Monday, March 11, 2013

Little things

Little things make me happy

Sometimes, something small and insignificant brings me more joy than an objective judgment could ever justify. For instance, some time ago, I ordered some yarn from Knit Picks and I was just a little short of spending enough to get free shipping. I went off to look at tools to see if I could find something small and cheap to make up the difference. You might have done the same, right? I ended up adding a little double-ended crochet hook on a key chain. I don't know why, but when I got the order, that little key chain made me stupidly happy. There's really no way for me to explain why; my rational self doesn't understand it at all. I keep it in my pocket every day, along with my tiny Victorinox pen knife. I can put my hand in my pocket any time and get a little psychological lift even if I seldom actually use it. I guess that is using it in a way, especially if I'm having a bad day at work.

Recently, I made something that makes me happy in the same silly way. First, let me tell you how it came about, because the back story is always important. Or not. Our family room sofa is where I almost always knit or crochet. My seat is nearest the wall where I have good light. I can sit through any number of football games and action movies there, as long as I have something to occupy my hands. It makes for good familial relations. I can appear to be there, sharing some (non?) quality time with my husband, while in fact, I'm off in yarntopia. That sofa is now about 18 years old. We bought it when we got our first house. It's a sleeper sofa, and it allowed us to accommodate guests more or less comfortably (probably less, although I always added a foam pad to make it a little more bearable). I never liked the upholstery very well, but at least we could afford the sofa and it wasn't too horrible to look at. Besides, I figured the upholstery wouldn't last forever and I could eventually replace it.

I was right for once; the upholstery didn't last forever. In December, I took an objective look at it (always a mistake) and realized how completely disgusting it had become. I'm not sure I would have accepted it for free in my most poverty-stricken student days. We had worn holes in the cushions and it was dingy and stained. So, I took a break from work and recovered it in January. I got the fabric from Joann for 60% off. That helped, because after looking and looking for upholstery fabric from every store in town and a bunch more places online, I really didn't find anything I loved. It's hard to spend $40 or $50 a yard for fabric you just tolerate. Part of the problem was that it seems almost all home decor fabric has a definite right-side-up and upside-down. That would be okay, except that the up and down directions run the length of the fabric and the fabric isn't wide enough to upholster a sofa. That means the top of the design can't be at the top of the sofa unless you have a seam down the middle. Otherwise, you put your design sideways and in most cases, it definitely looks sideways. I finally settled on something and did the work. Yes, the design is running sideways, but at least it's subtle. Here's a picture of the end result:

It's actually black, but I had to overexpose a little to show the detail. You can imagine me over on the right looking glamorous and beautiful, with a piece of amazing knitting or crocheting in my hands. I don't actually look glamorous and beautiful and the work in my hands may not be very amazing, but please imagine me like that anyway.

When I work there, I seem to always end up with a little collection of notions, yarn scraps, tapestry needles, etc. on the arm rest. They used to always fall down between the arm and the end of the cushion. Because it's a sleeper sofa, that actually meant they would fall through to the floor. I'd have to get my husband and myself up off the sofa, remove the seat cushions and pull the bed part-way out to retrieve whatever I lost. You might guess that this was not always quite what my husband most wanted to do, especially during an exciting football game (well, exciting to him anyway). I solved that problem when I did the reupholstery. I added a piece of fabric that attaches to the sofa with velcro so I can remove it if/when we ever use this thing as a sleeper again. It catches everything. I know, because I dropped a lot of things down the side of the cushion to test it. How many things? You don't want to know. Just realize that it made me very happy to be able to fish them back out without dismantling the sofa. Best of all, no more fossilized snack crumbs on the floor on my husband's side either. I didn't know he was "saving" those until I pulled the couch out to take off the old upholstery. I hope he wasn't planning on using those as emergency rations, because they're gone now.  Here's what I did:

Once I got the sofa upholstered, I realized that I really needed to do something better with those bits and pieces I always have on the armrest. The new upholstery is a sort of velvety stuff and I knew the fibers I pull out when I spit splice would be difficult to remove without hauling out the vacuum cleaner. I also didn't want to be sticking big tapestry needles into my "new" sofa. I decided I wanted a little tray that could sit there. You've probably seen those armrest organizers advertised somewhere (as seen on TV or Harriet Carter maybe). They have a couple of pockets that hang down on either side of the armrest and sometimes have a flat tray on top. I didn't want pockets and I really didn't find anything I liked, so I decided to make one that would be just right.
I cut the pieces for the tray out of a corrugated cardboard box and glued them together. The bottom is curved to match the curvature of the armrest. Once I made the tray, I covered the outside with cotton batting and "upholstered" it with scrap cloth from some chair cushions I had recovered earlier. I put three strips of velcro on the bottom (what would modern life be like without velcro and duct tape??).
Then I hemmed a flat piece of fabric to hang over the armrest and put matching strips of velcro on it so I could attach the tray to the fabric. To keep it from sliding around, I bought some coin-shaped stone beads on sale and attached them along the bottom edges with a length of chain. I wanted some really heavy beads, and those do the trick. Plus they look sort of decorative. I found some large (and also heavy) bicone beads to put at the corners.
Then I made the dividers out of tag board. It's the dividers that make me so happy, really. One of them has a pincushion in it, where I can stick my tapestry needles. The part that I love though, is that each little compartment has a curved bottom. If you looked at a cross section from the side, they're like this:
That may not seem very important, but it does a wonderful thing. Instead of having tiny stitch markers or fine crochet hooks getting caught in the corners, they come right out. I don't have to fish for them at all. Once I had it all put together, I spent a really shameful amount of time dropping little things in and sliding them back out, just because it made me so happy. I'm sure I need to get a life, but in the meantime, little things like this make life worth living. I discovered a bonus after I started using it. I can tuck a circular needle or two under the tray to keep them handy. They don't fall on the floor between the end table and the sofa now. Here are a couple more pictures of my tray.

1 comment:

  1. HOLY HECK!?! That is amazing!! I would love to do something like that, but I'm afraid that my work wouldn't be nearly as detailed or fastidiously neat! Wonderful job, ingenious!