Time to reveal my fabric choice!

Today, Richard fixed me with a very ernest look and declared “I think it’s time”. 

Regulated to within an inch of its life

Yesterday was all about the second layer of stuffings for the inside back of the chair. A good layer of hair was fixed in place, regulated (a process of evening out the hair so that it’s a consistent depth and density) and my liner was then added to create the final line and shape. So with the arms and the back both at this stage, it could mean only one thing – it’s time for the top fabric to go on!

All shaped and ready to go

But hang on a minute, why risk putting your fabric in place when you still have no seat? Well it’s all about access – at this stage of the build we still have good access to the wooden rails that will be used as tacking points for the fabric, and the ultimate aim is to create as tight a space between the seat and the back as we can. A great, yawning gap doesn’t look great and if you drop it, you could loose your custard cream. So, if we build the seat now it means that we’ll have a very tight gap for our fabric to squeeze through and partly restricted access to the frame for tacking. Of course, once attached it also means that I’ve got to take very good care of my new fabric. 

So what have I gone for? Well as you may know I’ve talked before about tricky fabrics, those that can make your life as an upholsterer that little bit harder. This can be through the construction of the fabric or a pattern that needs careful matching. Unusually for me, I’ve opted for a plain this time, however I thought I’d give myself a hard time by opting for my arch-nemesis, velvet.

Ta-da! Don’t fret, I’m not leaving those flappy bits on the corners

I’ve been really inspired of late by the current fashion for velvet, it just looks so sumptuous and tactile! I’m also loving the shades of blues and greens that seem to be popping up regularly in my favourite interiors magazines. The fact that velvet can be tricky to handle and easily marked seemed to diminish as I envisaged how this chair might look. And so the first panel goes on…… What do you think?

Pasty Friday

Today has felt very satisfying, and pasties for lunch were the icing on the cake. Despite the fact that stitching is really hard on the hands the finished result always looks so impressive. I never cease to be amazed at how a seemingly wild mass of loose coir can become a firm, shaped pad with a real beauty to it. I’ve said before that it seems a shame to cover up this part of the build and it’s no surprise that there is something of a trend for part-built chairs in the most fashionable room schemes.

I love how the edge roll really clarifies the final pad shape

Tempting as it may be, I can’t leave it like this, so the back will continue to be built and I’m hoping that by the end of next week I’ll have some of my top fabric in place and I can get a really good feel for how the finished chair will look.

The finished stitched pad. My hands were glad of that.

You’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that my frame is glued once again and we’re fitting some corner braces next week. I know it’s been keeping you awake.

Hair in place and ready to carry on next week

It’s been a really fun week and I’m pleased that a couple of my new Tresithick friends, Elle and Odette will be in the workshop next week too. A special mention goes to workshop buddies Rachel and Pam who made me extremely happy when they revealed that they read my blog! Hearing this always Spurs me on to keep charting my progress *blows a kiss to Rachel and Pam*

Josie’s work – this is going to be magnificent!

I thought I’d show you a couple of shots of the other things happening in the workshop this week, not least Josie’s beast of an armchair. Josie really is working so hard on this and although it’s been tough going at times, based on where it is right now, the end result will be stunning.

I think Pam wins the award for ‘most precise sewing’
Rachel’s armless chair is coming on a treat. I’m a bit in love with her choice of fabric

The Incredible Exploding Frame

Ok, this might be something of a sensational headline but it got your attention, right?

Coir in place – this chair is getting bigger by the minute

Work on the traditional armchair is progressing well and the back of the chair is taking shape nicely. I’m trying not to think about the fact that this chair was shoe-horned into the boot of the car to come down to Cornwall and there’s a very good chance that it may not fit when it comes to going home at the end of next week!

Staring to take shape but there’s still more to do

In the last couple of days I’ve been able to build the back of the chair including the usual coir first-stuffings, lots of regulating, grappling and skewering. My regulator was red hot, as were my fingers which I kept pricking – I’m convinced that Richard has been sharpening the regulators. I requested a blunt ‘safety regulator’ which he duly found for me – clearly I can’t be trusted with the really pointy ones.

I love skewers! At this stage they’re ideal for marking things (in this case, the position of my through stuffing ties)

My one frustration this week has been my frame which seems to be gradually falling to bits. I’m being very careful to support the frame as I’m hammering but for some reason the recently repaired joints seem to be opening up again…. And when I re-glue one, another comes apart! Richard and I are going to have a look at adding some further support tomorrow in the form of corner braces to make sure that this chair continues to give good service for many years to come. It’s all very well for a chair to look good, but if you can’t actually sit on it…….

Ready for a stitched edge, but that’s a job for tomorrow once the frame is secured

As ever, the workshop is full of fun and utterly lovely people. I was delighted to see my friend Josie was here this week (you’ll have seen her photographed last time helping me lift the chair out of the roof of my car!!) and her massive armchair is coming on a treat. She’s working with leather and it really does look stunning – I’ll try and get a photo before the week is out.

It’s Pasty-Friday tomorrow. I’m unbelievably happy about that. 

The Traditional Armchair Continued….

It’s been a busy few months with my recent move to self employment and almost everything has felt either new or different. Coming back down to Cornwall and the familiarity of Tresithick has been really nice.

This is where we were back in June

Work on my traditionally built armchair has resumed and the last 2 days have been spent working on the arms. On the face of it, progress looks pretty slow but it’s vitally important that I get this right. Imperfections in the shape or structure at this stage will undoubtedly have an impact on the finished result, so it may be painstaking work, but it’s completely necessary.

One cap fitted, one to go…

I’ve chosen (with some reliable guidance of course!) to create caps for the arms. What this means is that you make a kind of fitted cover to the exact shape and dimensions of the finished arm. Once sewn, the cap is fitted to the arm, compressing the fillings, giving you a lovely firm arm which is shaped and ready for the top cover.  This will be made in the same way. I made that sound dead easy didn’t I? It’s taken me a day and a half to do them both.

So I suppose in principle it’s not a hard thing to do, but it does require a great deal of patience. Your tension needs to be good with no loose fabric or areas pulled too tight, your lines need to be smooth with no bulges or divots, your cuts need to be in the right place and your tacks need to be well distanced. Oh, and the left arm needs to match the right one!! Once you’re happy with how it looks, a good handful of measurements will confirm whether you’re on the right lines. Thankfully I was.

Caps fitted and ready for the top fabric. That clamp? More of that shortly…

I was really hoping that I’d be able to start putting my final fabric on the arms today as I’m desperate to see how it looks on a larger scale. It’s so hard to tell from a small swatch. Alas, I’ll have to wait a few days as it’s best to build the back of the chair next and apply your fabric to the back and the arms at the same time – building the back will require quite a lot of frame handling and there’s a risk that your arm fabric could get damaged. A jolly sensible call given that I’ve opted for velvet…….

One thing I learned the hard way today: when you’re hammering home your tacks, always make sure your frame is well supported otherwise you can end up knocking it apart. Nothing some strong glue and a clamp can’t fix, but a schoolboy error all the same!