The Beautiful Holiday Trees of Adaland Mansion

This year is a real treat for me as I work at Adaland Mansion for the first of hopefully many years. It is the first time in my life that I get to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful holiday trees covered in the warm glow of twinkle lights every day I work. When I am alone in the house like most Fridays, and the lights are on and the sun begins to set, I find my mind wandering away from the papers that I am working on. My eyes are drawn out into the hall where a set of these smaller trees sit next to my office. Their appearance makes me relax and I drift off to a simpler time in my life.

One of two white hallway trees outside my office.

One of my guilty holiday pleasures, that started when I was just a child, is spending time driving around my home town time looking at the holiday lights. It’s a tradition that we have shared with both our sons no matter where have lived. I vividly remember spending hours listening to holiday music every Christmas while sitting in our living room in the dark with only the tree lights on. I have always found peace in the glow of colored lights. For years I always had twinkle lights in my bedroom year around, and both my kids have had them in their rooms too. How strange that a 3 dollar string of white lights always felt like love to me.The best part about decorating for Christmas is still the holiday lights. We have driven several times to the large Holiday light show in Wheeling, West Virginia at Oglebay Park where they have a large drive-through light show every Christmas just so I can share the lights with the boys.

Judge Ira Robinson’s Office with hand made doll house and the blue tree.

Each room of the mansion has a different color or theme for the trees and decor. Each year the staff of the house makes changes to what they do for decorations. But the warmth and love is always a huge part of the display.

The larger white tree stands at the end of the hallway on the second floor
My personal favorite this year is the pink tree in the Brides Bedroom on the second floor.

The Bride’s Room tree is my favorite this year. I like to imagine myself curled up in the grand oak bed covered in a huge quilt falling asleep to the warm glow of this tree. With its many hand made ornaments and pink flowers It’s victorian style is a little girls dream come true.

The Dining Room tree is a traditional Red and Green.
The Dining Room Mantel is decorated with ribbons and lights.

Each of the three first floor parlors also have a tree. The doors are strewn in garland and the windows are covered with many wreaths and bows. It takes groups of volunteers hours to create each tree and decorate each window.

Windows near the back veranda of Adaland Mansion at Christmas.
Small Reading room Parlor on the first floor.

This is just a small taste of what the house has for trees and decorations. I wish I had taken photos of them all because they bring me such joy everyday. Now if we get just a little snow it will feel like I have come home to the place I belong this holiday season.

This will be a much different year at the Mansion. With the Coroniavirus still keeping many people at home and away from traditional activities, I am so pleased that the staff of the Mansion has made it possible to have tours of the house again this year. Following all of the guidelines of our state, we are open for private tours for groups of 6 or smaller and will have the traditional open house event to share the Adaland Mansion with visitors.

I look forward to greeting guests on Dec 5th and meeting with many of the families and supporters of this much loved home. I will continue to be thankful to work in such a beautiful place and to have the opertunity to enjoy the thousands of holiday lights that make me so happy this Holiday Season.

Categories: Adaland Mansion, Barbour County, Christmas, Christmas tree decor, family fun, family memories, Historic Home, Holidays, Philippi, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Dreams Really do Come True

I have heard and believe that we must speak our dreams for them to become reality. So after speaking and wanting to be involved in historic preservation and rehabilitation most of the last 9 years of my life it is going to be my Job to tend to the needs and wants of Adaland Mansion a 1868 Greek Revival Mansion and 22 acre property in Barbour County, WV.

Rear entry to Adaland Mansion
Front view from road at Adaland Mansion
Buffet table in dining room of Adaland

I have been selected to become the Director of Adaland Mansion a Community Non-profit that focuses on the preserving and educating the community about this unique house and property in North Central, West Virginia. It is a huge roll to fill and I am honored and overwhelmed that this grand old home asked me to be her caretaker.

Somewhere up in the stars, is my mother and my mother-in-law looking down saying that they think it is fitting, I have another old house to share stories about. A girl just cant have enough Ghost stories, Love stories or Sad stories to tell.

So as I end my time in the early spring with my current project at another Historic Building, the Golden Rule Building in Belington WV. I will move away from some of the redevelopment work I do as a contractor to more of a Historic Property Manager of sorts.

Golden Rule during redevelopment summer of 2018. Murals by my AmeriCorps volunteers.
Current apartment construction fall 2020
image of workers pouring floor to the new elevator shaft in the Golden Rule building early spring 2020.

I hope that I can live up to the dreams that many community members have for this property and house. I am excited to do my very best to keep this old girl alive and telling her stories to another generation.

In addition to my starting a new job, In Nov. we will celebrate the completion and move in of the first 10 residents of the Golden Rule and in March of 2020 the opening of the three businesses I have helped to develop. It will be one of the days that I am most proud of in my life. When those old barn doors open up and people return to the rear loading doc to ride the train once more I will know it is time for me to move on. I will bid farewell to a project that I have put my heart and soul into for three years. I will always be a fan of what downtown revitalization and what it can do for a community. I can only hope that over the course of the next few years I can stay involved in this field and support more redevelopment and preservation in West Virginia.

As I head to bed I’m still in shock that this next labor of love has been given to me .I guess the as the old and wise always say, “When a door closes a window opens”. It just happens that all my windows are over a hundred years old.

I cant wait to share with you my new adventures at my new location. I am hopeful that you will enjoy reading about another old house and share in my journey in taking care of her!

In the meantime I hope wright about the final steps in finishing the Golden Rule and what a joy it has brought me to be part of changing the community I live in.

Categories: About me, Adaland Mansion, Barbour County, career goals, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, West Virginia History, work | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Guide All About Grape Vines, Grape Juice,Grape Jelly.

Fresh concord grapes from the backyard 2019.

This post is actually 2 years in the making. Last summer (2019) was the first time in years the Japanese Beetles did not destroy my chances of getting grapes from the Concord grape vines on our property. We treated for them (more about that later) so I was lucky to get about a half bushel of grapes. I chose to make juice from the grapes. I canned the juice ASAP. The plan was to make jelly over the winter. Then the old trelles crashed to the ground about mid Jan and I just forgot about the jelly until about a week ago. So we started all over by cutting the vines back building a new trellis and making jelly from canned juice.

To begin with if you have older vines or like us we had a very old trellis system that did not function well for two large heavy vines you might consider pruning your grape vine back. Grape vines produce much better when the vines are short and pruned regularly. In my case the trellis collapsed before we got time to replace it, forcing me to prune back the vines in the cold weather to get the old trellis out. When I was done our vines were about 4 feet long compared to 16 feet.

Old grape vine with fence style trellis.
New Grape Vine Trellis in place with short vines on the ground in April 2020.

Tom and I talked about how beautiful a grapevines could be even if you didn’t use the grapes. I wanted something that was just as pretty in the yard as functional. I also wanted to be able to walk under the trellis if we were working in the near by vegetable graden. So this is what we came up with. The Trellis is 6 foot 6 inches high made 8 feet apart on the inside. We cemented the 4×4 posts into the ground so they would not move.Everything is pressure treated and we used 2×4 hangers to create the top. After this stage I added some recycled garden wire to the top to give the vines something hold onto as they grow. Then we waited for the vines to get long enough to put on the trellis. In about 4 mouths they had grown 5 or more feet and I could begin to train the vines using zip ties and string. After a couple hours the longest vines were secured and ready to grow for the rest of the summer. Next year I should have a nice place to pick my grapes.

for more info about the pruning a old grape vine check out this grapevine post.

Training the grapevines over the new trellis 2020
Weaving the grapevine over and through the wire of the trellis 2020

As I said before we treated for Japanese Beetles. We also have a huge sugar ant problem in the house. So I used our fertilizer spreader to spread a yard pest insecticide in the back yard and around the foundation of our house. It was a game changer, very few bettles … stopped the mole damage we were getting from them looking for the beetle grubs and reduced the ants in the house. I don’t plan to treat again for several years. I would like to see if we can keep the beetle problem under control with a more natural soap and water treatment for a while but this brought a balance back to my yard for a while.

Part two: The best part of having grapes is grape juice and jelly. Both are easy to make at home and do not require a pressure canner. We follow The Ball Jar Company recipes to cann our juice and make jelly

Grape Juice: Wash all the grapes, removing all stems and leaves. Then place all the grapes in a large stock pot with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by a inch or two. Around a cup per gallon of grapes. Bring grapes to a simmer crushing the grapes with a potato masher as the heat rises. Simmer 10 minutes. Don’t boil this releases the bitterness from the seeds into the juice. Strain through a couple layers cheesecloth to remove seeds. Let juice stand 24 hours or overnight to cool if possible before straining a second time. Prepare for the rest of the process by gathering up either a jelly bag or using several layers if cheesecloth. For this batch of juice I used 4 layers of cheesecloth, rinsing between about every two cups of juice. I think I spent more time rinsing out the clothe out then straining the juice. In the end I had 6 quarts of juice with no sugar and nothing artificial. It was worth it in the end. If you want to cann the juice as a cocktail add 1 or 2 cup sugar per gallon of juice.

Canning the Juice: I planned to make Jelly from the juice so I did not want to add any sugar. If you were going to drink the juice like a cocktail you would need sugar to make it taste good enough to drink.

As always wash and sterilize your quart jars, lids and seals as you heat your juice to a hot simer. Remove from heat and fill jars with hot juice. leaving a 1/4 inch head space wiping the top lip of jar. Place jars in a boiling water bath canner. Make sure each jar is covered fully with water and follow the directions in the Ball Canning Blue Book. Mine is a 1949 version and a 1991 version…. They both say the same thing.

Reheat to a simmer, pour into clean hot jars. Process 30 minutes in hot water bath at 185 -190 degrees.

1949 Ball Canning Blue Book

For a great online store link to all things Ball Mason Jar.

Making Jelly: Canned juice is good for up to a year but your grape juice may look clouded in the jar… don’t worry you still get beautiful clear Jelly.

6 month old juice with cloudy appearance.

To quote my ball guide it is better to us canned juice then fresh!

The use of unsweetened, canned juice prevents the formation of Cream of Tartar crystals from forming in the jelly. After the juice is canned the crystals form and fall to the bottom. The canned juice should be strained through cheesecloth before using and the sediment at the bottom should not be used.

The Ball Blue Book of Home Canning , Preserving and Freezing Recipes CR 1949.

Cooking the Jelly: As always prepare lids rings and jars by washing and sterilizing. If using prepared juice, measure exact amount of juice into a 6 to 8 quart stockpot. Add water if necessary to get exact measurement. measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl with a dry measuring cup. Add juice to a large stock pot then sugar and mix well. Add 1 tsp butter to help reduce foaming( I do not do this with grape jelly but I do with others). Bring mixture to a rolling boil, one that cannot be reduced when stirred, boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Quickly add pectin and return to a rolling boil 1 minute, then remove from heat. I personaly do a sheeting test before I remove from the heat. if when a teaspoon of jelly sheets from the spoon it is ready. Sheeting is when you scoop up a teaspoon of jelly and slowly pour it back into the pot but some jells to the spoon and slowly slides off in a sold sheet. Then I remove from the heat and scrape as much foam off as I can before ladeling into prepared jars. filling jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.Wipe jars with a damp rag and add seals and rings. Place in warm water in canner until 1 to 2 inches of water covers jars. Bring water to boil, process at a boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and let cool 24 hours before deciding if there is problem with the jelling.

If everything goes according to plan you should have about 7 half pint jelly jars of homemade Concord grape jelly.

Homemade grape jelly from backyard grapes. 2020

Well, it has been a long journey from picking our first grapes to making a new trellis, canning juice and finally making the jelly. I hope you find this helpful and it makes it possible to make your own Jams and jellies. My family loves homemade jelly so I am happy to have the vines.

Categories: Ball Mason Jar, Grape Jelly, grape juice, Grapevines, Jelly, pruning grapevines | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Visit to the Abandoned Nuttallburg Historic Coal Mine Town

Abandoned homes or towns are my favorite places to visit. So when my husband offered to drive Christopher and I to a historic abandoned coal mining town near where he was working I got super excited!!We spent one early morning exploring the New River Gorge Valley and the lost town of Nuttallburg WV. For a more indepth history of the town and its famous Henry Ford owner you can check out the Parks Services Webpage for Nuttallburg,WV here!

We found out about the town while stopping at the New River Gorge Visitors Center and decided it was worth the 8 mile drive to see the abandoned coal tipple and Coke ovens. I have written about the New River Gorge before so if you want to lean more about the National River Check out my other blog posts. They will included info about the world famous Bridge Day Events .

After leaving the New River Gorge Visitor Center near Fayetteville, we took time to follow a map to a community called Wynonia where you leave the pavement and drive into a tree covered lane. The road is very narrow and twistly so the 8 miles seem like 10 before you reach the river’s edge and the mining town of Nuttallburg.

Nuttallburg is a coal mining town that was listed on the National Historic Registry in 1998. It was important due to its production of smokeless coal. The town was founded by John Nuttall in 1870, at its peak had over 100 houses, several schools, churches and 80 Coke Ovens. The coal was processed and shipped out on the rail lines along the New River. The community and the mine were purchased by Henry Ford and the Fordson Motor Company in the 1920’s, serving his car manufacturing plants in Michigan.

The Nuttallburg post office was closed in 1958 and a cap was put on the opening of the mine that same year. The town then slowly decayed with much of the wooden structures destroyed by weather and scavengers who used the remaining good materials for better projects.

Coal Shoot area of the Coal Tipple of Nuttallburg WV.
Under the Coal shoot looking up at the steep conveyor belt at Nuttallburg Wv
Coal Conveyor Belt disappears into the weeds at Nuttallburg Wv

The remains of the coal mining town include a row of Coke Ovens that once processed thousands of pounds of coal for the steel mills that lined the Ohio River Valley. The coal tipple, coal shoot, the conveyor belt cover and the mine head all remain on view to visitors. I was impressed that the ovens were still standing since they are not metal structures. In this case they are just simple brick and mortar domes with a draft whole in the top. To learn more about how important Coke is in steel production click here

Opening to several Coke Ovens appear in a row these are slowly sinking into the mud around them at Nuttallburg WV

Included in the collection of the building foundations is what is left of a company store and house foundations. The idea that over a hundred families depended on this simpel store made me think how lucky we are to be able to buy almost anything from around the world at our local grocery store.

Christopher and I in the front window of the company Store.
Tree growing inside the Nuttallburg company store
Images from company stores near Nuttallburg WV.

At this time of the year most of the house and church foundations are covered with Kudzu vines, for better or worse. The vines make the place feel totally isolated and part of the a tropical rainforest. I told Christopher that I felt like we had stumbled into a Jurassic Park movie. With all the strange abandoned structures,trees and the wild undergrowth you felt like the last people on earth. Maybe this was the perfect place to visit during the Coronavirus. We did not see another person until we were ready to leave.

Kudzu vines clime over the foundation of a house in Nuttallburg WV
A forest of Kudzu covering everything in sight.
A butterfly among the weeds

Beyond the end of the town is an even smaller community of Seldom Seen. It has a nice trail to it but is a little risky to get to and the forest service posts warnings about not getting off the trail due to holes in the ground that are part of buried foundations. I could not convince my husband that would be a fun adventure to follow the trail and take photos so that is planned for a later date. From what I gather this area was the residential area for White coal miners. The town was segregated and the African Americans who worked in and near the mine lived at the entry of the town with their own school and church.

Sign that is posted to inform visitors about what is at Seldom Seen WV
Hidden in the photos is the remains of a walking swing bridge. That linked the African AmeriCan Community to other housing and people who lived across the river,.
sign showing development on river and what the KudZu covered up.
Train Tracks near the swinging bridge remains in Nuttallburg WV

At this point it was time to head back home but after this wonderful visit I plan to return this fall to see everything decked out in the fall colors and the Kudzu dead to take more photos.

The drive in and out of the valley was just a beautiful as the town and we enjoyed the coolness of the trees and waterfalls.

We hope that if you are in the Fayetteville area of West Virginia or near the New River Gorge Bridge you will consider taking the time to see this beautiful park and learn more about West Virginia and its history.

Categories: Abandoned structure, antique, Appalachian Mountains, Coal Mine, historic locations, Historic Preservation, New River Gorge, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The Carnegie Science Center; An Investment in the future

It seems everything we are doing this summer is a investment in the future. Even the little day trips we have taken are to help my son explore ideas that he may want to revisit in the future. I have been working on several projects at work that are going to pay off 5 or 10 years from now. We are even working on our house with the idea that my husband will retire in 7 or 8 years. Maybe this all comes with age, maybe with the lack faith in the current situation with Covid, the looming election and the general unrest in the county we are just focused on what will come next. Instead of worrying to deeply about the current state of everything. Maybe the future is brighter than the drama of today. So we are spending time with Christopher in the most positive way we can think of, with small trips to help spread the joy of learning with him.

the USS REQUIN ( ss481) a standard fleet submarine with armament decommissioned and released from Navy list Dec 1971. Sept 1992 arrived at Pittsburg

So I wanted to share a little bit about a really impressive place that we enjoyed visiting over the 4th of July weekend. the Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburg, Pa. My son’s elementary school had made year end field trip plans to take the 5th grade class to the Science Center. The plans were cancelled when school was dismissed because of the Covid- 19 outbreak. So we promised our son as soon as the center reopened we would make the trip to Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful, educational day and I know we will be back to share the experience with my granddaughter also.

Young man moving the controls on a gigantic robot hand on the robotics floor of the Carnegie Science Center.

The Carnegie Science Center is a 4 story building, plus a basement cafe and interactive decommissioned submarine that is an interactive playground full of things to touch, build, try and see. Their website offers information on what is playing at the IMAX theater , The planetarium and what is featured in the gallery. They share information on what to expect each day and what you can and cant do in the huge activity gym attached to the main building.

We were overwhelmed with the options offered and spent about 5 hours in the main building and still did not do everything available. We did see a afternoon planetarium laser show to the music of the band “Queen” and the Gallery show called “Mummies”. It was all well done and Christopher was so excited to see each floor of exhibits.

One of the largest model train displays I have ever seen. Most of the locations are of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

Visitors start on the first floor where the Gallery show is exhibited. This show was about mummies and their creation. They covered not only egyptian mummies but European, Scottish and Mongolian mummies. I only took one photo because the crowds were hard to shoot around. A very informative show and Christopher learned that not all mummies are wrapped in bandages.

Natural occurring sand mummy from the middle east around 7000 years old/
Decorative display outside the exhibit for Mummies at the Carnegie Science Center 2020

You then proceed up to the frist floor of displays mostly about earth science, animals and water.

The Second floor was about Medical Science and Aero space. We played with bones, made our heart beat a drum, made dancing skeletons and played with a very loud fart machine. Tom played in a space capsules restroom, we touched a meteor and watched Christopher try out his Space Walking skills on a bodyboard.

The third floor is the Robotics and train floor. I thought I would never get Christopher out of these rooms. They are the high light of our day. Everyone found something they enjoyed.

Tom played several rounds of air hockey against a robot and never won

The fourth and final floor is there Lego room and weather exploration display. The room had all the building blocks you ever want to find. Some were as large as a gallon milk jugs some were as small as a pee. They then allow you to place your creation in an earthquake simulator. We rode out the top 5 worst recorded earthquakes in history but now understand a lot more about the weather and quakes.

We then headed to the basement for a tour of a real submarine floating in the Ohio River. This was so fascinating and is part of your ticket price. I was just so surprised at how small everything was. Your entry into the ship is a new stairwell into the torpedo room, then you travel the length of the ship and exit out the back up a ladder to the deck. 80 men lived in these small quarters for 18 months at a time. It is a hard and dangerous job and one that not everyone is cut out for.

We had to walk through 5 or 6 of these hatches this man is about 6 foot and had to lean down to get through the opening.

We ended our visit with a laser show at the planetarium. For a extra $5 dollars each we spent the last 45 minutes of our visit in the dark with the music of Queen. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day.

Categories: Carnegie Science Center, education, elementary school, family fun, Legos, Ohio River, Pittsburg, Pa, Submarine | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Escape to the Hovatter Wildlife Zoo

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Mother  Giraffe at Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo Kingwood WV summer 2020

So West Virginia is not known for its large selection of Zoos or animal parks. But with our family spending so much time at home with the Coronavirus it was nice to spend a morning at the West Virginia family-owned and operated Hovatters Wild Animal Zoo. Every time we go I can’t help thinking about the movie “We Bought a Zoo”. This morning’s trip  was well worth the entry fee and we all came home feeling happy. A day spent with animals that well cared for is alway a day well spent.

Hovatter is an ever-growing and evolving collection of animals and displays. Over the course of their 28 years in operation, they have been home to several different collections of animals. So every time we visit we have seen something different and the cages and habitats are always improving.  On this trip, we were able to see several different baby animals. Although I didn’t get to take many photos of them we still enjoyed watching them. This spring we got to see baby monkeys, baby wort hogs, and baby birds.

The highlight of every trip is feeding and petting some of the safe animals in the collection. My personal favorite is feeding the Giraffes and the Parakeets. As you can see from the above photo the Giraffes are friendly and gentle.  This mother Giraffe and her baby, who is at least 11 feet tall, spend their day greeting visitors and eating all the carrot sticks you can give them.img_20200602_101311266

The newest attraction that we visited was the Parakeet aviary. I absolutely fell in love with this enclosure. Since we were some of the very first people to arrive the birds were hungry. 80 little birds wanted to feed, swarming us when we produced popsicle sticks covered in bird seed. If you have any fear of birds I would not suggest this experience as we had birds everywhere. As you can see Paige my granddaughter ended up with a Parakeet in her hair.

 

We spent a great deal of time watching the birds and hand-feeding them.  This for me was worth the entry price but I am guessing the birds get full of seed by afternoon and you dont have the same experience as we did early on a visitor day.

 

We also were able to pet donkeys, burros an Emu and two steers. Here is one of the sweetist cows I have ever been around. I think this is a Guernsey steer( but not sure) the other one in the photo is a white donkey both loved getting our attention.

Bull at Hovatters zoo licking our hand

JoLynn Powers, Christopher Powers and Paige Powers feeding a ( what I think is a) Guernsey steer at Hovatter’s Zoo. 

The kids enjoyed seeing all of the wonderful animals that were on display the even had Bears and lions that you could see well and live peacocks struting around the property.  They were able to feed camels and monkeys through special tubes built into their enclosers and a large Emu who liked to peck at your hand with its beak.

The staff is nice and the animals all seemed happy, healthy, and well-fed. I am sure that some of these animals, including the large cats, are rescued from other Zoos or carnivals. Some are old and some very young but they all were refreshing to see and feed.  I really enjoyed hearing  a lion roar and the monkeys playing and swinging in their cages. img_20200602_115021939

A couple hours later we let the kids hit the gift shop. It looks like they enjoyed the day too. With toys in hand, we left the park and all of the sweet animals for a late lunch and headed home knowing that we would be back again one day.

For a family day, I can’t say enough lovely things about Hovatters Wildlife Zoo. It’s a small treasure of wild animals off the beatten path in Kingwood, WV.  for more information about the zoo you can find them here Hovatters Wildlife Zoo.

Being outside with the kids was so refreshing while the state was still just reopening and the thought of doing much was limited. I hope if you are in the area you look them up and spend a day petting, feeding, and sharing with all of these wonderful animals.

Here is a gallery of some of the animal we met at the Zoo:

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Categories: animal health, Baby Animals, Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo, Preston County WV, West Virginia, wildlife, Zoo | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

For My Sons About a Grandmother, They Never Really Knew.

Today marks one year to the day that I lost my mother, Veda Maxine Lowrey, June 20th 2019. It has been a turbulent year not just because I faced a future without her, but because of all the changes that have happened in the world.  I can’t remember a year in my life that has been so full of worries and changes. I have never cried more in my life.

 

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Veda M Lowrey, Jolynn Lowrey Powers, and Cody A Powers. Summer of 1991

 

 

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my mother, your Grandmother, and more about my childhood. My mother was born into a large farm family on the eastern side of the Colorado Rockies. In a small community on the edge of Boulder County, Co. called Hygiene in 1930. There were 6 living children and two that passed away before reaching adulthood. She was the youngest living child. They were not wealthy people but the family was close and loving. My mother attended school and graduated from Boulder High School in Boulder County Co. where she met my father. They first met at a school dance. He had moved to  Boulder with his older brother to find a better life from the small town of Dalhart, TX. They married in 1948 and had 4 children. I am the youngest of the four and the one that gave her the most gray in her hair. I am 15 years younger then my next sibling.

 

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Veda Lowrey and Jolynn Lowrey in front of Bill Lowrey’s  house in Broomfield Co

 

 

Your GrandMother was a stay at mother until the unexpected death of my father in 1973. I was 5 years old and nothing can prepare you for the death of your father as a child. But my mother stood true through the storm that rocked our family. My brothers and sister were older attending  High School and College when the even occurred and I am sure that they were more devastated then even I was at the time. The end result was that my mother, the heart and soul of my world, would have to leave her home to work to support me and my siblings. From somewhere down deep she was able to find the courage and support to move forward in her life. Your Grandmother did not drive when your Grandfather died. That all changed very quickly at the time. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Corky (Cordella her sister), supported her through the changes that would come. My uncle took my then 43- year old mother out on a dirt road, out past the Boulder Resivore, and taught her to drive. We had three cars at the time (one was an old Packard 4 door sedan, a Dodge van, and a Plymouth 4 door sedan) and she could not drive any of them; how frustrating that had to be. My Aunt helped her get her name on all the legal documents. Her name was not on our house or cars because she did not have an income… How times have changed. Today, it is expected that I’m on everything your father and I own, working of not!  She was able to get a job at the same plant my Dad and Uncle worked at on the outskirts of Boulder.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri with grandson Christopher Powers

 

Rocky Flats (later Dow Chemical) was a nuclear bomb parts plant creating plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads during the years of the Cold War. My father was a welder at the plant and my Uncle Bob was an inspector. My mother’s first adult job was a cook in the plant’s cafeteria. She would go on to work in the foodservice industry for the remainder of her life. At one point owning her own cafe in the chemical engineering building at the University of Colorado.

 

Veda Lowrey with children Vernon, Bill and Jolynn with grandson Christopher june2017

Veda M Lowrey with sons William Lowrey, Vernon Lowrey daughter JoLynn Lowrey Powers and Grand Son Christopher Powers 2017

 

 

I spent many summers with her at the cafe stocking and cleaning. Spending other time roaming the campus alone. I remember her cooking meals and desserts at home so she could be home with me after school. She only worked from 6 am to 3 pm and headed home by 3:30 pm. I never remember missing dinner with her because of work. She made it a priority to work early mornings. She would often fall asleep in her beloved recliner at 4:30 after a long night and early morning at work. We would make 6 or 8 trays of brownies at least once a week, to sell to the professors on campus.

Sometimes I would help cook the main dishes for the next day’s special. I vividly remember making chicken enchiladas with her rolling the chicken and chilies into the very hot fried corn tortillas then watching her pour the red sauce over them and covering them with foil. The trays were loaded with 50 enchiladas that she would transport to the cafe’ the next day and heat in the oven.

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JoLynn Lowrey Powers eating whipped cream in moms kitchen 

 

She loved to travel to see her sister in Oregon, where we spent 4 or 5 summers. She loved to spend time near the ocean and reading in a camp chair on the campgrounds we stayed in. We had many fun times in the woods whether it was camping with my Aunt and Uncle, taking a picnic near a creek, or in a park. She loved to be outdoors but was not an outdoorswoman. (I totally feel the same way) We often took car trips to mountain towns like Ward, Central City, and Black Hawk before they were gambling towns. She loved to shop at the stores in Estas Park and we rode the train at George Town. You both now have ridden the train.

My time with my mom as a kid was mostly peaceful and quiet. She loved to read and listen to music. She did not seem to mind cooking at home and would often host the whole family to our home for holiday dinners. I remember having 10 and 12 people at a table for birthdays for her and her sisters.

 

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A very happy Veda Lowrey 2017

 

Your Grandmother loved flowers and our yard always had something blooming. She had the most wonderful roses that bloomed all summer. Her favorite was a giant wild yellow rose bush that my father dug up along a road somewhere. The bush grew to well over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide and was covered in thousands of thorns. She had to a velvety red rose that smelled so sweet. Mom would battle them every year pruning them into shape and enjoying the flowers on our dining table.  She loved to take care of her yard and trees. It was something she got pride from, being alone in a house, in a good part of town, and taking care of it the best she could. I was proud of it too.

 

wild yellow rose bush

Wild Yellow roses. 

 

She loved her Broncos and along with my brothers was a life long fan. I remember the noise that she would make even alone in the living room stopping her feet, whooping, and hollering during the games. She rarely would cuss, but when one of the Broncos receivers missed a pass, it was not past her to say “SHIT” or “DAM” if the ball was dropped.

 

My brother Bill, once told me that my mother was a shy person, reserved and quiet, I had no idea. Because at home she was chatty and loved to talk to her sisters either by phone or in person. She had a few friends that she would see regularly and attend events at school like all parents. She was so open at home I would have never told a friend that she was shy.

 

As I grew up, Mom and I loved and hated each other equally. I was a terrible teenager and she was tired of raising kids. I often felt alone even with her in my life. She could not fill the loss that my father left in me and those feelings were compounded as my brother and sister married and moved away. I was an angry and lonely young woman. We fought and she was harsh and I was a “runner” and spent many years running away from home, staying with friends, or getting kicked out. She could be critical and judgmental and I was hurt often. It took effort for me and her to be close but we tried to find a middle ground. As you age you try to make friends with your parents and I did.

 

We would never see the world the same way but we could share in reading books, loving flowers, listening to all kinds of music and food! We always had food!

Your Grandmother once told me why she never remarried. She said,”It was because she never wanted to be told what to do ever again. She had one boss and that was enough for her.” I often think about her life and see that she never really needed a man. She was content with herself and her family. She was not worried about what other people thought or did. She had what made her happy and that was family and a big dinner table.

 

I often wonder what she would think if she could see us now? Would she laugh that I work in construction surrounded by men, working in dirty clothes, and being my own boss? I think she would!!  I was always playing in the dirt with the boys and she called me bossy more than once. I don’t think she would understand my need for social life and my passion for community development. But, she would support me in taking on the problems in my community. She raised us kids to be strongly opinionated people just like her. To be true to what we thought was right and to work hard to succeed in finding peace in solitude and a loving family.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I miss her and often, wishing I could talk to her about the last book I read or how the kids are doing in school. I wish she could have been proud of you boys like I am and known that her love continues to grow in our family like that wild yellow rose bush that she loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Boulder Colorado, childhood memories, Family, family memories, grandmother, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

2020 is Giving Us a Hell of a Ride

I guess everyone feels like these last few months have been like riding in the back of your Dad’s pickup. No seatbelts, no cab, just a bouncy ride in the open air with nothing to restrict or restrain you. Depending on the speed of the ride, it can be a joyful experience or a terrifying one.  It can be smooth and the wind just whips your hair into the corners of your mouth or it can be steep and bumpy where you hold on for dear life trying to keep yourself from bouncing out of the truck altogether. The resounding memory of my rides in those old truck beds is how cold and hard they are. Just like those hard steel  pickup beds, life is just hard right now!

 

During the Pandemic I finished my second trip through 5th grade, I hope all of you are impressed that Christopher and I received straight A’s. It was a team effort and it was hard.

School for Christopher ended the 25th of May, 2020 and I was still working at least 35 hours a week during the shutdown. I worked remotely for one portion of my contract and on a construction site doing punch-out work and painting at a second site the other part of the time. I was also helping Christopher with his remote learning and trying with all my heart to keep him from getting behind on his reading and math. Some days were good and others were terrible. I brought him to tears once and the pandemic brought me to tears a couple of times.

 

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One of 13 rooms with a wall of conduit that I painted before the office is reopened.

 

I also had my hardworking husband home for two solid weeks, working from home and then every evening for the last two months. Let us just say that is was fun and funny at times.

So, the new normal became, feed three people, three meals a day, every day possible. Go to the construction site and paint for two days, then work from home for two days, building a website. along with my projects, I helped Christopher do 5 days of homework over about 4 days. Then try to write my blog and paint on my downtime with whatever that was left.  Friday was my shop with my mask on, use hand sanitizer at the grocery store day, making it the most stressful day of the week. Saturday and Sundays were the days we worked on the remodeling project we started while we were home instead of out in the world  …… Yea,… I’m enjoying all this time off and am feeling bored… aaaaa…”NO!”. We made daily trips to Lowe’s. Some days I would go to bed so tired that at 8 am the next morning I was still tired and I didn’t feel like getting up and doing it again.

 

We actually finished about 85% of that remodeling project in three weeks. We are still working on it, just like we are still social distancing and wearing our masks in the store. We have new work tables to install this weekend.

 

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Tom sanding the hardwood floors of what was the formal living room and turning it into a workspace for both of us. 

 

I am glad school is over and Christopher is allowed to just play in the neighborhood with his friends again. It is so important that they are not totally isolated. This way he has a chance to have some good times during this hard time of staying at home. The kids play the same games we played as kids which makes me smile. They run and scream through the yards playing games of hide and seek after dark and kickball. We all enjoyed a bonfire this weekend from a tree that fell in our yard earlier in the spring.

As I was sitting looking into the flames,(Flames that I know are burning all over America because of the untimely death of George Floyd.) I remembered that life will get back to some kind of normal eventually. We just have to take the time to heal. We need to heal our bodies from the pandemic and our minds from the violence that has taken over our country. We need to take time to heal our countries broken spirit. Today I realize, WE ARE A COUNTRY WITH A BROKEN DREAM, THAT ALL MEN ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL IN AMERICA. It is time to set the broken bones of our country no matter how painful so we can grow and heal and become strong again.

  

Now  West Virginia prepares for the 1.5 to 2.o million Cicadas hatching out over the next few weeks. It makes us wonder if 2020 was the year that everything was supposed to fall apart. Maybe this is our chance to change to grow as people. We can do better to make things better for the little kid bouncing around in the back of that old pick up truck.

Categories: childhood memories, Covid-19, family memories, fires, Graduation, Truck, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hex Signs and Barn Quilt Making Guide

The history of the Barn Quilt or Barn Paintings in Appalachia can be traced back over 220 hundred years. If we consider Hex Sign painting, Under Ground Rail Road Quilts  and Barn Quilts all as part of the larger history of using large symbolistic language in folk art.

So if this is true then I have unknowingly blessed communities with my Barn Quilt Murals for years. Meaning, that I am a modern folk artist who uses my  Barn Quilt or Quilt Block murals to educated, bless, and protect families, animals and whole cities.

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Traditional star Hex Sign for good luck on  Lancaster Pa. barn.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a lecture in Elkins, W.V. about Applachin Folklore in West Virginia. The author of the book “Signs, Cures &Witchery” Gerald C. Milnes included in his book information about the creation of Hex Signs and Barn Paintings as part of the spiritual folk language of the Germanic settlers of our mountain region. It was suggested that Barn Paintings were used as symbols that were thought to bless or protect the barn or farm from witches. Witches were not the mythic creatures of our modern-day imagination but working spiritual powers that could devastate a farm or the community. Witch curses were thought to cause wide ranging problems from fires to cows that would not produce milk. So in this way,  Hex Signs, Barn Quilts, or just large barn paintings were used to ward off evil and protect a family’s source of income.

Milnes states in his book,”Some of the first recorded Hex Signs motifs in West Virginia were the double eagle, star, moon, lilies, compass, hearts, and the tree of life”. With women working with their hands inside the home many of the patterns also were incorporated into utilitarian objects they used every day. Pottery, quilts, wall hangings were also covered with these images of blessings and protection. It is not surprising to think that if you wanted to protect and bless your children a mother would create quilts with these motifs.

As I researched more about the link between the motifs sewn into Southern and Appalachian quilts, the more I understood about the Quaker, Dunkard and the Pennsylvania Dutch communities in and North of West Virginia. With large bodies of evidence, It is amazing to see that the symbolic motifs of ( Hex Signs and folk art) quilts were again used as a device for communication and blessings during the  Civil War ( 1861 -1865). If a West Virginia family was sympathetic with the Union and freedom from slavery they could use quilts hung on porches, fences, and clotheslines as ways to lead escaping slaves across borders to freedom. Many Quaker and Dunkard families made Under Ground Rail Road Quilts helping direct slaves to homes or locations that were safe for them during their escape to the North.  Often the individual blocks on the quilt would tell a story. Often a star pattern would let an escaping slave know to keep traveling North, a boat or train track next on the quilt would be read to mean that a water crossing or train crossing was coming up next on the route. A house or cabin image could mean a safe place to stop. The number of symbolic patterns was used widely and I have included some that we still see today.

Quilt Code

The use of Barn Hex signs then fell out of favor in my region. The formalizing of the local Christian Church system slowly changed worship in the rural mountains. As more people depended on the formal church for their spiritual beliefs and blessings. You see less and less folk art in homes and barns. Although the quilt remained a warm and practical way to decorate and reuse materials. The patterns that were used were often the same or like those from the first homesteaders. These important images passed from generation to generation.

From those pattens came some of the first Barn Quilt Murals. The family that sparked the reintrodution of painting quilt blocks on barns is from Ohio.

“The first official quilt trail was begun in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, a noted quilter, with a painted quilt square on the family’s barn in Manchester, Ohio”. found on Wikipedia 

From their first Barn Quilt trail, regional trails have sprung up all over the eastern United States. Some are based on traditional patterns and others have included more contemporary images and designs.

I am now in the process of painting my 17th Quilt Block Mural. The reason I do not call them Barn Quilts is they are rarely located on a barn. My Quilt Block Murals hang in more urban areas, not farms. Most have come from the traditional images on Appalanchin quilts often the same as the Underground Rail Road Quilts. They are also often paid for as part of downtown revitalization and are seen as a reintroduction of our culture back into the modern cityscape in the towns of West Virginia.  In this way, my Quilt Block Murals are reintroducing the folk art  back into a culture that had generally forgotten about the traditions of Hex Signs, the Under Ground Rail Road Quilts and barn painting in general.

Barn Quilt and Quilt Block Murals in urban locations and the creation of the trails around them, have unknowingly brought back exactly the things that Hex Signs were once used for over 200 years ago. The tourist dollars that are spent traveling the trails, the community that has been built around them with families creating them, and the beauty of art back in the community are all blessings to the rural towns that have them. I like to think that my creations are a larger blessing to my community where they hang.

So I continue to paint them.  Today I am working on one for my very own home after years of painting them for others. It is a much more contemporary pattern then my normal murals. It is my way of blessing my family and my home. I hope that I can continue to be able to be a Hex Sign Painter/ Barn Quilt Muralist/ Quilt Block painter for many more years to come. As I paint the images I hope that they will continue bring beauty, hope, joy and blessings those who see them.

If you are interested I have attached a link to a helpful website that I used when I was first starting out making the Barn Quilt murals. I have also included a list of alternative supplies that I am now using and a tip on pattern making. So please enjoy making your own Barn Quilts or Quilt Block Murals.

This is an excellent site for the process of making and painting your own murals.

The Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail website

The only addition I would like to make to these instructions is you do not have to use wood for the Barn Quilts unless you want to. I have now begun to use a PVC siding product for my murals. The main reason being the weight of the sign grade MDO plywood. MDO plywood is dense particleboard made with glue and is very heavy at the 8’x 8′ size around 250 pounds, even the smaller 4’X4′ is around 125 lbs. This makes painting and moving the boards very difficult. So I tried and have found success with a thin 1/4 inch PVC siding product and a plastic bonding primer framed with PVC trim. PVC can be much more expensive if you are unable to find the MDO Plywood. In my case almost twice the cost, but it was so much nicer being able to move the murals by myself and so much easier to install. If you chose to use PVC you must use a bonding primer. It will adhere to the plastic and allow a good bond to the paint. The cost is the same as a regular primer.

Also when doing a design for your murals think about location as part of the planning. Size Matters! If you have a mural that hangs 15 feet from the ground don’t plan much detail in the mural. The details of small patterns  get lost and people driving by will have no idea what the image is supposed to be. In reverse it is possible to get great detail in smaller indoor patterns. My current project is in my home on a half door measuring only 28×28 inches. The pattern I have chosen is a complex over and under optical illusion of stripes. I looks good placed where it is viewed close up.

Here is the design guide image and the final image panted on the door to my art studio in Buckhannon, WV. As I paint the pattern changed a few things. As you can see I used the traditional colors of West Virginia with the Navy Blue and Gold with a little contrast with white and blue gray. It is a reflection of the complexity of our state and our people.

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Basic pattern for my home “over-under square” Pattern

 

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Finished Barn Quilt  or Quilt Block in our home. I call it “Over and Under Squares”  JoLynn Powers of Buckhannon WV.The photo doesn’t show the color navey blue very well but you get the idea. 

Just as informal project cost for making a small panel similar to this one.  The painting is 28X28the panel is 36×42.

1 half a sheet of 1/2 plywood                                                                        $16.00 dollars

2  1x2x8 foot boards for front and back trim  these were not furring strips but milled boards                                                                                                               $ 8.00 dollars

a box of wood screws  2 1/4 inches                                                               $ 8.00

1 gallon white interior latex paint used as primer and paint (2) Coats   $18.00 dollars

3 quarts interior latex paint, 1 navy, 1bright yellow 1 blue gray   3×23   $69.00

( I mixed the navy with white to get light blue)

1 roll frogg tape  2inch wide                                                                                $9.00

 

Total just for supplies if you did not have this on hand.  about 128.00 dollars plus paper and pens and time, lots of time~ So now you will have left over paint and maybe some scrap wood that could be used to make smaller ones for free!!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, Civil War, DIY projects, Folk Art, Hex Signs, home remodeling, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails, quilts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Save Money Up-Cycle Chairs with Found Fabric.

Tom and I have a thing for old chairs. I’m not sure, every couple finds themselves at furniture stores, yard sales and antique shops discussing how beautiful a chair is, but we do.

So often times I find old chairs that need a little love and update them. Not that we need another chair, but I just can’t walk away from them.  I love well-made chairs or rocking chairs. The first one in the photos below was set out for the trash. It was a small desk chair that was in perfect shape except for needing paint and an updated seat. The other is an accent chair that is made with a spring seat. The chair had been recovered once in the 1980s (my best guess) by the fabric style. A cat had done real damage to the fabric and it was stained and dirty. The arms and legs were in perfect shape and the springs were good.

Over in the last few years, I have learned some tricks that helped me save a ton of money doing recovering the chair myself. I really enjoy making these chairs look updated and ready to use again.

The largest amount of money was saved by finding the fabric used. Yea, you can find lots of nice large pieces of fabric at thrift stores or yard sales that were once used for curtains or bedspreads. The fabric I used on these two chairs was a twin bed duvet cover. I was able to use just the front panel of fabric and saved the back for another project. I purchased the Duvet at the local Goodwill for 4 dollars including tax. I think we ended up with 4 1/2 yards of fabric on each the front and back so a total of 9 yards of fabric for 4 dollars. Over a hundred dollar savings compared to regular new fabric prices.

SUPPLIES NEEDED TO RECOVER A LIVING ROOM CHAIR or SEAT COVER :

Staple Gun and a large pack of staples

Low loft quilt batting

Spray glue

Bottle of clear fabric glue

4 Yards of fabric or more

A flat tip screwdriver usually

50 or more furniture decorative tacks

Foam for a cushion of desk chair

 

Before pulling the chair apart I took the fabric and fitted it to the chair so I could see the pattern. I then measured the back and made sure I would have enough fabric to also cover the back.

 

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test fitting old fabric to the chair.

 

I only removed the back panel of the chair and saved the gimp cord around the panel.  I wanted to make it look like I had recorded the chair. I then covered the front sides and back with quilt batting using a spray-on glue from Elmers.  I sprayed the glue onto the fabric waited 5 minutes until tacky and then unrolled the batting on to the seat and back trimming anything that got too thick and bunched. I then sprayed the back panel and did the same thing trimming inside the gimp cord. This very thin layer of batting smooths the finish of the material if there are lose spots. It also covers any dark material or patterns. So when I cover the chair the blue dots will not show through.

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I also sprayed the glue on the back panel and added the batting. Once everything is dry it is time to stretch the material over the seat of the chair. Starting at the front lip of the seat frame I line the pattern up how I want it and staple the material to the wood frame Pulling the new material up and over the seat. Stopping to staple the material to the back frame after tucking it into the space between the seat and back. Then slowly I mark where the leg goes with an ink pen.  A small slit at the front leg location in the material. measuring how high the armrest comes up from the bottom of the frame to the place it comes out. Then  I make a slit in the material just as long as the base of the armrest. Then slowly I pull the fabric around the armrest and down into the fold around the base of the armrest until it sits nicely and hides any loose edges. Then I staple the fabric onto the frame doing the same on each side.  I go from one side to the other pulling the fabric so that it is stretched tight over the seat.  I fold the extra material back at the corners and tuck under and staple to the frame. Then  I do the same for the back of the chair but leaving some extra fabric in the large fold between seat and back for adjustment when someone sits. I staple the material on the sides and finally arrive at the top part of the wooden frame with no loose material.

Then I spray the back panel covering the gimp with glue also. I place the fabric centered over the panel with 2 inches of extra material around the edge. I smooth the fabric over the glue and let it rest on the kitchen table for about 10 minutes. Then flip the panel over I spray glue on the back of the gimp and some on the back of the old fabric. At each corner, I split the material about 1 inch and then fold the fabric together to make a smooth corner and add a touch of fabric glue ( the thicker clear glue is a squeeze tube) to hold in place. I let dry overnight.

At this point the all the glue is dry and the seat, sides, and seatback are covered with the new fabric. The back panel is ready to be put back in place with decorative tacks.

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The back panel installed with decorative tacks below the gimp cord

I start with the top center tack while the chair is laying forward on its arms. I then smooth out the top and tack the corners pulling them tight just before I set the tack. I work my way down to the bottom and pull those corners down and tight and set those tacks next. I then just follow the gimp cord and try to place my tacks as close to the gimp cord as possible and finish the back panel.

To finish up the chair I go around the small cuts I made to the front and back of each armrest and glue anything that needs tucked in or smoothed out from my cutting.

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The chair looks pretty good! I am super happy that I did not take apart the chair or remove any wooden pieces. It is not perfect and I do have a small tear around one of the arm bases but the glue keeps it looking pretty nice.

The other chair we picked up out of the trash is now a desk chair for my son.

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All I did for this little chair was to remove the seat, sanded and spray painted the body a flat black. I added a new foam cushion to the seat that I attached with spray glue. I cut the foam just a little bit smaller than the wood seat.  I placed the new foam covered seat on the fabric and made sure the fabric reached the wooden back without pulling the fabric tight.  I made sure to have about an inch or two of extra fabric to staple to the wood back. Then I stretch the material lightly over the seat, flip it over and staple the fabric to the back.  I go back and forth with the staples to make sure the stretch is even. If you pull too hard the foam will dimple down and you will have to go back and pull out that staple and reset it. I had to reset two staples from pulling everything to tight but was happy with the results. Then I screw the seat back into the chair. You may have to trim fabric from the cushioned seat to get it out of the way of the screws and now you have two chairs that are looking great again.

My total cost for these to chairs to be recovered and painted:

free desk chair                                            0.00

armchair                                                    18.00

foam for cushion                                       12.00

low loft quilt batting                                   6.00

Fabric                                                             4.00

decorative furniture tacks                         5.00

spray paint                                                    4.00

small spray glue                                           4.00

small bottle fabric glue                               3.00

sanding block                                                4.00

Total price for chairs and recovering       $60.00

This could be less if you have any of these supplies on hand. I only bought the chair, fabric, tacks, low loft quilt batting and fabric glue. I had all the other supplies on hand from other projects.

In comparison, total savings are around 260 dollars.

This accent chair  was 225.00

 

French-traditional-upholstered-accent-hotel-armchairs-bedroom.jpg_640x640

and this desk chair is 95.00

school house chair

 

Categories: antique, antiques, chairs, DIY projects, furniture, save money, Thrift store finds, Trash to treasure, Uncategorized, up-cycling, upholstery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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