|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
Brief History Of Upholstery
Tools And Workshop Requirements
Types And Styles Of Frames
Springs And Spring Units
Measuring, Cutting, And Preparing Covers
Basic Principles Of
Types Of Stitched Edges And Fronts
Making An Easy Chair With Cushion Seat
Second Stuffing-Calico Covers
Cable Springing And Latex Cushions
Occasional Chair-Cable Sprung
A Bedroom Chair
Modern Tensile-Sprung Easy-Chair
Adaptable Settee Unit
( Originally Published 1961 )
One of the most popular types of dining-chair is that of the loose seat variety. Although the period and styles varied they retained one thing in common, a framework within the chair seat that can be lifted out. Still produced in volume, they are extremely economical in material and the covers can easily be changed without incurring heavy labour costs. The loose seat frame is made of birch or beech and assembled by dowels or mortised and tenoned joints. Dowelling is the system most used today. The top side of the loose seat frame is chamfered so that the edge of the chair frame and seat frame are level. Make sure that it is a good fit before upholstering. It should have just enough play to take the thickness of cover. Plane a little off if you think it is too tight, and if too slack a piece of cardboard or webbing is tacked against the side or back and if necessary both. The average loose seat will take three webs back to front and two across the width. The tacking of the webbing should not extend beyond the line where the chamfer begins. It is strained in the normal way but again with great care to ensure the frame isn't buckled and twisted. The following spring canvas is tacked on in the usual way with a hem on top. The bridles are then sewn around the frame canvas ready for the stuffing to be `bridled in'. Hair or wool are suitable stuffilngs but the former is preferred for it is the resilience of the hair alone that will help keep the shape of the seat and avoid that hollow in the centre after use. The stuffing should be built up high in the centre and covered with a piece of calico, and tacked with three-eighths tacks on the outside of the frame. This is trimmed to within a quarterinch of the tacks. Care should be taken when doing this to keep the edge of the frame quite clear from stuffing. The seat should now be the required depth and quite firm. The cover, which needs no preparation, is cut off allowing about an inch more than the net measurements. If the cover has a large motif in design it should be placed in the centre of the seat. If it is a pile material then the pile should run from the back of the seat to the front. Fold the cover lengthways and cut a small nick across the folded corner. This will serve as your centre guide to a similar mark in centre of the front rail. Lay the cover face down on the bench and place the seat on top, stuffed side on the cover. Fold over the front edge of the cover and fix with four temporary tacks. Turn over the seat and place a layer of wadding over the calico and stretch to the back holding the cover with a few tacks, and the same with the sides. Check that the pattern is central and satisfactory before tacking off. This is done in the same order, back to front and then the sides, tacking about every inch. The corners are turned in neatly at the very end of the rail as the illustration shows. A piece of black hessian or linen is tacked on the bottom to complete the seat.
It is not surprising that this type of seat is so popular for it is compact with a nice clean finish and easy to keep clean. Many of these loose seat frames have a covering of plywood instead of webbing foundation and while this makes the job less costly it certainly isn't as comfortable and does compress the stuffing very quickly, no matter what type is used. A more modern, efficient and comfortable seat is now manufactured with rubber webs and a foam-rubber stuffing. This certainly produces a clean first-class job.
The small stuff over chair can be sprung or made with the firm seat. Dining-chairs that are sprung are of the modern variety whilst the period chairs such as the Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton depend for their comfort on hair-stuffed seats expertly upholstered. There was a time when nearly all small chairs of the dining type were made without any springing, but included in this chapter is a detail for springing such a chair, for those who prefer a sprung seat. Once the foundation is laid the method of stuffing remains the same. If a chair is to be stuffed, only then the webbing is done on top of the seat rail. If it is to be a sprung seat then it is webbed from the underside of the rail. Therefore to start the spring seat turn the frame upside down on the trestles and commence webbing. Best English webbing should be used for this with a combination usually of four long webs and three across the width, remembering to inter-lace them. Web from front to back first in the manner prescribed and again beware of overstretching and twisting the frame.
Although a small seat can be sprung adequately with three springs, it is nearly always better to use a five-spring plan. This is one centre spring with four surrounding it. These are sewn in with three ties to each spring in a triangle shape but need not be knotted at each point as in larger pieces of upholstery. After the first slip-knot the springs are caught with a continuous twine which can be tightened after the last spring is tied and then knotted. An average chair spring would be a six inch by ten gauge. The lacing of the springs tends to harden the seat a little and many upholsterers prefer to omit lacing and secure the springs by sewing them directly to the covering spring canvas. The springs are pushed into position through the top of the canvas, the outside ones leaning slightly towards the corners and the centre spring remaining upright. However, lacing is more dependable and this is carried out diagonally. As the twines cross only on the rung of the centre spring it is knotted. The finish of the lacing is done in the same way as the easy-chair seat with an end of twine tying off the top rungs. I feel the lacing is a much more satisfactory job. If necessary use a lighter gauge to retain the softness aimed for.
The spring canvas is put on and hand stretched until taut and then the tops of the springs are sewn on to the canvas. Bridles are then put in near the edge and across the centre of the seat. The fibre is `bridled' in and the hessian put on, being held with temporary tacks and holding ties. The latter usually form a square shape in the centre of the seat.
Commencing with the front edge, first build up the stuffing to a well-filled edge and tack off the scrim, keeping the half-inch tacks along the same row of threads in the scrim along front and back edges. This will help you when you come to stitching the edge. Build up and tack the edge all the way round. When all the scrim is tacked the stuffed seat should be about an inch bigger than the frame size all round, for when the stitching is completed it will have pulled it in again. The `regulator' comes into action first, bringing the stuffing near the lower part of the scrim ready for the first blind stitch. Start at the side, low down near the tacking, by pushing the needle well into the stuffing and returning it near the entry point to make a slip knot. From this point insert the needle about 1,1 in. to the right, taking it well into the stuffing, but not out, and return it about half-way from the point of entry. Twist the twine around the needle as it comes out and pull the twine tight. Continue the procedure right round the seat. After further regulating, the second and third stitches are put in. These will be top stitches where the needle is taken right out of the hessian and returned, but a double twist is put around the needle as it comes out, making a tighter knot. During the stitching of the roll concentrate on getting a nice straight and even edge of equal height all round. The use of the left hand to help form the stuffing whilst regulating helps greatly. Because of the pulling of the twine after each stitch the top of the little finger on the outside can become very sore and even cut the skin. A safeguard is to put a leather `stall' over the little finger. I have mentioned doing two top stitches but in fact one could do in the case of a soft-cover job. However, if hide or leathercloth is to be used as the covering then two stitches are certainly necessary.
The bridles are put in ready for the second stuffing which is laid evenly over, and then a calico cover tacked on. Where the stuffing is wool the calico is seldom used but the cover put on over a layer of linters felt or wadding. The cover is tacked on temporarily beginning by a straight front and after checking positioning, etc. The cover is cut at the junction of. the back rails and at the front corners and folded to make a flat neat pleat on the front. Where the cover goes over the side and back rails it is turned in and pulled tightly downwards and close against the long back rails or uprights. After stretching the cover towards the corner it is continued around the front and a couple of tacks are put in about half an inch from the corner to hold it. Cut upwards along the line of these two tacks till near the top. The cover will then extend past the corner of the front border about 2 in. Cut off about three-quarters of this, leaving enough to turn in and make a neat pleat right on the corner. Unless this surplus is cut off it makes for a bulky corner which also can make a line on the cover later on.
Depending upon the style of the frame the covering is either tacked underneath or against a rebated frame, the lower part probably being polished. In the latter a gimp or banding is put round to finish off. Another finishing style is close-nailing with the round-headed nails. Chippendale-style chairs often have this finish and larger and older period chairs sometimes have extra-large studs.
The black hessian bottom is tacked on to complete a very satisfactory job.
The same procedure exactly is used for all stages when making a chair that has not a spring seat. The only difference being the webbing, which is done on top of the seat rail instead of on the bottom.