My third week at Tresithick – Day 5

We’ve had that proper ‘last day of the holiday’ feeling today brought on by having such an enjoyable week that seems to have flown by. Darren has been out hiking, cycling, kayaking and eating his own body weight in ice cream, while I have had another brilliant week of expert tuition and learning at Tresithick.

Let’s cut to the chase though, everyone loves a good ‘before and after’ shot, so here’s my little chair transformed……

A little different don’t you think, and to my mind a far more suitable fabric for a chair of this shape. I’m really delighted with the end result and will be taking it home tonight feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished. Time wasn’t quite on my side and there is a little finishing off to do when I get back into my workshop – the back panel needs stitching on one side and it will need a bottom cloth too. I did manage to spend time today with Richard looking at the best way to make a box cushion cover, something I’ve been looking to improve for a while, so time very well spent.

So what have I learned this week? Well firstly, measuring and cutting accurately means that you can spend less time pinning and sewing. If you’re sewing two panels together, make sure the allowances for the seams are exactly the same depth, that way you can simply match up the edges and sew away – no need for pinning! I’ve learned how to deal with curves, and making sure you pull fabric to tension in the right places so that you don’t lose the lovely curved shapes. I’ve learned that foam is really versatile and that you can archive almost and shape and feel by choosing the right foam and cutting it in the right way, and finally I’ve learned a really neat little trick for joining up piping ‘invisibly’. Oh, and I’ve learned that there are only so many days on the trot that I can have a pasty for lunch.

So there we have it, an amazing week, some more skills in my toolkit and an even stronger desire to keep going and building my experience. Richard, Nadine and Sonja have, as ever, worked incredibly hard to make sure we all get the most from our time with them. The group this week have been great too, a really supportive environment and a genuine interest in each other’s projects which helps us all learn a little bit more. I just wanted to share with you a photo of Dawn’s chair – one that’s been particularly interesting for me this week as it’s identical to my own Parker Knoll project but also because of the great fabric! Clearly Dawn’s enjoying her work.

Right, off to enjoy our last night in the cottage before making our way back up the M5. I’m planning my return visit already.


My third week at Tresithick – Day 4

I think I spoke too soon when I said that I was on track to complete my chair by the end of today, that said, I’m not a million miles away. I’d really like to make a box cushion cover this week too (an essential skill for any upholsterer) and Richard has told me that if I get my little chair dozen by morning coffee tomorrow, I should have ample time left. If not, I have the option to finish my little chair at home, or learn as much as I can about box cushions until the bell goes at 5pm!

And so to today’s progress, and the ’10 please Fred’ chair is looking great. The border is stitched to the top, it fits (thankfully) and I’ve taken time to make sure that the tension is right all the way around and my piped edge sits nice and level. No good having a seat that high on one side than the other unless you don’t want people to stay all that long.

A little of my time today was absorbed by the area where the seat fabric is cut into the seat back – you have to cut it in such a way that the cuts are very close to the surface, and unfortunately this fabric has a fairly loose weave that can fray a little. This means that in the back corners of the seat, the cuts started to show, but with a little guidance from Richard we were able to adjust it enough to cover them up without the need to add extra material or piping that might have spoiled the look of the chair.

You’ll see from the third photo that the buttons are now fixed in position, again, another learning experience and my first go at shallow buttoning. I’ve given them just enough tension into the pad so that they dimple a little without spoiling the lines of the fabric, however if you don’t pull them in far enough you run the risk of them catching when people sit, or even being able to see the backs of the buttons….. a real no-no!

Tomorrow is fixing the piping and stitching the back panel, I’ve already covered the back with a stiff calico to maintain the convex curve which will act as a good guide for the top fabric.

I’m going in 15 minutes early tomorrow as every bit helps. I’m really enjoying myself – I don’t want tomorrow to be the last day!

My third week at Tresithick – Day 3

Today has been really satisfying. For a little while now, I’ve been afraid of creating covers that are sewn together before being attached to a chair, preferring instead to build up the upholstery in-situ. Today has changed that – it should come as absolutely no surprise to me that when you take your time and follow a few basic principles, it works!

I can really see my little chair starting to take shape now, and as 5pm approached (days just fly by down here…) I was putting together my seat fabric, border and piping. This means that by the end of tomorrow, all being well, my little ’10 please Fred’ chair should be complete – and I really hope that it’s going to be a fitting tribute to good old Fred.

So tomorrow will see me completing the seat by attaching the border to the top (sewing a straight border to a round seat panel has been a challenge), fixing the buttons in place and attaching a back panel. I’ve really taken the time this week to think about pattern matching too, in part prompted my my recent addiction to ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ where contestants lost points for not thinking about pattern. It’s just as important on chairs! I’m being really careful to make sure that the pattern looks balanced and that the construction looks considered and not thrown together.

I couldn’t have chosen a better week down here, the sun is shining and we’ve enjoyed breaks and lunches outside on the patio today. A real treat.

Before I go, just wanted to show you some of the detail from a fellow course member’s chair as what he’s creating is really inspiring me..

This is incredibly complex work, to which Rob has been unbelievably dedicated – and I think you’ll agree, it’s looking absolutely stunning. I love that fabric.