Sunday, March 25, 2012


Those of you who lived in the Twin Cities metro area back in the early 80's may remember shopping at a chain called COMB. They were a retail liquidator, and one never knew what one would see the next time one poked one's head in.

I remember one purchase, extravagant for me at the time. It was a llama skin rug in the form of a sunburst, pieced together in a pattern mixing near-whites, browns and blacks, each shape shaved at the edges to produce a beveled effect. I paid $99 for it and considered myself a very clever shopper indeed to score such a find, even though parting with $99 then was a stretch.

It never made it onto the floor. Using small nails, it became a wall hanging, sitting above the headboard of my bed. When we moved, it moved. I thought about sewing a backing onto the outer curve and attaching loops with which to suspend it, or even inserting a curved piece of, say, bamboo, and setting it on top of the nails to hold it in place, but again wound up nailing it to the wall.

It never moved. I'm not one to rearrange my furniture on a whim, and my small bedroom has exactly one configuration for the furniture that makes sense to me. Besides, it was on the south wall, and I thought of it as extra insulation keeping out the heat in summer, and keeping in the heat in winter. It did collect dust, mainly powder I use on my skin in those places where it is helpful, and which always seems to collect extra deep in my room compared to the rest of the house on surfaces like shelves and lampshades. And rugs. When I finally inherited the Kirby, the first vacuum cleaner with hose attachments to grace this house, it finally got dusted.

It's not like I could take it down and shake it out, after all.

With the new house purchase, I finally got the itch to pull it down. Not to pack. No, this time to sell. I happen to know a guy who runs an auction business. The plan has become to sort out many of the items I've picked up these last few years, and after sorting out the ones I truly wish to keep, letting him auction off the rest for me, using the proceeds to cover moving expenses. Well, help anyway.

There was just a small hitch. It was, after all, nailed to the wall. I asked Paul to take a hammer and carefully pull out the nails holding it in place. Emphasis on carefully.

Paul put the emphasis on expediency. Once started, it practically fell off the nails holding it in place. He let it.

It's probably just as well. I doubt more damage was done than would have been done by somebody trying to be ultra careful with it and attempting to support it while removing nails. The skin had, in over more than 20 years, become brittle. In places a touch with a fingernail would poke a hole through it. I know. I tried it. Gently. It still worked.


Other sections of the skin were still sturdy, and the outward side looked just fine. It needed to be saved.

But how?

Obviously it wasn't going to some leather restorer. Transport alone would likely demolish it. Cost would be ridiculous. We're talking an initial outlay of $99 and a likely sale value of $20, more if I'm lucky. So the basic task was to make it sturdy enough to sell at a cost not to exceed likely return. Or, in other words, just make it useful to somebody else to enjoy rather than throw it out. It's not going to be a money maker.

Stabilization and support. That's the ticket. Stabilize the parts ripping apart so they hold together, and support all of it so it can be moved, examined, hung or walked on. Sturdy, cheap materials for stabilization, and a least-intrusive method of attachment. Sewing? Nope. Glue! But what kind?

I stopped at a fabric and crafts store one night on my way home and started asking questions. Nobody had an answer I liked, including the whole category of where-do-I-find-it? inquiries. Good thing I already had decided on the what-kind-of-backing issues. I had settled on, barring better information which was not forthcoming, using for stabilization of the cracking bits, cut pieces of the large stack of old white sheets I was hanging onto for that nebulous "whatever" purpose. There's a sack of about 25 pounds of them in the top shelf of the linen closet. Rather, there was. It's shy one sheet now - the leftovers are in the rag basket - and still seems to weigh 25 pounds, so somebody else is going to lift it back up onto that wee space on the top shelf and stuff, cram, shove, or shoehorn it back into position. The pieces where bits of sheet are glued look like some first-aid job.


The other decision I made, again barring better info which never came my way, was to use a single large piece of felt to glue behind the whole circle to support all of it against further damages as it continued to age. I did finally find a store employee who could point me to the bolts of felt, where I chose a neutral tannish color, then waited 20 minutes for someone to show up at the cutting counter to cut off my two yards.

Remind me again: why do I go to this store?

I finally found another clerk who knew the location of their glue selections, if not which type might be useful for my project. By now enough other customers had heard my questioning that I was becoming innundated with suggestions, none of which sounded like anybody had any more of a clue than I did on how to tackle the project, especially inexpensively. However, I was polite to all of them. Patience was made much easier since I scored the only battery shopping cart in the store as I first entered it. Otherwise the delays and lack of helpfulness would have made me downright snappish by this point, had I needed to be standing through all of it.

Still, I had to pick out my own glue. I'd had in mind something in a pot that could be spread on with a small paint brush to completely cover the skin before attaching backing. Squeezing tubes while wiggling them over the surface back and forth didn't appeal. However, nobody supplying glue to the store had my same vision of the job or my distaste of working my hands squeezing that long or that hard. It wasn't their hands, after all.

So, start with large bottles of glue and see what they've got. Spray cans were one fellow-customer's idea, and they were there, several varieties and brands. One or two might work on skins ( aka leather), all would hold fabric. All needed ventilation, and used the most amazing compilation of nasty chemicals this side of college chemistry class. Since I'd be working inside, using my bed as a working platform, forget those. Sure the window opens, but one window - keeping the door closed to keep out the furries - does not ventilation make.

OK, forget those. Back to the squeeze bottles. Pick up one, read the label, put it back because it didn't claim it would work. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Finally... Tacky Glue! It didn't just claim to work on fabric, it specifically is useful for felt. Best yet, for leather too! Now, which brand and how many? The cheap one, and two to start.

I put the job off until today. I just wasn't feeling it yesterday, but needed to take advantage of a full weekend day for it to dry. Reading that it set in an hour, I cut and pasted sheeting pieces on every crumbling section I could find, testing pieces with a fingernail to make sure I backed all the fragile ones. An hour of TV, then back for the felt. I decided not to cut it first, but wait until it was all glued to the skin before cutting so I wouldn't need to try to lay it down exactly so. The glue is called "tacky" for a reason.

One other thing I just wasn't feeling today was the need to go out shopping again for more tacky glue. The reason I mention that is because I need at least two more large bottles to finish gluing down the felt. This time I think I'll try WalMart rather than the fabric store. The service won't be any worse. The price might be better. Or I could try either Menards or Home Depot and find out if the stuff really does come in a can one can dip a brush into and spread that way. Or perhaps they really have something else that works as well without the toxicity of the spray-ons. Last resort is go back to the fabric store for three more large bottles.

A tip for those of you trying your own tacky-glue project: get a bottle just the size of the job at hand. The rest will be wasted. You can't poke a hole in the bottle tip without actually cutting off the top, not if you want to do anything else with the rest of your life besides wait for glue to come out. After that there's no way to seal the bottle for more than a couple hours.

The part that has been glued is looking pretty good. Let's just keep the critters out of my room till it's finished, hey guys?

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