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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Boro Chair

Many years ago a high school buddy of mine moved to San Francisco and while living there, she trash-picked a chair off the curb, which she gave to me.  I've always really liked this chair; it's smallish, and it fits my short body well.  It's the chair of choice for me when spending time in the living room, and set up next to the table and floor lamp, it's comfortable for spending a few hours on hand work.

So I was pretty dismayed when a visiting house guest left a damp towel on it and ruined the silk upholstery. And I was even more dismayed to find that the casual way Steve had occasionally sat on it, legs spread well before him, had split the upholstery across the front of the seat.  Clearly, it needed repair.

While fretting about how to fix this I ran across boro. Boro is an ancient Japanese practice of patching things. Rural peasants in Japan didn't have enough money to run out and have new clothes made, so they patched what they had, and when that wore out, they patched the patches.  Then they handed down these garments and their new owners patched them. as well, and handed them down again. Consequently, there are examples of these garments in museums.

(Click on the photo for a clearer picture.)

 Some folks have discovered Boro and are using it for fiber arts. I particularly liked this one.
Still others use it freeform for patching, or just expressing where they are right now.

Boro seemed ideal for covering my chair. It had several advantages, chief of which was the fact that I already had the fabric on hand.  The second advantage was that if and when an area wears out or splits on the boro upholstery, all I have to do is patch it!

Last spring I got started on this project, and I've been at it steadily since then.  There are two items that I found invaluable while doing this.  The first item you need is a curved needle, like they use in upholstery and surgery, the only difference being the size and sterilization of one over the other.  But you'd need a curved needle for both events for the same reason; once you stick that needle in, you certainly want it to come back out!  There's no putting your hand behind your work to catch a needle in upholstery or surgery, so the needle needs to curve so that it comes back out of your work.  

The other thing I found invaluable was a flexible rubber thimble from Clover.  The thimble has a metal end but rubber sides, which came in very hand for both pushing the needle through and pulling it out.  I'm not going to lie to you; pushing the needle through a couple layers of denim and the original upholstery fabric was hard work, and my hands could only stand adding two to three patches a day.  I also found that I couldn't do it after doing the dishes, because my skin had softened up too much.

Finally, after roughly six months of doing this off and on, I finally finished the chair. Friday I removed the chair from its sawhorses and put rolled up towels on them, and then flipped the chair so that I could access the bottom.   Then I tacked down all the fabric that hung below the edge of the chair. 

Then I tacked on a dust cover, much to my relief.  This chair never had a dust cover on it since the day I got it, and various stringy things hung down from it which always looked dreadful. Not any more!

Later this week I'll take the chair out to the garage and clean up the legs with some odorless mineral spirits (although who thinks they're odorless is a good question because they are not), then touch up the stain and then finish it with some wipe-on polyurethane.

All done!

* I don't know where I found the first three pictures, but they are not mine.  If this is your picture and you want it removed or credited properly, I will gladly do that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have done it again! Brilliant!