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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 - Second Stuffing - Calico Covers

( Originally Published 1961 )

Although second stuffing can be covered with linters, felt or wadding and the covers pulled straight over, a more complete and satisfactory job is to cover the second stuffing with calico and then fix the cover over a layer of wadding. The calico covering has more than one advantage. In the first place it makes for a much cleaner job and has also the added advantage of keeping the stuffing in place if and when the covers have to be changed. As this chair is to have a single front border and the cover made in one piece, jacket style, it will be necessary to stuff up the border at this stage. Therefore insert bridles in the front border as well as on top of the seat and start to fill in the hair stuffing. Card it out as fine as possible as you build up to get an even surface and density. Not quite as much stuffing is required above the guttering for it is along this line that the hem formed by the lining and the cover that goes over the edge is sewn. Measure off a length of calico to go right over the seat and down to the base front rail. Pull this over the stuffing and temporarily tack. Once in position, a series of short holding ties in a straight line is inserted along a line over the guttering. The calico can now be tacked off to complete. Calico is neither hemmed or turned under but tacked through the single thickness and trimmed. In the same manner the second stuffing is applied to the arms and back and the calico tacked on. In tacking the back calico commence by tacking along the front of the `tacking rail' and not right down on the base rail. The same thing applies to the arms, tacking the calico along the tacking rail. Where it meets the `gap' it is sewn along the edge of the webbing. It will now be seen that the flys of the covers will be able to be tucked through to the main rails for tacking.

The cover can now be measured and prepared ready for putting on to the chair. It might be mentioned that this job can also be carried out at the completion of the scrim-stuffing stage and indeed would be if a calico covering weren't planned.


If a complete suite were being done then of course each piece would be worked in to the best advantage. It is as well to check all measures before cutting, and also the cutting plan, paying particular attention to the matching pairs like arms and facings. Where a suite's covers are being cut, all pieces should be matched if possible, inside and outside backs and arms, seats and borders, etc. If it is a patterned material the main motif should appear in the identical places to get the perfect balanced effect. There will be eleven pieces to cut for the chair which consist of the outside back, inside back, the seat, two inside and outside arms, two borders, top and front, and two facings. Of these the seat, inside back and inside arms have certain parts to be machined before they are ready for tacking on to the frame. The remaining pieces like the outsides sometimes have pieces sewn on to make up the size. This is usually to economize with material.

Let us deal with the seat first. The measurements will have been taken from the edge,' or rather just over the edge to an inch or so into the tuckaway (the space not seen where the seat, arms and back meet). This obviously will not reach down to the base rail for tacking, so pieces of hessian or canvas are sewn on to the back and sides. These are called `flys' and after being cut they are pinned in position. The front border should be measured from just over the edge and down to the base rail plus 1 in. for tacking under. The length has to be long enough to return inwards at least 2 in. between the seat and inside arms. This border is sewn on with a piped edge to the seat and the ends joined up with the flys. It is necessary to mark the centre of the seat and the border so that they can be matched up when machining.

The inside back is now prepared. The measurements are taken in the same way but this time the cover must be skewered to the chair temporarily and the shape around the tops of the arms cut out. It is best to shape one side, then fold the cover and cut the other side from the pattern made. Whilst the cover is still on the back, place the top border in position and make a small notch on the edge of the two pieces of cover, this will give a guide when it comes to sewing on. A fly extending from the shaped part is next attached but this should be made up from bits of the material for at least 2 in. from the main back piece. The border and flys are sewn on with a piped edge all the way round. Only the bottom fly is sewn on without piping.

The inside arm is measured from an inch around the back rail to an inch past the facing, and from under the arm rail to an inch or so into the tuckaway where a fly is sewn on. Here again the arm should be temporarily fixed and pulled fairly tightly round the scroll of the facing. The material for the facings should be cut to correspond to the shape of the stitched edge and wooden facing, and a matching notch on to the arm cover made. This is necessary when the machinist is piping the two together. A long narrow piece to reach the bottom of the facing is joined on to the front edge of the arm cover where it enters the space between the front border and side of facing. The preparation for the second arm can be cut from the first providing the covers are back to back or face to face. Otherwise you will have two of one arm. This only leaves the outsides and if any piecing is to be done then the machining can be done all at one go.

In cutting shapes, etc., it is a good idea to make use of tailor's chalk for marking purposes. They can then be put flat on the bench and cut in comfort. Remember to allow three-eighths of an inch for seaming and piping.

We now start what is probably the most satisfying task in the whole job of upholstery. That of covering with the chosen material the finished upholstery. A lot of time was given no doubt to choosing the cover and one is always anxious to see just what the result will look like. This is the point where one leaves the dust, the colourless world of jute and stuflings and the hardness of coppered springs to commence the completion with an entirely new feeling. Whether the material be velour of the richest shade, or a moquette, or perhaps the sheer elegance of a silk damask, there seems to be an extra sensitivity to the hands as they mould and adjust the covers to their respective parts. To brush off any dust from the calico covering seems the most natural thing to do before putting the first cover on.

The seat cover is the first part to go on, and first a small twine-sewing job. The seam that is made, when the lining seat is sewn to the piece of material that covers the edge, is sewn along the line above the `gutter'. This is carried out with a half-circular needle and fine twine. It is necessary to keep a straight line and such a guide can be pencilled on to the calico before starting. Where to mark this line is found by fitting the piped edge in place and noting how far into the seat the seam goes. When the sewing is done a single layer of wadding is put over the seat and the flys pushed down and temporarily tacked. Another layer of wadding over the edge and front border and again the cover brought over and a tack or two to hold it. Examine the sit of the cover at this point and see that everything is going to work out all right. In other words, note if any further padding is needed in any place and the cover is in the right position, etc. When satisfied, the cover can be tacked off, and this is done on to the base rails, on top of the rails in the case of the flys, and under in the tacking of the border. A small cut will be needed where the rails meet and the border is stretched around the seat sides making sure there is no fullness showing in front. The back cover jacket complete with top border is the next piece to go on. Once again a single layer of wadding covering the back and border and the jacket is pulled on. Adjust the shaped piping that goes around the arm into position and push down the flys. The first temporary tacks are for the side flys that go through the `gap'. Pull these flys until the shaped piping fits snugly over the arm and then repeat at the other side. This sets the position and the next adjustment is at the top border. Here the piping has to sit along the roll formed by the stitched edge, and when this is set, a tack or two after straining the bottom fly will enable you to stand back and take stock of the job so far. If everything is satisfactory then any further stretching is done and the cover tacked off. In this case the back fly is tacked on to the base rail covering the seat fly, and the short arm flys against the upright back rail.

Before the inside arm and facing jackets are put on, there is still a small stuffing job to complete. The stitched scroll edge has only come down to approximately the level of the arm tacking rail, on the inside. It will be necessary to continue a thin thumbroll to the bottom of the facing where it meets the base rail. After doing this put a row of bridles in the facing and fill in with stuffing to give a padding to come level with projecting stitched edge. This is covered with a double layer of wadding and then the cover is pulled over. The piped facing is the first point to be set and here again the piping sits around the stitched edge. Tuck down the flys and temporary tack to check that it is sitting all right before completing. The fly is tacked to the base rail and the small piece of cover that comes through the gap after cutting where the rails meet is tacked against the back rail. The seam of the piping on the outside of the facing should just come around the edge to tack on the outside of the wood facing.

The outside arms are now put on, and we begin by back-tacking the cover to the underside of the main arm rail. Turn the chair over and rest the arms on the trestles. Lay the cover along the underside of the arm in position. Put a tack or two in to keep it in position. Next a piece of cardboard, the length of the arm by about 2 in. wide, is placed on the edge and back of the cover and then it is tacked along the whole length. This is tacked as near to the outside edge of the arm support as possible without splitting the wood. The cover which has been hanging to the floor, the back side facing you, is now brought over and tacked to the underside of the base rails and on the back of the upright back rail. Temporary tacks hold the cover in place down the outside of the facing until it can be slip-stitched later. It will be seen that the back-tacking makes a nice clean and strong anchorage without any tacks showing. The last piece of cover, the outside back, is now put on and tacked temporarily right round, only the bottom of the cover being tacked home on the underside of the base rail. The sides and top are slip-stitched at the same time as the arms. An alternative way is to use gimp pins and pin all round instead of sewing.

If the covering were a hide or a leathercloth, pieces of old material or canvas would be tacked in position first, before the outside covers were put on. This gives an added resistance against anything digging into the outside covers and tearing them. The protective pieces of canvas are termed `linings' but must not be confused with the main cover. The American upholsterer in fact does call the outside covers `linings'. Two more jobs remain to complete the chair. A piece of black hessian covers the bottom, and the cushion cover is fitted, which only means slipping the cover over whatever form of cushioning has been chosen and sewing up the mouth. If feathers or down has been preferred, then of course they will have been enclosed in a `downproofed' case.

It might be mentioned here that piping can be of a more decorative nature by using a rouche. This type of finish does soften the whole line and takes away any severity the line of the chair may have. Be sure, however, that it goes with the cover.

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