First project was not what I expected!

It’s February 2015 and after being cancelled once I finally managed to book onto a weekend upholstery course. It was to be my very first experience of this craft. I’d done loose covers and soft furnishings but never anything using hammer, nails, staples etc so I was hoping that this would satisfy my tool wielding desire. My mum had offered up an old chair that she had tucked away in the Wendy house (the Wendy house was once our play house but is now a musty storage area for items that Mum tries, from time to time to pass onto my sister or I). It used to be in my bedroom and I had forgotten all about it until seeing it again.


I got it all stripped off which took ages. That’s one of the things about learning upholstery (or indeed anything I expect) when you’ve got small children running around 24/7. Everything you try to do takes at least 10 times longer than it should. Every so often, I am lucky enough to get a couple of hours to myself and it is simply unbelievable what I can achieve in such a short amount of time.

The big day arrived and I was excited for two reasons. Firstly, it was the first step in my upholstery journey and secondly, I was going to spend two whole days (TWO WHOLE DAYS!) doing something for myself. At this point in my career as a stay at home mum, there hadn’t been much of this so it really was rather exciting.

The whole experience actually turned out to be rather surreal. The venue was fine, my fellow newbie upholsterers were all lovely but our tutor turned out to speak virtually no English whatsoever. Which wasn’t very convenient. We all struggled through our projects, united by our bemusement, but we all left feeling like we’d been diddled and hadn’t learned very much.

On the upside (I like to try to find the upside in everything) I walked away with a chair that looked pretty good, despite the fact that what lay beneath the show fabric was cowboy upholstery at best. Also, I happened to meet someone who would later go on to teach me how to do upholstery the proper way, and she spoke English too!

Every cloud has a silver lining!


Going Traditional

My first chance at doing some traditional upholstery was given to me (again) by my lovely friend Lisa.  She had inherited several chairs from her Nana (see What a lotta Louis) and this one had to be reupholstered from scratch as the stuffing was pretty old and flat.

imageSo, after stripping the dusty fabric and removing the innards, off we went to Blue Flamingo to learn some new stuff……get it….stuff……

Anyway, at this point I don’t think I had yet developed a true appreciation of just how much work goes into the traditional reupholstering of a chair.  And the two chairs featured here are tiny compared with some of the pieces that it is possible to reupholster, such as chesterfield sofas and such like.  My eyes were definitely opened on this project and so was my heart.  I think I am a little bit in love with this process.  The building up of the layers and the possibility for such precision stitching makes it almost a crime to cover it up.  Not that my work is an art form but I hope it will be at some point!

Progress is slow but not because I am slow but because I only get 3 hours at this a week which is SO frustrating.  It makes me want to scream because I love it so much but at home there is just. no. time.  Anyway, I think that discussion could fill another blog entirely.

So I went on to learn about bridle ties, stuffing, stitching, got sore hands from the button thread and nearly poked myself in the face with the extremely long, double ended needle on several occasions.

Luckily, I managed to get through the process with my hands and face intact (I think I might have to invest in some safety goggles).  The most difficult part of the process was having to wait from one week to the next to work on the chair.  However, my patience paid off and the chair is now in the hands of its new (4 year old) owner.


Now I need to find myself another traditional chair to reupholster.  The hunt is on!


What a lotta Louis!


So, I have a very dear friend who recently inherited a Louis chair which happened to need upholstering. By coincidence, her mum also happened to have, not one, but two Louis chairs which also needed upholstering! Safe to say, I am now fairly confident when it comes to reupholstering these chairs :).

Lisa’s chair was my second project and my first time studying with Susan Roe-Curran at Blue Flamingo Upholstery in Aberdeen. In my usual style, I had the chair stripped and prepped, ready for class so as not to use up precious classes doing something I could do at home.

It took me a while to get to grips with the webbing stretcher! I even had to take a photo of how the webbing is inserted so that I didn’t have to feel like a complete idiot for asking ‘how do you do this again?’, for the hundredth time!

I reused the existing foam as it was fire proof and covered it with some fire retardant calico for good measure. By this point I am really enjoying myself! I’ve been using a magnetic hammer and a pneumatic staple gun which is awesome (no wonder there were about a thousand staples to pull out of this chair, it’s so easy to put staples in with this amazing tool!!). Plus it’s so nice to see the seat taking shape.

After this point, I think I got so excited that I forgot to take anymore pictures!! I don’t have a single image to show how the back went together. Good job I went on to reupholster two more of these bad boys so I could document them a bit better.

I made double welt cord for the trim which was tricky. Thankfully I have a book by Amanda Brown of Spruce Upholstery in Austin, Texas which has a wee chapter on how to do it. The hardest part was probably getting a welt cord foot for my sewing machine which is 50 years old!!

So there you have it! Three Louis chairs for two lovely ladies.  The first one was completed entirely at upholstery class (apart from the double welt cord) but I did the other two at home.  This was not without its problems.  The fabric for the second chair (the stripey one) turned out to be super thin which meant that getting the stripes straight was a total nightmare.  In my inexperience, I couldn’t understand why I was having such a hard time with the stripes but a quick trip to upholstery class revealed that the problem was with the fabric, not me!! Phew!

Upholstery has me totally hooked now!  I love it!