Traditional Upholstery

Last week I brought you a leather work tutorial on how to upcycle scrap leather into a pretty pouch (see it here). Well, I also attended an upholstery workshop at the Edinburgh Remakery too. I’ve never really thought about what goes into traditional upholstery before; but it’s fascinating, so I just had to share some of the tutor’s key tips with you in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland.

The Edinburgh Remakery is a store that sells second-hand and refurbished furniture and computers. They also offer workshops and 1-to-1 lessons in skills such as IT repair, woodwork and leather work so that you can learn how to refurbish and upcycle your own items instead of buying new. It’s a great new addition to the Edinburgh retail sphere and I hope that it encourages more people to shop ethically when they can and not throw so many things away.

The taster upholstery workshop that I attended really showed me what a skill traditional upholstery is. It isn’t at all easy, but it’s a craft we should never lose or let be replaced with glue and staple guns!

The tutor started off with a chair that had been completely stripped down, leaving only the webbing on the bottom of the seat. She then demonstrated how to apply this webbing to a blank chair by temporaily applying some to the top of the seat to show how it is done normally on the bottom. The webbing comes on a roll and you cut lengths that are around an inch longer than the width of the chair. It’s then secured with several nail tacks in a row and a hammer. It’s crucial that the webbing is stretched and made as taut as possible before nailing down the other end to the other side of the chair – a special tool is used to help you keep the webbing tight when you hammer in the tacks. Black & White Herringbone Webbing like this is the strongest you can get and it gives the seat great strength.

Once all the webbing has been done – in a cross-hatch, over and under pattern – it’s time to place (covering the surface of the chair seat) and thread on the springs. A unique half moon-shaped needle threaded with string is used to attach the springs to the webbing.

The tutor threaded the spring to the webbing once then tied a slip knot to secure it. She then threaded the spring to the webbing two more times before finally securing that spring in place with a granny knot and moving onto the bottom of the next spring with the same continious piece of string.

Once all the springs are attached at the bottom, it’s time to tie them together at the top. A thicker string is used to do this. First a tack is hammered half in to the wooden surround of the chair adjacent to a spring (do it on both sides of the chair) and the thick thread is wound round this first tack before doing a slip knot at the top of the first spring.
You need to guess how far down to press the springs based on the seat you want and tie them down at this level.

After the first slip knot, half hitch
down and around the middle bar of the spring, then up to the other side of the spring where you tie off with a double clove knot. Check that the spring depresses straight up and
down and then move onto doing the same procedure on the next spring with the same continuous piece of string. Once you have done all the springs in a row, tie off on the tack you hammered half in on the opposite side of the chair and continue onto the next row of springs.

After all the springs are secured, it’s time to add the stuffing and padding to the seat. Tarpaulin Hessian is tied to the springs then long-lasting hair-like stuffing such as Coir Coconut Fibres are placed on top – these fibres are used in traditional upholstery instead of the foam you would find in modern upholstery as they last longer and are more environmentaly-friendly. Several fabrics are then placed on top of this and tacked down to protect the under layers and make the chair more comfortable to sit on – Cotton Felt, Calico then Dacron. Once all this has been done, you can finally stretch over and tack down the patterned show fabric that you want to decorate your chair seat with.

Using traditional upholstery to re-do your furniture will help hold the value of antique furniture – a monetary value which would go down if it was re-upholstered using modern upholstery techniques. It will also allow your furniture to last a generation instead of just a decade. If you want to learn traditional upholstery properly, contact the Edinburgh Remakery to find out when classses are taking place.

This is a sponsored post with Zero Waste Scotland, but all opinions are my own.

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