Upholstery on the right side of the law

I knew that one day I would have to spend some time looking into the legalities and regulations that govern furniture and upholstery but quite frankly I’ve been putting it off. My excitement levels are rating somewhere close to zero when I think about reading all of the legislative documents I’ve ordered today (including the amendments made to the legislation in 1989, 1993 and 2010 – I know how to enjoy life) but its a necessary part of what I’m looking to do.

In days gone by, upholsterers and furniture manufacturers could pretty much stuff their chairs full of whatever they liked only for it to catch light at the slightest hint of a cigarette and kill anybody in the vicinity with toxic fumes from the foam fillings. Thankfully these days we’re a little more conscientious and it’s time for me to get my head around what the law is telling me to do.

So far I seem to have pieced together that for re-upholstery the fire regulations don’t apply for anything produced before 1950 but it’s considered best practice to bring them up to date. For anything later than that, I need to make sure that I’m using either a fire resistant fabric or a fire resistant lining beneath it. So far so good. Where I’m a bit confused is with the fillings – do they all need to be fire treated too? Or if they’re encased in fire resistant fabric does that meet the standard? I’m thinking about my footstool now – that has a wooden frame which isn’t fire treated but it’s totally encased in a fire resistant liner. Is that ok?

I’m hoping the legislation documents will help, but I suspect they will be written in a way that prohibits any kind of easy interpretation. Do you think there’s a ‘Fire Regs for Dummies’ book? If anyone reading this can confirm what’s what – please let me know!

Anyway, I’ve bored myself with that (if you’re still reading this, well done) so let’s move on! As promised, last weekend my Great Aunt gave me her trusty sewing machine. This was described on the phone as ‘old and in need of a service’ so I pictured something in moulded plastic from the 80’s. What I got was this:


A Husqvarna Viking! Never heard of Husqvarna? Neither had I, but after a bit of research it turns out they’re pretty big players in the sewing machine world and one of the oldest companies at that. This little Swedish wonder is from the 50’s and as it’s been owned from new by my aunt it even has its original manual and tools. I’ve been oiling it like mad today and having a practice – admittedly it’s not as user friendly as a new one, but it’s pretty heavy duty and should make light work of my tougher fabrics.

I had to share this with you too, doing a bit of research on this machine produced an image of another Husqvarna machine from the 70’s. With hints of Bauhaus and resplendent in orange, is this not the coolest sewing machine you’ve ever seen?


Am I really talking openly about cool sewing machines? I need to have a word with myself.


And the winner is…….

Thanks for to all those who took part in my little interactive blog post last week – I loved reading your thoughts and suggestions on which fabric would be right for my chair. However, there can only be one winner

I can confirm that the votes have been counted and verified by an independent adjudicator, and I can reveal that the winner of Fabric Idol April 2012 is………………

Tall Ships by Ikea!


I’m so much happier with this fabric than the plain mustard fabric that I had originally picked, I think it’s quite telling that I actually enjoyed doing it this time where as putting on the other fabric felt like a bit of a chore.

I need to do a couple of finishing off bits (I’m thinking a run of double piping around the bottom edge) and then decide what to do with it. I think this one will have to find a new home as I just don’t have room to keep them all! Any takers?

My second self-employed Friday has felt quite productive – off to Eastbourne in the morning to see my Great Aunt Joyce who has answered my call for a sewing machine to call my own. Thanks Joyce! I feel an ice cream calling.

What a difference a fabric makes….

I’m close to finishing my small, Adam style armchair which has been hanging around in the background now for some time. Picked up at auction, it was presentable but covered with an odd, blue corduroy and filled with a mix of foam and masking tape!


Thing is, I’ve hit a problem. My original vision for this chair just hasn’t worked out, I wanted a plain, vibrant yellow or mustard fabric with a slightly felt-like feel that would give it a gentle contemporary edge allowing the chair back to take centre stage. So I found the fabric, ordered a meter and set to work….and then stopped. I hate it. I have somehow managed to take a beautiful piece of furniture with so much potential and make it look like it should be in the reception seating section of the Viking Direct office catalogue. Bum.


I did consider persevering with it to see if I liked it any more once it was finished, but I trust my judgement on this. If I don’t like it now, I’m never going to like it.

So it’s over to you – I’ve trawled my fabric stash, come up with some alternatives (pictured below) and thought we could play ‘fabric idol’! It’s a kind of interactive blog thing that I’m sure is going to take off in a big way and before we know it all the cool kids will be playing along. So, which is your favourite? I’m planning on going with the consensus – answers on a postcard……

Option 1 – a lovely tall ships print from Ikea, it’s not ideal for upholstery as it’s not particularly heavy, but I see this as more of a display chair anyway!


Option 2 – a roses motif on a grey background, fairly traditional but I thought I might set the pattern off centre to play with the symmetry a bit


Option 3 – a St Jude’s fabric as used in my first ever project, I have enough left to do this chair too


Happy voting – the winner will be announced this time next week!

The finished footstool

This week was my first Part-time week and my first self employed Friday, also known to many as Good Friday. So yes, the impact of my massive decision to move away from full time employment was somewhat diluted by the fact that every other man, woman and child decided to take the day off with me. Did I do any upholstery? No. We de-cluttered the house.

Saturday however was a completely different matter, the footstool I’d started at Tresithick had to be finished (we had family coming for dinner and I was determined to show them that I’d been busy!), I’d already made and upholstered the base and the legs had arrived a few days ago so off to the shed I went……..

And this is what I emerged with


I have to say I’m really pleased with the end result, of course there area few things I’d do differently next time, but as a prototype it’s not half bad!

This also means that I’ve achieved one of my personal goals from the last 12 months, to have a product of my own. I can makes this footstool in any shape or size, plain or buttoned, tall or short from scratch. No need to trawl antique shops or eBay, I can make a piece of furniture all by myself. That feels pretty cool!

I think I might call it ‘The Sanderson’ as I’m fortunate to have the same surname as the fabric brand and the posh, London hotel I thought they would be good associations. As its also an Olympic year, if you happen to think of Tessa Sanderson along the way I’m happy with that too.

So who wants to buy one?