Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Learning new skills at The Traditional Upholstery Workshop

The term “upcycling” has grown in popularity over recent years and is commonly used to describe the process of rescuing and transforming an old piece of furniture.  However, this is not a new concept.  

The tradition of restoring old furniture can be traced back many centuries.  In particular, traditional upholstery methods date back to the 18th century and are still used today to restore old worn pieces of furniture back to their former glory.


Last month I decided to explore the world of traditional upholstery and spent a wonderful week learning new skills at The Traditional Upholstery Workshop in West Wales.

The course was held at The Old Piggery – a converted workshop surrounded by beautiful countryside just outside the village of Meidrim in Carmarthenshire.
My first project was to breathe new life into this old nursing chair.


To begin, course tutor Liz Marks introduced me to the equipment in my upholsterer’s tool box, showed me how to use a tack lifter and set me to work removing the old tacks, material and stuffing from my chair.


When the chair was stripped down to the frame, I filled holes in the wood with a mixture made from sawdust and PVA glue.  
Fortunately the spring unit was in a good condition so there was no need to replace it.  My next job was to  polish the legs of the chair to revive the colour of the wood.

When the preparation stage was complete I moved on to the upholstery.  Within a few hours I recreated the back of the chair using jute webbing, tarpaulin hessian, rubberised hair and cotton wool felt.


Next, I covered the back of the chair with calico material and was shown how to use metal skewers to tension the fabric and create a smooth curved shape.
When the calico was fixed into position I covered the springs and base of the chair with tarpaulin hessian, learnt how to tie an upholsterers slip knot and was shown several stitching techniques.

The following day I built up a cushion using layers of hair and cotton wool felt.

My next challenge was to make a seat cover from calico material.  I was taught how to use an industrial sewing machine (which is much faster than a domestic machine!) and eventually made a circular cover, fitted it to the chair and tacked everything into place.


Next I was ready for the top fabric! 

Liz patiently showed me how to measure up and cut the fabric ensuring the weave was straight. She also helped me make contrasting piping (which was surprisingly easy to do) and fabric covered buttons for the back of the chair.

After lots of metal skewers (and a few holes in my fingers!) the material was tensioned, tacked and stitched into position.


I used glass head pins to hold the piping around the edge of the seat, stitched it into place and was shown how to sew shallow buttons on the back of the chair.


Finally I stitched the back cover of the chair into place and attached a hessian cover to the base of the frame.


After days of hard work my project was complete! The result is this beautiful nursing chair (which now takes pride of place in my bedroom).

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Traditional Upholstery Workshop and found the whole experience immensely rewarding. 

There is a huge sense of achievement to be gained from transforming a tired old piece of furniture into something that will be admired and cherished for many years to come.

Now I can't wait to get my own set of tools and start my next project!

Leanne x

No comments:

Post a Comment