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Brief History Of Upholstery
Tools And Workshop Requirements
Types And Styles Of Frames
Springs And Spring Units
Stuffing Materials
Cover Materials
Measuring, Cutting, And Preparing Covers
Basic Principles Of
Types Of Stitched Edges And Fronts
Making An Easy Chair With Cushion Seat
The Arm
The Back
The Seat
Second Stuffing-Calico Covers
Pin-Cushion Seat-Stools
Dining-Chairs-Loose Seats
Cable Springing And Latex Cushions
Occasional Chair-Cable Sprung
A Bedroom Chair
Modern Tensile-Sprung Easy-Chair
Adaptable Settee Unit
Upholstery Repairs
Upholstery Terminology

Making An Easy Chair - The Arms

( Originally Published 1961 )

Stretch three or four short webs across the arm opening vertically, and on the inside. These need not be stretched very tightly as they take little strain and are mainly to give a foundation to the arm stuffing. The web closest to the back should be set very close to the rail. A gap between the rail and webbing should not be more than 2 in. This is the web that will form the opening through which the cover fly of the inside back and the inside arm will pass, and, of course, any canvas covering of these parts that precedes the cover proper. At this point and before I leave the question of this `gap', it might be mentioned that many upholsterers continue the arm stuffing right through to the back and prefer to leave the `gap' for flys in a hole cut in the canvas covering the back springs. I have always considered this an untidy job and it certainly weakens the back canvas, particularly if it is a sprung back.

The webs are now covered with spring canvas or burlap. Cut off sufficient to give yourself a liberal hem. Start at the bottom inside rail and fold over about an inch of canvas and tack along, keeping the tacks in the centre of the rail thickness. Stretch up tightly by hand and tack to the top rail through the single thickness of canvas. Now hem and tack the short distance down the facing and at the opposite end where the `gap' web is. Two straight cuts will be needed in line with the rails so that the canvas can pass through the gap and be tucked around the web until later, when it can be sewn with a piece of twine. Fold the top hem of the canvas now and tack. Webbings and canvas all of five-eighths tacks.

We now prepare to put our first stuffing on. The fibre needs to be held in position until the scrim covers it and this is accomplished by twine `bridles', or loops. A packing or spring needle with a length of twine is used on the canvas part. Attach the twine at the bottom inside corner with a slip knot and from this point make large loops about 7 in. long and about 6 or 7 in. apart in parallel lines. The loop is made by inserting the needle and bringing it out again an inch backwards from the starting point. This is known as `bridling'. On top of the wooden arm frame the same thing is done by using three-eighths tacks to hold the twine in position, remembering to leave sufficient room under the twine for the fibre to be placed.

The bridles on the canvas will give easily enough to pack under the stuffing.

The fibre can now be placed underneath these bridles and `teased' or `carded' out by hand evenly, to form the required thickness. Remember when using fibre or hair stuffings that there is a great deal of springiness in them, and although there may look adequate padding it soon compresses when the burlap is pulled over and tacked. So bolster the fibre well up into the bridles and press down with your hand to guide you as to the density. Bear in mind that where there is to be a stitched edge there should be no skimpiness, and see that the stuffing extends well over the edge of the framework. When the required density and evenness is obtained cut off the piece of burlap. Use a linen tape measure to get the size. When cutting canvas or any materials, it is a good rule to cut to a thread or wire. It keeps the rolls tidy and also ensures that you don't cut short.

Place the burlap over the arm and keep in position by temporary tacks, keeping the threads as straight as possible from back to front and from the top downwards. The `holding' stitch or `through tie' is now put in on the inside of the arm. This is needle and twine work again, and takes the form of two parallel lines of ties similar to bridles. Starting at the base of the inside arm pass the needle right through and out, returning it near the entry point and fastening off by making a slip knot. Moving along again in the same way as the bridling was done, pass the needle through about every 7 in. with the difference that the re-entry of the needle on top of the hessian is forward instead of back. When two rows have been done remove the needle and pull the whole length of twine tight, loop by loop, and tie off with a double hitch.

The scrim can now be tacked. This doesn't mean it can be tacked just as it is, for around the facing and along the outside of the arm you will find that it has to be built up to a firm shape, and this is done by tucking in extra fibre where necessary before turning in the scrim and tacking on the face of the rasped edge. When this is finished the scrim stuffing should overhang the edges slightly, for when you begin to stitch it will be pulled back almost in line with the frame. When finishing off the scrim at the back where the gap is, turn it in and sew it with twine to the edge of the web thus still leaving a free opening which the `flys' will pass through. The tacks around the facing will not be more than half an inch apart, but along the bottom. of the tacking rail and on the outside one inch spacing will be sufficient. Remember all edges of scrim will be turned under. We now have the foundation and general shape of the arm and it is ready to have the parts that take the weight or pressure reinforced as it were. In other words, the stitching. The edges along the top of the arm, particularly inside, take a lot of weight from the elbow which would soon disarrange the careful bridling of the fibre, if not stitched. Another place that takes a lot of pressure is the top edge of the facing. Most people place their hands at this point and take their weight both when about to sit and rise from the chair.

We start by regulating the stuffing to the front of the `facing' edge using the left hand to form the shape. With a short upholsterer's needle put in a blind stitch all round the facing followed by a firm top stitch forming a roll along about the thickness of a hammer handle. Along the outside of the arm, regulate the stuffing and stitch in one blind stitch along the whole length, whilst on the inside a rather thicker roll is made at the point where it is desirable to maintain the roundness of the arm as it drops down to the seat. Before each stitching operation the use of the regulator is advised, for the more even the stuffing is formed before the twine goes in, the more successful will be your stitching.

At this point there is one arm completed to the `scrim stuffing' stage. The other arm is now to do, and an important thing to remember is to make this arm identical in shape and size to the completed one. This has always got to be borne in mind when doing any stage of work on the arms of the facings. Once again, if the foundations are good the problems of matching diminish with each stage, as indeed do any other problems.

Just a word about stitching in a natural fashion. In the case of a right-handed person the stitching is done from left to right and therefore if the left-hand arm facing is done first the starting point will be on the outside of the scroll, whilst when stitching the opposite facing edge, the starting point will be at the bottom of the inside edge.

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