I know this post is a little late, but I had to find some of the older pictures of this project to get it done. So I only posted a little image on facebook to officially complete the challenge in time, but of course it will get its own post.
The 21st HSF-Challenge was “Re-Do”. This means, you could do just anything, as long as it matched one of the previous challenges (and I strongly believe with 20 challenges to chose from, you could really do next to everything). I think my project would best fit into the UFO&PHD-challenge (Un-Finished-Objects and Projects Half Done), but could also be related to the Tops&Toes-challenge.
Everything started with a little discussion on Anne Elisabeth’s blog “Munich Rococo”. I was unable to find this discussion, but it has to have been in late 2012 or early 2013. I think the context was that many things, pictures and artefacts from bygone eras can only be fully understood when used. One of the examples was a footstool, these tiny little stools you can see in what feels like every second interior scene from the 18th century onwards.
The question was, what for was such a footstool. To rest you feet on, that’s for sure. But why? Because the feet shouldn’t touch the ground? To protect silk slippers and stockings from hard wood planks? Those who had some re-encactment experience knew the answer quite well and with it came a second answer: why did they vanish?
The answer is really so simple: To keep you warm. In rooms without central heating the floor is really cold so resting your feet on the floor would leave you with a pair of chilled bones and flesh in a very short time, leading to colds, flus and bladder infections. By resting you feet onto a little footstool, the feet were kept away from the cold surface and didn’t cool so easily. And when living, building, heating and isolating changed during the 20th century, these little helpers became dispensable.
Well, I am one of the girls that is always cold. I manage to have cold hands and feet the whole year, but in winter I am simply freezing, especially when I sit down and read a book or write something.
As you can imagine, I was destined to get such a footstool for myself.
I don’t know when exactly it was, but one afternoon a friend and I made a charity-second-hand-shopping tour in Berne. And amongst all the stuff I bought that day was this:
Cute little footstool to restore, because it was really damaged.
The straps that where meant to support the whole thing and your feet on top of it were completely torn.
When I removed the upper fabric, I found another layer below:
Both fabrics completely removed and I was left with this:
You see a thin layer of wadding inside the outer fabric, the black fabric underneath and on the far right the footstool. The edges are covered with jute. Now let’s remove this molleton thingy in the middle:
From left to right: the black fabric you already know, the removed molleton, the whatsoever plant-like filling and the disembowelled footstool. You see the straps hanging down. The jute edge was intact and because I have no experience in upholstery I left it like that.
I removed the jute straps and stapled new ones to the wooden frame:
Do you recognize what it is? These are ribbons to be cross stitch embroidered, these terrible, old-fashioned ribbons to hang on your door to
repel welcome your visitors. I had these because a mother of a former friend of mine had embroidered very much back in the 80ies and gave me all the stuff she still had. They are very strong and wide enough to serve this purpose. The jute you see behind the straps comes from the same context. I didn’t want to drop the filling all over the place when using the footstool, so I added this layer to the bottom.
Like this it stayed since march 2013. I was scared to cut the new fabric and to fail. Somewhere in between I repainted it. I had planned to remove all the paint and just add some clear coat to protect it. Unfortunately the wood had changed its colour. Some parts were very bright, others remained as dark as the paint on them had been. Maybe this was low quality wood and it had always been like that, not meant to be shown ever again. Well, anyway. I had to decide for a darker colour to paint it, but I wanted the structure to shine through, so I searched for wood stain or glaze. Considering the colours of the fabric I wanted to use, I imagined a reddish, honey-like brown. Yes, I found it but only in so large tins I wasn’t willing to buy them for such a tiny project. So I went with a very dark, blackish brown. I am not completely happy with the paint but for my very first project it is ok. And then it took me until two weeks ago to move on:
Instead of wadding the outer fabric, I wadded the inner one. A red cotton leftover, wadded with pure wool, the one I had already used in my cape.
I nailed it to the frame on one side before adding the filling. Usually you use coconut fibres to fill upholstery, but this wasn’t available in a standard hardware store. In the pet division I found an alternative: hay!
When I had finished, it looked like this:
To attach the outer fabric I bought gold-coloured bullen-nails. You can already see the fabric lying in the background in the photo above. There is a little story to this fabric, too:
When I was in Lyons in autumn 2012 for a hands-on training, I was given the task to do some research on Philippe de Lasalle, a lyonese silk entrepreneur and designer of the 18th century. Every year in november, the Marché des Soies takes place in the Palais du Commerce in Lyons. When I went there in 2012 I loved to see all the different dealers, look at all the silks and I spent hours watching a group of silkworms eat their way through a bunch of mulberry leaves. Beside the silkworm breeder, one stall was of particular interest to me: Tassinari et Chatel. This enterprise is one of the oldest silk fabric producers still existant in Lyons, founded as early as 1680. In the 1760ies, Etienne Pernon, the director of this enterprise which was called the “Maison Pernon” back then, started a very successful cooperation with Philippe de Lasalle, the very Lasalle whose life I was researching. In 1779 the managment was passed over to his son Camille Pernon and the cooperation persisted until 1789, when the french revolution forched de Lasalle to flee and leave all his equipment behind. Whereas Camille Pernon was able to withstand the changes and resumed to business as soon as possible, Lasalle seems to have been unable to find a place in this now new world. No trace of any business activity can be found afterwards, the machines that weren’t destroyed during the revolution he gave to the city of Lyons to train weavers and silk designers on them. He died in 1804.*
But back to the market stall of Tassinari et Chatel. I knew they still weave some of the old designs and they offered piles of different silk leftovers (I mean, they make interior silks for walls and upholstery, so their leftover panels could be as long as 4 metres). I was unable to find a Lasalle weaving amongst them but was very tempted to buy some other designs I had come across during my research, though they were terribly pricy. Fortunately in the end I found a basket with small leftovers, approximately 50cmx50cm-large pieces of silk. Five different pieces in a bag for 25€. One of these was to become the cover of my footstool. To me it seems like a design from the first quarter of the 19th century, unfortunately I found nothing in any museum database that comes remotely close to this design, so I can’t show you anything to compare it with.
Now, I fear I have already talked to much, so I will finally show you the pictures:
And to show the size, it is really small.
What the item is: A footstool. Bought the footstool itself for little money in a charity shop. gave it a new glaze, a new filling and a new fabric cover.
The Challenge: #21 Re-Do (UFOs and PHDs, Tops & Toes, Make, Do & Mend)
Fabric: red cotton, pure silk from Tassinari & Chatel in Lyons, France
Pattern: Just traced the old fabric to get the right size for the cotton layer and the right amount of filling. The silk I pinned to the cotton and cut around it.
Year: Early 19th century, though the footstool itself looks a little older with this swung legs. But it could have been reupholstered (the footstool itself might date from the first quarter of the 20th century)
Notions: Jute and strong woven ribbon, hay, wool batting, nails, bullen-nails, dark brown glaze
How historically accurate is it? Well, I can’t say anything about the carpentry. The jute and the ribbons I attached with staples rather than nails. Hay could be accurate, as could be the wool batting. The cotton cover is not acurate, the silk certainly is, though it was woven on a modern loom and not on a historical drawstring loom.
Hours to complete: 2-3, complete with painting and everything.
First worn: Stands in front of the sofa as is used when sitting on it with the laptop on my knees since last week.
Total cost: Five silk scraps in a bag cost me 25€, this was a little more than half of one, so let’s say 3€. Because I bought a lot in the charity shop the day I bought the footstool the seller asked 40CHF for everything, thinking of what I bought I would say I paid around 5€ for the footstool. Bullen-Nails, glaze and nails did cost quite a bit, so let’s say 25€?
See you soon,
* Sources for the above paragraph: Belle M. Borland: Philippe de Lasalle. His contrbution to the textile industry of Lyons, Chicago 1936 Marie-Jo de Chaignon: Philippe de Lasalle. Dessinateur de soierie à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle. In: Soie en Touraine, Tours 2003, p. 14-21 Liliane Hilaire-Pérez: Inventing in a world of guilds. The case of silk fabrics in Lyon in the XVIIIth century. In: K. Scott [publ.]: Interiors, Decoration and Design. Essays in the history snd Aesthetics of material culture in 18th century France (no year and place given)