Image Details: ‘Ducking Stool’ by kamsininjapan, via Flickr
The Medieval period of the Middle Ages was a violent and blood thirsty time, but they sure knew how to do torture! Far from just being sent to ‘sit on the naughty chair’, the ducking stool was punishment taken to a whole new level. A punishment specifically used on women, it involved strapping the accused to a stool by the side of a river, then dunking her in the freezing cold water for as long as the operator felt was necessary, dependant upon the crime and the woman’s social status.
The crimes which warranted punishment by ducking included witchcraft and prostitution. It was also a popular choice to punish a ‘scold’. A scold was a term given to a gossip, shrew, or bad tempered woman. Defined as “a troublesome and angry woman who by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbours breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance to the neighbourhood”, I can think of a few people who might suffer a bit of a splish-splash in the river if it were still a punishment in use today! Allegedly, it was also a foolproof way to establish whether a suspect was a witch, with stools being used initally, with this giving way to the accused having their right thumb bound to their left toe and thrown in a pond. If you float, you’re a witch. If you sink and drown, you’re innocent.
If you weigh the same as a duck, you’re also a witch. “It’s fair cop”.
Not the ducking stool
So onto the latest project: re-covering a chair. The chair in question was not used for any ducking, so fear not, no witches or scolds were harmed in the production of this post! It came from Shinymotherinlaw..er..bee… and has been in the family for a long time. Due to this, the original upholstery was pretty worn, but the chair itself was in good condition. I liked the frame very much, as I had never seen one like it before and it reminds me a bit of an abacus, oddly enough. I’m not sure how old it is exactly, and I do rather hope it isn’t a priceless antique!
I decided to keep the original upholstery underneath, partly because it was integral to the chair construction and partly in case it was indeed a priceless antique. I had some material left over from another project in my stash, which I decided to use to cover the seat pad. Normally, there are screws you can undo to get the pad off, but there are none in this chair, it is held together with wooden dowels (I really should have googled ‘priceless antique stools’ before I started this) therefore I had to attach the material to the frame underneath. I had planned to do this with upholstery tacks, but the frame is made of a really hard wood and the tacks just wouldn’t go in without breaking or bending, despite my best efforts with the Ikea hammer. I decided the best way to get around this problem was to use a heavy duty staple gun, so when we do indeed find out the chair is, quite simply, priceless, the holes in the wood will be smaller! I also decided not to repaint the woodwork because it would have been extremely fiddly to sand and prime all the curvy parts. Plus the paint could be original… and priceless….
So here’s the finished product!