Bonjour mes amis,
I’m greeting you in French as we have just had the Tour de France here in Yorkshire! We went in to the city centre to see the Grand Depart, stage 1 of the race which was 190km from Leeds, around the Yorkshire Dales, and finishing off in Harrogate. I wished for a yellow outfit to wear to mark the occasion, but realised I had no yellow! How could this be, yellow is such a great colour and I pledge to bring more sunshine in to my wardrobe. I had a fantastic day seeing off the cyclists, watching the West Indian carnival float, and then hanging out at the Tour De Social. A pop up pedal powered party, organised by East Street Arts. The best part of the day for me was actually not the cycling, but spending time at Mabgate Mills, an area of Leeds I knew little about but have since learned that it’s a hotpot of creativity, and thriving community of independent businesses, designers, artists, musicians and community organisations. I never knew so many interesting groups operated from one central hub, and it just added to the reasons why I love living in Leeds and think it’s such a fab city. Mabgate is a pretty run down part of the city, full of empty buildings and industrial units. The mill which dates back to 1890, was originally a wollen mill, and then sat empty before the Leeds creative contingent decided to move in. I was lucky to get a little tour of Byron Street Mills, where my friend Lizzie runs Antiform, a fashion company using reclaimed materials and mixing fashion forward shapes with heritage craft. It had come full circle that Mabgate had once again provided residence to a textile based business. It was a truly inspiring place to wonder around, filled with natural light, the sound of the waterway and hidden street art seen through the windows. I love discovering the hidden delights of my city.
Anyways, the fun doesn’t stop there, I’ve also been to the opening event of a new vegetarian street food cafe, Bundobust in Leeds city centre, a trip to Bolton to meet fellow sewing blogger Simona and attend the Abakhan fabric sale (my arms nearly fell of carrying my purchases home, should have hired a donkey) and a trip to Lincoln to meet Bridie from The Sew it Yourself Challenge for a rummage around Lincoln’s vintage shops. As you might guess, not much time for actual sewing. I have been working on a few projects here and there, and I did manage to finish one of them. Not strictly sewing (although it did involve a bit of overlocking). I’m so thrilled with them I want to share and shout!
Check out my upcycled chairs!
So let me tell you a little about this project. Unfortunately I have no before pictures, but you’ll have to believe me when I say they were dirty grubby little things, but grubby things with promise. I picked the set of four up in our local Oxfam for £20. They were natural wood that had been varnished with a dark pigment, and the previous upholstery had been removed to leave sharp staples and bare wooden seats. I liked the shape though and knew I could give them the attention they craved. I hadn’t dabbled in furniture restoration before, so after an evening of you tube viewing I worked out that the stages involved were:
Prepare the wood
Sand down the chairs to remove the old varnish and provide a surface that the paint will stick to. I used a coarse sandpaper and lots of elbow grease.
Apply an undercoat primer
Apply an undercoat using a white primer paint. I did 3 coats on 4 chairs, so 12 in total, and it took AGES! I painted them outside in my back garden at the end of last summer. They then stayed white until the weather got nice enough again for me to continue my work with little risk of rain.
Paint in chosen colour
Paint them using a paint suitable for furniture. This time I applied 2 coats, and tried to keep the coats as thin as possible to avoid drips. I painted them with Wilkos furniture paint in duck egg blue I found for £10 in store. The colour looked nice on the tin, and it’s way cheaper than your Annie Sloan, Farrow & Ball products so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did because I love the colour, and it goes really well with the blue in the fabric.
Apply a varnish/wax to seal
Now I skipped this step, but you can add a layer of acrylic varnish to seal. Which I may end up doing, but i’m quite happy with the finish the paint gave. I didn’t want a distressed look, but you can rub away with sandpaper at the corners and along the edges to give an aged effect. I’m sure mine will get this over time anyway.
So that’s all that was involved really, very easy, but a lot more time consuming than I thought. It would have been easier if I’d had the indoor space or a garage to work in. And no, I haven’t forgot to mention the fabric, which I picked up in the Abakhan summer sale. I was immediately drawn to it because of the colours, and I knew it would look good with the other soft furnishings in my lounge. It is a hefty upholstery/curtain fabric, and felt like it would withstand an amount of spillage and be ok to rub when it needed a quick clean. It was perfect and cost me under a tenner. Not bad. I overlocked the edge of the fabric, and stapled it over some foam pads I had cut to shape locally. I think all in I spent about £50 on the 4 chairs, and I’ve got some beautiful handmade chairs I love, that brighten up my lounge. Come round for dinner everyone!
So before I go I wanted to share with you a couple of photos from our day trip to Lincoln I had with Simona from Sewing Adventures in the Attick and Bridie from Sew It Yourself Challenge. Bridie is a gorgeous lady, and has heaps of sewing knowledge and skills from studying fashion at uni. She’s mum to a little one like me, so we empathised a lot with how difficult it is to find time for your hobbies when you have small children. We share the twilight sewing slot of fitting in as much sewing as possible between kiddies bedtime and midnight. Bridie, along with her 3 uni pals are making all of their own clothes for a year, and not buying anything new! A fabulous idea, I love it, best of luck Bridie!
Simona is an excellent person to be around. She started sewing 6 years ago and it’s pretty much taken over her life and spare bedroom. I got to look through her handmade closet and it was so inspirational and filled full of dresses, skirts, jackets, blouses and many gorgeous handmade garments, all finished beautifully. She has taught herself to a very high level. We can also gossip for hours. I already know her life story, and that she likes sweets, a lot.
And here is Simona modelling her fab blouse. This is the Lottie blouse, the free pattern in the second edition of Love Sewing magazine. It’s a cute little pattern and I loved Simona’s fabric choice.
Ok, time for a cuppa and a read I think. I’ve got 3rd Birthday party planning to do. Watch out for a novelty themed cake post next time.
Love, Amy x