Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
A few years ago some friends offered me a lovely old arm chair – it’s a 1930’s club chair that had been in Sarah’s family for years, she had been nursed on it as a baby and grown up with the chair in her family home. Here it is in the 1980’s with some William Morris fabric, a skirt and a very sweet dog. Oh and this is Sarah on her horse.
In more recent years, it spent some time in Sarah’s own living room with a new loose cover (made on the other side of the world but that’s another story). Really it needed reupholstering but this is a huge chair and it was going to be expensive! Knowing about my career change, Sarah gave it to me as a future project.
It is a beast of a thing, but I love it! It took two of us to lift it and we could barely get in through the front door and into the hall. Here’s what it looked like under the loose cover and stripped back to the frame..
So, I took it in to college as it provided me with lots of things I needed to practice – an independent sprung edge, wings and massive sprung arms. Working on it for just one day a week and doing the whole thing using traditional upholstery methods and materials – it took a long, long, long time, particularly those darn sprung arms! Here’s are some photos of its development…
No-one puts baby in a corner
Actually they do and then they put her on a pallet at The Cass Upholstery end of year show 2015.
Home sweet home
Since I’ve had ‘the beast’ back home, I’ve added some stripey cushions and matching 1930’s footstool. This is my favourite armchair to curl up in with a book. With footstool in position, it also provides the perfect spot for 40 winks on a Sunday afternoon…
Learning the noble art of traditional upholstery continues to be both hugely challenging and incredibly rewarding. However, it turns out that creating a number of matching chairs is a whole different skill in itself! So back in the summer, I brought two dining chairs into college to work on together.
These chairs are Victorian balloon backs with cabriole legs and some beautiful carving. This style of chair dates from about 1840, so they are approximately 150 years old.
In order to create two matching seats, you have to apply each layer of upholstery to both the chair frames, weighing the stuffing and constantly measuring the height as you go.
Woman on the edge…
Stitching is one of my favourite elements of traditional upholstery – it creates a firm edge, gives a seat its shape – and its key to creating two seats that look the same!
A matching pair
Using traditional upholstery methods and materials on these antique chairs means that they not only look beautiful, but will now have many, many more years of life in them yet. And they look pretty darn matching too!
One of the things I like about working on an old chair is stripping it back to the frame – it is a pretty dusty job but you are literally peeling back the years and you never quite know what you are going to discover… Some chairs just keep getting covered with new fabric so you get to see a potted history of textiles. With others – you can see the varying methods and materials that previous upholsterers have used.
A few months back, I read a really interesting article about someone who had stripped back a chaise lounge only to find that it had been originally stuffed using beautiful old Victorian clothes, like shirts and sleeping bonnets! Some of the garments even had labels in so she was able to trace some of the family history. I would love to share this with you, but sadly it doesn’t exist in the virtual world.
I recently reupholstered a lovely Victorian tub chair for a friend and although there was nothing as romantic as Victorian bonnets inside, there had been some imaginative use of cereal packets used as the inside of the arm facing!
The before photos
1980’s upholstery and recycled breakfast
The old innards and back to the frame
The after photos
Nice new firm back and a freshly sprung seat
The finished chair… No shreddies included!
Ready to strike gold…
I am of course still waiting to upholster a chair that contains a wad of cash or diamonds buried in the seat for safe keeping! So far I have only found a £1 coin and a Lego mini figure. I maybe waiting some time…