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?

My third week at Tresithick – Day 2

It shouldn’t have come as any surprise that there is still a great deal to think about even when you’re working with staples and foams rather than loose fillings and tacks. Today’s main challenge was setting the fabric on the back of my chair, making sure that the lines sat correctly and that the whole thing remains easy on the eye.

Having covered the chair to calico, I’d (wrongly) assumed that the top fabric would just slot into place as the calico stage had already created the final shape, but this was not to be. The triangular back, the concave curve and a little stretch in the fabric meant that it took some time to ensure the pattern and the weave of the fabric looked just right. Some ‘slewing’ of the pattern is unavoidable when there’s a complex shape involved, but it takes time to keep this to an absolute minimum. So here’s today’s progress and the big reveal for my chosen fabric!


You’ll see in the final photo that I’ve decided to add some buttons. This was a decision made today as it enables me to have a go at shallow buttoning under supervision, and it also means that there’s something helping to anchor the fabric to the inside of that lovely curve. These are just pinned in place for now, meaning that I could play around with where they’ll go and I can change my mind up until the last moment. Richard and I discussed a few other creative options which would allow me to try much more than just a straight forward chair build, so I’ll keep you posted.

Before the end of the day I’d started to build the seat using layers of foam – ‘chipped foam’ for structure and depth, higher density foam for comfort and needle felt in the centre for a lovely domed shape. I’ve certainly got to grips with the electric carving knife today!


Tomorrow I’ll be sewing a calico cover for the base and hopefully moving on to my final fabric for the seat and borders. I’m hoping to squeeze in enough time this week for a box cushion cover, so I need to pick up the pace!

We’re hosting tonight in our holiday cottage for friends which should be great fun and makes this week feel even more like a holiday! Still, early night, I need to alert for sewing tomorrow. Safety first!