Keeping Busy

Many of you asked about before and after pictures of my friend’s kitchen, unfortunately I can’t show that to you.  She has lived here for almost 7 years and while the kitchen was in a shambles when she rented it living in a place that long you begin to feel a sense of responsibility for how it looks.  She is embarrassed about how it appears and doesn’t want me to share pictures of the room itself.

Had I thought to snap pictures of the first drawer I could have shown you the finish which was very dark but the best I can do is show you the after of this one particular drawer for now.  While she and I talked about painting the kitchen when it came time to begin working on the room her boyfriend announced no painted cabinets, he likes wood.  These cabinets have solid wood fronts with a dark veneer.  The pulls were very old, tarnished and dated.  I knew she wouldn’t be able to refinish the cabinet bases herself and had to assume they would remain dark so here is the drawer that was sent to me which started the process in saving her kitchen.

upcycled drawer

Click on image to see larger picture

When this drawer arrived it was in pieces with various screws and nails attempting unsuccdessfully to hold it together.  I immediately set to work removing the screws and nails then gluing it back. I was excited to have a challenge to work on that the idea of pulling out my phone to snap pictures never entered my mind. Sorry about that.  With a bit of help from my staple gun this baby won’t be coming apart any time soon.  Then I went to work sanding off the veneer.  As I sanded I tried to think how this drawer would work if the bases weren’t going to be refinished and it dawned on me that I could leave a bit of the dark stain on the edges to show off the raised panel and tie in with the dark base.  Then it was a simple matter of finding 13 of the same pulls that would work in this kitchen.

I decided to go with this Lucite pull which is large enough for a man’s hand yet wouldn’t distract from the wood and is easy to clean with no details to scrub around. I had to keep in mind this is a rental and wanted to use something that wouldn’t accumulate grime or tarnish.

An ongoing project

While I have whined enough about the weather it really has been hard on me this winter causing pain I don’t normally have.  I had a mental list of things I wanted to do this winter while stuck inside but have not accomplished even half of them.  One that has been a long time coming, is still ongoing.  That is this bed frame found in the trash last May when the students left for summer.  I knew i wanted to keep this for myself so it was put on the back burner.  I’ve worked on it here and there, but always after working on things for other people.

The children get so excited to see a new project and ask to be able to sand and repair them.  Here’s a picture of the bed frame as we found it.

This will be my new bed frame, it will be next on my list of items to work on.

This is a wood frame with a veneer that was primed and painted with black enamel, although they stopped with the black on the inside of the foot board so that may be easier to sand down.  I finally finished the headboard….with a lot of help.


This is another of those pieces that I start with very little idea how I will finish it.  There is a section which is offset from the rest which I felt needed something but I had no idea what at the time.


In the end I decided to leave this panel alone as the black ties in with other items around the apartment including pretty much every picture frame on my walls.


The children are so much fun to work with.  They understand which way to sand (with the grain not against it), they know where the rags are, and which ones work best to clean the dust, and they really have fun with the process.  They give me some great ideas as well because they don’t look at the trends or are swayed by how things should look.  This piece I kept simple and while listening to their suggestions passed on them this time.

With the headboard completed I had my friend, yes the one with the kitchen, send down the rest of the pieces to work on. My grandson asked if he could come spend a day with me so he could sand.  I accepted his offer gladly.  :-)  I figure I can set down the side rails one at a time and let him “have fun”.


Not a great angle but you can see how it turned out. After sanding off the layers of paint I wiped it down to remove all the dust and then simply gave it a coat of polycrylic which brought out the natural color of the wood.  Hopefully I will have the completed frame to show you in a week or two.

Facing a dilemma

One project I have been putting off has been the reupholstering of the free loveseat.  I have no intention of spending a lot of money to replace cushions and recover it but I do want it to be toxic free when I finish with it.


I removed the arms (which were one piece with the legs) when my ex broke the one side off and replaced them with the legs you see above.  These legs were table legs given to me by another friend who spotted them out for trash pick up. I had them cut down and the other portion went to make a stool by another friend to set in front of her favorite chair in her living room.

But here’s where my problem comes in.  I have been told exposure to latex can cause an allergy over time. That eliminated latex as a choice. I’ve looked at soy but then found that while this is an expensive option soy cushions aren’t all soy and are still very toxic.  I don’t want to go with the standard toxic cushions so this sits here, torn and shabby looking.  I want this to have one solid cushion. I toyed with the idea of trying to attach these two into one but they have no support left.  A very informative post on the soy cushions is by Oecotextiles.

What would you recommend?  I’d really like to get to work on this loveseat. I can see how it will look, it’s just a matter of deciding on inner materials.

46 thoughts on “Keeping Busy

    • Thanks, EcoGrrl. I didn’t know about the allergies until EcoCatLady mentioned her allergist told her never to use latex. That was my first indication it might not be the best choice.

      Everyone has had such good ideas I think I’ve narrowed it down to either a natural latex or a feather bed folded up to fit the loveseat. It feels great to finally have some direction here.


      • Well… my allergist is also my step-mother and she tends to be, ummm… perhaps just a tad bit over-opinionated, so you might want to take that advice with a grain of salt. Her stridency on this issue comes from the fact that one of her colleagues/patients developed a latex allergy, and because the stuff is ubiquitous in medical settings, he pretty much had to give up his medical career. So she is strongly opposed to the use of latex anywhere that it is not absolutely necessary.

        It is true that with increased exposure to ANYTHING you’re more likely to develop an allergy to it, especially if you’re pre-disposed to allergies (as I seem to be). But, lots of people sleep on latex beds every night so I don’t think it’s like a common thing to develop the allergy. Plus, I think the danger is greater with things like latex gloves that can tend to form powder that can be inhaled. That being said, a latex allergy would be a bad one to contract, and I am the world’s most allergic human, so I’ll probably stay away from the stuff.

        Plus… there are other factors to consider with latex. First of all, have you priced latex mattresses and pads? Holy moly!!! You could buy several brand new couches for the cost of one of those suckers! And also… just because it’s “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely safe. It’s basically made from the sap of some tree (I think) and as such is loaded with VOC’s (volatile organic compounds.) It’s like how everybody loves the smell of pine, but really it’s bad for your lungs. My vet actually advises against the use of pine cat litter for that reason.

        Anyhow, those are the reasons that I probably wouldn’t choose latex, but that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely bad solution.


        • Yes, I did price latex cushions and mattresses as one day I will need to replace my mattress too. That’s where a lot of my frustration comes in. I found this loveseat next to our dumpsters I cringe at the thought of putting a lot of money into it. I’m leaning towards a twin feather bed that I can fold up and then upholster over it. Much cheaper and guests will probably enjoy sinking into it although it wouldn’t be good support if one had back problems.

          Yes, latex comes from the rubber tree. I never thought about VOCs from plants, Sigh.


  1. another thing occurs to me.. Few yrs back, “down beds” (for company), and “down bed toppers” were quite popular. at least I seemed to run in to folks who had recently purchased these.

    if you could locate one of these, (maybe free to good home..grin), and again, sort of fold it up and secure with big spikes, might make a good start.


    • OK… so I’m hip-deep in this one too. When CatMan comes over for movie night, we like to snuggle together while we watch… but the TV is in the living room, not the bedroom, and his back problems mean that in order for him to be comfortable for the length of a movie, he pretty much needs to be horizontal.

      Sooooo… I got an old “feather bed” at a yard sale eons ago, and I drag it out for us to lay on during movie night. Problem is that during the past year of kitty urinary problems it got peed on. Oy! The thing is also at least 30 years old so I’m sure it’s full of dust.

      So I took it to a laundromat that had one of those enormous washers, and washed it… unfortunately it sorta sprung a leak – the feather bed that is, not the washer. I patched it, but alas, my patch did not hold, so now the thing is just a mess and there are feathers leaking out everywhere. I have a cover on it holding it all together, but that’s falling apart too, so I’m gonna have to come up with a better solution. Plus… I’m not convinced that it got as clean as I would like it to be.

      I looked at just replacing the thing, but feather beds ain’t cheap, plus all of the reviews seem to indicate that most of them are pretty chintzy on the feathers, so the things don’t have much bulk these days. Anyhow, my current plan is to try to take the feathers out and clean them… I’ve got both some net bags designed for putting delicate stuff in the machine, and some zippered pillow cases, so I’m planning on using those inside each other to contain the feathers in the wash. It will take several loads to do them all, but I think it should work.

      Then I need to make a new mattress out of them… I just need to figure out what kind of material to use that the feathers won’t be able to poke through. I don’t really want to shell out the money for actual ticking fabric, so I think I’ll go to the thrift store and see what I can find that might work.

      Anyhow… sorry to babble, but something like that might work for your situation too. You could get old feather pillows, or an old feather bed, take them apart, wash the feathers and use them to stuff a new cushion.


      • I like that idea. Cat, you seem to be running into a lot of problems from lead paint to your feather bed falling apart. Have you looked into a cloth drop cloth? They are less than $20 for a good sized one which would cover both sides and I find them unbleached so even though the cotton isn’t organic it has some benefits.


  2. That’s so cool you’ve taught your grandchildren to help like that. Several years ago we built a little shed in our yard and all the kids helped. It was a wonderful experience for them.


    • Christy, I always viewed children as simple small people who need some supervision. I had a couple of homes that needed a lot of work and my boys worked right with me. Just like the grandchildren they had their favorite jobs. One enjoyed painting more than hanging drywall, but that was okay they knew they were always welcome to join me. I used to even announce when I needed to do work on the car and ask if they wanted to help. Once I showed them how, such as body work I would give them their own area to work on trusting if they ran into problems they would ask.

      The grandchildren have even taken on jobs themselves. After learning which plants were weeds and helping in the garden they claimed a section to call their clubhouse and forbid anyone else from weeding or doing any work in there. They did a lovely job last year and can’t wait to get back out there this year. :-)


  3. Hmmm… I think non-toxic and non-allergic is a tall order for a piece of furniture these days. I’m grappling with similar issues with my dilapidated couch and loveseat. This sounds a bit crazy, but I wonder if one could craft cushions of some sort using old wool blankets as “stuffing”. Like maybe fold them up or something? Especially if you just want one long cushion, I think it could work. If you upholstered it with something that was removable, you could even take it apart and wash it. Perhaps it’s a crazy thought, I dunno…

    But speaking of non-toxic, I have a question for you regarding all of your sanding and painting projects. I’ve been eyeing my kitchen – well along with a bunch of other areas of my house that could use some fresh paint. But many of the areas are problematic because they have soooo many layers of old paint that would need to be removed before one could reasonably put a new layer on top. My house was built in 1954, and when I had a new door installed a few years back they tested and confirmed that there was lead based paint everywhere. So my question is, do you worry about lead toxicity with all that sanding? I figure that I could wear a mask, but I’m more worried about my cats if I were to fill the house with lead-laden dust. Any thoughts?


    • Dear ecocatlady, I like your idea about wool blankets better than mine about wool fleeces, much less work. The big problem is there is more awareness about recycling wool clothing and such to make felt. It may be hard to find wool blankets. The wool soaker group I belong to has lots of patterns to make soakers from old wool sweaters. The price of new made wool soakers is pretty high, though they are still worth it in savings over disposable diapers plus the health benefits for babies and the decreased “load” on the environment. As soon as my daughter announced her pregnancy, she put in a request for me to knit soakers to go with the cloth diapers she planned for the baby. My 5 cats produce so much fur I have started saving what I brush to act as centers for felt beads to conserve the nicer colored wool felt. Just can’t give them to anyone with cat allergies.


      • Hmmm… I have no earthly idea what a wool “soaker” is, but I’ll take your word for it that they’ve in demand.

        I think cotton blankets could work as well, but Lois is right, you’d need a LOT of them. Probably at least a dozen to make a pad that would be tall enough to work.


        • That was supposed to say “they’re in demand” not “they’ve in demand”. Guess spell checkers have their limitations! Can’t it just figure out what I meant to say? :-)


          • Ecocatlady (may I abbreviate that to ecl?), I had not really known what soakers were either until my daughter’s pregnancy. I had heard the term used in the yahoo yarn buying coop I belong to, many people wanted wool yarn in bulk for making soakers. Soakers are a return to what people used to prevent diaper leaks before plastic pants. They are knit, crocheted or felted from wool, panties/shorts/sleep sacks that go over cloth diapers and prevent leaking. The lanolin in the wool makes them keep wetness from leaking but the wool breathes, so you don’t get the hothouse effect of plastic pants. The wool and lanolin also have an antimicrobial effect, and lanolin helps neutralize urine odor and pH. In fact the soakers do not need to be washed with each change, they can be air or sun dried if they only have urine on them. After several washes, they may need more lanolin, but all that involves is taking a teaspoon of organic lanolin (the same used for diaper rash, cracked nipples and chapped hands) suspending it in hot water, then adding it to a pail of clean soakers, until they absorb the lanolin. The soakers can be washed in the washing machine set to cold and low agitation, then air dried. Wearing them, my grandson has never had diaper rash, they rarely leak or soak through, they felt a bit with wear but not badly. I worried that they would be too warm in Florida, but other yahoo group members in FL reassured me and my grandson has done fine. The biggest problem is keeping up with how fast he has grown. I am proud of my daughter, a working professional, doctor of PT since age 22 with a fellowship on women’s health, she specializes in exercises to help women with pelvic floor problems after pregnancy or with age. She just wrote a research paper on using an exercise routine she has developed that was beneficial to a woman with anorgasmia. Not curing cancer, but helping others with methods and problems that are not the type of thing that most young people would find appealing, most want to go into sports medicine and treat pro athletes. Anyway, my daughter works, does research, writes then publishes papers, breastfeeds, uses cloth diapers for her son and washes them, makes all the baby food from scratch with organic ingredients even his birthday cake. She still takes care of herself too, she has a beautiful face, figure and skin, mostly because she exercises, eats right and has used sense with skin care even as a preteen. She puts me to shame, and I am so proud of her.
            But after much digression, wool soakers are a healthy environmentally friendly alternative to plastic pants. There are vintage patterns to knit them, they predate plastic pants. But like you, not many know about them. Too bad, I would have used them with my kids. And today’s wool yarn is not the horrible scratchy stuff of my youth.


    • Cat, that loveseat is going to drive me nuts. I’ve thought about just using blankets, but it’s very low and because of the way the frame was built it would need a good 5 inches of blankets to make it work.

      When you mentioned when your house was built I was pretty sure you had lead paint. The safest thing to do is seal it with a good primer so it doesn’t flake then paint over it. Probably not what you wanted to hear.

      As for the pieces I restore, I can tell by the piece what the age is, if it is old enough to possibly have lead paint I store it until it’s warm enough to work on outside. The current piece I am working on has primer and an enamel paint (it looked just like a laminate). While the way it is constructed tells me it’s older the enamel paint tells me it was painted more recently.

      Even if you were to wear a mask and sealed off the room you were working in,the dust would get in every nook and cranny in your home. If any of your paint is chipping and flaking off it’s a serious danger to your cats and should be sealed quickly. Good luck with it.


      • Thanks for the advice on the lead paint… there is some that’s peeling on the window sills, so probably I should tackle that sooner rather than later. The other real issue is the kitchen cabinet doors… there is just sooo much old paint that they will hardly close. I was thinking that maybe I could use a heat gun to remove it rather than sanding… but I’m not sure if that’s safe either.


        • A heat gun would be a wonderful idea and yes it’s safe as you aren’t spreading dust all over and it makes the job easy.Just be sure to bag up the paint you removed and dispose of properly so the cats don’t eat any of it. I have wanted a heat gun for a while now, but am too stingy to shell out the money. :-)


  4. Are you allergic to wool? Some wool fleeces from sheep that are pets or petting zoo animals, not good enough quality for spinning, can be gotten for free and after cleaning could be made into cushions. I belong to a wool soakers group on yahoo that has instructions on how to make a futon cushion out of wool. I have 3 garbage bags of raw wool in the garage given to me for free by one of my son’s friends. They have some pet sheep that they shear with scissors. The fleece is poor for spinning but I plan to boil it for lanolin then use the rest for felting, if I can get some energetic young people to stomp on it in an old kiddie pool, it becomes a rug. It was going to be thrown away or burned. If I can track down the link for the futon cushion and you are interested, I can pass it on.


    • Maryalma, I know in the past wool was used, before the advent of the foam cushions we know today, but I have no idea how to make cushions from it. I could get animal hair from the zoo, but from there I am lost.

      Please, if you happen across information on how to do this I would very much appreciate it. If you lived near me I know a couple of children who would have a blast helping you. :-)


      • I wish I could borrow them. I want to make a felted wool rug from some of the free wool fleece. It involves putting the fleece in a kiddy wading pool, adding warm water and soap then agitating/felting it by having energetic little people (or a giant one like my 6’2″ son)stomp or dance around on it until it is felted. It conforms to the shape of the pool. It can be dyed before or after felting, if before, food grade dyes are safer for the little ones, though in something that isn’t washed often I could use beet juice instead of leftover easter egg dye or unsweetened Kool aid. As to the cushions, in the old days they used straw to stuff mattresses and cushions. Have you tried looking up foxfire articles or info on vintage, period or colonial furniture to see what people used before synthetics? Not always safe or nontoxic just because it is old, but may find some more ideas.


        • Straw we have plenty of around here and I would seriously look into this except my daughter-in-law is highly allergic to it.

          The little ones would have a blast stomping around in a kiddie pool for you especially if they knew this was a way of making wool. They are at that age of curiosity. My grandson asked to spend the day with me today so he could sand another piece of my bed frame. He didn’t get it completed but it’s amazing how those soft hands hold up while working hard. He fell asleep on my couch almost as soon as he laid down. :-) The children will always have pride when the frame is completed knowing they helped me with it.


  5. I hadn’t thought of the materials much before. Ive just bought foam in the past and made new cushions out of it. On another occasion I took apart older couch cushions from a Salvation Army couch and recovered them. They worked well, but again, I wasn’t thinking about the material contained in the cushions.

    I hope this winter is done soon too, for your sake and mine. I haven’t ventured outside much, being afraid to lose my footing and fall. The occupational therapist sent me a wheelchair to use, but I am stubborn enough and I think still able enough to tough it out without it. Hang in there, it will get warm again soon. Sorry to hear that it’s been a hard winter for you.


    • Heidi, in the past I did similar things by saving old cushions or buying a new one without thinking about the materials. It was only when we had our house fire and the firemen mentioned how quickly the cushions go up and what poisonous fumes they give off that I began to research alternatives.

      I can sympathize with you. I haven’t been outside any more than you. The ice and snow aren’t a good mix for a chair. I would hate to get stuck some where and have to call for help. That and it’s been so cold I would be in danger of hypothermia if I was out more than a few minutes.

      I held off on the wheel chair a few years longer than I should. I knew the minute I used one I would start to lose muscle even faster. But I got tired of watching everything from the sidelines and not being able to enjoy activities. You will know when you need it, but hopefully this will pass for you.


  6. Hi Lois. I hope all is well.

    I’m with quarteracrelifestyle in that I would also b hitting the thrift stores and checking the free section of Craigslist. But you may have already done those options.

    Nice to see your little people helping you out. They seem to truly love working with you which is a beautiful thing :)

    Take care and my best to all.



  7. If you have any allergies, I would avoid old cushions. After a couple of years, half of the weight of a pillow can be from dust mites. Looking forward to seeing the new headboard. The wood on the sneak peak you have given us is very pretty.


    • Yes, that was my first thought, that and the cushions break down into a dust that ends up in the air no matter how well covered they are. These are definitely being tossed, it’s only a passing thought when I get frustrated with trying to find the right material to replace it with.


  8. well, don’t know much about buying new cushions/products like this which are toxin free,

    how about an old futon, take the futon and bend/shape it to fit the sitting area/back. that way it would be one piece, and none of the nasty chemicals, which everything new seems to abound with.

    likely the futon would be a larger dimension than needed, but, maybe the sides/back could be nailed (tied?) into the frame with huge long spikes. the spike heads would get buried, and it would have a sort of over stuffed effect…

    ah well, one would have to stumble across an “old” futon in decent shape…


    • Thanks, Lynn. Good ideas here. I will keep my eyes open for an old futon mattress I can use to replace these cushions.

      I am still researching natural materials and looking something in a decent price that is truly non-toxic not just a bunch of greenwashing.


        • bet if you are lucky you could find a futon mattress which is hardly /if at all used. (so no mites fr sleeping etc).

          a few yrs back, seemed like everyone was buying one for company, and then not using them. good chance there are a goodly number of futon mattresses out there, unused/free to good homes.


          • Lynn, the idea of a futon mattress got me thinking. Instead of a futon I might look into a feather bed. Natural and compostable down the road if the loveseat needed to be disposed of. Thanks for getting my brain working.


        • See that’s the problem, what is out there that is truly non-toxic? I’m still leaning towards latex, but cover it well with a wool layer before the fabric. To cut down on the latex I’ve been looking at kapok for the back of the loveseat to be soft like a pillow.


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