Growth Spurt

Back in January I received a delivery of materials in preparation for the striped velvet project that was due for completion in March. Nothing unusual about that, in fact it was all very straight forward, but it did highlight something that I’ve been increasingly aware of – a distinct lack of space.

This particular delivery included 3 rolls of foam, and these are no small rolls. Each one when standing measures just over 6 feet and they’re pretty wide and heavy too. There was no room for them in the workshop (not if I wanted to be in there too) and the garage was already packed to the gunnels…. so that left the spare bedroom. It was like having 3 large house guests. I then needed to measure and cut my fabric. 11m of velvet can be pretty unwieldy in a tight space and trying to manoeuvre it in my little workshop was out of the question. That left the living room floor or the dining room table. I plumped for the latter. Velvet when cut tends to shed little bits of the cut pile; these stick to everything – clothes, carpets, cats…… and will merrily travel around the house. Needless to say, my presence as an upholsterer was being felt.

You may notice that the backdrop of my progress shots is increasingly messy!
You may notice that the backdrop of my progress shots is increasingly messy!

I really love my little workshop, but the time had come to think big. As luck would have it, an opportunity to share a large studio with a couple of my friends came about at roughly the same time. Dean, a painter and Nikki who has her own Fair Trade toy business, were looking for a studio buddy or two to occupy the space with them. This Friday I’ll be packing up my shed and moving to Titan Studios, a large Victorian industrial building on the edge of the canal in Stourbridge. I won’t be the only newbie either as Liz, a jewellery designer, will be joining us too.

It’s safe to say I’ll miss the ability to work at home, but this will be replaced with an environment that’s creative and stimulating – the opportunity to be with other creative people is really exciting and I also think there’s something in ‘going to work’ that can add a bit of focus. I’m really looking forward to having a little elbow room and keeping our home tidy too – I just hope that my hammering doesn’t drive my studio buddies mad!

This weekend, hot on the heels of his presence at ART 14 in London and The Affordable Art Fair in New York, Dean is holding an open studio weekend. I’ll be looking productive in the corner in the hope that a few of these art lovers might also need a bit of upholstery!

Why not come along?
Why not come along?

Of course, studio space is one thing, but how do you move all of your stuff from one place to another? When the velvet striped job was completed, it was a little like the Krypton Factor trying to squeeze all of the components into my car without damage. At the moment the size of project I can tackle is limited by the size of project I can fit in my small hatchback, either that or I have to pay for vehicle hire. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a retro-car nut, so contemplating the sale of my current pride and joy is tough (I balance it out with the excitement of choosing something new!) but it was time to upgrade to the upholstery-mobile.

The search was on! It had to be a car (not a van) as I need the versatility of 5 seats, and it had to be roomy enough for multiple chairs or even a small sofa, oh, and it had to be a bit of a classic (classic = old and cheap!!). So naturally the perfect choice was an old Volvo. Yes, I’m a Volvo owner. I’ve ordered a flat cap and a tartan rug.

I feel like an antique dealer in this
I feel like an antique dealer in this

 

 

 

 

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Back at Chair School – fifth day

The weeks I spend at Tresithick always seem to go by so quickly and this week was no exception. I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t be leaving with a completed chair, so that took the pressure off a little and I didn’t find myself desperately cramming at 4pm!

ive learned so much over the past 5 days and surpassed my expectations in terms of exactly how much I would achieve. Today we were able to move on to the seat and look at how to cover the springs ready for the cushion.

Today's starting point
Today’s starting point

Essentially what we were making today was a floating, padded cover for the springs. This enables the springs to move freely while at the same time preventing them from damaging the fabric on the cushion.

By far the most enjoyable part of the day was making the quilted cover for the springs. With a foam filled pocket made of simple platform lining, I set about marking a rather fetching diamond quilting pattern.

Doing my lines
Doing my lines

Then it’s over to the sewing machine, stitching along the lines through the foam. The resulting pad looks so professional I was taken aback! I made this?! Attaching It to the material for the front edge of the chair and anchoring it via elastic tabs at the rear will keep it in place.

Ooh, fancy!
Ooh, fancy!

Clearly there were lots of processes between and I’ve made copious notes, however I’ll save this level of detail for boring people at dinner parties. Needless to say, I’ve left the workshop today with far more than I expected and a very clear and confident plan for completing the rest of this chair.

As ever, the variety of projects happening this week were awe inspiring. A particular favourite of mine was Leigh’s chair – love the square deep buttoning

What a beauty!
What a beauty!

So there we have it, another week at Tresithick under my belt and probably the last until 2015. We’ll be sorry to leave Cornwall, we really do love it down here but we’re coming home via Fowey in the morning. Is 9am too early for an ice cream?

Back at Chair School – fourth day

I went in early today and spent most of that time talking. Best laid plans and all that….

As the end of the week approaches, I’m really pleased to see the chair starting to look like, well, a chair! Today we were able to move on to the inside back, a great use of my time here because it will mean that any jobs left to do once I’m back in my workshop will be the less complicated ones. I’m really hoping that we’ll have the seat springs covered tomorrow too.

I’ve frustrated myself a little this week by forgetting to bring the seat cushion. This is important so that when you’re building up the arms and the inside back you can gauge the amount of space you’ll need for the seat. Richard has a similar cushion on hand to use as a guide and we have a photo of the chair in its original state – not ideal, but I can always adjust the cushion a little if required.

The tarpaulin base goes on the inside back
The tarpaulin base goes on the inside back

The name Parker Knoll is synonymous with chairs of this type, and it tends to be the chair of choice for those following the AMUSF curriculum. The method of build is different to the chair that I have, and as luck would have it Tanya, a fellow course member is working on a Parker Knoll so it’s handy for me to see the difference.

One thing lacking in my chair is any kind of lumbar support. Rather than create an inside back that looks a little like an ironing board, Richard showed me how to add a subtle lumbar profile with a simple foam insert on the lower 3rd of this section. This will make for a more comfortable chair and a better visual appearance.

Yes, this is a photo of 2 pieces of foam. Budding upholsterers might find this exciting!
Yes, this is a photo of 2 pieces of foam. Budding upholsterers might find this exciting!

So, foam cut, profiled, glued and tied in place it was time for the top fabric to go on. With this being such a large panel it really does transform the chair immediately. When the 5pm bell went I was at the point where I needed to cut the corners in, so I’ll do that in the morning (if I’m not too busy talking).

Don't be too sad that the funny head rest affair wasn't lovingly reinstated
Don’t be too sad that the funny head rest affair wasn’t lovingly reinstated

I’ve been trying to think of a great segue for the final picture but I can’t. It’s just unapologetically cute. Bella, Richard and Sonja’s dog loves nothing more that coming into the workshop at the end of the day and stealing old fabric….usually the pieces that are cat scented!

What? You didn't want this anyway, right?
What? You didn’t want this anyway, right?

Back at Chair School – third day

I’ve already decided that I’m going in early tomorrow.. There’s something about seeing a chair start to take shape that can make you very impatient to see the end result, so I’m going to squeeze in as much chair time as I possibly can between now and Friday.

Today I completed the arms and what a valuable learning experience this has been. The techniques I’ve learned are far superior to the methods I previously adopted and have produced a result in which I am fully confident.

A beautiful arm!
A beautiful arm!

This afternoon I was able to move to the wings and I’d say they’re looking pretty good. Again, lots to learn, especially around the join between the bottom of the wing and the top of the arm

The chair as I left it this evening, complete with a second coat of Annie Sloan
The chair as I left it this evening, complete with a second coat of Annie Sloan

There has been much talk this week of my last project, the little cocktail chair that became known as the “10 Please Fred” chair after the inscription I found daubed on its chipboard frame! It’s been remarked that this wingback was likely made by Fred too as chipboard seems to be the wood of choice. This isn’t unusual in more modern furniture and the end result will be just a good

We've decided that Fred should take a break
We’ve decided that Fred should take a break

Tonight Darren and I treated ourselves to a little post-school cinema trip and went to the Plaza in Truro to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film was a real visual feast and beautifully filmed, but we took even more from being in a little cinema with big comfy chairs and only 5 rows of seats. No soulless multiplexes here! What a great week this is turning out to be.

A proper cinema
A proper cinema

Back at Chair School – day 2

I always feel that when I’m at Tresithick that I make fewer mistakes than when I’m in my own workshop and that the quality of what I’m producing feels that bit better.

In actual fact, I’m not sure that’s the case at all. For a start I would never put my name to anything that I wasn’t completely happy with so deep down I’m confident that I’m not a complete disaster unsupervised. What I’ve realised this week is that I feel more confident in my skills here because I have someone telling me that what I’m doing is correct. In my workshop at home I don’t have an expert on hand to offer me this reassurance so I’m completely reliant on my own judgement and of course my own doubts. What a week like this does for me is top up my self belief so that I can go home safe in the knowledge that more often than not, I know what I’m doing!

And so to day 2 of the course and the wingback is starting to take shape. Not as much progress today as I’d hoped for, but an important day learning a new method for covering arms so well worth taking my time.

The aim of today was to make a sewn cover, a little like a sock that will encapsulate the whole arm and then be fixed into place. To start, I attached the arm fabric and the panel for the front of the arm, setting their positions with tacks and pins. Getting the fit right at this stage means that when the two panels are sewn together that same great fit should remain

A much better way of doing things
A much better way of doing things

You then take these two panels from the arm and use them as templates for the other arm… being very careful to reverse them because two right arms isn’t a great look.

The two front panels ready for their piping
The two front panels ready for their piping

Once you have your panels and your piping made up, you can sew your piping to the front panels and then the arm panel to the front panel.

Some super neat sewing even if I say so myself!
Some super neat sewing even if I say so myself!

And there we have it, the completed arm sections ready to be adjusted, tensioned and fitted for good.

Some more fettling will take place tomorrow for a perfect fit
Some more fettling will take place tomorrow for a perfect fit

Now, the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed something a little different about the chair in the last photo. Yes, as much as they were loved, those gold legs have gone. The funniest thing about them is that whoever did it clearly had the chair against a wall…..they didn’t bother to paint the backs! Economical.

Annie Sloan to the rescue. Graphite looks so much better than patchy gold.
Annie Sloan to the rescue. Graphite looks so much better than patchy gold.