deep buttoning

Photo by Crusoe Weston

Below the surface

Traditional upholstery is about so much more than the fabric that covers a chair. Underneath the surface there is layer upon layer of work to create, build and sustain the shape of the chair. All achieved mainly using these and a few simple tools… I know, I’d never make a hand model!

People are often surprised by the cost of traditional upholstery, so I thought it would be worth showing quite how much work goes into it…

The Arms
There are over 10 stages to build traditional arms – even more if they are sprung! Here are just a few…

The Back

This is going to be a buttoned back – which is why the edges are being built up first to create a well for the buttons… Rest in peace Princess Leia.

The Seat
And at least another 15 stages to build a sprung, stitched and stuffed seat. This one has an independent sprung edge for extra comfort…

And here it is, hand built and stitched – before its top cover. I often wish I could leave them in their underwear like this…

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So why bother?

So why bother with all that palaver, when you can just use foam and get the job done much more quickly? Here’s why…

Sustainability The materials used in this chair are all natural and biodegradable, apart from the metal springs and they can be recycled. Foam is an oil-based product and will sit in land fill for hundreds of years.
Longevity A chair built with traditional materials and methods will last a long, long time, literally decades beyond the life of a modern piece of furniture made with foam.
Tradition This is how these antique chairs would have been upholstered over 100 years ago. To retain the integrity and authenticity of an antique piece of furniture its important to use methods and materials in keeping with its origins.
Celebrate and keep British craft alive! These skills will die out if we don’t keep using, sharing and teaching them…

 

A curious case of deep buttoning

DSCF3122Deep buttoning is a rather curious thing…. Victorians introduced it in the second half of the eighteenth century to give ‘fresh decorative character to upholstery’ (David James 2008). Actually – they came up with it to torture upholstery students…  Traditional deep buttoning is very difficult!

Now, while it is not particularly popular in the world of contemporary upholstery, deep buttoning is definitely a skill you need to have in your traditional upholstery tool bag – hence my recent choice of chair to work on at college. A few of my fellow students also took on similar buttoning challenges and for a while the workshop was awash with much heavy sighing, a considerable amount of swearing and even some interesting horse-like snorting noises…

 A journey into deep buttoning

I thought you might like to share the journey……

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After many, many hours and a lot of effort – this was the end result… A very comfortable, deep buttoned Victorian slipper chair. 

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For sale!