Upholstery session!

Construction, Homeware

27/07/16 – My mum and I have been going to Lisa Johns’ workshop with our chosen chairs for her to help and guide us in the reupholstering of them! We had no idea what to expect…but she was waiting for us and took us through her house which was in the process of being extended, along the twists and turns of her unique garden, past the rabbits and chickens and eventually coming out at a converted garage – which is where the magic happens!

Prior to the first session mum and I had stripped our chairs to save a bit of time. I still needed to get mine back to the original horsehair so we could remove and replace it.


I didn’t know they still use real horsehair nowadays but Lisa, very rightly, said that if it is an old, vintage chair, it is nice to have the reupholstery in keeping with the feel of the chair. If you buy a new chair it is more than likely simply padded with wadding or padding but an antique has so many different layers, different stitching and different techniques.

First things first, after removing the original horsehair, I needed to sew new loops for the stuffing – and I had to do this with a curled needle (almost a semicircle!) which made it so much easier!


Then, with balls of horsehair, I had to stuff them under each loop and tighten the twine around them – this created this Tim Burton- like creature lying on top of my chair! What a difference to the one I had removed.

Lisa then suggested that I add a small square of lint to just pad the seat out a little more, since the original one dipped slightly in the centre. I then covered the whole seat with a larger section of the wadding. This was then pulled through to the back, sides and front of the chair, so it covered the horsehair section completely.

This was then covered with another layer, one of calico with a little stretch to the weave. Lisa helped me stretch it over my seat and said that over the next week I should retack and stretch the calico to create a drum -like effect for the seat.

03/08/16 – She did the final stretch on the front of the seat and let me hammer the tacks right down to the wood so they lie flat and cannot be felt and showed me how to cut the corners neatly and without leaving too much bulk – it was so exciting to think that this was the beginning of the end for the calico part of the process – it was really looking like a finished chair!

We also stripped the back of the chair to see what lay beneath – yep, you got it…more horsehair under calico! But Lisa suggested that we leave it as it is since it is still firm – we simply replaced the flattened lint with some wadding for added comfiness and reapplied some new calico – which, again, I needed to go home and stretch and stretch and stretch!


I see know what a long process it would be if one had to do this over a whole arm chair! But it is so much fun – Mum and I have well and truly caught the love of upholstery! Unbelievably chuffed with our progress so far! Looking forward to next week now!


10/08/16 – We cut the excess calico on the seat down to just below the tacks – creating a beautiful finish! The chair looks lovely like this – so clean and white…but lets face it, minis are much more exciting!


So Lisa helped me to attach the top cover for the back of the chair – I fiddled around with the placement of the different minis until I was happy and we started cutting the fabric to go around the posts. There was a clever little slot to allow some of the excess back through the chair, creating a gorgeous finish on the front!

I was able to finish off the top corners at home and decide how I wanted the placement of the seat minis – to match or not to match, that is the question…I went for the same mini lines following those of the back (the left hand photo).

22/08/16 –  Lisa tackled the tricky cuts of the seat whilst I got on with the stitching and cutting on the back – I wanted piping to go around the side sections of the chair to make a feature out of the different colour fabric I had chosen to work with and this turquoise felt really stands out from the patterned material. I stitched it any old way so it was secure.

The back is now completed finished in terms of the top fabric! Ready for a new piece of hessian, the piping, the side panels and the back panel. And the seat is all done bar the cord to hide the tacks.

23/08/16 –  Lisa and Mum really wanted me to have the chair done before moving into the flat, like a housewarming chair! So I went again the next day to get it finished with Lisa’s help. I was so excited I forgot my phone to take pictures with – so I will try and describe what we achieved as best as possible.

A lot of hand sewing! Ladder stitch the side panels over the piping, then ladder stitch the other side of the piping to the chair to reduce flapping.

Tuck the excess side and piping underneath and tack down.

Using hem tape, which you place on top of the wrong side of your back panel to the top of the chair…(you keeping up!?) and tack down securely, this then creates a lovely fold for the top line of the seat! Very clever!


Ladder stitch the rest of the back panel and glue down the cord around the base of the seat…and that is it! The blue against the red really stands out – exactly how I like it!

Amazing stuff and I am so so thankful that Lisa was there to help me. I feel I have learnt so much…and now cannot wait to start the next upholstery project!


A little before and after shot to show the difference – as a chair I like the cream brocade but I love the fact that I now have a personal, handmade item for the flat!

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