Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hands On Designer

I guess summer is officially over, although it seems like it still should be around August 17 to me... Looking back at last summer's projects, this was my absolute favorite. Designer Jacqueline Fortier took a decided hands-on approach to this fully upholstered vintage Danish teak frame which was actually a modified wing-back that I had sourced at a local estate sale. She set about patterning and then piecing exquisite fabrics in just the right colorways for a one-of-a-kind living room chair.

She made templates from the chair and expertly sewed fabrics with a variety of weight and texture. Take down process on the chair itself was easy enough, thanks to smart upholstering by the factory from whence it came - not too much hardware to remove! always a happy thing, then I just made sure we had proper allowance in the quilted pieces to allow for the special patterning of the wings and curves of seam. Jacqueline designs frequently without welt cording, so I wouldn't have that as a stable area in which to hide excess fabric or fold and handsew down. In fact, she didn't want even the single welt trim that was to hide the staple line all around, so I'd have to be particularly crafty with closing.

A colorful mid-century linen print served as stretcher for the inside arm. Stretchers are those parts sewn on to extend the fabric drawn under in an unseen area, to save on expensive yardage of the outer upholstery. They're always little time capsules of workrooms past - whatever was lying around was apt to get picked up and sewn inseam for future upholsterer's to see and marvel at (well, I do anyway. One day I'll do a post on my collection of stretchers!)


Easing the sewn corner of wing to arm.

Look at that chair! Have you ever seen anything so fabulous? There are a lot of piece-worked chairs out there - I like Squint in London really well...but this! It's not only the perfect frame to lend itself to this, but it's Jacqueline's scale and selection of color and pattern. This to me, is as good as a shot of wheatgrass, Daily Multi or whatever.

I took a million pictures of it because I just couldn't get enough. I can see a great Liberty Furnishings fabric that replicates a traditional quilt pattern, Raoul printed linen, Clarence House linen velvet and stripe, Beacon Hill's London House and Lee Jofa's incredible crewels, Groundworks and some Jim Thompson stripes. Here's a picture from when I delivered it, but I should get over there get a new picture - I hear the whole room's been rearranged around that chair!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September Upholstery Class

Last weekend was the first set of 2 day workshops I plan to offer for people wishing to learn how to upholster their own side chair. Classes will be ongoing, but kept very small. In fact, miniscule - no more than 2 at a time. There's a lot of design criteria that needs to be considered beforehand to make sure each project can be completed in 12 hours, and that they are similar enough to each other that I can give each one a relatively equal and proper amount of tutelage, but different enough to where people can learn about someone else's different furniture style - a challenge I found out, but quite rewarding!

These were the first images emailed to me regarding 2 projects to be undertaken:

Deborah's chair (at left) had been a wedding gift to her parents in the 1930's. It may have been reupholstered once before to the best of her recollection. She wanted to keep a sample of the past to record the work being done now for future family members. And Linda's (at right) is a Conant Ball chair recently found at a Salvation Army. She had a creative redesign in mind for make it almost a caricature of itself by really plumping up the high scrolled back and stretching a new fabric over it in such a way that would resemble too-tight jeans - a far cry from 70's traditional chair small floral tapestry to the new circular spiraling jacquard modern pattern. Both chairs were to turn out beautifully.

The take-down was easy enough on both pieces…of course Linda had arrived Sat. a.m. with hers nearly done and Deborah's like most mid-20th century pieces, had originally been tacked with proper sized upholstery nails, all of which came out easily. We took time to inspect the construction of each other's frames and the upholstery methods originally employed.

Burlap spring cover of Deborah's chair had been recycled way back when from a Fisher Peanut bag...

Linda and I work on layers of padding for the upper part of inside-back while Deborah's working on aligning stripes while pulling through the inside-back thru the back...not as easy as it sounds (if it does). Stripes can easily be pulled askew when you're not looking, working from the back.

By the end of our 6 hour day Saturday, we had inside backs attached and our sewing lined up for the next day. Linda would do a double welted boxed cushion while Deborah had already applied a flat panel to the seat of her chair, but would have to regard her fabric carefully to line up stripes for trim panels and welt cording.

TA DAH. Gorgeous, both of them. I'm teaching 3 classes in October through Minneapolis Community Ed and then will resume the side chair weekend workshops in November. Email or message me on facebook if you want to register for a class.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dining Chair Day

4 from a set of 6 antique with cotton and curled hair padding (Bergamo orange velvet). 8 pads, a contemporary set going from white chenille to chic, smooth Pollack. Partial set, 3 Svegards made in Sweden, and a single vintage chair probably made mid 20th century to replicate Victorian, but without the handsewn padding.

Found the Swedish teak chairs. Will fix up and sell on etsy.

The room where the 8 pads go ...

Detail of beautiful antique chairs...

And the single vintage chair. I call it the baby chair, because it's really not very much, but a nice little chair for someone - will Etsy it as well...

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Location:E Lake St,Minneapolis,United States

Sunday, August 1, 2010

1930's-40's Parlour Set - Part II

This is the lovely home where the parlour set is eventually to settle - on the cedar-paneled porch in the shade of a big burled oak.  Not only were these two upholstered pieces kept in the family, but also a charming piece of family mechanized folk art and 2 matching end tables, purchased as part of the set. 

The National Chair and Furniture Company of St. Louis Missouri founded in 1910, was first manufacturer then in later years distributor of furniture  - first for residential, then moving into institutional/commercial furnishings.  Early on, apparently their motto was, "We are Bears on Chairs", which is pretty funny.  Here's half a tag I found sewn inside the seam of cushion...

Back to to the reupholstering of this set - I left off with tying of springs, inside backs (4-way tie) and seating (8-way tie).  
I guess what I'd have you to know if you're doing this yourself, is if most of the ties are still holding to frame or to one another, you can sometimes tie over the old jute strings to achieve the original height of springs.  I remembered the rule of thumb - I read it in one good book or another, that coil springs should tie down to 1 1/2" below their height when standing alone, without any compression.  It helped that this set too, had a good edgewire not terribly out of shape, and that one (two on the chair) good torsion spring nailed on the edge, informing me the height of the deck.

Work back to front starting at center and follow directions for "double-return tie" (google that). There are lots of good books and tutorials on the knot making and how to carry this out. Do all the verticals, then do horizontals. This sofa and chair both, for these beginning stabilizing ties, used double-return. It takes forever to do, so you can't rush through double-returns. You just can't. But you must do it if the sofa's to last another eon, receiving a lot of sitting by a variety of people (not just light weights). That's part of the reason why upholstery is so expensive, it's absolutely all handwork, monotonously tying and retying and tying again. Stapling and tacking, taking that out, doing it again, until it's just right, no crinkly corners, hard edges of wood or weird bumps of cotton that you can feel when you run your hand along back or arm.

Do the vertical tying to finish, so that each spring has been tied to the others, so they all move in unison when sat upon, anywhere on the sofa. Then cover with hessian or burlap. Next will be your spring cover pad - these had curled hair pad on the sofa, but just cotton on the chair. I had a bunch of extra saved from an old piece where the people wanted foam, so I plucked it all apart and supplemented both. Curled hair is like $30.00 per lb, so don't throw it away if it's not too bad...reuse it, but you do need to pull it apart to make it fluffy again. These pictures attempt to show how to deal with the burlap around the posts of frames...

You want the foundational covering (what will be keeping all the stuffing from falling through) to be stapled firmly (but not stretched taught, that's for the final cover) against the frame - no daylight to be seen in corners!

Handsew the edgeroll back on if it had one (these did). If it's a really old piece or from Europe, you may have had to cut extra long burlap and fold it back up from the stapled rail, stuff it with cotton or hair and sew that down (making your own). You need this roll up front to give the "nose" it's nice edge and to protect that edgewire from poking through fabric and getting terribly misshapened.

I like to review pictures I took early on, because this may be 4 days later that I'm just now doing this step and can't for the life of me remember how it went. Is it so terrible to make up your own way? No, but I like to do it the way of the original piece. Because this isn't purely recreational for me, I kind of collect all the ways there are of attaching noses and aprons and decks and things...there are a million and one patents out there held by furniture manufacturers, it's kind of fun seeing all the myriad of ways. This one was handsewn at corners (3 flaps) instead of trying to pattern that curve and sewing it just right on the machine.

Oh, this is what it looked like underneath. Don't forget, you have to handsew the combination of deckcloth/nose to the burlaped and spring-covered springs...

This would've been faster to machine sew welted section to the section covering edgeroll, but I was doubtful of the curve. Sometimes these pieces were cut funny and you can't tell by measuring the old fabric because it's stretched out so much and yielded to the shape of sofa over time. So. Another hour and 1/2 probably, to get a curved needle and no-slip handsewing thread (or strong button twine) to hold it all down where it needs to be...on both pieces.

I forgot to tell you, I actually did the inside arms first, because they extend beneath the level of the decking and even show a little bit out front edge of apron, near the carved show wood, when all's said and done. The original curled hair pad was replaced against new burlap, fresh stuff added to plump it up, new cotton (the old cotton was seriously flattened, dirty etc. It was peeled off, discarded and 2 and 3 new layers added. Why say 2 and 3? You build up quite a thickness at top, while tapering down near deck, to allow room for a plump cushion. Extra bits of cotton also get stuffed in corners, through the lower rails, where the fabric gets pulled through, accessed through outside arms...

Must handsew curled hair to burlap to inhibit shifting. All of this is unnecessary you realize, with the application of foam and cotton or dacron. Modernity...

Doing the same with the back. Placing former cushions on first to check the fit to see how much cotton I need to add and to see how tightly I need to fasten the inside back's fabric to frame. You must give a care to the line of cushions at front edge, neither sticking out too far or sunk too far back. Also to keep in line with welt divisions, marking the sofa into 3rds.

Does fit nicely - no big gaps showing khaki colored deckcloth at point of T-cushion's meeting inside arms.

Now to match the pattern on the inside back of sofa, separated by vertical welt cording.

Cover with burlap the backs, layer of cotton and outer covers applied. I like to hold things in place with small no. 3 upholstery tacks (nails) and then staple with the shortest staple that'll do the trick usually 3/8". Never staple everything with long honking 9/16". Upholsterer's of the future will hate you.

I'll wrap this up now. I've ignored blatantly the first rule of blogging - "keep it short". Can't do'er. And I've been scolded several times by readers to post! post! with better frequency. I'll try! Please do see my facebook pages, both fan and profile are Miller Upholstering, and I'm twittering now at millerupholster. Those have become so much easier to do with the iphone - quick and frequent action reports. Thanks for reading this though. Corn-in-the-Can...maybe you can use some of this towards that sofa you received as a gift last Mother's Day? Yours Truly, Helen

From Start To Finish

Here's a post from a while back that had lost it's image links.  Someone was asking about Cogswell chairs just yesterday, so...