Thursday, June 20, 2013


So far, I'm really enjoying the new job. I've already done a handful of pieces, and I wanted to share with you the one I finished working on today.

Today's project was a wing chair (or wing-back chair). It had been sitting in the shop for a few weeks, partially disassembled (stripped and ready to work on), and we finished it today. My boss had stripped and refinished the legs on the chair just yesterday (they were scratched-up pretty badly).

This morning, the first piece to be installed was the bottom (the part under the seat cushion, as opposed to the underside of the chair), and front roll. My boss had to leave, so I was put on another job, and we continued after he got back (which is when I got this "during" photo).

We added a new layer of thin padding over the wings, but the rest of the chair (foam/stuffing) was in pretty good shape. Note that in the photo above, the large section of padding for the backrest is not attached to the chair.

My boss did all the sewing, and helped me position, tension, and adjust the pieces, but I mainly did most of the chair myself. He did the right wing and arm, the two front padded covers, and the cushion, and I did the rest (left wing, left arm, inside backrest, both exterior side panels, the back cover, the trim piping, and the underside).

One thing to note is that a lot of these chairs usually have the backs done differently. On this one originally (and on several others) upholsterers usually will just stretch over some additional fabric around the wings, and then just do a plain rectangular panel over the back. That doesn't look as nice when the back is shaped, so he prefers to install the back following the contours of the chair instead (which takes a bit more time, but looks a lot nicer).

Pretty nice, huh?

There's actually quite a lot of work and very careful folding, pleating, cutting, tucking, pulling, and tacking that goes into a chair like this. It's not quite as easy as it looks to get all the pieces of fabric to lay just nice (without lumps, bumps, or creases).

We haven't gotten back to the other two green chairs I had posted about earlier, because we're waiting for the fabric for them. Last week I did this rattan chair and ottoman. Again, he did all the sewing (just the ottoman cover), but I pretty much did these two by myself. These were a bit tricky because of the shape of the chair. Part of it also had to be reglued/fixed before we upholstered it.

Now, I'm curious to know: is there a big interest in seeing some of the upholstered pieces I do at work? I mainly wanted to keep this blog focused on the house renovation, and historic renovations, old houses, etc. I thought that maybe what I could do would be just to do one or two posts a month with "highlights" on some of the more historic/traditional, or just plain NICE pieces that we work on. Do you think that would work out?

Let me know what you guys (and gals) think.


  1. I'm interesting in seeing the furniture!

  2. So am i! Would love to see the ocasional update.


  3. I like the idea of a once a month highlight. I think keeping your blog home-focused would be best though. :)

  4. I definitely appreciate it. We have several furniture pieces we need to reupholster/ fix the wood so seeing these updates are nice. Would it be possible to go into more detail with an upholstered chair someday?

    1. I don't know. The problem is that it's hard to give explanations of all the techniques involved without the hands-on training. Things like smoothing and pulling the fabric sound simple, but until you actually do it, or SEE someone doing it, it's not as simple as it might sound. I'm still learning a lot just about how to staple the fabric in places, and where to make the cuts (to go into corners and around rails such as sofa arms/backs). I'm sure there are already a ton of free videos and tutorials on the web if you're really interested.

  5. True craftsmanship seems to be a dying art these days and it's been interesting to take in your work updates (I've been working my way through your blog backward after following a link from I don't remember where at this point). Just looking at that one loveseat stripped down to the frame made me realize what exactly the damage is that I've inadvertantly done to my glorious 9-ft rolled arm sofa by tripping and falling heavily on it - I think that loud noise I heard was the center piece of the frame cracking :-( I also now know I have zig-zag springs and that's not helping the damage any.

    I need a frame repair, some skilled reweaving on one of the pillowbacks that's unraveling at the zipper (at 12 yrs old, I'm sure the fabric is discontinued and I love the fabric, it's mainly brown with jewel tones of gold, purple, deep red and green in a tapestry kind of print), the pillowbacks desperately need new filling (2 huge seat cushions have held up awesomely well), a throw pillow needs welting shoved back into its channel and sewn shut, and I suppose after this length of time a professional cleaning wouldn't go amiss. None of which falls exactly into *reupholstering* and I'm on the other side of the St Lawrence at any rate, closer to the Niagara. So would an upholsterer's shop be what I ought to look for, even though I don't want new fabric?

    My sofa was utterly perfect - I even *visited* it at the store for months until a salesclerk took pity on me and told me when it was going to go on sale and into my price range - and I'd rather pay for it to get refreshed than buy new. They don't seem to make *traditional* styles anymore. Even though mine is repro rather than an antique, it's been a pleasure reading your blog and seeing how you appreciate and bring back to life older pieces.

    1. Since this is anonymous, I don't know if you'll get the reply, but yes, it sounds as though you're in need of a skilled upholsterer.

      If the frame needs to be repaired, the only proper way to repair it involves removing the upholstery, so you won't be able to save the current fabric. If the fabric is already showing signs of wear (tears, rips, etc) it might be due to have it replaced anyways. Generally, you tend to have very limited access from the bottom, so gluing/repairing that broken frame will be nearly impossible.

      New upholstery fabric is EXPENSIVE, but generally worth the price. Our regular selections tend to run around 40$/yard, and around 10,000 rubs or better (wear is important when picking a fabric). We often get people who will want to buy their own fabric (at 5-10$/yard), and we'll use it, but the stuff they tend to bring in is thin, flimsy, and won't last long. We have THOUSANDS of patterns and fabrics to choose from, and I imagine most other upholstery shops are the same. If your sofa is only 12-ish years old, it's still possible that you could find the same fabric, but more than likely you would be able to find something "close".

      If you're really set on keeping the current fabric, you may still end up paying quite a bit for the steam cleaning, additional pillow stuffing, and the repair to the zipper and cording, so you may want to check some prices.