Happy Ending & French Settee Makeover

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, upholstery64 Comments

A few weeks ago, my mom called me, excited about a message that was on my Facebook page.  “Did you see the comment from Albert Crombie’s family?”  I had to think a minute.  From who?  Oh yes!  The bag!!  As soon as I was at a computer, I looked at the comment.

“Hi! I just saw a post from your blog back in Aug. 2011 about a WW1 mail pouch you found at a yard sale. It was my grandfather’s, Albert Lufkin Crombie! My dad was his only child. Do you still have it?”

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you may remember this mail pouch that I acquired almost two years ago…


At a YARD SALE!  For $10.00!!!  I wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but I felt like I needed to buy it and try to find the family it belonged to.  I put out a call for help to my readers and some of them snooped around in Ancestry.com and found some information about Albert Crombie, the owner of the bag, and his family.  I tried to contact the family we could find through Facebook, but never heard anything back.

I think my husband brought up the thought that maybe the family got rid of this intentionally and didn’t want it.  But, maybe, it was like my Opa’s attic…when he was serving in WWII, his mother dumped out a box of “old belt buckles and stuff.”  It turns out that old box of junk was uniform pieces and trinkets from the Civil War that were found around the crater site and battlefields in Petersburg, VA.  (My Opa used to ride a pony through the tunnel that was dug to make the crater when he was a boy.  It collapsed years ago, but that’s pretty cool, huh?)  Anyway, maybe this bag was put in a junk box inadvertently and somehow ended up in a yard sale in Gettysburg, PA.  Who knows?  But I felt like I needed to hang onto it…just in case.

So, after almost two years of keeping this bag in a drawer in my kitchen and almost 100 years after a young Albert kept a record of his WWI service, Patti, Albert’s granddaughter, contacted me through Facebook, excited to see her grandfather’s WWI mail pouch in an old post on my blog.  How amazing is that?  I just mailed it out to her today and I’m so thrilled that this little piece of history is going back to the family to which it belongs.

I just love happy endings.


So, we’re going to go backwards for a post here and there, so I can show the pieces I worked on for Lucketts.  As I’m getting ready for the event, I have to move at a crazy fast pace, so I don’t have the time to post all of the details.  Now that it’s over and the dust is settling, I can go back and share a bit more of the how.

Do you remember this settee?

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I know it doesn’t look too bad in the pictures.  It really wasn’t too bad, but the fabric wasn’t upholstery weight, so it was worn, faded and torn in some places.  It was also pretty dirty.  I actually found ladybugs in the tufts and under the cushion.  Plus the cording was pretty tired-looking.  So, I stripped everything off of the frame, including the padding.

This is when things get a little scary.

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But I press on…

I sanded the frame, just to scuff up the shiny finish.

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…and painted it in MMS Milk Paint in Grain Sack, which is a neutral light gray color (and definitely my favorite for upholstered furniture frames.)

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I did add some of the bonding agent to the paint, because I wanted good adhesion.  I applied a very sloppy coat of paint, which is okay for small, carved surfaces like this.

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Once the sofa was stripped, I noticed that it was meant to be upholstered in three separate panels.  The tufting, while pretty, just didn’t feel right and seeing the frame confirmed that the tufting was a later addition.  I decided to take the piece back to the way it was meant to be.

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So, I reused the padding, but filled in the holes created by the tufting with with some excess padding.

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I also added a layer of batting to smooth out the lumpiness…

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Once the fabric was stretched tight, it was nice and smooth.

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Yeah…these pictures are out of order.  I finally got around to taking a picture of the finish, which was distressed with some 100 grit sand paper (by hand) and then I applied a light coat of MMS Furniture Wax.  I did this before adding the fabric.

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This piece was definitely the most time consuming project of the fair, but I love how it turned out.

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I added some cream gimp trim and made a cover for the seat (with a zipper and all…fancy.)

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Look at the amazing texture on that vintage Hungarian linen…love!  I have ordered some more and can’t wait to get it to work on more upholstery projects.

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I even like how the original seams on the linen blankets show in a few places.

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I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of this piece all prettied up with pillows on it!  Darn it!

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More Lucketts before and after to come…

AND I haven’t forgotten about the I’m-sad-I-couldn’t-come-to-Lucketts-giveaway.

Happy Ending & French Settee Makeover

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64 Comments on “Happy Ending & French Settee Makeover”

  1. Miss Mustard Seed…the story about the mail bag is priceless. Bless you for looking for this family and for sharing the item with the granddaughter. You are a treasure!

  2. The mail bag is pretty much what happened to us. I put mine and my husbands ancestry on ancestry.com and about a month ago, this girl from France emailed me and wanted to know if we were the family of Nicholas Kochek. Her friend found his WWII dog tag in an area near Brévand, France which is near Normandy. See, my husbands father is considered a hero in France because he single handedly rounded up a town of German Nazi’s and brought them in while fighting for the French Underground in WWII. His dog tag was lost in that area and was recently found and returned to us by our newfound friends in France. The emotion of it all was overwhelming for my husband and I. It was also a great piece of history to pass onto our son who is a huge WWII buff! It turns out that our friends in France also do WWII re-enactments celebrating what my husbands father did for their country in helping to free them from the Nazi’s. I hope you know how much your returning the bag to his family meant to them. God Bless!

  3. Love it !! I have a old chair frame (with no batting ) That I would love to do something with but not sure where to start I may have to look at it again. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I love the settee. The paint and fabric combination is wonderful. I have a set if four chairs from the 1860’s that would be beautiful painted like this but I can’t bring myself to do it. So I drool over other peoples projects!

  5. What an awesome story! I love the mailbag’s journey…how he kept a note of each place. So many people died in that war, he probably wanted to leave a record behind, and that he survived and they have this is wonderful.
    I love the settee…I bought someone’s reupholstery project, but I don’t feel they went far enough in fixing the frame and support for it first, so I am hoping to redo their redo sometime when I get the courage…did you take an upholstery class or teach yourself? It’s rather intimidating…anyway, I love the linen and the paint linen color also…

  6. Love the story and love the settee. What is the Etsy store where you buy the Hungarian linen. I did find the “grain sack” shop. Any other fabric favorites on Etsy? Thanks so much

  7. Kudos for you for listening to that voice telling you to keep the bag. And the settee is pretty wonderful. I have a question, though and can’t seem to answer it myself. I can’t find where your video tutorials are located. Can you direct me? (it’s probably right under my nose)

  8. Totally awesome about the mailbag. It reminds me of a book titled “when God winks.” The settee turned out wonderful. Thanks for the pix of it.

  9. I love how this settee turned out!! I almost couldn’t wait to reach the bottom of the post so I could see the finish product..haha! How silly am I? 🙂

  10. How wonderful that the family found you!!! What a wonderful piece of history.
    I’ve been on the hunt for a French settee except I am wanting to go bold with red and white checks!

  11. Anything with a French settee in it and I am hooked and reading about it. You did a great job with this one! Wish I could attempt something that ambitious…one day! Thanks for the post!

  12. This settee is gorgeous! Love the linen and the trim adds just the right touch. That’s also exciting about finding the family of the mail bag carrier. How blessed they must feel to have that in their hands.

  13. Love, Love the settee. Wow what a heartstopper. I’m also so glad you found the family of that bag. I love that story and the stories shared on your comments sections. I love all my family tokens and the stories they tell. Di@Cottage-wishes

  14. That settee is so gorgeous, I absolutely love your work an end results.

    The story of the WWI mail bag is great. I just picked a WWII mailbag at Springfield’s Extravaganza, not as cheap as yours, but close. And no written history on it, except for tags indicating it was shipped from Great Britain; just a sentimental reminder of my dad, who served in that war. 🙂

  15. It is gorgeous! But please, please, please, tell me … how did you learn to reupholster? I would love to try my hand at it, but I have no idea where to start. I can cover a simple chair seat (the kind you unscrew, remove, and cover), but that’s it. Are there books or DVDs on how to learn to do this?

  16. How wonderful that the mail bag will be going back to the family. There is nothing better than a happy ending! Your settee turned out beautiful. Love the fabrics and trim you chose.
    Have a Lovely Day,
    Pieced Pastimes

  17. Marion,this may sound silly,but you are a “cool” person. To be so real all the time. Thank you for being a light in my day. Have a great day.

  18. That is lovely! And I’m hoping you have some pics of how you did that chair with the rolled and tucked back – can’t remember what you called it. It’s the one you have in your home now! I have a chair that started out with a back like that and I’m not sure how to go about getting it back together now that i have it torn apart!

  19. How did you learn to do upholstery?
    I love how you “just take it apart” and then
    refresh it up to what is wonderful.

    Thanks for such an informative,
    funny, and inspiring blog.


  20. It looks wonderful and totally worth all the hard work I know you put into it. I might have a hard time parting with it. You sure are one talented gal and am so grateful you are willing to share your talents.

  21. It is exquisite! The linen is incredible, so much texture, so much “chi” – and… i really like the color grainsack. It’s the perfect color combination! That is one yummy little settee!


  22. what a great happy ending story!

    the sofa I reupholstered had hidden separate panels too! must have been popular to cover them up for a one panel solid/tufted back. maybe they thought it was less work but the way ours was done looked way more difficult then doing the separate panels.

  23. Thank you for sharing that wonderful story! How precious for the family to have the mail bag after a such a long time…
    The settee is amazing. I love your courage; how you just go ahead and do something like that! I have been following your blog for a little while now and you have inspired me to start working on projects myself (never thought I had it in me). No, no complicated settees yet, just some painting, but a big step for me! Thank you for sharing your projects and journeys with others!

  24. I love that story about the mail bag!! Your settee turned out amazingly. I absolutely love it. I have an antique couch in my garage that I’ve been putting off because I got stuck while doing my last reupholstery project and never finished it. Now I’m scared of trying again. 🙁 This post helped though 🙂 When you make a new cover for a cushion that had piping on it do you still just put your new cover right over it? Or do you take off the old cushion cover?? My antique couch has 6 cushions with piping and I’m not sure what to do!

    Hope your week has been nice and quiet and relaxed 🙂 Well, at least compared to the weeks leading up to Lucketts 😉

  25. I love the mailbag story and what a great job you’ve done with the seat. Love it all..
    thank you !!! 😉

  26. I’m so choked up over the mail bag story. Technology can be an amazing thing! So many things get cast off without people realizing what they have. It was so nice you knew to hold on to it. Beautiful Job…as always!

  27. Marian: you continue to amaze me.
    LOVE the bag story; what a thrill for their family & for yours!
    LOVE the settee; it is exquisite! So, did it sell at the LSale or do you get to keep it a bit longer?
    Question: how did you attach the fabric? Staple gun? Little nails? Can’t see it well enuf to tell? If staple gun, what size staples? And is it a regular-hard-to-push-the-handle-down staple gun, about 6-8 inches long & 4-5 inches tall?

    Thanks. Love ur work, ur Attitude, ur ideas, ur book, ur house, ur tutorials–would love to meet U!! Ever out to Portland OR?

    1. Oh, sorry, Susan! I try to answer all of the questions, but definitely don’t always get to all of them all of the time. I attached the fabric with staples using a pneumatic upholstery staple gun. It’s not the manual or electric staple guns. Those are too bulky and not powerful enough for upholstery. Trust me, I’ve tried!! The one I own is the Porter Cable 22 gauge upholstery staple gun and it’s worked beautifully for me. You can get it for $85 on Amazon, but you do need a compressor to work with it. I use 1/4 – 5/8″ depending on what I’m stapling and how many layers.

      My brother and sister-in-law live in Portland, so I’ll be up that way one of these days!

  28. What a wonderful ending for that WWI mail bag story! I am glad the family of the bag’s owner managed to find you.

    As for the settee, I have a question for you, Marian. When will you have some tutorials up for all the upholstery work you are doing? 🙂
    I am currently in the upholstering mode. Just got fabric in today for reupholstering my “new old” dining room chairs. They are really easy to do, but I have seen some amazing living room pieces at local antique shops that I didn’t even dare think of bringing home because they would require much more involved upholstery jobs. That’s where a tutorial would come in handy.

  29. So glad you might put some of this linen up for sale. I would love to make a pillow or two. I just love textiles!

  30. How did you apply the gimp trim on the settee? Was it sewn, glued or stapled? Very nice! You really have a knack for this.

    1. I used hot glue. When I first started upholstery, I thought it couldn’t be that simple, but every piece of trim I’ve removed from upholstered pieces has been glued as well. You can hide some tacks and staples in as well, but I have found it’s not really necessary. The glue will hold it very well.

      1. MMS: please answer my questions from the above post from SusanF in Portland; I need your answers! AND once again, I love everything you do and esp. THE book!

  31. I’m a history nerd and my favorite stories are the personal ones! I have some of my grandfathers’ war memorabilia, and if the family is anything like me, Im sure they were thrilled and overjoyed that you still had the mail bag and were willing to part with it! I’m currently hoping someone among my father’s siblings has some leftover horse pictures or paintings from my grandfather. I can’t quite get into the cow decorating, but I think horses might be an acceptable substitute!

  32. I just loved the story about the mail pouch. I’m so glad you saved it. The family you sent it to had to be thrilled to get it. Yes, a very happy ending.

    The settee…. that padding and the lady bugs scared me ;)… just kidding. Of course, once you got your hands on it the beauty came out. Excellent job. I know you sold it, but I thought it was absolutely beautiful!! Great job as usual.

  33. Love the story of the mail bag. Brought a tear to my eye.
    Wish the settee had not sold and it could come live with me!!!!! LOVE IT!

  34. Thank you so much for the tutorial, I am about to tackle a duvet myself. I have a question on another note, can you recommend a good machine to put digital download images on fabrics such as tea towels pillows etc… I really do not know even know what you would call a machine like that.

    Thank You!

  35. A couple years ago I went with my mother, sister and aunt to Norway where my grandmother’s people were from. My sister and I had been pen pals with my grandmother’s cousin’s grandchildren for years and were excited to meet. My mother brought many photo’s with her hoping someone in this family could tell her who everyone was. In this mess of photos she had 2 poloroids. The rest were black and whites. In Oslo, we were surprised to be met by an Uncle Inar. We had no clue who he was but had been dispatched by a cousin to meet us in Oslo. My mother keep at him about looking at the photos. He kept pleading sorry, he wouldn’t know who anyone was. Once back to the hotel, he looked, to be nice. Those poloroids, were of his only son who had died in 1973 at age 16 months of lymphoma with all the cousins and his mother. No one else had seen them either. They were taken before the diagnosis. My mother traveled so far to meet with someone she never knew exsisted to give to him an incredible gift. I still tear up. As a mother, I cannot imagine. God works in mysterious ways, this one was a happy one.
    Sorry to take up so much space. Settee, gorg!

  36. Such a wonderful story! Not everyone would have recognized and respected the value and history of that mail bag. So much family history is lost forever because people just throw things out.

  37. I was so moved and touched about the mail pouch story. It occurred to me about the world of Facebook. Most people think it stupid and frivoulous and waste of time, especially people of my age bracket. Since we started our farm in 2006, I had thought about using Facebook but resisted. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago I took a social media class and got past the issue of the negatives and started treating it as a positive-a business/friendship positive. Through Facebook, I have met via internet the most amazing, talented, giving and interesting people, such as you!! From Facebook to blogs – another avenue to learn, to teach, to connect. You touched a life in the most astonishing way-you connected the dots from the beginning to the end, a mail pouch to the blood relative. I have truly been inspired today, all because of Facebook and to your blog and to me. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Thank you so much for your inspiring blog! I love the the happy ending to this story, I’m glad the family was interested in this wonderful piece of history…it seems so much of the younger generation could care less about these amazing artifacts that have survived.

    I found your blog several months ago and have went back and read every post ( I know, a little OCD, but I didn’t want to miss a bit of info or insight!) and just wanted to let you know what a special talent you have! While I truly love your design style and your great how-to’s, I think the way you relate every story and make everyone feel like your friend is your greatest talent!

    Thank you for sharing your design business (and your day to day life) with us!
    (PS. Love the linen, too!)

  39. I have tears in my eyes reading about the WWI bag! Amazing.So glad you trusted ur heart!! ( We girls need to do more of that!).. Glad I keep your e-mails until I get around to reading them.. btw love the settee!

  40. That is just SO awesome about the bag ~ that must make your heart so happy! 😀 Ah, and I love this makeover. I actually find so many beautiful pieces like this for under $100 where I live and would LOVE to fix them up, but so intimidated by it! I might just need to scout out a great reupholsterer??? Hmmm….. GREAT JOB!!!

  41. I love this such a beauty….and I know the new owner is so happy..I truly hope you are signing in a secret place your signature….your touch to bring back a piece of beauty.
    The story of the bag so touched me, show who you are more then you know…I young lady has a piece of history,because someone cared….I have 2 works that I love…Hope is my favorite and Care is my second.

  42. I love all the vintage linens/bags you use in your upholstery projects and it sounds like you order them from Europe on occasion. Would you mind please sharing your suppliers as I live in Denmark and unfortunately our supplies here are limited. Since Germany and Hungary are not too far away I thought I could try ordering from there but would prefer to order from a trusted supplier.
    I admire all your projects and from time to time try my hand at a few but nothing as fabulous as yours

  43. Marion, I need your help! I bought a settee EXACTLY like this yesterday and am so excited to work on it. I don’t sew however, so I’m a little scared about the reupholstery process. I was wondering if there would be any way I could make the bottom seat attached, instead of a cushion? That way I could upholster it as a whole piece, instead of having to get a cover for the cushion sewn? Do you think that would work? I would LOVE any thoughts!

    1. Well, you can. I’ve done that before with a chair, but I have to say that it’s not always a success. If that’s the way you want to go, I would suggest covering the cushion and front of sofa in one piece of batting, then upholstering it, so it looks like one piece. Does that make sense?

      1. Thanks so much Marion for your thoughts. That was exactly what I was thinking of trying . . . I guess if it doesn’t work I can take it apart and try something else 🙂 I’ll try and remember to email you a picture when I get finished. Thanks again!

  44. I can’t stop looking at that settee!!! I just love it. Tried reupholstering for the first time today, and I can honestly say – I’ve caught the bug. Now I need to find myself a lovely settee. . .

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