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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

Basic Principles Of Upholstery

( Originally Published 1961 )

The object of upholstering a chair or a settee frame is to provide a comfortable piece of furniture to sit on or recline in. As it is more than likely that it will get regular everyday use it is therefore essential that it should have sound foundations. After the frame, the basic foundations are of two types; the `webbing and spring' and sometimes just `webbing and canvas' base. In common with most jobs of work, if we begin right it will serve as an excellent guide to all that will follow on. So the first part, the webbing, may well merit detailed explanation.


There should be as many webs as possible, to carry the weight of the area with a spacing of approximately 2 1/4 in. between each webbing. This is equal to the width of a web, and a quick way to measure the distance is to place the web about to be tacked three fingers from the last. They are interlaced to give extra strength in unity in the same manner as an elementary weave. It is sometimes a practice, when webbing a large seat area, to web double. That is, to place two webs side by side instead of spacing. It certainly doesn't give any more strength but does supply a bigger web area for the large coil springs to stand on.

Normally webbing is tacked on to the front rail first and stretched to the back and then from side to side. The anchor end of the webbing is turned over at least an inch and secured with five 8 tacks in two rows of three and two. The other end is then taken up in the web strainer and stretched towards the back rail and secured by four tacks. It is then cut off leaving at least an inch to turn over and be fixed with a further two tacks. The turning over of the web acts as a kind of buffer against the tacks being driven home too hard, whereby the head of the tack can break off. Also as the tacks come from the mouth of the worker they can sometimes rust the material. The overlapped part takes any damage whilst the threads of the strained part are unimpaired. The practice of doubling over material after it is cut or trimmed around the frame applies to all material except the first-stuffing scrim and of course the actual covering material. Judging the right amount of tension in the webbing is largely a matter of experience, but a common practice is to let your hammer head fall from a loose wrist on to the strained web where the `bounce' will denote if you at least have the minimum tightness. When webbing occasional chairs with delicate frames or loose seats then it is necessary to avoid buckling the frame by overstraining the webbing. Generally speaking, the backs and arms of chairs and settees do not require as tight a webbing base as the seats do.


Various grades and qualities of twine are used in the trade and also a variety of knots. Twine is first used (for the seat) in sewing in the springs, and this calls for a medium-thickness twine and, as for all other twines, one that will knot easily and tightly. We next go on to the lacing of the springs which calls for a `lacing' cord which is a stouter twine altogether than any other that is used. It is called a laid cord. Twine plays a great part in upholstery and again it is used to stitch the top rungs of the springs on to the covering canvas and then to insert what are known as `bridles' on the canvas. These are a series of loops running parallel with each other which hold the stuffing in place. The best-quality fine twine is used in the stitching of edges, covers, and for `buttoning' or `tufting'. An edge that is entirely stitched and not sprung usually consists of two `blind' stitches and two `top' stitches. A `through' stitch or `holding' tie is also used for holding stuffing in place after the first scrim is tacked on. Stitching or lacing of any kind always begins with a slip knot and it is a good rule to `knot' whenever possible at all points held by twine. When lacing springs it is best to adopt one kind of knot and stick to it throughout.

When at the stage of putting on materials, whether they be hessian, canvas or covers, do not be afraid to use temporary tacks until the adjustment to the right position is achieved. Temporary tacks are those that are only partly driven in and can be removed easily when satisfied that the covering is ready to be tacked right home.

Because fibres give a harder edge and are cheaper than hair they are generally used for first stuffing. Hair and black wool make good second stuffing. A calico covering over this makes a good job, and a final layer of wadding or linters felt completes stuffing prior to the cover going on.

The priorities in upholstering a piece of furniture like a settee or easy-chair differ very often according to the opinion of the upholsterers. The type of frame and springing also have a say in the priority of jobs and procedure. However, it is generally best to web and spring the arms and back first and bring to the first-stuffing stage. Then continue with the seat, bringing it also to the first-stuffing stage. As arms and back require more time and skill in fitting covers it is usually better to do them in that order, leaving the seat and the borders and facings until last.

In the following chapters the basic principles set out will be amplified further still, particularly as regards to webbing and lacing of the springs.

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