Adventures in upholstery

As promised, here is stage two of recovering a drop-in chair seat. Stage one, the destruction of the original, is here.

I picked up some tacks from the local hardware shop which were not brilliant and I suspect proper upholstery nails would have been a lot more effective. I am using flat-headed nails about 1.5cm long, not the domed headed upholstery tacks for finishing around the edge. I don’t need them as its a drop-in seat so no nails show. The wood was really hard in places and all the hammering was hard work.

I followed instructions in a book about how to put on the webbing, although I don’t have the special tensioning device real upholsterers use. So I think the webbing isn’t really taught enough for heavy duty, long-lasting use. But I’m only using this as a demo piece for my bespoke upholstery fabrics, so it doesn’t matter too much.

Here’s the webbed seat from the underside.

Next I covered the frame (webbing side) with fabric. I used a bit of old upholstery fabric rather than buy hessian new, which is what is recommended. It seems to work fine.

During this stage I cracked the frame so glued it back together and then tried to re-use as many nail holes as I could, to save further straining the frame. It was pretty ropey to start with.

This is the underside with the covering showing through the webbing.
Next I learned Bridle Stitch which is a clever technique for knotting long threads, prior to stuffing. The long stitches are used to hold the stuffing down – you stuff under the threads.

Stuffing was fun! I used a load of stuffing wool I used to use for cushions and have masses still knocking around.
It seems to have worked well. This is the seat partly stuffed. I then filled in all the gaps and created quite a mound of wool!
Covering the mound of wool without it all falling off was a bit tricky, but not as bad as I expected. As this cover wont show at all, I used some quite hideous old curtain fabric, stretching it over the seat and temporarily tacking it on the sides. I realised later I should have used a staple gun for the temporary tacks.

This is the underside, part way through nailing down the cover.
Finished first cover. I had to fiddle with the stuffing a little before I finished off the corners to make sure they were well-filled. Its not worked brilliantly, but its ok.

To create a more hardwearing seat and a smoother finish I used two layers of organic cotton quilt wadding (books will usually suggest polyester) which I trimmed with pinking shears (to avoid a line) and tore slightly to soften the edges. It just comes to the edge of the top of the seat.

I then covered the whole thing again with a layer of plain cotton, in the same way as the bright fabric above. I used a piece of cream cotton curtain lining, as I had it to hand.

So that’s my seat done! It looks pretty darn good but I haven’t dared sit on it yet. I need to do some more photographs before I risk flattening it too much.

It took about 2 hours to do this and I only bought 2m of webbing and a packet of nails. Everything else came from my cupboards. Even the chair was free, and the paint I used was something I’ve got left over.

I meant to take a picture of the plain seat set into the chair frame, but got ahead of myself and recovered the seat in fabric from a secret book project – just to see how it looked – and then realised I had missed the chance to photograph it plain.
As soon as I’ve done the book photo, I’ll strip off the fancy fabric and go back to the plain ready to be photographed and to play dress up with lots of other one-off fabrics.

The book I’m doing this for is called Sew Eco and will be out 2009-10. The details are here – just scroll down the page.

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