Chair Upholstery & Upholstering

Chair Upholstery & Upholstering

Many chairs are more or less upholstered, such as our wooden upholstered chairs and upholstered furniture. It may be the seat only that is thus treated, or the entire woodwork, except perhaps the legs, may be hidden by a covering of upholsterer's work.

The simplest methods of upholstering seats are the two padded varieties in which no springs are used. No. 1, in the picture, shows a cheap way when a hard seat is not objectionable, and it is desirable that there should be a little elasticity. In the illustration the padding is fastened directly to the frame of the seat so when complete it appears the same as an upholstered, spring seat. In some instances the padding is fastened to a separate, loose frame resting in a rebate of the seat frame, and if the chair is turned bottom up the seat will fall out. Such is the way Chippendale chairs and Hepplewhite chairs are often made.

Chair Upholstery

Padded Seats

The foundation for the padded seat is webbing stretched as tightly as possible across the frame, front to back, and side to side. The widths interlace, over and under, each other so as to make a firm plaited mat covering the frame. On top of this a piece of burlap is stretched and tacked all round the edge of the frame. On the burlap is spread sufficient curled hair to make the requisite padding of the seat, and this is held in place by a piece of muslin, or cotton flannel, drawn tightly over it and tacked to the side of the frame. The webbing and burlaps are tacked to the upper edge. The seat is now ready for any cover that may be chosen, and when at hand the upholsterer spreads it over the muslin cover and tacks it to the frame. The tack heads are afterwards covered by a gimp, which is usually glued on, even though nails are afterwards driven in to apparently secure it. The seat just described is the simplest, as well as the cheapest form of upholstery permissible in good work. It has the disadvantage of being hard, and in a short time the webbing becomes stretched so the seat sags in the middle.

A better seat, requiring a little more work, is shown in No. 2. It differs from No. 1 only in the amount of hair and the way it is used. As there is more hair than in the first instance, the seat frame is made lower that the extra quality of hair may not raise the seat too high.

The hair is placed on the webbing foundation and covered with burlaps. The edges arc then stitched by passing a needle in at the side, out at the top, and then back again to the side, and so forth, until the entire edge of the seat has been sewed in this way. When the edge becomes quite hard and firm with the amount of hair that has been stitched in it the middle of the seat is also sewed through and through until it is a trifle lower than the edges. This makes a firm, somewhat hard, hair cushion with its edge a little higher than the rest. The hollow is then well filled with hair, and over this the muslin, and finally the cover is drawn. Such a seat has all the appearance of one upholstered with springs, and is comfortable enough where something firm is wanted.

No. 3 illustrates the spring seat. It differs from No. 2 in this respect: the webbing is fastened to the underside of the seat frame, instead of the top, and on it are placed the springs. Over them is stitched a burlap on which the hair or stuffing is placed. The remainder of the work is the same as for padded seat No. 2. The edge is stitched, hair is added, the muslin is drawn over, and finally the cover.

If it is desirable to make the seat so that none of the woodwork shall show, no difference occurs until the cover is put on, when instead of fastening it, as illustrated, just above the lower edge of the frame, it is brought down over the frame and tacked to the under side. In such work cotton wadding is placed between the frame and the cover that the wood may not be felt, if the hand is in contact with the lower part of the seat.

Chair seats that are upholstered have a block of wood notched around the corner post on the inner side, and fastened to the top of the seat frame, where it joins the back. This is the "upholstery block", and is needed by the upholsterer to tack the cover on where it fits around the back post. The upper surface of this block is about one-half inch below the level of the finished seat.

Chair backs may be upholstered in a manner similar to seats, and the methods are the same. The term "over-stuffed pieces" is applied to furniture that is upholstered so that none of the framework, except the legs, is visible. No. 4, in the diagram illustrates an arm chair of this description, showing the framework and the method of covering it. The frame is of hardwood, and is constructed the same as any other chair. The seat frame is set low in order that there may be plenty of room for large springs, making the seat soft and easy.

Beneath the upper rail of the arm, and also of the back is a second rail left loose that it may be fastened where desired by the upholsterer. These rails are used by him for fastening the lower edges of the arm and back covers, which are put on after the seat is upholstered.

The seat frame of overstuffed pieces should be so constructed that the webbing may be tacked to it at a point not more than eleven inches below the level of the top of the springs, if springs of usual dimensions are used. It may be less, if desired, for then smialler springs can be used, or large springs may be tied down. The top of the seat is about j:wo and a half inches above the top of the springs. Sometimes the seat frame is very deep, and were the webbing tacked to its lower edge the springs would be much below the level required. In such instances either a strip of wood is fastened all round the inside of the frame to which the webbing may be tacked or else an extra loose frame is covered by webbing and set inside the seat frame at the proper level.

The upper edge of the seat frame is usually about halfway between the level of the webbing and top of the springs. The method of upholstering the seat and back when springs are used, is the same as described above for No. 3. In the work on the back, however, there will be noticed on the illustration a portion marked "roll". This is made of hair stitched in burlap to make a firm edge, all round the back frame, possessing elasticity enough not to feel hard when leaned against. Over this the covers are drawn.

In good work the upholsterer carefully covers all edges of the wood with hair stitched in burlap and all flat surfaces with cotton batting, so that at no point is the wood beneath easily detected by the touch.

Overstuffed pieces do not admit of a great variety of good forms. There are no end of patterns, or designs, in which an attempt has been made to produce something new and good1; but most of them are unsatisfactory.

The beauty of this class of work is dependent on the absence of fussy, unnecessary trimmings, and on the outline. This outline ought to be one that seems the natural result of using upholsterers' materials, and the simplest best fills this requirement. Upholstery may be either plain or tufted, and the choice is at times a matter of taste, but frequently tufting is a constructive necessity. When the seat level is high above the frame tufting of the front edge prevents, to a degree, the sagging of the covering when the chair is occupied and the springs compressed. A border formed by a line of stitching along the front about half the height of the seat sometimes serves the same purpose. These methods also prevent the cover from appearing too large after the piece has been used awhile and the stuffing is matted down. It is also advisable to tuft the seat and back of very large pieces for the same reason; or, as a decorative feature if the covering material is plain, unfigured goods. The tufting should always be proportioned to the size of the article. Where the surface to be upholstered is concave tufting is necessary, otherwise the material can not readily be made to follow the curve. The ordinary form of tufting is to sew the goods in at the four corners of a diamond, but occasionally for concave surfaces it becomes more like a series of rolls side by side and the full length of the hollow.

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