Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Many months ago (January 2011) I signed up to evening classes in upholstery. My first project was a simple drop-in stool bought for a bargain £7 from Emmaus. After only a few weeks it was finished so with half a term left I needed to find another project.

craftypainter: Re-upholstered Stool

After posting on Cambridge Freecycle with a request for a suitable chair for re-upholstery I was offered two Parker Knoll arm chairs. One of my course mates had spent a year re-upholstering one of two wing-backed Parker Knoll arm chairs so I knew they would be a massive undertaking but couldn't resist. At least mine were of a simpler design in that they had no wings or padded arms; although they were in pretty bad shape.

craftypainter: 1960's Parker Knoll Arm Chairs
Somehow I managed to fit both chairs into the back of my little car and once I had them home it was time to start stripping them back. When I first signed up to the course I was under the impression that upholstery just meant re-covering. However, if you intend to do it properly (and these chairs needed it because they were pretty manky) the piece must be stripped back to the frame which is then cleaned and repaired before starting to rebuild.

craftypainter: Parker Knoll Re-upholstery

I soon found out that my two chairs had already been recovered as underneath the rust coloured velvet was another layer of green attached even more firmly. It was a really grotty job because the original stuffing had deteriorated to dust and fluff and the fabric was really dirty underneath from years of use.  A label on the frame told me that the chairs dated from 1964.

With the frames cleaned I made a hessian mattress stuffed with coco fibre and used cotton wadding to fill in the dents. To everything in place calico was stretched over the top and secured.

craftypainter: Parker Knoll Re-upholstery
Skin wadding was added on top to smooth everything over and to stop any of the spiky fibres from making their way through to the outside.  Finally it was time to add the cover fabric.

I signed up for my forth term on the class in January of this year and gave myself a deadline of finishing by the Easter holidays. Somehow I managed it, although the chairs were not technically finished I had got them to a point where I only needed to make the seat cushions which I could do at home on my own.
craftypainter: Parker Knoll Re-upholstery
The cushions took some time as kept putting it off in favour of other crafty tasks, I finished the first one in June and then last weekend I finished off the second one!!

One for us and one for the cat!

When you add up all the course fees, materials and tools, upholstery classes don't come cheap, the course fees alone amounted to around £300. One of benefits of taking so long to finish was that the expense was spread out over more than a year and I also got the cover fabric for a bargain £10/metre from the brilliant Anglia Furnishing Fabrics in Norwich. I couldn't be happier with the results and the course has given me the skills and confidence to try a different project in the future. 

Perhaps a dining chair or two next time...

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is
    also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/

    The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.


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