Thursday, 24 September 2009

A little light upholstery

Many years ago, when my "bigs" were "smalls" and I was desperate for a break from routine, I joined a local Upholstery class. I learned to do simple stuff, like drop in seats, and overstuff dining chairs, and even managed a sit-up-and-beg chair, but these days, if I do any upholstery it's with my upholstery book in one hand and a hammer in the other. I can still do a passable job anyway, and have a couple of bigger challenges to get stuck into this winter. One is quite a challenge as it involves removing a hand-stitched Berlin wool work seat, washing it without it running or shrinking (eeeek!) and then carefully replacing it over a re-stuffed seat . . .

Recently, in the quest for some extra cash, I restored two piano stools we had in the back room. The biggest outlay was for the gimp to go around the edge of the seat. The material came from odd remnants I had bought from our local Fabric Warehouse (its demise is much lamented in this household). I didn't have any horsehair or coir for stuffing either, so had to fall back on a piece of quilt batting, folded appropriately, and then covered with fabric, which did the trick.

This was the piano stool as I bought it from a car boot sale for a couple of pounds. Someone had painted it cream, which saved me the job, so all I had to do was to remove the horrid rotted fabric and foam seat, and replace it . . .

. . . thus - a small piece of material (a few pence from the Fabric Warehouse) and £2.50 worth of black gimp . . . and a few brass-headed pins at 3p a time - I used less than £1 worth.

A bit more of challenge as this piano stool had obviously spent many years in someone's garage/woodshed, and had been used as a chopping block! My husband restored the base and legs, and then I merely recovered it with more batting, material and another £2.50 worth of gimp.

A couple of years ago I restored a little bentwood child's chair I had bought in a huddle of "junk" in a lot at auction. Again, it was simply a case of removing the old shabby seat covering and replacing it with new . . .

As you can see, the velvet seat had perished and needed replacing.

Here it is with the material and tacks removed, ready to have hessian strapping across the centre. I didn't take a photo of that bit, sadly.

Before I could do that, a split in the rim needed glueing and clamping. My husband did this bit. The piece of paper between the G-clamp and the wood is to stop the clamp bruising the wood.

Here is the finished article, with gold gimp and again, using just an oddment of material which was a remnant.

Does anyone else do this at home?

I've a set of 6 of these Victorian balloon backs to do this winter, but DH will have to make the drop in seat frames first.


  1. Hey, good work! I did upholsery for many years and really enjoyed making something useful and beautiful from a throw-away. Thanks for popping over-I did smile at your comment. My best friend Linda, who dresses just like me (we aided and abetted one another) moved to Pembrokeshire/Carmarthen border. We used to go to a beading class here in Bucks and the tutor said to her "You'll be allright in Wales, there's a lot of people like you two....".
    My family are Welsh, maybe I should return to the "land of my fathers"!

    Kath x

  2. You would feel right at home. When we moved here 22 years ago, it was like going back 20 years in time! Things have moved on since then, but I fitted in here, and wasn't considered an oddity because I baked my own bread, cakes etc. Which bit of Wales are your folks from?

  3. The coal mining valleys of the South, but my best friend lives in Efailwen. Kx

  4. In 1978 we were living in Massachusetts. J. stopped at a junk shop looking for some extra chairs, rushed home to fetch me back to look at a gate-legged table with 4 chairs and a little sideboard. There was a maker's tag on the bottom of the table with a late 1800's date. We recovered the chairs 3 times using a vinyl fabric the first time, a vintage remnant the second time and finally a heavy decorator cotton I had found. Sadly there are only two of the chairs not in pieces now. J. repaired, glued, etc. Moving them from the east to such a dry climate here was their final undoing. We used the table for many years--for everything. It is now folded in and holds my books. You can see it in my recent post titled "going to earth."
    I love it when a bit of craftmanship and labor can restore something to use.

  5. Ah Efailwen - there's a place in Welsh history, the Rebecca Riots underpinned by the thrumming lure of the Preselis. . . my grandfather and his younger brother worked in the mines in Aberbargoed.

    MM - you had good use out of your set of furniture and the sturdiest bits still remain. A nice little table that.

  6. I'll have you know that at 1 a.m. I was scouring the net for a photo of a "sit up and beg" chair. I'd a pretty good idea of that type of bicycle and a mental vision of the kind of chair you mention floats in my brain. You surely do offer things to mull.

  7. This is something I always wanted to do, combine my love of old furniture with my passion for fabric, but I simply can't do everything. Sadly!!! I love what you've done with the chairs and stools, they look lovely.

  8. After seeing your work, I feel guilty for throwing out that old chair with the torn cane seat! Your chairs are beautiful!