French interior and upholstery by Sophie Bailly

Workshop , session 2 / Stripping your chair

As you all experienced it during our first sessions, upholstering is not only a question of recovering ! Before thinking redesigning your chair, you have to prepare it for its new life…. and unfortunately, it takes a couple of hours to stripe a chair properly…. Be prepared for dust and don’t count the amount of staples or tacks you will have to remove! The good news is that you learn a lot by doing it. How many layers did you discovered ? how many ways of upholstering did you notice ? By stripping your chair, you can estimate the age of your piece of furniture and see how many lives it already had.

What did you learn exactly ?

1. THE ORDER :  you should have noticed by stripping your chair that there is a specific order to stripe the chair, there is an another one to upholstered : exactly the opposite way ! so, the piece of fabric you removed first should be the last one you will tack at the very end of your process !

2. THE AMOUNT OF FABRIC : you should keep all pieces of the old fabric and use them to estimate the number of yards you will have to order

3. THE KIND STUFFING : stuffing is a good indicator of the age of the chair and its value. If you ve got an antique chair, you might discover, just behind the fabric, different layers and stuffings : vegetable fiber, animal fibers as horse hair – the best quality ever !- cotton batting. In between materials as burlap and muslin, all maintained by a nice stitching. If your chair comes from the industry, you have a good chance to find foam and polyester batting, sometimes cardboard. Every part of the stuffing must be thrown away, except the horse hair and feather that can be washed.

4. THE SPRINGS AND WEBBING : this is the base of the seat, the part that will hold the chair and support the weight… don’t forget to think that your chair will host different guests… if you see what I mean ! So be sure the webbing is not loose and the springs in good shape. If the webbing is loose or damaged you definitely have to replace it. Keep the springs if they are OK – generally the case -,  you will reuse them.

DIY : the stripping !

– have your digital camera ready to take as much as pictures as you can. You can also take notes and sketches to remember how the chair was BEFORE
– be prepared for a lot of dust. It was really a good idea to bring an old sheet to put under the seat during the stripping
– the tools needed are basic : small hammer with flat-nose screwdriver, staple remover or nail remover, scissors, and ripper. For the decorative nails, you can start by removing them one by one, than try to grip a piece of fabric and gently pull on it : sometimes it works as simply ! Do as well for the staples.
– Be aware of your hands and feet, you could be injured faster than you imagine. I never wear gloves, but you could use some.
– as our Doc Corine confirmed, be sure you got a tetanus shot recently

When your chair is properly stripped (so totally or partly), it’s time to check the wood. You will have to glue some fragile parts (as Julie has to do), fill the holes made by the old tacks with glue…. so that the frame is strong enough for the next decade !

Enjoy your homework !


This entry was posted on April 19, 2012 by in WORKSHOP.
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