Making Gypsy Furniture

I’m baack! Well, sort of.

I’ve been having internet connection problems, leaving me without access to the internet for the last couple of weeks. Though I was able to check my personal email from work, the blogging and twittering has gone by the way side until this week.  The problems still haven’t really been solved, but at least I can function online again. And I have a lot of stuff saved up to post!

Today’s question is: what does the local greenhouse do before they open in the spring? The answer? Have workshops! I had a great time Saturday, April 10th building my own willow chair. The guy teaching us calls it gypsy furniture.

This is the guy. He goes by the name of Bim Willow, which is not his real name, but if you look it up on Amazon, you can see some books he has written on the subject.

The base of the furniture is from sassafras limbs. The seats, backs and rounded arms are from green willow, which is flexible and will bend.

This is the beginning of my chair. The shorter limb is the front, the taller is the back of the chair and I am nailing 2 cross pieces to create one side. You flip the front and back pieces around to make the other side. Bim instructs us to use a 3 finger measuring system to keep the crosspieces approximately the same distance apart. Bim’s hand is bigger than mine, so I used 4 fingers.

I’ve added the first front cross-piece which connects the 2 side pieces. You can see that I’ve also nailed in a third crosspiece to each side. These  are angled up from the back.

The neighbors to my left are building a love seat, same design as mine, just bigger. They’ve added cross pieces on the top and bottom to both the front and back, creating a sort of box shape.

The person working on the other side of me is Sue. I know her from my Master Gardener Assoc. meetings. She is going to be racking up hundreds of volunteer hours this summer (and probably for the next several years) restoring a very old cemetery in town. And in her spare time? Like me, she is expressing her creativity by learning to build a gypsy chair. Her chair has a more whimsical look. I really admire her hammering technique.

Sue’s chair as it looks so far, in the foreground and the rest of the students for the morning session. Besides chairs and loveseats some of the others made benches and small tables.

Sue’s chair finished and loaded. I really love how the willow branches flow high up the back of the chair and even  better, they are sprouting leaves. I know the leaves won’t last but it added so much to the chair.

Looking up to admire the newly cut willow branches and the greenhouse roof. It was in the 50’s (F) outside but the greenhouse roof warmed things up inside. The owners kept us plied with water and soda as we got warmer and warmer.

My chair so far. I’ve got the front and back crosspieces nailed in as well as two more crossing the center – for stability. I put in three more to create the seat, the middle one cut to fit down lower to fit my bottom more comfortably. Once everything is nailed in, I just take my loppers and trim off all the ends that are sticking out. I really love not having to measure or square things off.

Using the green willow to make the arms. This was probably the most difficult part of the day. We had to make all the willow line up evenly while using smaller nails  to secure the branches together all the way down. I had to match the curve of the arms for each branch and keep all of them perfectly horizontal, plus make sure the angle of the left chair arm was the same as the right chair arm.

I finished the arms and have created the seat and am now working on the back. Even though it was difficult to do the vertical bends and hammer in the nails at the same time, I still found it easier than the arms.

Looking at it from a different angle.

Finished. I only hope it will fit in my little Honda Civic. The loveseat is almost done as well.

With the help of a couple of staff, I was able to get it in the car. The whole process (as a rank amateur) took 5 1/2 hours. I was hot, tired, my wrists hurt from all that hammering – I just cannot hammer in a nail in 3 blows like a more experienced builder, more like 10 or 11 – but I had a great time and plan on trying my hand at more gypsy furniture in the future.


About Jill-O

a girl who likes lakes, trees and critters; making an attempt at living the artistic life.
This entry was posted in artful life, crafts, trees and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Making Gypsy Furniture

  1. It’s beautiful what a fabulous workshop to go to.

    • jellyfishbay says:

      Karen! It’s you! I’ve been offline so long and have been out of touch with everyone. I’ve missed you and your beautiful garden. Still having problems with connecting – it took me 3 days to finish this one posting. I keep getting kicked offline. I’m going over to visit right now!

  2. Tatyana says:

    Wow! You should be proud of yourself!

  3. Oh! I love that style of arm chair! How fun that you got to make them, and they turned out beautifully!

  4. Elli Davis says:

    Wow! Seems like a fantastic workshop! Great to see it in pictures, I’m pretty sure it would be even better to witness it live. I want to know how to make furniture too – the chair for example would look just right in my garden.

  5. jellyfishbay says:

    Thanks for all the kudos. I purposely tried to keep the language simple so if I try to build another chair on my own, it can act as a tutorial. Still, it feels great to be blogging again. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I posted this today. WoW! What a rush!

  6. Catherine says:

    That is so cool! I love how your chair turned out.

  7. Elephant's Eye says:

    Magnificent chair. What fun to hands-on make it yourself. And it looks SO Inviting to sit on …

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