Sunday, October 24, 2010


The above photo might look a bit chaotic. It is because I am undressing a stool from a couple layers of upholstery  -- the upholstery dates from when these materials were added. A secret  was revealed when I found the third and last underlying layer.

I was at my favorite second hand shop cruising the aisles when I spotted this foot stool with an upholstered top. The upholstering was newish and rather awkwardly tacked to the top of the footstool. -- ugly, I thought. 

But wait, those legs! I picked up the stool and turned it over to get a look at the legs. The legs were cherry,  simply cut into a curve similar to forms of the late Empire/early Victorian country style. Could it be, I thought, that this actually is a country stool perhaps  150 years old?. I looked at the price -- $5.00! I always seem to find bargains when I really concentrate -- by looking through their age disguises. Here, in this piece, were legs that told me what it really was or so I thought. For $5.00 it would be worth taking home and undressing it to see if my hunch was correct.

The top layer of the stool was a blue check material (see top photo),  perhaps from the last few decades. It was aluminium stapled and brass tacked onto the stool. The second layer was a brown and beige diamond print that I estimate to be from the 1920s era. And the last layer was what you see in the photo above -- an old, early black velvet with needlework applied to the top. This handwork was very similar to that done by women in the mid to late 1800s. This was the secret of the stool. I never expected to find the original upholstered top!

As I had determined that this was of country origin, I figured that the style along with the handwork put the age of the stool somewhere in the 1870s range. Underneath the stool's top were  old circular saw marks that were known to be used during the time-frame. A very new repair had been made to one of the legs apparently to stabilize it. The third velvet layer or last layer was affixed with handmade nails.

.Now one might say what do you want with a stool that has an old worn cover. Well, if one looks at an old piece long enough stories begin to emerge of how and when it was used. 

My story is that a young wife ordered the stool from a country carpenter while she made the simple velvet needlework top. A gift no doubt -- for her beloved husband. Now this is just a story that danced through my head but stories can be fun. 

Here is the old early stool presented as it originally appeared so long ago. Of, course much worn by use and time. But still beautiful.

And in the photo above is a large wear mark on one side of the stool. The husband undoubtedly used this stool for years because it had sentimental value for him. He was a very organized man as he always used the same side of the stool as the other side was not worn. 

The dainty red flowers , made with tiny crochet stitches, were worn flat. Small pieces of sewn ribbons formed the stems. She worked hard to make this lovely piece for her mother. Did I say mother -- oh, yes, maybe she made it for her mother? Its also a story that would fit the piece -- in fact, hundreds of stories can be called up. That is why I like pieces that are old and worn, it lets my imagination run wild.


  1. Yay, Barbara, on such a fabulous find!
    It is dripping with hints of history and maybes.
    Thank goodness they simply reupholstered over the old fabric :)

    By the way - how much do the pumpkins for Halloween usually cost? One place here in Melbourne is charging $26 - it's a relatively new thing here in Oz ;)

  2. Jayne, Interesting that your country is adopting this pumpkin idea. Actually, Halloween was started in Ireland - the Irish brought the idea here I believe in the early 1900s? . Instead of pumpkins they used turnips in Ireland but somehow pumpkins filled the turnip slot when the idea of Halloween began here. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

    But to get to your pumpkin question -- In central Kentucky they cost anywhere to $1.00 to 3.50. Can't believe that one pumpkin would cost that much in your country. Perhpas pumpkins cost more in certain parts of the country??? Maybe you could start a pumpkin patch in your spare time to bring in those twenty dollar bills! -- barbara

  3. Wonderful find! My addition to the imaginary family story is that the maker was fastidious and always made sure the stool stood with the same side near the chair so that husband, mother, father, whoever -- maybe she herself -- always used the same side. It does pique the imagination.

    Medium size jackk-o-lanters pumpkins up here in the northeast cost 5.99 in supermarkets.

  4. June - How far does our food have to travel or in this case our pumpkins? Perhaps this travel would influence the pricing. Ky is a fairly rural state and the dollar pumpkins were found grown by a local farmer who was set up by the roadside. The three dollar pumpkins were found in the grocery stores -- not necessarily grown locally. Maybe your 5.99 pumpkins had a ways to travel?

    Like your story of the stool. Taking it apart was like an archaeological dig -- lots of guessing and testing of ideas or in this case stories. -- barbara

  5. Nice blog; this is my first visit. I roamed & saw the photo of the women on the bench in Paris. Great photo. I have a similar one of women sitting in the sun in Budapest.

  6. The $26 pumpkins are not the usual ones available here, I think they're particular jack-o-lantern ones, perhaps imported specially for Halloween?
    Our usual sort are way cheaper but I haven't seen any whole lately lol.
    Thinking of carving a watermelon instead ;)

  7. Thanks for stopping by Cheryl, I am glad that you liked the three Parisian women sitting on the bench that my xpat friend sent. It would be interesting to view your Budapest photo.

  8. Jayne, Hope you find some pumpkins that are more reasonable. A watermelon would be interesting, kinda juicy! -- barbara

  9. Vicki -- thanks for the comment. You certainly have been a traveler lately. Hope you are rested from your California trip. -- barbara

  10. Hello Barbara
    thank you for your nice long comment at my last post. If you feel inclined to make mail at any time just drop me a note.

    Your blog is a delightful patchwork of all things old and past, valued and treasured.

    happy days

  11. Delwyn, Your book shelf has some great reads along with your favorites on your about me page. Will enjoy stopping in to visit you in the future -- barbara

  12. I feel as though I've been treated to a private lesson by History Detectives! Wonderful adventure, Barbara! Thank you!

  13. Elora -- I do like to play detective when I look at something -- must have been born with it in my genes. Thanks barbara

  14. Barbara,

    I found this post fascinating, especially because it made me think about how this stool must have been treasured by many in order to survive for so long. Over the years, its leg was repaired and fabric covered in order to maintain its usefulness. Because it was built well to begin with, it has lasted for many years.

    Can't help but think about what will happen to the cheap stools being sold by Walmart or Target today. In a short period of time, one of the legs will fall off and the stool will find itself on top of the landfill heap. Unfortunately today, products are being made to fall apart in order to keep the cycle of buying continuing so that corporate America can show a profit. Whenever I can, I buy used items at thrift stores or flea markets like you do so that I can support my local community rather than feeding some corporate greed machine.

  15. Darcy -- I do thank you for the very nice comments on my post. I too buy many items from thrift stores. Occasionally I also buy at yard sales. I like the quality of many of the older items and find that items made today can be constructed so cheaply. I have many examples of items that have fallen into disrepair shortly after I have bought them. -- barbara

  16. Barbara, I'm sure others passed by that stool without giving it a thought. What a good eye you have! Thanks for sharing a trip down memory lane via this once-cherished stool.

  17. barefootheart -- It was fun to find the original top on the stool -- it completely caught me off guard. -- barbara