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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

Upholstery For Bedding

( Originally Published 1961 )

Divan base

Divan bases are made in standard lengths and widths, i.e. 6 ft. 2 in. x 3 ft., 3 ft. 6 in., 4 ft. and 4 ft. 6 in. widths. Frames can be made from any kind of timber but are usually in a softwood. The normal dimensions for the sides and the ends are 5 in. X 1 in., and for the slates 3 1/2 in. to 4 in. x 1 in. It is assembled by butting the ends to the sides, gluing and nailing. Strengthening blocks are put in each corner and a wooden bracket against the centre slat and side. Seven to eight slats are needed for a 4 ft. 6 in. base, which are inserted on the base rails at regular intervals. Pieces are cut out of the main rail the width and depth of the slat and the slats are set in and nailed. Make sure the frame is square (using the term as applied to a right angle of 90 degrees), before starting on the slats. Corner legs are then added.

The slats are first covered by a material to stop the noise of the rungs hitting the timber when depressed. This is usually a piece of webbing, canvas or felt. If a shallow base is required then 5 in. springs will be high enough, but the average divan requires springs of 6 or 7 in. by a twelve gauge. A 3 ft. wide base will take four or five springs per slat and a 4 ft. 6 in. base six to seven springs on every slat. The springs are stapled in with four staples for each spring over the rung and through the covering on the timber. They should be spaced out evenly along the slat, once again remembering to keep the wire knots of the outside springs facing inwards. The springs are laced lengthways first, so the number of pieces of laid cord are cut off for this job. They should each be the length of the divan plus an allowance for knotting each spring and an extra foot over at each end. This is required for holding the centre rung and tying off. Anchor each piece of laid cord in a line centre to a long row. This is best done with a staple, leaving a foot of twine for finishing off. Commence lacing, tying off the springs as already explained, but starting directly on to the top rung of the first sprin,g and not the centre rung as when doing a seat. The centre rung is caught with the end piece of laid cord and pulled towards the rail when the lacing is completed. Pull the cord taut after each row of lacing is done and secure with a staple. The lacing across the width is done in exactly the same way, not forgetting to cross the cord as it meets in the centre of the rungs. A piece of heavy-grade spring canvas, normally termed tarpaulin, is cut off 6 in. longer and wider than required to cover the springs. This is put over the springs allowing an overlap of 3 in. over the sides and ends. Tack every inch all round with fiveeighths tacks, through the single thickness. The overlap is required to make a thumbroll with wool or fibre. Starting in the middle of any side or end, lay some stuffing along the edge and fold the canvas over tightly forming a roll about 11 in. in diameter. Pull it well back to the edge and tack off every inch with five-eighths tacks. The aim is to get the whole length of the thumbroll as even as possible in thickness and without any lumpiness. The springs are then sewn to the canvas catching each rung three times. Because there is such a large laced area it is sometimes considered unnecessary to sew in the springs, and up to a point this is quite true. However, after use the canvas does stretch and lose some tautness and this does mean there is more play and therefore more friction from the moving canvas which results in wear over the top rungs of the springs, particularly where it catches the `wire knots' of the springs.

The twine `bridles' are then sewn in over the canvas top and the stuffing put under them, `teasing' it out evenly as each handful is put in. The centre of the divan base usually calls for a little extra stuffing just to give it an extra inch in height. When the stuffing is completed a hessian covering is put over and pulled tight and tacked against the sides of the ends and long rails. The `ticking' cover can now be cut off and prepared. Measure off a `tight' measure over the hessian and allow half an inch for seaming. Make up the required area of ticking on the bench (it will probably need a full width with two partwidths on either side of it) and also cut off the separate border lengths and piping lengths required. The cover is then machined up with a piped border and a double stitching up the corners where the borders are joined. Before leaving the machine make sure there are no gaps in the piping, for a lot of strain is put upon the cover. Incidentally, the border lengths are cut to the depth of the divan plus half an inch for seaming and an inch for turning under and tacking. Pull the ticking cover over the hessian and temporary-tack all round getting the piped edge of the ticking in line over the edge of the thumbroll. When satisfied tack off underneath. The divan is now ready for tufting. The tufting takes the place of holding ties on the scrim stuffing. Mark out the top of the cover for as many rows of `tufts' as required, which might be five rows of four, or three rows of four, interspaced by two staggered rows of three. When the cover has been marked, thread a long needle with fine high-quality grade twine arid start to put in the slip knots through the marked spots. The knots are the things that actually hold the tufts which can be made of wool, cotton, leather and even buttons. Insert the needle from the top (at this stage the divan is standing on trestles at each end, allowing free movement in locating the needle as it comes through from the top) and pull it from underneath until it is through the spring canvas and then push it back as close as possible to the entry point. Make a slip knot and pull not too tightly at this stage, and clip off the twine leaving an end of about 5 or 6 in. Repeat this procedure until all the marks have been covered before putting the tufts underneath the twine. When all the tufts are in, commence pulling the slip knots tight and knotting off with the end of twine left on for this purpose. Cut surplus twine as near the knot as possible and tuck under the tuft. The tightening of the tufts is started from the centre working outwards each way. This particular type of divan base is now completed except for the tacking-on of a black hessian on the underside which keeps out the dust and finishes off the job.

The box mattress is made very much the same way as a divan base. This is the mattress that fits over the old-type bed irons. It has a retaining rail that is set back about 2 in. from the side and end main rails, and fits in between the bed irons. It is not unusual to find these mattresses webbed instead of having wooden slats for the springing to rest upon, and also made with a spring edge along the sides or at least with a stitched border. Of course when this type of box mattress is used it serves as a complete unit that doesn't need a spring-interior mattress over the top, although a pillow-type wool overlay is very frequently used. This is a mattress without a border, therefore quite shallow but giving that extra softness that might be required. There are better-quality divan bases that are made with spring edges all round but more often with the two sides and the foot only. Wheel attachments or good-quality ball-bearing castors make it much easier to manipulate the bed for making-up or cleaning purposes.

Sometimes the divan base is made in two parts and hinged to enable it to be folded in the centre. It can be space-saving and is easier for one person to move. Another popular adaptation, particularly with the single divan, is to put a blanket drawer in the base of the frame. This entails making a higher rail and using a shallower spring for the foundation.

Spring-interior mattress

As its name implies, this is a mattress in which the interior has springing of one kind or another. Various types of spring units are obtainable as described in the chapter on springing, such as the open-mesh type in which the small coil springs are joined by spring wire and the pocketed type where the springs are pocketed in calico casings and are clipped together. The first method has a hessian covering. The stuflings are varied from linters felt to all-hair. The last-named, of course, is always a first-quality job and in the highest price bracket. However, wool stuffing is greatly used and is a most satisfactory type of stuffing for a mattress of this type. The ticking case is made and will include handles, two on each side for lifting, and wire-mesh air vents in the borders. It should be remembered that a good-quality ticking is needed if a hair stuffing is to be used. A fullsize mattress, i.e. 6 ft. 2 in. x 4 ft. 6 in., will be cut 6 ft. 5 in. x 4 ft. 8 in. The extra material is taken up by seaming and tufting. The borders will run out at 64 in. to finish 6 in. in depth after piping. The case is stitched around completely on one panel but only along one long side of the other panel. This leaves the ticking open to enable the spring unit to be laid in after the stuffing has been bridled around it. The panel is then pulled over and the edges skewered together to hold them until the ends and side are sewn together. Mark out the tufting spots (if they already haven't been done) and tuft, using firstquality twine. On a full-size mattress they are usually staggered in rows of four and three, looking across the width, and five with four lengthways. Put in all the tufts before tying off tightly, starting from the centre and working outwards. After the tufting is completed two rows of tying stitches are put right round the borders to retain the stuffing on the edge of the mattress and so keep the edge firm. This is done with a fine mattress twine and a long needle. After regulating the stuffing to the edge, start off about a third of the way down the border from the piped edge and make a slip knot. Don't bring the needle out on top of the ticking. Insert the needle again at almost the same point and return it about two inches farther along the border. Insert the needle again about a quarter-inch along the border and repeat until two rows have been done all round the borders. There is no twisting of the twine over the needle as in doing a blind or top stitch.

The manufacturing mattress-makers of course have machines to carry out many of these tasks and the above procedure applies to the smaller workshop. A great many spring-interior mattresses now have the borders reinforced and supported by quilting.

Latex foam-rubber mattresses are very popular and as processing costs become cheaper a greater volume is demanded. They are made in thicknesses of 4 and 6 in. and will last a lifetime. Among the many advantages they have, constant resilience is a most important one along with the obvious hygienic properties.

Not all people like a soft or springy mattress and there are still a great number of `hard mattresses' supplied. They are termed `hard' as opposed to spring mattresses, although a `stuffed' mattress might be a more accurate description. Undoubtedly the best in this group is the all-hair mattress, and also the most costly. Made of the finest black hair, it is filled about a third of the way from one end and then the corners filled out and the hair teased and evened out by hand. This is repeated until the whole mattress is stuffed and then the mouth is sewn up and marked ready for tufting. As with other mattresses, when the tufting is finished two rows of stitching are put around the borders. An all-hair mattress will last many years, is very comfortable and reputedly healthy to sleep upon. To complete the range there are many wool-stuffed mattresses which are comfortable and give excellent service for the average cost.

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