A reader's letter to our "Can You Help Me?" department triggered an overwhelming response
A few years back, Linda Moore Kurth wrote us with a question for our “Can You Help Me?” department, asking about about tin-can footstools, which were popular during the Great Depression. It was published in our October/November 2005 issue, and according to Linda, “That’s when the fun began.”
Linda wrote once more, to tell us about her experience: “Since then, I’ve received 175 letter and 89 emails from Country readers in 33 states and two Canadian provinces. Women in their 80s and 90s sent me patterns, photos, copies of articles, a couple of long-saved magazines and even mini-samples, as well as their phone numbers and offers of further help. I also received two actual stools!”
Lucky for us, Linda also shared a set of instructions she compiled for the modern-day crafter.
Materials & Equipment:
Work gloves (for safety, wear the gloves while using the hot glue gun)
Seven 46-oz. juice cans, drained and rinsed (wash the cans carefully to avoid sharp edges); may remove bottoms or open with a church key and retain bottoms
Quilt batting, 45- x 8-in.
High density foam, 1- x 5- x 17-in.
Fabric for the exterior upholstery (old jeans, chenille, upholstery fabric, etc.)
Fabric to cover the bottom (sheeting or other lightweight fabric if the bottom is wood)
Vinyl fabric if the bottom is cardboard
Lightweight plywood (optional—need a jigsaw to cut)
6 furniture gliders (if using a wood bottom)
Scissors or mat knife to cut cardboard
Scissors to cut fabric
Electric knife to cut foam (optional)
Hot glue and glue gun
Staple gun (if using a wood bottom)
Hammer (if using a wood bottom)
Sewing machine and thread
Iron and board
1. Measure around one can and multiply by 4. (Save this measurement.)
2. Place the open ends of the cans on the bottom. Place one can in the center and arrange the other 6 around it to form a daisy shape.
3. Hotglue the cans together (remember to wear gloves).
Making the Patterns
Pattern #1: Place can assemblage (top or bottom) on a heavy piece of paper. Draw around the cans without any extra allowance. Cut out. This is the pattern for the first layer for the top and bottom of the stool and also for the vinyl bottom.
Pattern #2: Place can assemblage (top or bottom) on a heavy piece of paper and draw around cans, adding about 2in. extra all around. Cut out. This is the fabric layer for the bottom of the stool.
Pattern #3: Place can assemblage (top or bottom) on a heavy piece of paper and draw around cans, adding about 3in. extra all around. Cut out. This is the upholstery layer for the top of the stool.
Pattern #4 (only for footstools with wooden bottoms): Place can assemblage (top or bottom) on a heavy piece of paper. Draw around the cans. Cut pattern about ½in. smaller than the pattern.
Pattern #5: Measure around the cans, including indents, or use the measurement method suggested at the beginning of this article. Measure the height of the cans. Make a rectangular pattern using these measurements. This is the batting pattern.
Pattern #6: Measure around the cans, including indents. Measure the height of the cans. Make a rectangular pattern using these measurements. Add an extra 2in. to both the length and height. This is the sidepiece upholstery pattern.
1. For the first top and bottom layers, use either cardboard or thin plywood. (The plywood gives heft to the stool.) Trace around Pattern #1 onto the cardboard or wood. Cut the cardboard with scissors or mat knife, and/or the wood with a jigsaw. If using cardboard for both top and bottom, cut out two pieces. If using wood for the bottom, cut one cardboard piece and one wood piece.
2. Cut out the batting piece using Pattern #5.
3. Cut out the top and side upholstery pieces using Pattern #3 and Pattern #6.
4. If using a vinyl bottom, cut out the vinyl using Pattern #1.
5. If using a wood bottom, cut out the sheeting using Pattern #2.
6. Cut out the foam for the top with scissors or electric knife using Pattern #1.
1. Glue the plywood or cardboard on the top and bottom with hot glue.
2. Place foam on top of stool. For a dome shape, add a smaller piece of foam in the center. Hot-glue in place.
3. Hot-glue batting around the cans, making sure you glue between the “petals.”
4. Sew the ends of the sidepiece together using a sewing machine. Press the seam open.
5. Pin the sidepiece to the top piece, right sides together. Seam on sidepiece should line up with one of the daisy dentations. Sew, clip along seam about every 1/2in. Be sure to clip the indentations. Press open.
6. Pull the cover over the cans, lining up the petals. You may want to add a touch of hot glue between the petals around the top to retain the daisy shape.
7. Turn the stool upside down. If the bottom is cardboard, glue the raw edges of the sidepiece to the bottom, pulling the cover tight and even as you go. If the bottom is wood, staple the raw edges of the sidepiece to the bottom about ½in in from the edge.
8. If the bottom is cardboard, glue bottom vinyl fabric over the top. (The edge does not need hemming, as it will not fray.) If the bottom is wood, cover the cardboard daisy cut from Pattern #4 with the sheeting. Wrap around and glue on the backside. Glue that piece, right side up, over the wood bottom.
9. If the bottom is wood, hammer in the gliders into the center of every other petal toward the outside.
10. Glue or hand-stitch with curved upholstery needle decorative trim around the top edge.
Your stool is finished. Enjoy!