I’m in love with my egg chair

There’s something about this egg chair that I just love! I don’t know if it’s the anticipation of how it’s going to look (I’ve already ear marked a space at home), the tailoring process of attaching the panels directly to the shell for the perfect fit, or simply the way that my Kirkby wool conforms to the lovely shape – I just want to keep hugging it!

The starting point – 5 panels cut
Step 2 – all pinned into place along the desired seam line
Step 3 – trimmed and ready for sewing
Step 4 – all sewn and ready for reattachment

Covering the chair has been unlike anything I’ve done so far – smooth, pin, cut, remove, sew, reattach and repeat! It’s so immensely satisfying.

This is how I left it today, and in just 2 days I can get a real sense of how it’s going to look. The centre cushions will be made when I return in a few weeks and will be sporting a rather lovely teal blue.

I think I’ve borrowed most of the pins at Tresithick

As ever I’ve had a great deal of fun at Tresithick – Richard and the other students have been on fine form, and a special mention has to go to Richard’s new second-in-command, Zoe who has been a real joy to work with.

I can’t wait to come back

Bella pays the occasional visit to help us tidy up

Une Oeuf Already!

Boom boom! I’m sorry about the corny title, I couldn’t resist.

Well it’s been a busy old fortnight so far. I’m really starting to feel the (largely self-enduced) pressure of completing both of my chairs before the Diploma verification deadline. Worst case scenario I could defer until next year and take more time to complete them but I’m eager to get it done this year. 

The seat fabric goes on…

I’d love to blame the fabric or something else outside of my control, but I think the long and the short of it is, traditional upholstery takes time! Yes, the fabric has added an extra element as the velvet needs to be treated with kid gloves, but I’m really pleased with how it looks so there are certainly no regrets. The good news is that I’ve reached a stage where I can confidently tackle its completion in my own workshop. This is where I’ve stopped for now….

Valance is on, so just the sides and back left to do

This of course means that I have been able to start the egg chair, or more specifically, Father Kelly’s egg chair.

Most of the pieces I’ve had to find for this course have been pretty easy to come by; a drop-in seat, a traditional armchair, a Parker-knoll style wingback. However, it turns out that an egg chair is a little more niche. I made the fatal mistake of biding my time, waiting for the perfect chair to pop up on eBay in my local area. Clearly this didn’t happen and so as I started to panic after Christmas, the search had to widen somewhat, as far as Swansea in fact.

This was the only image I had to go on. It was a risk!!

This chair was secured via Gumtree and it has quite a story behind it. As I arrived at the property on the outskirts of Swansea, it turned out to be the house attached to a small Catholic Church. I was met by a local man who told me that the Priest who lived there, Father Kelly had recently retired to the Mother House at the grand age of 95. unable to take all of his belongings, the parishioners had stepped in to find them suitable new homes. This chair was something of a stylish gem that had until now, been unclaimed and was destined for the tip. It was sporting a rather fetching oatmeal loose cover, expertly made (given the challenging shape) and I like to think that it was made by one of the local church goers. I hope to be able to bring it new life.

Check out those curves!
Not very pretty and as it turns out, not the original fabric either

Constructed out of plywood and blown-foam, stripping it down was a mucky job. The leatherette had gone brittle, mouldy and even sticky in parts! This was a definite mask and apron job. Then I discovered that it had been reupholstered at some point as the remnants of another leatherette cover were found. Oh joy, more staples to remove. 

The stripped egg. It’s so light!

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the shell isn’t in bad nick. A couple of minor cracks have been repaired, some new foam has been added to the outer shell and fabric starts to go on tomorrow. I’m excited to see this transformation which compared to the armchair should be relatively quick! I’ll keep you posted.

Looking better already

Now, where were we?

I can’t believe that three months have whizzed by since I was last at Tresithick and updating my blog *slaps own wrist*.

Remember this little velvet beauty?
Well, here I am once again and this time it’s for a couple of weeks. The plan was to complete my traditional armchair this week so that I can start my next diploma piece, the egg chair, next week (more on that soon). That said, it’s already Wednesday and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.

So where were we? Looking back at my last post I had just started to apply the top fabric to the back of the seat, but in actual fact by the time I left the workshop in November the chair was far more advanced that that…

The arms were finished when I left in November but I didn’t photograph it. I’m slipping.
The intention for this week was that the sprung seat would go in and I would be able to complete the remaining outside panels. The truth of the matter is that on a chair of this size (particularly when being rebuilt using traditional methods) time somehow vanishes on the things that you think will be done in a flash. Half a day to add 9 springs, how can that be??? I do however remember at regular intervals that this qualification would not be so valuable if everything was easy or right first time.

The original springs made this chair feel like a ride at Alton Towers. I’ve stiffened things up a tad.
Three days to get here. I was hopig to be sitting outside with a pasty by Thursday afternoon. not going to happen.
I’m holding on to an optimistic view that the next stages of the build will be a doddle. People love an optimist, right?

The magpie in me is keen to move on to the egg chair but apparently patience is a virtue or something. 

As ever there’s lots of laughter in the workshop and I was delighted to see Josie and Anna and Pam who I’ve shared weeks with before – you may recall Josie’s large leather armchair from last time. It’s coming on a treat. 

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!

This chair is a keeper

Of all the chairs I’ve worked on, there’s something about this one that I really like. I think it’s the slim profile, it’s not a chunky armchair, it’s far more refined and elegant, almost understated. It’s certainly the most involved piece I’ve tackled to date, and when you invest so much time in something it’s can be hard to let it go. Today I started shaping the arms. First the coir…..

And then you encase it in scrim and add lots of pressure to form a nice, firm pad

Before and after. it takes some grappling to reduce the coir this much!
And done! Two very firm arms, shaped and ready for second stuffings

Shape is everything at this stage because try as you might, a bump or a dip will definitely show in the end result. So lots of time spent here today, making sure my foundations are good. I’m starting to see why 4 weeks have been recommended for the completion of this chair. 

Introducing Dug Roll

On Monday of this week I didn’t know what a dug roll was and by the end of the day I had four of my own 

An actual dug roll. It’s the thing on the back of the chair….

It turns out that you can alter the profile or depth of a chair frame with one of these. Essentially it’s a roll of coir encapsulated in hessian scrim which is then attached to the frame. I had one on the back to give the back rest depth, one on the leading edge of the seat to give it a rounder profile and one on each of the scroll arms to give a wider presence. These were the ones that I’ve reinstated today. New skill ….. Tick. 

Brand new dug rolls!

Of course the question still remains, who was Dug Roll?

Getting Qualified

I made a decision last year that I forgot to tell you about. After 5 years of working on my upholstery skills with Richard at Tresithick I decided to work towards a qualification, a diploma to be precise.

Taking the time to work towards a qualification had always seemed something of a challenge in the past, not least because it required 6 weeks of tuition each year and my work holiday entitlement was only 5! For this reason I opted to take my own projects to the training centre, but the more time I spent with the other students studying for their awards, the more I realised I’d accomplished many of the things they were doing without gaining official recognition from the governing body. So, my mind was made up – I wanted a qualification too!

What’s interesting is that I’ve never been asked to prove how qualified I am, and I actually don’t expect that it will happen. I’m very fortunate that my work has come from recommendations, so I suppose that’s qualification enough for most. This qualification is for me, for my own satisfaction and sense of achievement, and of course for that odd occasion when someone might want me to prove my credentials. I’ll carry my certificate with me just in case. 


An anti-macassa may not have been a bad idea
Today was the first day towards my qualification and I’m working on a ‘substantial traditional armchair’. As luck would have it I had one waiting in the wings. This piece was rescued for me by a friend a couple of years ago – destined for the tip it had my name all over it. I thought it was 1930’s given the fabric, but as I’ve stripped it today it seems that it may have had a previous life and could be a little older. Today was mostly assessing the state of the frame and removing (what seemed like) a million tacks. I’ve not yet decided on fabric. Any ideas?


I needed a bigger bin really. The springs looked like they’d come off a Routemaster.
As you know, I love Cornwall and time spent here is real food for the soul. This time I thought it would be fun to come in my little red Citroen – my first ever car and owned for 22 years. At her MOT this year I realised that I’d only driver her 9 miles in the past 12 months and that just wasn’t good enough. I smile from ear to ear when I’m behind the wheel, so a road trip seemed in order. It was a sedate trip (these cars weren’t built for speed!) but we made it and I’m hoping for the odd sunny spell so I can take the roof off. Actually, the chair was so big the only way it went in the car was through the roof! Who needs a van?

We made it! Staying at the beautiful Spring Cottage in Probus is a real treat.

The Victorian Nursing Chair – Day 8

Short and sweet update today as I’ve been promised fish and chips for dinner! These at is building up nicely and tomorrow I’ll be moving on to the top fabric.

I must admit, I’m not looking forward to fitting the top fabric – the gap between the seat and the back of the chair has closed up pretty tight now, so feeding the fabric through and also finding out where to cut around the frame in such an impossible space is challenging to say the least. It’s one thing to mis-cut with calico but something else when you do it to your luxury top fabric!!


Today’s step-by-step transformation

For those of you who have been lying awake at night worrying about my button dilemma, you’ll no doubt be relieved to hear that the green leather has worked a treat and I have my buttons all made and ready to go.