Monday, November 10, 2008

Our new sofa.

The thing I remember most clearly is how poor we were. We had spent what was available on my trip to Sweden, on a new (used) car, on a wardrobe for S. and first and last months rent for our apartment. But we were as happy as clams just to be together again. But we needed something to sit on. I visited every yard sale and second hand store in the South Bay area. The only sofa I had seen was the kind that looked like an unmade bed. Bulging in all directions.

Finally I went to a yardage and upholstery store in North Burlingame. I asked if they ever sold sofas that were neat and skinny looking. The owner of the store said: Why don't you make the sofa from scratch. I said there was no way I could accomplished that kind of work, all I wanted to do was try to upholster one. He said, I will help you. I will deliver to your house the frame of the type of sofa you like. And I will deliver the straps to which you will later tie the springs. If you don't do it right I will make you start over. I asked how much the sofa would cost and he said with an average cover the sofa would cost less than $150.

And so began the hardest work I ever enjoyed. The cross stretched interwoven straps had to be so tight that if you dropped a 50-cent coin on one of them, the coin had to jump to a considerable hight. My fingers were actually bleeding from using the tool my teacher had lent me. But it was nothing compared to the blisters I got when I began the next step, tying the springs in four or five directions. Here I failed and my torturer made me untie four or five because they did not stand up at attention. I remember it was finally completed the day we had big family dinner, Auntie Aggie played the piano and we asked the husband of S.s cousin Jane if he would be kind enough to bring a piano. He arrived with a standup piano on the back of a pick up truck. He was sitting at the piano playing ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS,in Jazz tempo, as they drove up our street.

This happened in 1946 and we used the sofa with a new cover until we moved to Laguna Beach in 1964. I saw it ten years after that in the home of a good friend who bought it at our garage sale. I have heard that one of her children is still using it.

Meanwhile S. was learning how to build, finish and sell modern Swedish type furniture. The factory was in the shipyards in Saucalito, Marin County, Ca. Fridays he spent in the Furniture Mart in San Francisco, and the rest of the week he spent trying to make his three thumbs work properly. But Fridays at market he learned how to sell and he was offered other lines and so his career had begun.


Haphazardkat said...

Do you have any pictures of your sofa?? I'm so curious now! And filled with admiration. I would have never attempted to create my own sofa.

Vancouver, WA

Anonymous said...

I love the "why don't you just make your own" attitude that has permeated several of your stories. It seems to have skipped a couple of generations in American life but maybe the new economy and this newest group of young people will bring that "can-do" attitude back.

Jan and Lori said...

I want to know, Is there anything you can't do? You are amazing. You are faced with a challenge- and you tackle it head on... you go girl!

Anonymous said...

I must remember to not tell my husband about this. He always wants to do theings the hard way, and I don't want get him dreaming of a handmade sofa. What haven't you tried?

weecyn said...

My dearest and I have also built furniture including upholstery, but not with hand-tied coil springs. My favorite piece that we've made is a mahogany kitchen island with a maple butcher block insert. I find it so very satisfying a way to spend my time.

Thank you again for your continually wonderful story.

Emiana said...

Admirable. Always such a treat to read your story.

Anonymous said...

It so funny that S was working in a furniture store and you are at home making a couch!

~ReneƩ SW WA

Barbara said...

I have continued to keep up with your post. Now, if you don't post for a few days, I worry that, in the process of writing, you are remembering a difficult time in your life and having some uncomfortable moments because of it, so I'm always happy to see that you have survived and thrived when you next post. I've tried to send you comments several times recently but for some reason the site won't let me post. If this goes through today, please know that I still love to read about your life every day and that we, your readers, love you.