Victorian Upholstery

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!

A little bit of give…

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I decided to name my fledgling business – not after the season of daffodils, baby lambs and cherry blossom – but actually after the humble metal spring.

Springs are marvelously utilitarian in their look and feel and yet still manage to be beautiful. They create the foundations of a seat and contribute to it’s comfort and stability.

A brief history of the spring…

Before springs – you’d have just sat on fillings like hair, feathers or rags – with not a lot of give!

The Victorians introduced the double cone spring and by 1850, many seats, backs and arms were being built with these springs to provide comfort. These springs look very similar today and are still used in traditional upholstery. These are my favourite. Beautiful!

Victorian bloke

Double cone spring

Double cone spring

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Lashed spring

 
spring unit

spring unit

The first half of the 20 century saw lots of development to the spring – mainly to increase speed of making mass produced furniture and reduce costs. For example you didn’t need to know how to position and lash springs when inserting a spring unit – just pop it in!

Tension springs are often seen in 50’s & 60’s furniture and were used a lot in Parker Knoll chairs. Serpentine springs are the sorts of springs used in a lot of modern furniture – you’ve probably got some inside your sofa!

tension spring

Tension springs

Serpentine springs

Serpentine springs

 

So next time you drop into a comfy armchair – give a thought to the springs hard at work beneath your derriere!