Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was talking with my upholstery mentor and dear friend, Steve Cone.
For who-knows-what reason, I happened to mention attached cushion ottomans – a style which I find to be particularly tedious and frustrating.
They take way too long!!!!! They never fit quite right!!!! You end up fussing with them forever!!!!!
In conclusion, there is no way to win. You cannot possibly charge enough for the hours involved, and all the hours in the world aren’t sufficient anyway. They NEVER come out just right.
For such a skilled and revered professional, he is possibly the humblest and most patient person I know.
“MmmmHmmmm. . . ” he nodded and shrugged, non-committally.
“They really aren’t too bad . . . Once you know the process. It’s one of the projects in my book . . .”
‘WHAT.’ I thought, ‘Does Steve Cone know, THAT I DON’T KNOW?????’
(Steve knows many things that I don’t know – we don’t call him, “The Upholstery Yoda” for nothing. But we’re only talking about ottomans right now.)
So I went home and cracked my copy of Singer Upholstery Basics Plus:.
Sure enough, there was a detailed section on attached cushion ottomans, just the thing I despised. It offered a very articulate approach, with photos and clear steps. It was quite different from the numerous ways I’d tried before – he didn’t even take apart the old cover!! It was an elegant process based entirely on the dimensions of the ottoman.
So I tried it.
I wouldn’t say I love attached cushion ottomans – I still think they’re fussy and aggravating . . . BUT I’m making WAY better time on them, and feeling infinitely more pleased with my results.
Now here’s the moral of my little story:
I simply did not know what I did not know.
I assumed attached cushions were just that difficult, that time consuming. I couldn’t even imagine a simpler way.
I had a process, cultivated through trial and error, that was working for me . . . more or less.
I was not actively looking for new information: it came to me through a fortunate and somewhat random encounter with a very experienced peer.
Again and again, this has been the case.
I’m a darn solid self-teacher, and extremely good at physical problem solving when it comes to furniture and fabric.
I can scrap with the best of ’em.
And that’s fortunate, because those who require all the answers will not do well in upholstery.
But again and again, I’ve been reminded that there is much to be learned from other people. It’s good to keep the door open.
It’s why I’m such an advocate for education, particularly the networking that comes with it.
Whatever we set out to learn? Why, that’s great! But sometimes the most valuable lessons aren’t even the ones we’re seeking.
Our very best work rarely happens in a vacuum.
I don’t know how many hours I’ve saved over the years based on my chance encounter with Steve – to say nothing of increased satisfaction with the final product . . . I only know that I’m glad I happened to be a member of the PUAM, and I’m glad it led to a friendship with Steve. and I’m glad that I owned his book and I’m glad we were talking about ottomans 🙂
I wonder what I’ll be glad about next?
Steve’s excellent section on attached cushion ottomans is a staple in my shop – I pull it out whenever I need a refresher for a student or client project. His book is a veritable treasure trove of information, but this section alone would justify its modest price tag ($20)
You can find it on Amazon using my affiliate link:
If you prefer a signed copy, I usually keep a few at the shop 🙂
(P.S. one thing I do differently than Steve is that I fill my ottoman cushion through the bottom panel, instead of hand stitching it closed along the seam. I’m sure Steve would approve)