I always choose ridiculously complicated projects for myself

2) There is a reason why Montgomery Ward, Sears and such began manufacturing bedspreads in the turn of the century

3) Why oh why did I have to do this for the king-size bed and not choose at least to do a full size instead, for the guest room?

4) Denise, I should listen to you and just make what I have right now into pillows, but no, see Thought #1 above

5) No dog or cat or grandbaby (way off right now but by the time I complete this project I’ll surely have some) will ever lie, sit, sleep, get a diaper changed, throw up, etc,… on my counterpane!!