Introduction: Cat Scratched Chair Repair

About: Crafting with a healthy dose of trash hoarding disorder. Love to make things from old, used and unwanted stuff. We crafters euphemistically call this upcycling.

Would you ever consider covering your furniture with jute, gelatin and pickle juice?

No? Really? Why

Well, perhaps you would just like to sit back and giggle at the tale from someone who did.

This is the story of the great cat claw caper otherwise known as how I came to re-cover a chair with pickle juice, gelatin, and twine. To be clear there are no typos or incorrectly auto-corrected words in that last sentence and perhaps, more importantly, I have not been drinking today.

Well, not yet anyway. :-)

Scouts honor, I really did re-cover a chair with jute twine and I used all the pickle juice that I could rummage from my fridge to make some DIY gelatin glue. I did have to resort to buying some regular vinegar for this project as it required a lot of glue but if you knew me you would know how delighted I was to learn that I could also use the juice from all my pickled items, a here-to-fore completely disposable item.


  • Cat Clawed Pleather Chair
  • 4 Ply Natural Jute Twine
  • Knox Gelatin Unflavored Packets
  • White Vinegar or Pickle Juice
  • Saucepan
  • Stovetop
  • Small microwavable bowl
  • Fork
  • Small Paint Brush
  • Straight Pins
  • Large Plastic Bin
  • Black Rit Dye
  • 80 Grit Sanding Sponge or Paper
  • Minwax Clear Gloss Polycrylic

Step 1: Introduction to the Villian's of This Tale

Perhaps they look quite innocent to you but I assure they are not. One of them, in particular, let's call her "Daredevil" has no end to the kind of trouble she can create, sleeping on clean laundry, tearing up the paper towels and lounging in tipped over trash cans are just some of her crimes. And while "Sabertooth" (names have been changed to protect the innocent) is less likely to get himself into such precarious scrapes his claws are just as sharp and dangerous.

And I assure you that while they appear to be harmless, furry and cute they are frequently up to no good, snagging curtains and knocking nick nacks on the floor, for the dogs to find and chew to pieces. But for the purpose of this post, I will share their most vicious bit of treachery.

Step 2: A Preview of Some of Their Carnage

They did this to our living room chair.

Now I won't try to convince you this is a priceless antique or even real leather. So maybe it wasn't actually a heartbreaking loss. Still, this chair did have a purpose in our living room.

You may think that its purpose was to be sat upon, but we don't actually do a lot of living in our living room. Mostly, we just pass through it on our way to the kitchen for beer, snacks and sometimes even a full meal. So this chair's main purpose was to look at least presentable, if not good and heirloomy (yes I made that word up.)

Anyway as you can see from the quality of this mass-produced chair I don't really have that high of criteria for what is presentable, but the new needle pricked finish provided by the cats, did cause this chair to drop below even my menial standards. Now a normal DIYer might have just made a new cover for this chair and since I do like to think of myself as almost normal I did give this idea some consideration. Unfortunately, I have not been able to convince the cats to keep their claws to themselves and I feared a similar fate for the new cover whatever the material.

I have observed that our felines do seem to love their cat scratch post and that got my wheels spinning. What if the chair could withstand cats scratching and still look presentable? I reasoned that I could cover the chair in twine similar to the scratching post and meet the aforementioned criteria.

I can't say for sure whether or not this idea presented itself before or after a cocktail.

But the vision persisted and so I pondered what I could use to glue the twine to the chair. I literally spent days considering my options and searching the home improvement stores for a suitable adhesive product. Much too my dismay nothing seemed right. Not only would the pricing be ridiculously high (more than I paid for the chair in the first place) but all of these adhesives came with hazardous chemical warnings and most importantly I didn't even think that they would work for my project.

Feeling a bit dejected I searched online and somehow stumbled onto this "Make your own all-natural glue video." So with a little bit of hope and a fair amount of skepticism, I decided to give it a try.

One of the benefits of working with trash and ruined items, is you don't really have to worry about messing up.

There is a certain amount of freedom in it and that is how you can come to the conclusion that it makes perfect sense to put pickle juice and twine on your living room furniture or Crisco on your shoes (but that is a whole other story. :-)

Anyway, can you imagine my glee as I discovered that it was working? And in addition to working it also had no toxic properties and actually used something from my fridge that was destined to be tossed down the drain. Most people probably don't appreciate the joy of finding uses for pickle juice, which is why I said earlier, that I like to think of myself as almost normal. But, if you can share my excitement, you get that it is an Upcycling Thing. The process is pretty simple but it did take quite a lot of time. I decided to follow the original lines of the chair. So I mixed up a batch of the glue and then started with a small section of the chair.

Step 3: Clean Chair and Mix a Small Batch of Pickle Juice Glue

The first step was to wipe down the chair with some cleaning solution and a damp cloth.

To make the glue all you need is a saucepan, stove, gelatin and pickle juice or white vinegar. If you are using the pickle juice you will want to strain out any of the food particles before making the glue. The glue will harden into a clear finish and it does start to thicken fairly quickly so you only want to make as much as you will use at a time as this glue does not really keep. If it does start to thicken while you are using it you can put it in the microwave for a few seconds to thin it out but you can't really keep it for more then a couple of hours.

I made small batches using one packet of gelatin and 9 tablespoons of vinegar or pickle juice. To start empty to contents of the gelatin packet into a small microwaveable bowl. On the stovetop heat, the vinegar or pickle juice to a boiling point and then pour it over the gelatin and stir with a fork until all the gelatin is dissolved. This takes a little while and there may be a few lumps of gelatin that won't dissolve and need to be removed from the mixture. The glue will have a slightly yellow color and it will be very runny until it hardens.

Step 4: Choosing the Pattern and Gluing the Twine in Place.

As I mentioned before I used small batches of glue and I worked in small sections of the chair. I used a few different patterns for the twine but followed the original sections of the chair. The process is fairly simple but it did take quite a while to finish the whole chair.

To attach the jute twine to the chair I used a small paintbrush to apply a layer of the glue to the chair in a small section. Then I laid out the twine in the desired pattern using the straight pins to hold the twine in place. Once a small section of twine was pinned in place I went back over the twine with the glue to thoroughly saturate the twine.

After the glue has hardened which takes several hours the pins can be removed.

Step 5: Video of Gluing Technique

This short video shows how the twine was applied to one section of the chair. Sorry, it is not my best work the video goes in and out of focus a few times and you probably don't want the sound on.

Step 6: Cover the Entire Surface

Continue working in small sections until the entire chair is covered.

Step 7: Adding the Accent Color

I purposely left a small space between all of my sections so I could add some black to the design. I used the large plastic bin and some black rite dye to color a small amount of the jute twine black. And once the twine was dry I used the same gluing process to fill in all the spaces between sections with the black colored twine.

Step 8: Two Problems

At this point, I was pretty happy with the end result. There were however two problems. You may have been anticipating the first problem ever since you heard the word twine, which of course is not the softest and most comfortable material. And if you are wondering what twine feels like after being soaked and dried in pickle juice glue well, it is good and bad. It is bad because it takes the comfort properties of twine and makes them 10 times worse. But it is also good because the twine is now hard enough to sand and sand and then sand some more.

The second problem was the dogs who were delighted by this new giant pickle-flavored lollypop in the living room. I assure you that there is no lingering vinegar aroma detectable to a human nose but apparently I can't speak for these two who seemed to think vinegar and pickle juices are delicious.

Step 9: Sanding and Finishing

To solve the rough and scratchy feel of the glue hardened twine I did a lot of sanding. And I am happy to report that once all the rough spots are sanded down the finish feels a bit like wicker which is a fairly comfortable finish to sit on.

As far as the dog lollypop goes I am not sure if they just lost interest or if the polycoat finish that I applied covered up the pickle flavor, either way, it seemed like a good idea to apply some kind of topcoat finish to the chairs and Minwax clear coat is a finish that I have used on a lot of projects. It is water-based and very easy to apply and after it was on the chair I didn't notice the dogs licking the chair anymore.

Step 10: The Finished Chair

I think it looks much better now and it is actually pretty comfortable to sit in as well.

Step 11: The Pets Seem to Approve

Daredevil is quite happy with the new finish but one of our dogs has actually claimed the chair as her own.

Step 12: But Wait There Is a Second Chair

Yes it is true I went through all the craziness twice to cover our second chair and somewhere in there, we added two more puppies to our crew as well.

Step 13: But How Do They Hold Up? I Bet You Want to Know

The short answer is remarkably well. I covered the first chair 3 and a half years ago. I have had to re-glue a few spots over the years and they are starting to show some wear and tear but all things considered, they have not had an easy life so I am pretty happy with this project all in all.

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