As you may have read previously on Ooo! Shiny, I am learning how to upholster furniture. Tuesday, November 30, 2010 marked the last class of my third semester.

The chair so far - new fabric, no trim yet
This past semester, I worked on a chair for a friend. I thought it would be easy because the chair is a Lincoln Rocker - the same style chair as my very first upholstery project. My Lincoln Rocker is a antique reproduction  that had been my grandmother's. As such, it was fairly easy to deconstruct and reupholster - there were no surprises when I took the old upholstery off and, because it's a wood-framed chair, I didn't have to do any sewing.

My friend's rocker is a real, honest-to-god antique. It has a stunning "arts and crafts" style and the wood is stained a dark chestnut color. It's in beautiful shape, with nary a scratch or divot in the wood. The only thing marring this otherwise gorgeous chair was the old, harvest-gold, velveteen fabric. If I had to guess, the last time it was upholstered was in the '70s. So, when my friend bought a new sofa, she decided it was time to get this, her favorite chair, redone. I gladly took on the project to help save her some money and to provide me with some more practice on this style of upholstering. It also gave me the opportunity to procrastinate on my next two projects, both of which are going to require an inordinate amount of sewing (my least favorite activity.)

First let it be said that the last upholstery job on this chair was top-quality. The fabric might have been hideous but the work was done so well that a lot of the "engineering" of the chair (springs, webbing, etc.) could be left intact. However, like other antique projects before it, the wood was downright brittle and every tack was removed with a prayer that a chunk of the frame wouldn't come out with it. Suffice it to say, there will be wood filler in this chair's future.

As I removed the old upholstery, the chair's quirks started presenting themselves. One thing I learned early on is that padding and fabric really hold a chair together. When you start taking these bits off, it's not unusual for a weak framed piece of furniture to, quite literally, fall apart. While this one didn't disintegrate before my eyes, its weaknesses became apparent quickly. I spent two entire classes honing my woodworking skills. The right arm was separated from the frame, necessitating glue and clamping. The lumbar brace was broken in half, which I jury-rigged by screwing a metal brace across the break and then gluing and clamping the whole thing for a week. One of the rockers started splitting, requiring more glue and a clamp. Etc. Etc. Etc. I learned more about carpentry on this job than I did upholstery - which is sort of the point, I guess.

Interestingly, I've complained less about this project that I did the one before it - which came with its own set of problems. I find that I like the actual "construction" of the furniture and I don't mind doing the woodworking. Finding and fixing these problems became a challenge that I was proud to find solutions for. At one point, my teacher complimented me on a couple of my "fixes," amazed at my ingenuity. That was more satisfying praise than the normal "good job" than I get on my actual upholstery work.

Maybe my next class will be furniture building or refinishing or something. After I finish my next two chairs.

- Alex

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