Replace or attempt to repair original tapestry on 1860s chair?

jlc102482August 8, 2011

I just bought a great 19860s rocking chair over the weekend. It has its original finish and upholstery. I LOVE the original tapestry design and I think it really makes the piece. Unfortunately, it's so worn and faded that I don't want to leave it as is.

After browsing extensively, I think I'd be hard pressed to find another period textile that would look similar to the original design, that would be in my price range, AND that wouldn't make me cringe to cut up. I also haven't found any reproduction textiles that look remotely like the original design.

I know how to do needlework, but I'm no pro. Am I insane to try and attempt to repair/redo the original pattern? Should I just replace it instead? If you were me, what would you do?

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jlc102482

Here's a full view of the rocker. Under the left arm, the textile is in great condition with bright colors and a nice plush surface.

Please ignore the terrifying, vertigo-inducing linoleum.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:33AM
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lindac

What you have is a "carpet rocker" so called because they were often upholstered with a piece of carpet. It doesn't appear that your chair's upholstery is an original piece of hand done needle work and I think it would be very difficult to repair.
I would remove the stuff on the left arm and clean the rest and let it be.....while you try to fine a piece of antique carpet to do a more permanent re do.
Or....you could make needle point replacement pieces....
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 10:59AM
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lindac

And I think your chair is lots newer than 1860.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:08AM
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jlc102482

Really? Hmm.... How new do you think it is?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:12AM
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cyn427

I know this is anathema to purists, but I would redo it in a bright, fun, bold, modern upholstery. I am linking to a blog with a picture of one done that way. Not exactly like yours, but the idea of what I like. Give it time to load, it comes right after the first pic and before all the comments. I have also seen wonderful redone furniture (not the highly valuable stuff, of course, but solid with great lines) where the frame is also painted in a bright color as well. It is a very cool look if you are not locked into all traditional furniture.

Here is a link that might be useful: bright chair

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 1:16PM
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calliope

Carpet rockers were in vogue from around 1860-1880. I was hesitant at first because of the black/gold finish on it, but after poking around on the inet, I found several pictures of very similar rockers with the same finish, original to that period. If a piece like that happened into an antique shop, a seller would of course without further documentation and a quick google know the period in which these were made. It would be very easy, knowing they were made as early as this to present or interpret the earliert date as the age of the rocker. So really, it would likely have been anywhere in that timeframe. The spindle style is vague enough that alone would make it hard to date any closer.

As said, it doesn't appear to be anything other than loomed. I have seen very similar designs in other pictures of almost identical rockers with almost identical carpet patters. The probability it is loomed doesn't mean it can't be as early as 1860. Narrow loomed carpet was available long before that.

Is the covering original? I dunno but I believe it's totally possible. Will it hurt the value of the rocker if replaced? Given the condition of the only arm covered in it, possibly not. What I would do, however, is to carefully remove the pieces, and put them away so that if you do decide to ever sell the piece, they are available to the new owner. Then I'd replace the carpeting with new so the piece would be functional. It's your decision.

A lot of repros of carpet rockers were made, btw, offshore. But given the carpet style and condition, I don't think this is one, unless someone actually used old material to cover it with at some time. General wear and tear on the rocker bottoms should help you identify that issue.

How far off the floor is the seat? It's hard to tell by this photograph the size of the unit. Is it a child's rocker? That may impact value. I just gave a relative a precious little antique child's rocker and they are quite collectable in this area.......more so than an adult rocker.

My guess on age, just from the photo is anywhere up to late 1800s and that opinion is worth what you paid for it. ;-) It's a cute piece.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 1:20PM
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lindac

From what I know....from years of seeing antiques and styles and also from searching the web, that style of rocker with the turnings was popular around 1880 and after.
But what really puzzles me is the apparent lack of wear on the chair itself. I see no evidence of wear on the place on the chair where hands would rest or on the ends of the rockers where feet might have rested . I am having trouble figuring out how that rocker could be so well used as to wear out the fabric yet the paint could show no wear.
I have 4 black painted Hitchcock chairs, new in 1956 or so that show considerable paint wear.
A closer look at the fabric and the back of it should help put a date on that...is it tufted, jacquard loomed, selvege edge etc.
Is the seat the same as the back? Is it possible that an unscrupulous dealer would take a very new repro and put an old hunk of stuff on it and jack up the price several hundred dollars? anything is possible I suppose.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:14PM
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jlc102482

Thank you all so much for the information!

I have to note, the photos are very deceiving. I discovered that when I took a photo of the chair with my camera phone, the carpet pattern was way more discernible in the photo than it is in person. That's why I used these two photos - I was trying to show the pattern.

In person, there is no gold paint left on it except for a few tiny flakes in a couple crevices. The black finish has faded to a dark brown, and the tops of the arms where your hands rest are worn down to the bare light-colored wood (right more than left). I think I need to break out my real camera and take some photos with it instead! :)

To answer calliope's question, this rocker is quite small but probably not small enough to be a child's rocker. I'm 5'4" and I feel a bit cramped in it, like my legs are a touch too long for it. I have a low Eastlake side chair that feels the same way. Not exactly comfy, but they sure are pretty.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:59PM
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calliope

That style of rocker had disappeared from mainstream catalogues from at least mid-1880s on. One can find carpet-upholstered seats and backs by then, but it was applied over wood and usually padded.

Since my fascination is with furniture of the Victorian/Edwardian era, I've also kept a large selection of magazines and catalogues from that era I was fortunate enough to inherit. It's sort of like going to the horse's mouth when in doubt of what was popular from that timeframe on. "What was popular" of course doen't give the last word on identifying any particular piece, but is a very valuable tool when one first ball-parks dating.

So, I don't really think this style rocker was popular in the 1890s or afterward or it would have been represented in advertising. I can't find one example of them in the catalogues, and it isn't worth the time it would take to browse several hundred homemaker's magazines.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 4:13PM
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jlc102482

Looking through period magazines and catalogs is a great idea, Calliope. Would you mind telling me some of the more useful catalog or magazine titles that you have? I'd love to keep an eye out for them on eBay and in my antiquing travels. Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 8:32AM
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Fori is not pleased

I don't mind the linoleum, but that orange shopping bag...my eyes! :P

That's an interesting chair, and I'd love to see some closeups of the fabric (but I will not be helpful at all because I know absolutely nothing. I'm just nosy.).

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 12:28PM
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kterlep

I suspect that is the original covering/finish. Black with gold highlights(ebonized) finish was very popular around 1880, especially when paired with fabrics that people thought were evocative of the Far East (although a lot of artistic license was taken). This chair is Aesthetic Movement in style (at least as far as color of finish and what is left of the fabric. I would guess that the chair was not use much and the fabric has just shattered/decomposed over time, giving the illusion of hard use. Perhaps there is sunlight damage to the fabric, etc.

Here is a link to a very fancy cousin of this chair in the brooklyn museum. Note that the linked chair is made of bamboo, while the chair in question is obviously turned of hardwood. But you can get a lot of ideas about the aesthetic movement, color, and fabric options from the link.

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/2006/Rocking_Chair_Faux_BambooAesthetic_Movement_style

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 8:24AM
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