Friday, April 17, 2015

Do You Wanna Be a Snowbird?

Snowbird: Informal: a person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather.

After three years of spending summers away from home (campground hosting) and struggling with all the work that needed to be done around our home and our rental properties, AND after struggling with running in the bad air that plagues our valley during the winter months, my husband and I realized that we are spending the wrong season away from home.  So we are planning to spend next winter in a warmer climate.

We learned from several of the couples we've met in our camp hosting adventures that there are no paying jobs in warm climates in winter.  The best we could do would be to find a situation where working a certain number of hours a week would pay for our trailer spot.  We decided that we would choose to afford to pay a reasonable monthly rent for a spot and will not be seeking work.  One of the considerations as we select a location will be availability of an affordable trailer spot.

So – where to go?  We’re too far west to consider going to Florida, and after spending a week in Phoenix for Spring Training last month, we confirmed our decision not to winter in the Phoenix area.  Why not?  Too many people; too much traffic.  We reached out to two couples we wanted to visit while we were in the area.  Both invited to cook dinner for us in their homes.  Wow, we thought, sounds great.  Until we had to drive there during drive time.  I’ll never complain about Salt Lake traffic again!  But we’ve broken the code.  In Phoenix, it’s less stress for even the most kitchen-phobic of individuals to prepare food than to drive to a restaurant in drive time.  But I digress…where to go? 

In reality, we would like to stay less than a day’s drive away from family and friends, so we’re looking at Southern Utah, the little corner of Arizona that hosts the Virgin River Gorge, and the southern tip of Nevada.  We ruled out St. George for the “too-many-people-too-much-traffic” reason, although we expect to use St. George as the “big city” for shopping and entertainment.  We’ve narrowed our search to three towns:  Hurricane, Utah; Beaver Dam, Arizona; and Mesquite, Nevada.

Now – what to do?  One of the nice things about camp hosting is that there is a work to do.  We’ll want to choose a location where we can get involved in the community, perhaps volunteer, and take advantage of outdoor recreation.  My list includes training for a marathon, golfing, fishing, sightseeing, and continuing our work with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. 

It’s time to evaluate the three locations, looking for availability of an affordable spot and availability of the activities we are looking for.  We’ll look at each of the three towns and compare our wish list with what’s available.  This should help us come to a final decision.   Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Re-Upholstery Lessons Learned

The chair is done.  It looks great and works perfectly.  But I still give myself only a B- on the project.  Why?  I made a lot of mistakes – many of which could have been avoided if I had planned better and/or executed more carefully. 

So in the interest of helping someone else avoid the mistakes I made, here are my lessons learned:

1.  Take pictures.  Take lots of pictures.  Take more pictures than you think you’ll ever need.  Take a picture at each step of disassembly – both of the overall unit and of each piece. The more time it takes to complete your project, the more the pictures will help you put things back together.  The pictures were very helpful in putting together pieces that needed to be sewed.  The old fabric you’ll use as a pattern won’t have nice markings and notches, nor will it have a sheet of instructions on which was two straight-looking pieces go together to make a curve.  Take pictures.

2.  The air compressor is your friend.  If you can, use compressor-driven staples.  With the number of staples we used to attach the fabric to the wood, we would have been exhausted trying to manually drive them. 

3.  Fit multiple times, staple once.  Those great compressor-driven staples are almost impossible to remove once they’re in, so be certain that the piece is exactly where you want it before you install a staple.

4.  Allow extra fabric for pieces that will need to wrap along an edge and be stapled.  How will you know?  If you've taken pictures in the disassembly, you’ll see where they wrap and attach.  If, like us, you didn't take quite enough pictures, any piece that isn't sewn and doesn't have a finished edge is a likely candidate for stapling.  Cut it long.  You can always cut off excess fabric. 

5.  Tack strip is your friend.  As I was taking some of the pieces apart I noticed that there was half-inch wide cardboard strip along some of the edges.  I didn't know what it was called at the time, but I knew I needed to get some.  It comes in rolls and you can get it at fabric and craft stores.  I thought it was kind of pricey, but it’s really great for the nice finished edges.  And, if like us, you cut a piece that should have wrapped around too short, you can use the tack strip and another piece of fabric to finish the edge. 

6.  A needle and thread is your friend.  I made patches for a couple of areas where I messed up either cutting or stapling.  I used a straight needle, and while it was awkward I could still manage to get it to work.  I was told later that this is why curved needles were invented.  Oh, well.  The fabric I chose was very forgiving; you can’t even see the stitches. 

Here’s hoping that these lessons will help someone out there somewhere.  Happy re-upholstering!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Re-Upholstery 503

The lift chair has been in our family for over 20 years. During that time it's been passed around to those needing it as they recovered from illness or injury. So when we got it back it was rather hammered.  Looking back, attempting a recliner as one's first re-upholstery project was not smart.  But hey, we thought, we’re retired.  We had time and we could take our time. 

And so it began.  I took photos as my husband disassembled the chair, handing me all the fabric pieces so that I could remake them.  I carefully measured each piece and wrote down the dimensions.

I then manually drew out each piece on graph paper so I could determine the amount of fabric I’d need.  After looking at three fabric stores and grabbing dozens of swatches, we decided to go with a fabric that matched our existing chairs.  I needed eight yards.  There was exactly eight yards on the roll when I took it for cutting.  A good omen to be sure.

Using the old pieces as patterns, I tore apart, cut, put back together, and re-stuffed all the cushions. The pads needed to be replaced, but I was able to wash and reuse most of the stuffing and all of the lining pieces.  I took photos of each piece in the various stages of dis-assembly so I could remember how to put it back together. 

The fabric pieces were all completed at the beginning of March, and we began the process of putting the chair back together.  Starting at the bottom and working our way back up, we stapled fabric and cushions to the bottom, installed the lift mechanism, the base, and the footrest, stapled the seat cushion, attached the back, and finished the chair assembly.  I used the time-honored needle and thread to patch up a couple of small mistakes.

On March 29, 2015, I finally stitched the last piece into place and stuffed the last pillow.  Total calendar time elapsed was almost sixteen months.  Granted, I took several breaks in the action – two months to make draperies for our daughter’s new condo; four months for summer camp hosting, a month to make appliance covers for my parents’ new house, and a month to make pajama pants for Christmas.  And I didn’t work on the chair eight hours a day.  But it must be said that this was a very complicated project. 

We did it!  It looks great!  And re-upholstering the dining room set will be a piece of cake!