Nicki Tarr

Beauty and the beast

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.

Beast

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..

IMG_2287IMG_2298

Chair growth..

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…

DSCF3958

DSCF3979DSCF3997P1150209DSCF4331DSCF4347

DSCF4366IMG_3295IMG_3509IMG_3517IMG_3589IMG_3606IMG_3717IMG_3692IMG_3794

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.

IMG_3201

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…

IMG_3747IMG_3746

Cocktail o’clock

I do like the occasional cocktail –  Strawberry Margarita is my current favourite, with the Mojito a close second. Its my latest chair creation that has had me thinking about these drinks and the summer to come….

1950’s cocktail chair – before

IMG_2302 IMG_2304

 

 

 

 

 

The insides…

IMG_2325 IMG_2330

Finished article

I love the shape of the curved back – feels like you are being given a kind of chair hug. Typical of this era, it has lovely tapered legs which I’ve stripped and waxed. I’ve used two Vanessa Arbuthnott fabrics from her Swedish range as they go really well with the style of this chair. Her fabrics are also sustainable as she sources cotton and linen grown without the use of pesticides.

image (8)image (6)image (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feet up

I’m hanging on to this one to sell at the Artists Open Houses in May. I’m thinking of sourcing some similar legs and making a stool to match. Cant beat sitting in glamorous comfort, with a feet up option!

Mojito recipe

Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for a Mojito from Jamie Oliver – although I have to apologise in advance for the mint spanking in the video… Well really.

Two of a kind

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.

Great legs

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.

DSCF3587DSCF3585

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snap!

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.

DSCF3802DSCF3803DSCF3819DSCF3824DSCF3900DSCF3907

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

DSCF3896 DSCF3905

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!20141101-234935.jpg

Peeling back the years

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

BeforeDSCF3197

 

 

 

 

The old innards and back to the frame

DSCF3208DSCF3222

 

 

 

 

 

The after photos

Nice new firm back and a freshly sprung seat

DSCF3315DSCF3356

 

The finished chair… No shreddies included!

DSCF3548

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrap it in art…

I just love the fabrics sold via St Jude’s workshop and website. They are beautiful screen prints taken from designs by British artists. Gorgeous pieces of art to lovingly wrap round a chair…

Here are a few I’ve got my eye on for future projects:

Designs by Mark Herald

Mark_Hearld_Harvest_Hare_fabric_Dawn_Grey_1024x1024

Harvest Hare

Mark_Hearld_Bird_Garden_Red_1024x1024

Bird Garden

Designs by Angie Lewin

Pale_Green_slash_Sage_2_1024x1024

Dandelion one

Sage_slash_Brown_1024x1024

Seedheads

£10 discount for St Jude’s fabrics

Subscribe to St Jude’s e-mail newsletter – and you can claim your £10 off voucher!

Your favourites

I’m always on the lookout for new fabrics and I’d love to hear about any of your favourites…

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……

IMG_1001DSCF2537DSCF2547DSCF2578P1130258P1130271P1130275P1130288DSCF2780DSCF2792

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

DSCF3122

For sale!

I could have been a sports car, you know….

DSCF2702

When we were at a friend’s house a while back, I spied a lovely Victorian balloon back dining chair that was looking rather worse for wear. The leather was very worn and split and the seat was dipping – so I offered my services to rescue it from ‘sagsville’.

According to our friend, Anthony, the chair was likely to have been last reupholstered by a someone who worked alongside his father at the MG factory in Oxford in the 1950’s.


All the trimmings

They used red leather from the trimmings workshop, and judging from the colour, its probably the same leather that would have been used on the interior of the 1950’s MG Magnette saloon – see below. I know this because Anthony told me and he is quite the MG expert…

MG magnette exteriormagnette interior

New for 2014…

I have now re-upholstered the seat. Although it doesn’t have that sports car feel about it any more – it looks rather lovely and is much more comfortable!

DSCF3021

DSCF3020

Keeping hold of the past

But, so we don’t lose an important part of this chair’s history, I have saved a sample of the MG trimming leather and slipped it under the webbing with a print out of this blog entry. A little piece of history for the next upholsterer to find…!