Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Upholstering, Part 1

Over the next four weeks I will give you a blow by blow (do you really want to hear it???) of my Upholstering class. I won't be able to share any pictures, because I cannot take pictures during the class (and still get the work done). The pace is fast. Very fast.

Last night was class #1. There are eight of us. The workshop is fairly large and all the tools are supplied for the class. Our project is to build an ottoman from the frame out to finished fabric. The frame was built in the wood shop adjacent to the studio. We are using classic upholstery technique - hand tied springs - to make these ottomans.

Our instructor flew through (I mean he FLEW through) the list of tools one would need to set up an at-home upholstery workshop. I tried to take notes but gave up! I simply cannot write fast enough. But he gave us some source information, one online, in case you get interested.

We were a busy beehive last night! First step was to attach jute webbing to the frame. The goal was to align three strips evenly spaced from front to back. To make the jute webbing super tight, you need a webbing stretcher. The webbing is attached to the frame using staples fired from an air compressed staple gun. These guns are special to the upholstery industry in that they have special noses to get into tricky places and do not require two hands to use. When upholstering, one needs a free hand to facilitate pulling fabric tight. Attach the staples on about a 45 degree angle, which is best for long term wear. Guess who wants an air compressed staple gun. Like right now. So cool.

Once the first three strips are stapled down, attach two more, in basket weave fashion, side to side. Then fold the jute back on itself, trim to about 1/2 - 1" and staple the end down. Watch your fingers, the gun is powerful!

So far, so good. Until we got to the next step: arranging 5 coil springs on top of the webbing. Guess what: two of the eight students accidentally attached the jute webbing to the BOTTOM part of the of the frame, not the TOP of the frame.

I bet you can guess who was in that group, huh. Little old knithound. And how did we realize this? Only the top of the frame has interior corner braces. You know, those corner braces that make furniture stronger.... heh. DOH!!

Now the two of us are RACING to get new webbing put down but of course, the first layer of webbing is creating a logistical barrier and it's really hard working the air compressor stapler (large coil cord attached to the ceiling) around the nooks and crannies of the ottoman with now TWO layers of webbing...and the instructor says nay, do not remove the errant webbing.

Needless to say, my stress level went up it hot in here? Is the AC on?

We got that done despite the added challenge round, and then had to race to arrange the springs. Spring arrangement is an art, the upholsterer uses his eye to make the alignment evenly spaced and just so. Focus on the bottom rung of the coil, don't worry about the tops. A little zen here, but very knitterly too, that focus on the task at hand thing, don't look at the big pile o' stitches, you know? You've been there. You know what that is. Make sure the knot in the top of the coil faces inward.

Once there, trace a circle around each coil using a marker, noting the start of the coil with a bar and number each circle, moving counterclockwise around the furniture, ending in the center. And while removing each coil, use your marker to tag the coil so you know which coil goes where when you sew it to the webbing.

Now, take your marker and go around each traced circle, marking three points evenly spaced, 1 -- 2 -- 3 with the marker. This is where the stitches will go to secure the coil. Make sure the third stitch marked will be adjacent to the next coil so that you minimize the amount of thread running between coils. Aha!

My knitterly experience kicked in again, and the sewing was not hard, despite the HUGE needle - I'd say it was 6" or 7" long? Once all attached, it looked not bad for a first attempt! Turn the piece over and tighten the jute thread between each stitch and tie off with what looks like a half hitch. Remind me to go look that up.

Next step is adding upholstery tacks, 2 at a time, on the frame, centered in front of each coil. So you have 3 sets of 2 tacks in our case, both on the front frame and the back frame. Total of 12 tacks. I am not good with a hammer. Never have been. My tacks were a little...not in a straight line.. we are not talking a soldier line here. But they will have to do, because there was no time to fix them!

By this time I was hungry. And I kept getting the sense that the instructor was not really happy about teaching. It didn't help that when we started banging with a hammer we were all girly with them. He just about jumped out the window, the noise telling him we were not holding the hammers and using them as a pendulum. Bang!! bang bang! WAAAAAHHHHH! Okay, practice the hammer thing. Be a bit macho with it. Swing it! Duly noted.

I felt like I had absorbed a ton and was a bit relieved when the class was ending. Making that blunder earlier set me back and is making it more difficult to maneuver around the piece. But once covered, it won't show.

Next up, find 3 yards of fabric, and oh, try not to buy a pattern. Don't overcomplicate things, okay? Yea, got it.


Knitting Belle said...

I would love a blow by blow report. I might sign up for class in August. Do you recommend it? I'm gonna do it anyway. If I read your blog, I'll be ahead of the game.

Oiyi said...

Your class sounds awesome! I can't wait to see your final result.

Marie said...

Hm. Having just sent four chairs to be re-upholstered I am feeling...Fine! I was preparing for guilt. But tt sounds hard...

Anonymous said...

Oh, joy! My loveseat awaits! I hope the fabric I bought two moves ago hasn't rotted!

I hope you're serious about the blow-by-blow. Include the minefields and screwups because I assure you, I'll land in them.

FUN! And saving a BUNDLE!