March Book Club

I thought it would be fun to start a monthly post dedicated to my favorite design books. I love owning books (a trait I inherited from my father, it would seem). Not only do I enjoy reading them in the moment, but I have come to value the mini-resource library I've collected over the years. Different books reflect where I was in my life at various times, recalling memories that are mostly fond, but occasionally painful. Some I read over and over again, and others I browse through when it arrives and place it on the shelf, not to be revisited for several weeks or even months. But they're there when I need them, and I appreciate that.

I thought we'd start things off with a new addition to my collection, Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design by Amanda Brown. As some of you know (looking at you, Mom), I am a bit of a hobby collector… to oversimplify the matter, I want to learn how to do lots of things. Why just buy something if you could learn how to make it yourself? I mean, really, if you think about it, we're talking about investing in yourself, right? increasing the ol' knowledge bank? Who doesn't want to do that? 90% of the time, it ends up costing me waaaaay more money than if I had just let someone else-- oh, I don't know, an expert-- do it for me. But you really can't put a price tag on the satisfaction of knowing that you did this, you made this, you are handy and generally awesome. 


Which brings me to Spruce. Upholstery is one of those skills that I really, really want to add to my arsenal. However, I am self-aware enough to know that now is not the time in my life to start ripping apart my furniture so I can add a new talent to my resume. I have neither the time nor the money for this adventure, but that doesn't mean that I can't read the book and live vicariously through Amanda Brown for a while until I'm a little more settled, right? Right.

First of all, the book is beautiful. Filled with pictures, as all good design books should be, it walks you through the steps of upholstery with well illustrated, colorful pictures. The inside front and back cover (two pages that I feel tell you a lot about a book and the care that went into writing and designing it, and as such, can offer a hint to the quality of book one will find inside-- too much? no?) have a great turquoise pattern that sets the tone for the rest of the book.

While I can't dedicate the attention and resources to recovering my furniture, I am in the process of building a day bed for our roof deck (again, why pay $800 for outdoor furniture when you can learn how to build it yourself and use power tools??) and need to sew a box cushion for the mattress on the bed. While I have a general idea of how this is done, I didn't think it would hurt to follow some instructions. After all, sewing in a zipper isn't the easiest thing on the planet, and my sewing accomplishments are mostly limited to napkins. For the most part, I found the instructions to be clear and easy to follow, but there were certainly a few spots where I thought a well placed illustration pointing out explicitly what was being talked about, rather than a general shot of the action at hand being undertaken, would have been even more helpful.  But overall, I thought it was well written and informative. This didn't stop me from making a colossally stupid mistake* but that was purely operator error and cannot in any way be blamed on the book.


If you're interested in learning about upholstery, I definitely suggest picking up a copy of Spruce. And if you're in the Austin area, the gang at Spruce offers classes (I can see my mother-in-law and I enjoying ourselves at one of these on our next trip to Texas). Maybe we can learn how to make this sweet ottoman below...

xoxo, rachel.


*A primary rule of design is measure twice, cut once. Whether sewing or building a house, you should always, always, always double check your measurements. Right? Right. Well, keeping this in mind, I measured my daybed mattress repeatedly. I calculated the amount of fabric I would need for a box cushion, rounding up for safety's sake, being sure to include seam allowances all the way around. I repeated the numbers to myself over and over in the name of vigilance…. and yet still ending up cutting the width of the fabric 3 inches too narrow. I looked at the number-- I think it was 39 inches-- a number I had measured at least three times, and then promptly cut the fabric to be 36 inches wide. And the worst part is that I was so obnoxiously confident that I had done it right -- I looked right at that 36 inches and my mind read it as 39-- that it wasn't until I was almost in tears trying to wrangle the mattress into the cushion that somewhere in my subconscious, a little bell went off. A tiiiiny little bell that sounded an awful like "You idiot…". Oh well. Just in case there was any doubt (HA), I am not perfect. The worst part is, I had bought the last five yards of this particular fabric, so I couldn't even go back to the store and get more to start over. Nope. On the bright side, I got practice sewing in a zipper. On the down side, I have yet to get my courage back up to try again. But I will! Eventually. One day. I hope.