Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Upholstery - part two

Our office has a bay window and we wanted some seating, but not too heavy. I found an Ebay listing with only 30 minutes to run, did a quick measure, put in a bid and won an Edwardian bench sofa. For the princely sum of £41.46. Buying unseen is always a little nerve-wracking but on this occasion we were lucky, the woodwork needed some t.l.c. but overall it was sound.

Pub-brown vinyl

The brown vinyl had been put over the existing Regency style fabric.

Original covering

Stripping old furniture can be a messy job as there's usually lots of 'interesting' layers.

Layers of straw, hessian and coir

You can see in this shot where the colour of the wood has faded, probably been in the sun. I needed to get the wood clean and all the old finishes off. As a rule of thumb you use methylated spirits on 'antique' finishes and white spirit on newer furniture, although I would always advise a patch test somewhere discreet first. I used meths and very fine (0000) wire wool. Gently rub the wood with meths soaked wire wool and then wipe off with a clean rag.
I then needed to bring the colour back. The wood is mahogany but for me this colour stain is too red so I used a medium oak. Oak stains are really useful as they tend to have a more natural hue, we always used them when staining old pine.
Once stained it had a few coats of French polish. The final polish and wax didn't get done until calico stage as I was worried about it getting knocked about.



Next was putting on new webbing and then the springs, fortunately the original ones were still good to use.


Once you have this base the layers start to go back. First a heavyweight hessian through which you stitch ties and then stuff with coir fibre. Then a looser weight hessian to make a stitched roll which gives a shape and firm edge.

Stitched roll

And two layers of wadding.

Layer one
Layer two

Do you like the protective socks?

Finally a thin layer of foamy fibre and the calico.

Penultimate layer

Finally the top cover. I find choosing fabrics for us quite difficult as I have a tendency to assume what Andrew may or may not like. Also I try to avoid trendy fabrics but I also like the quirky. And of course the budget is never quite enough! This time we agreed easily with not too many samples arriving.

Finished - just need a radiator cover


  1. This is impressive. And I can see the attraction. You must have such a sense of achievement. The sewing would defeat me, but I like the idea that so many different skills see to get called upon. I look forward to Chapter 3.

  2. I mean 'seem' of course ;)

  3. The sewing wouldn't defeat you at all Margaret. Huge needles, thick thread and nobody can see it because it gets covered up. I like rescuing old furniture and have to contribute something while Andrew does all the real work!

  4. Love it. And it looks as though it's made to go in that bay window space. Would love to have time to get stuck in to stuff like that!

    1. It's what long winter evenings are made for kalba!