Sharing Stuff: a Little Big Deal

by Summer, from Running in ZK

I’ve been thinking about some of the invisible threads that make this place feel like community to me.

Last weekend I reupholstered a chair.

Our kitchen chair had gotten alarmingly soiled, and I thought, “this is something I could probably do.”

The knowledge came from the internet. The gist of it is this: get a staple gun and both kinds of screwdriver. Pay attention when you take everything apart. Go slowly. Use the old pieces of fabric as your pattern for anything new. Once I had this information, I felt equipped.

The fabric came from a give-away pile outside the room of a member who recently left.

The screwdrivers and the first staple gun came from our shared woodshop. The staple gun, if it stapled at all, did so once in between two or three trigger squeezes that pushed out three mangled staples at a time.

But I also knew that the good people of Nashoba SLG have a little stash of tools in their laundry room, and there indeed was another staple gun. A better size, actually, and with a bunch of extra staples.

The zipper for the cushion came from Commie Clothes. There were lots of zippers there, so I picked the best match in size, color, and apparent durability.

The sewing machine that I used (and currently own) came from another ex-member, who passed it to me while she was still living here, when she came to terms with the idea that she would never ever use it (I love it so much! It’s the same one I used to make the quilt last year).

In our big common space that gets used for yoga, movies, feedbacks, piano practice, and kids going nuts on rainy days, I took the gross chair apart. I cleaned the mold and grime off the wood with vinegar from the mop closet in the kitchen, and vacuumed up the grit that fell with the killer new vacuum House just recently magicked into our vacuum closet.

After fixing the chair’s arms and cushion cover, I realized that to sew the back portion, I’d need some monofilimant thread.

Picture doing this project in your own home. If you are not a) a professional upholsterer or b) a pack rat/hoarder, it is unlikely you have every single item I’ve listed above. You have to go to Home Depot, or Michael’s, or Wal-Mart, or whatever. You have to go get in your car, drive to the big box, pay someone some money, and then come home with something you might use again but maybe you never will.

Of course, it’s nice to have a staple gun on hand, and screwdrivers, and a sewing machine, and upholstery fabric, and white vinegar, and extra zippers, and a killer vacuum cleaner. So maybe you do have all that stuff, or see the having of it as an investment and don’t mind that much going to Home Depot to buy it and be its owner.

I got stuck when I got to the monofilimant. This is a very thin, clear nylon thread, like delicate fishing wire, that is used in quilting appliques. I don’t have any, and there was none in Commie.

So I asked Valerie, who has done some quilting. She had some, but it was the wrong thickness. I decided to ask Pam, who is an accomplished quilter. I went to her room, did not find her, and left a note. On the way back to my house I ran into Madge, another member who often sews and has done plenty of fabric art. Madge confirmed she had some and gave me permission to rummage around in her stuff to find it. She even took the note away from Pam’s door for me.

And thus I finished the chair back. Then I put everything back together. I used the battery-powered drill that lives in our laundry room. When I needed some stiff wire to thread through the back of the chair, I found some at Nashoba again. I restapled everything and screwed it all back up. And voila.


Obviously there was not quite enough of the nice fabric, but it was enough to make the chair not gross anymore.

Many sites out there give quotes on how much it costs to reupholster a chair.


For me, it was free. I didn’t have to go anywhere or buy a single thing. We had 100% of the materials, tools, and supplies here on the farm. I didn’t even have to use the tripper system.

I like having some things around in my own possession, stuff I don’t often use, but I have quickly on hand if the need arises: binder clips, watercolors, a glue gun, a microwavable bowl with a lid that fits, a leatherperson multitool, a quilters’ ruler, hobby knives, some schmancy paper. When people borrow this stuff from me, I feel great! I like getting to pay the universe back for borrowing so much stuff from others.

So, the invisible thread is…Yep.

Actual invisible thread.

Sharing Stuff: a Little Big Deal

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