My Vinyl Wasn’t Final

My Vinyl Wasn’t Final

You may have remembered when I had a couple vinyl chair that looked like this:

 

These were rather dirty vinyl chairs from the 1960’s. They were airport terminal chairs that came from France. Together they cost me 70 euros at an antique store in Germany. Also, the board which the cushion was sitting on was particle board that was crumbling apart, as pictured below.

My father cut me a couple new boards for the cushions to rest on. Instead of particle board that was 60 years old and disintegrating, he used ply wood like this:

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I changed the vinyl to look like this (my first upholstery attempt). My first attempt at sewing with vinyl too. You may remember when I blogged about it here: Vinyl Chairs My First Try

 

But I realized that I actually really liked the original white look of the chairs so I went and bought white vinyl and started the process again.

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And I did both chairs this time in white vinyl. Slightly different pattern.

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And I did the other chair in the same original style but with a seam down the middle to effectively use my vinyl without having to purchase more, if you know what I mean. I button tufted the seat cushion (first attempt at button tufting too!). I can’t wait to do more button tufting!

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And here they are together with some semi-cute pillows I sewed.

 

I sewed 2 GREEN Dresses for under $6.00! HAPPY GREEN MONTH!

I sewed 2 GREEN Dresses for under $6.00! HAPPY GREEN MONTH!

Blogging is difficult for most of us because you have to come up with different things to post, REGULARLY. Blogging favors people who are constantly inspired and effortlessly creative. Those are the blogs that more frequently pop up on Google’s first page. These are the ones that we return to again and again to see “what’s new”. I’ve been too infrequent lately.

Lately I’ve hit a low point in my sewing ambitions. In my attempt to sew leggings/yoga pants/gym pants (whatever you call them), there was a big fail. I didn’t use a pattern. I tried to use an old pair of pants as a template and that didn’t quite work. Let’s just say that a bunch of black knit fabric (which tends to be expensive) ended up being wasted due to my ineptitude. I know.  I’ll find a way to incorporate it into something else.

On the bright side, it’s green month. I’ve found some green things that I’ve made and sewn and I’d like to share them with you here on my blog.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is scouring thrift stores for old sewing patterns. Most of the time I can find them half off of .49 cents, which means I can find old sewing patterns for .25 cents each! 

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With the pattern above, I was able to make something I’m calling “Renee’s Lime Dress”, for less than $5.00 (this includes the fabric I bought at Walmart and the zipper that I got on sale at Joann’s.) Yes, I thought up the color scheme and added the limes. Below you’ll find a picture without the limes (it might be too loud for some of you). I thought the belt and necklace were nice additions.

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And here is the “less loud” version of the dress, sans limes. I like both of them and very pleased with the CHEAP, EASY pattern I found!

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What does the back of my green dress look like? I’m still working on zipper installation techniques.

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But what to do with the leftover pieces of green and lime green fabric?????? I sewed it all together almost like a quilt sheet. I used every single scrap of leftover green material from my dress above and sewed it into one big, random block. Now I will use this material to make a little girl’s dress.

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And here goes:

And the finished result with pink sleeves and a pink peter pan collar? Well it can’t be perfect when you’re using a block of randomly sewn leftover fabric together. But hey, it’s fun! And here is a “setting sleeves in the round” tutorial, if you’re a visual learner and would like to see how I made and “set in” the sleeves. (Note, this tutorial is actually for me to refer to).

 

CABBAGE STEW RECIPE

And how about some Liberian Cabbage stew, since it’s green month?

We used this recipe but omitted the maggi bouillon cubes (used our own seasoning combo as seen below) and only used chicken instead of the 3 forms of meat typically required for this African recipe.

Liberian Cabbage Stew Recipe

Always cook a pot of rice to go with your stew. And for the love of god, don’t use a rice cooker!! This isn’t rocket science, all you need is a pot.

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When the stew is all cooked it will look red because of the tomato paste. It tastes really delicious and is fairly healthy, all things considered.

 

HAPPY GREEN MONTH! HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY!

My $5.00 Thrift Store OTTOMAN REMODEL. BEFORE AND AFTER

My $5.00 Thrift Store OTTOMAN REMODEL. BEFORE AND AFTER

Anchorage Earthquake Recap

We made it through the big 7.0 earthquake here in Anchorage, Alaska (Friday November 30th 2018 at 8:29am). Thank you very much! There were no fatalities here, just lots of damage to our city. We have lots to be thankful for right now–especially for people. We thank scientists, engineers and strong building codes. The famous Haiti earthquake of 2010 killed 300,000 people and was also a 7.0.

Where was I during the earthquake? In the kitchen. I had just finished cleaning up after breakfast. As usual, Samson was covered in food and would need the usual 5-7 minute wipe down. I looked at the clock. It was 8:21 am. I removed him from his highchair and he started to wander into the living room. I started to walk to the coffee pot when I started to hear a rumble and a little shaking. “Earthquake” I shouted.

Without hesitation I scooped up both of my children. I dashed right into the hallway/doorway area. All I could do was shield both of them with my body as the house began to shake uncontrollably. The house was having a grand mal and I didn’t know what to do.

The painters, who earlier in the week were at the tip-top of a giant ladder painting our 20+ foot tall walls had now progressed to the shorter walls in the hallways and kitchen. As luck would have it, neither were on a ladder when the big quake started.

All I remember is a lot of real fright and cursing from all of us. I guess it didn’t last that long. But it seemed like an eternity. Both of our painters were life-long Alaskans. “Is this fairly normal to experience this?” I asked during the quake. “No. Never felt anything like this.” they said.

This past week has been one seizure after another…one aftershock after another. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a boat at sea.

My Thrift Store Ottoman Remodel

On the brighter side, I finally finished the ottoman I have been incrementally working on for 2 months.

In October I came across this old $5.00 Ottoman. I had to snatch it. Of course, a refreshment would be needed.

And here is a close up. The top vinyl covering was starting to break down.

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Good news. The underlying structure and foam padding on this Ottoman were in terrific shape. All I needed to do was cut off the old vinyl fabric right along the seams and learn how to sew a snug, new one. Another sewing challenge for me.

  1. Cut off all the vinyl material that covers the ottoman along the seams. Avoid puncturing the underlying foam.
  2. Keep the old material that covers the ottoman. You will use it as your pattern for sewing a new one. Find some material (or vinyl) that you’d like to be the new cover. I used leftover vinyl from this project!
  3. Once you sew the cover for the ottoman, find a neat decorative fringe/trim at Joann’s Fabric to attach to the bottom part of the vinyl. These are a bit spendy. However, just bring in your 50% coupon to use for one item and you can get 2.5 yards of this fancy stuff for around $20. I attached this trim by sewing it onto the bottom, open section of the vinyl. You could probably glue gun it, but I wanted it to be securely attached for a LONG TIME.
  4. Once you sew your vinyl cover and before you snug it onto your ottoman, put it in your dryer for 10-25 seconds on LOW HEAT. Do this with extreme caution! I thought of this idea and realized that it works, but do it only for a few seconds on low heat. It will soften the vinyl just enough so that you can fit it around your ottoman.

YOU WANT TO GET THE BEST POSSIBLE FIT SO THAT IT DOESN’T LOOK TOO FUNKY.

Here is the old vinyl that I cut from the ottoman. Use this as your pattern to sew your new cover. You get the idea.

Here is the finished product.

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What to do with OLD LEFTOVER RICE/QUINOA?

What to do with OLD LEFTOVER RICE/QUINOA?

Alright, so just a quickie here. Nothing too exciting.

Do you ever have 1,2…3 day old rice or quinoa in your fridge and you’re not sure what to do with it? You feel bad about wasting it so you just let it sit there, but then you eventually toss it out. Or…you make unhealthy fried rice.

That’s what I’ve always done. It gets kind of stale and sometimes the birds will eat it if I season it correctly.

What if I could just eat it? I’m always a sucker for trying things that save money.

Maybe, one day when you’re good and brave like me, you can revive it…transform it into Jambalaya or West African Jolof Rice.

My family *DOES NOT* like this kind of food, but I happen to LOVE it;
so here goes..just for my taste buds.

So grab some of the ingredients pictured below. These are what I had on hand…(oh, and maybe a slice of bacon or two and some extra diced tomatoes sitting in your fridge if they happen to be there..). It’s really not a big deal.

On the stove, heat your olive oil on medium-low. Add your diced up Anaheim chili pepper, diced onion and grated carrot. Saute a bit.

Toss in some diced up sausage and/or bacon. Sprinkle seasoning. Throw in your refrigerated leftover rice and/or quinoa (I used both). Sprinkle olive oil into the mixture as it Cooks on the stove top.

Super easy and done!

A plate full of Jambalaya from OLD rice and Quinoa. Hey, it actually tasted fine. But even better? It was healthier than some other options and I used everything that I already had on hand.

Don’t eat the rice past a few days.

If you want to transform older rice into a Jolof-style, you can add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste into the olive oil as it’s cooking/almost beginning to fry/just getting hot.

Once you cook the tomato paste in the oil for a minute or two, add the leftover rice or quinoa and add a sprinkling of water. (You have to experiment as it depends on how much leftover rice you have–so go easy on the water– and you don’t want it to turn soggy, just slightly moist and revived.) You can add veggies that you have cooked in another pot or sauce pan to the red/Jolof rice. You can add fried meats or fish too.

No. It’s not gonna taste like the authentic Ghanaian Jolof rice, or the Thieboudienne (red rice and fish) from Senegal. But it works if you’re in a pinch for dinner.

I POSTED AN AD FOR A BABYSITTER ON CRAIGSLIST for $10 an hour

I POSTED AN AD FOR A BABYSITTER ON CRAIGSLIST for $10 an hour

When you have children, lots of things change. The biggest thing, for me, has been my thinking. You start to value certain things more—like your time and your freedom. But this has a ripple effect; you start to value your money, your food and all your resources even more.

I think it’s because, as a mother, you’re working much, much harder than ever before. You’re doing ALL the clean-up, housework, diapers, baths, laundry, grocery shopping (maybe with a couple exceptions), bedtimes, meals and meal clean-up (don’t even get me started) and middle-of-the night feedings.

If you are lucky and privileged enough to get a babysitter or childcare worker to watch your children a couple times a month, it’s just heavenly. You can take a break from all the constant chaos that assaults your reasoning faculties—even if it’s just for a few hours.

Additionally, you’re probably looking for more educational opportunities. You know how detrimental– how disadvantageous it is to have gaps on your resume! And there’s lots of proof to back this up.

As a SAHM, you want to find ways to stay afloat in the career world once your children are in all-day school. Boring, repetitive labor makes you want to do less of it. Once you get the opportunity to do ANYTHING ELSE, you really can sink into it, value it and fully appreciate it.

You realize that your precious life is being replaced by labor. It dawns on you how valuable time is—how valuable your time is. Children are important treasures; no one ever said otherwise. Until robot children make their grand entrance, children really are our future, so I agree, we all should be investing in them!

But…it’s all the drudgery and clean-up that makes the situation different. Sure, there are some people who are quite fine with ignoring all the messes and letting them build-up for years in their homes while they instill Shakespearian prose and Euclidian geometry into their young one’s minds, but I’m not one of them. I can’t think when everything is in disarray.

We have moved a few times in the past couple years—from Washington state, To Europe, back to Oregon and now Alaska. I haven’t been able to make friends or establish a social community. I’m not part of a church. And, let me repeat, I don’t have friends in my city.

My Mother, a fervent Fundamentalist Christian whom I love dearly suggested that I “Join a church and I would meet nice ladies who would offer to help out with the childcare.”
But then I imagined having to explain myself: “So, what drew you to our church?” Me: “Oh, I’m not at all religious or a church-goer—I just joined for the free childcare”. You know how that would go–they would all embrace me non-judgmentally and welcome me into the fold without trying to convert me, or not.

The only solution I could summon was to look for a babysitter online. I needed someone for 3-8 hours each week–max and I couldn’t guarantee a set schedule. And what did I do? I first looked on Facebook but couldn’t find much there. In fact, what I did find on Facebook were TONS OF MOTHERS IN MY COMMUNITY LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE AND BABYSITTERS. Not exactly helpful.

I absolutely didn’t want to start an account like Care.com. You have to pay a monthly fee just to get in touch with possible caregivers/babysitters. And, I’ve heard they make it difficult to terminate your account. Not only that, but you’re going to pay a ton for the average sitter that you find. Some of them are asking for $15 to $20 an hour.

I’ve become a bit of a free market capitalist over the past few years. The free market is a better place to go even when finding something like a babysitter. You are probably just as competent to check references and “get a reliable candidate” as anyone else—you might even be pickier in the selection process. After all, they’re your children, you won’t be taking any chances.

WHAT DID I DO?

I posted an ad on Craigslist. Craigslist is free and super easy to use. At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m insane. “What? You posted an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter?” Yes. Yes I did.

But this didn’t happen without spending some time to think about what I was doing. Do people do this? Has anyone else thought about doing this before? I started by perusing Craigslist ads. I wanted to get acquainted with the market.

I only found one Mom who had thought of my idea to post an ad on craigslist. She was looking for someone to babysit her 3 young children. In her ad she said that she was a Christian mother willing to pay $10 an hour and expected all 3 of her little children all in diapers (because she had a set of baby twins and a 2 year old) to be taken care of as well as the bathrooms cleaned once a week and the house kept clean. She wanted a resume, 3 professional references and (obviously) to meet up first in a public venue for an interview.

I thought her ad was a bit over-the-top. What cretin would accept only $10 an hour to babysit 3 children, clean bathrooms and maintain a clean house? That’s like asking for a caregiver and a janitor ALL IN ONE—for only $10 bucks an hour. Would anyone do this? Taking care of young children and keeping things clean is an overwhelming amount of work.

For a week I thought about her ad. What a greedy BIT—um, person. If I post an ad, I won’t be greedy. I’ll say, “I’m giving you $14 an hour to take care of 2 children and you don’t have to do any cleaning.”

But I kept thinking about this woman’s ad. It was a very bold. After a while it began to dawn on me. What if she wasn’t (necessarily) greedy but just understood economics better than I did? I realized that when you post an ad its probably better to start at a LOWER hourly rate than a HIGHER one.

You want to test the market—see if anyone responds. If no one responds to the ad, there’s your answer: you’re low-balling and no one will be interested in the offer. That is, there is no one in the market who will don their services for the price you’re offering. Alternatively, if you offer too much $$ you’ll be slammed with responses. Sorting through them will be a labor in itself.

I decided to start with a very simple ad for a babysitter: “I Will pay $10 an hour for a babysitter. If interested, please contact me and we can plan on meeting at a public location for an interview.”

Once I posted the ad, all hell broke loose

I received an overwhelming number of interested candidates. I had no idea SO many people were looking for work. I received a surprising number of male candidates which I promptly dismissed.

I only respond to female candidate because I tend to trust them more around my children.

I wanted to zero in on the best candidates, so I looked at female candidates with resumes, references and descriptions of what kind of childcare experience they had. I kept these in my inbox and thought about it for a few days.

I had my first interview with a lady whom we’ll call Molly. I met her at Barnes and Nobel. She was there right on time with her resume and references in hand and pressed and polished for our meeting. It felt very odd being the one to “hire” someone.

I thought she was a good fit until I learned that she didn’t have a car and would depend on public transport. The bus stop closest to our house was over 3 miles away. So anytime she babysat, I would have to pick her up from the bus stop. We both decided that she wasn’t a good fit.

I few days later, after being slammed by yet more interested candidates, I met with another young lady at a coffee shop. She was very sweet, professional and ready for the interview. She, too, had references and a resume. After our meeting, I knew she was the one. It’s just one of those gut feelings. I would still go and check up on her references before I decided to have her start.

Would I Recommend Finding A Babysitter on Craigslist?

Absolutely!

All you have to do is:

1. Meet any/all your prospective candidates at a public venue before you decide to exchange phone numbers or even emails.

2. Have your candidate come with a printed resume and a printed list of references. You will also come with your own 6th sense, intuition and brain as you interview your candidate.

3. Always ask your candidate if they have reliable transportation.

4. Ask your candidate about the last place they worked, how long they have been looking for work and if they plan to find other jobs in the meantime (I was only looking for a few hours of sitting each week, so I encourage my candidate to continue to look for work and that “I would work around her schedule”)

5. After you’ve met your candidate and you think you have a possible fit, go home and check references and review the resume with your husband/significant other.

6. Interview at least 2-3 of the best candidates you come across. You want to get an idea of the different kinds of personalities out there and which ones might work best with your children.

7. Have your preferred candidate come over to your house for a test-run. Let them babysit your children for 1 hour, maybe 2 (at most!). You can even be in another room in the house working on another project while she babysits.

8. Ask your children what they thought about the new babysitter.

We found a terrific candidate (FOR FREE) using this process! Craigslist is free. Care.com is not. You’re going to be much more selective for your children than ANYONE ELSE.
We found an amazing babysitter who is real Alaskan—3rd generation—not some recent transplant like ourselves. Her father is a native fisherman and she even brings us FREE seafood—crab, halibut and salmon.

We are so lucky to have found her! She is the ultimate baby whisperer.

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If you use the method I’ve delineated above, you won’t have trouble finding a good, reliable babysitter.

What did I learn from my Craigslist Post?

The major thing I learned from my post was that there are TONS of people willing to work for $10 an hour. LOTS. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I had advertised the position for $14 an hour, my computer would have blown up, truly.

I learned that you trust your intuition when reading through all the (anonymous) craigslist email responses. Only respond to the few that seem to stand out as “good” and “honest” candidates. In addition to a resume, references and a cover letter, my babysitter went to the trouble to send a link to her personal Facebook page so that I could get to know her and see her activities there. She came across as very transparent and honest.

I Reupholstered An Accent Chair with MY MODERN MAJESTIC DESIGN (SEWING INVOLVED!)

I Reupholstered An Accent Chair with MY MODERN MAJESTIC DESIGN (SEWING INVOLVED!)

After two glasses of Port I think I’m a bit uninhibited and so I’m blogging again….You have two options: A. Leave or B. Forgive me

I keep mentioning that I’m going to reupholster old chairs I got at a flea market in Germany.

A couple years ago I bought BOTH of these lovely button tufted accent chairs for $70 at the American Ramstein Airforce base. What a terrific deal! As you can see here, chairs of this nature are not cheap: I was told that they were airport seats from France circa 1960. Waaaait whaattt? French airport seats from 1960?!? I fell in love.

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But the vinyl has started to break down in places and become very dingy–even spray paint would not fix it :(.  Be careful when spray painting vinyl, it can leave a sticky, (nearly) permanent residue as it binds to the material. The particle board underneath the vinyl was literally starting to crumble apart.

 

I decided to embark upon another reupholstery venture, at least for one of the chairs. This time, it would be more challenging as I would need to sew the vinyl covers for the chairs. I would also need to cut out new pieces of wood to affix to the foam (thanks Dad!); particle board doesn’t last forever.

Make sure to cut off all the vinyl pieces neatly so that you can re-use them as your pattern. I decided to use a bunch of extra blue vinyl left from my previous chair project that you can see here.

 

Cut out your new vinyl using your old vinyl as a template. I’m just using vinyl scraps that I had from my previous project (so I didn’t purchase any new materials for this project).

It turns out that sewing coverings for chairs is akin to sewing clothes. Sewing the sides of the chair is almost like sewing sleeves. NOT FUN:

I want to be honest. This was one of the most difficult sewing tasks I’ve yet attempted. YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO MAKE A PIECE OF MATERIAL FIT SNUGLY TO SOMETHING ELSE? At one point I started to re-do my project. I decided to add in a couple stripes of another color of vinyl (teal) to my chair to give it a bit of flair:

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I won’t bore you with the details–this chair was a REAL struggle. Finished results are here:

It’s the chair with the book perched on top of it. It offers some exquisite modern beauty to our living room: I’m so proud of my striped vinyl design–all from scraps!

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And what to do with some of the extra scraps of vinyl lying around? Attempt to make a purse, of course!

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Yes! I still need to reupholster the other chair. To be continued…

We have a big paint job coming up and I will share the details for that too. All of those salmon colored walls in our living room? We’re turning them white.

 

 

 

 

 

I Reupholstered Our Dining Chairs With KID FRIENDLY Vinyl (2nd time!!)

I Reupholstered Our Dining Chairs With KID FRIENDLY Vinyl (2nd time!!)

Before our big move to Alaska, I was busy reupholstering our dining room chairs. I wanted to finally share the results!

I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t you already reupholster those chairs a couple years ago?” Yes! I’m still working with the same chairs.

You remember when I bought these (pseudo?!) Chippendale lovelies for only $20 euros a piece at a little flea market in Germany? (That’s right, I got 4 of these CHAIRS FOR ONLY 80 Euros!). If you go to your local Pier 1 Imports, you’ll be spending a minimum of $100-$120 PER CHAIR, so I think I got a good deal.

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Remember I decided to reupholster them so I removed the cushions from the chairs and tore off the old fabric.

I reupholstered all 4 chairs with this black and white striped IKEA fabric:

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Sensational results, I thought. They looked rather striking with our table here. By the way, I got this solid mango wood table on sale for 250 euros at Mobel Martin (in Kaiserslautern, Germany).

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But sadly as physics would have it, all things are subject to entropy.

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So, once again, two years later, I removed the fabric and decided on different material. How about vinyl? It’s easy to wipe off spills and is far less penetrable than cloth fabric.

I was able to buy a roll of vinyl (4 1/2 yards I think), for around $40 bucks at Joann’s Fabric. Remember to bring in your 50% off coupon for one item to get that price– otherwise you’ll be spending around $80 for that amount.

I chose blue vinyl, regular $14.99 per yard (but half off with my coupon).

Removing old material is usually pretty easy. Just use a pair of needle nose pliers and a little flat head screwdriver. (I broke 2 in the process). Yank off the old fabric and use it as your template for cutting out your new piece of fabric that will cover the chair. When cutting the new fabric, make sure you cut a bigger piece than your previous piece. You want lots of material to work with in order to get it just right.

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Just lay the piece of cut vinyl on top of the seat cushion and tape around the underside of the seat first, positioning it in place (not shown here, sorry). Next, use your staple gun and start pulling the fabric nice and tight as you staple the vinyl to the underside, wooden section of the seat.

Here is the underbelly of the seat and what it looks like when you staple it.  As you can, it can be quick and doesn’t have to look perfect. No one will see it.

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These are the tools I used for my reupholstery job:

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And the kids couldn’t resist playing with them..

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Here are the chairs with the new vinyl material. Maybe not as striking as the black and white fabric, but they sure do wipe off quickly!

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AND….I still have quite a bit of blue vinyl material left. 🙂 Which means this reupholstery job was much less than $40. Come back soon if you want to see yet another reupholstery job I’m working on with this same fabric; I’ve got a more challenging chair.