A well-known fact about me: I curse the most when I play Scrabble with my husband, Matt. Rather, I should say I used to curse the most in those instances. I can now report that I’ve reached new four-letter feats thanks to my latest DIY home project: re-weaving Danish chairs.
Ten years ago, we acquired a mid-century Vejle Stole Møbelfabrik dining set for a song at a San Diego vintage shop. Two additional leaves and six chairs, all made of gorgeous teak with woven cord on the seats. It was the kind of dream find that compels you to drive to another county and borrow a friend’s truck in order to haul it.
The Wear and Tear
After one big move, a couple of grade school birthday parties, a few board game nights and several Thanksgiving gatherings, we started to find the set’s luster lacking. The table bore the scars of one too many arts & crafts projects and sweaty glasses, but that could all be covered with runners, placemats and tablecloths. The chairs, on the other hand, were straight busted—unraveling steadily and covered in stains of mysterious origin. At first, we thought to hide a few of the rattier ones in the garage, only to watch as the remaining chairs eventually became the rattiest ones. Another attempted solution was to sub in a few similar-looking hand-me-down chairs from a good friend. Those didn’t fare much better. (Does my three-person family have some special chair-destroying super powers? Requires further investigation.)
Now, I’m normally one to just schedule a heavy trash day pick-up whenever furniture starts to be an eyesore. When I’m at my most practical, I may just relocate a piece to our small, but functional granny flat. I tend to use either of those options as an excuse to go shopping for a new replacement. (Yes, I know this makes me sound like a flagrantly frivolous consumer. I own that.)
But now that my pandemic-wary husband and I no longer have the luxury of leisurely all-day furniture shopping sprees, I’ve had to readjust my way of thinking. Bye-bye to the showrooms, estate sales and Swedish meatball pit stops. It’s finally time for me to embrace the DIY mindset.
Who Am I?
Pre-2020, if someone told me I’d be picking up carpentry one day, I’d question their sanity, our interpersonal relationship, or both. Lo, I’ve indeed dipped my toe in it, and it’s actually kind of fun, minus the learning curve, the sore back and the raw fingertips. The first step was owning up to my cardinal furniture sin: No, you can not just hot glue the frayed bits of Danish cord to the chair frame. Next, I had to give myself over to another unpleasant truth: I had to let my husband take the lead.
Already known to be fairly handy, my husband has proven that you can learn how to fix just about anything on YouTube. This has been particularly convenient in the last several months of being stuck in the house. After watching a monotonous, unenthused man deliver the keys to re-weaving success, Matt was ready to share his knowledge with me and our teen daughter. (Where he magically produced all these random new tools from—since when do we have a nail puller?—I may never know.)
I Can Do This
The plan was for each of us to tackle two chairs. I’ll admit, at first, I was the weak link, being as hard-headed and loath to following instructions as I am. He would tell me the steps, but all I’d hear was that “mwa, mwa, mwa …” sound from “Peanuts.” It was after I watched him renovate his first chair that my competitive side kicked in (à la Scrabble). Attempting to prove I could best him, I quickly found myself humbled instead. Once I had to start all over because of one too many weaving mistakes, I was ready to really listen to him in earnest. Meanwhile, the teen lost interest after she’d completed the funnest parts—spooling the massive jumble of replacement cord and attacking the old seats with a utility knife.
Left on my own (my husband’s work pulled him away), I established a weaving system that involved Netflix’s Sugar Rush as background noise, intermittent cheese-and-cracker breaks and, as mentioned before, no shortage of profanity. I kept making wefting errors, looping onto the wrong nails and constantly, constantly needing to shake and blow on my sore fingers. But it was (more or less) worth it. By the end of this seating saga, we had six beautifully, if imperfectly, refinished chairs.
Am I likely to keep up this hands-on approach when the next piece of furniture flatlines? Very doubtful. It took forever and there aren’t any more seasons of “Sugar Rush” left. If, however, the dilapidation of another household item should coincide with the airing of some new cooking show, all while this pandemic continues to keep us indoors, I may have my husband queue up another video tutorial.