Guest Blog – Lou’s Upholstery Course

On a recent trip to London, my friend Lou bought some gorgeous fabric to re-upholster this chair at a course she would be attending…

The finished chair looks amazing! Lou has kindly shared a bit about her upholstery course experience below…

Tell us a bit about the course please!

It was a week long course in Stogumber which is in the middle of beautiful countryside in Somerset. George Parsons runs the course, he’s been doing upholstery since the 60’s and is a very talented man- he’s so clever in the way he manipulates the fabric! He also teaches in Threads of Minehead.

Have you done any upholstery before or were you a complete beginner?

I have re-covered the seat of a rocking chair before, it was a very simple job but it definitely gave me a taste for it and made me want to learn how to do it properly. My parents have both had a go at upholstery as well, very successfully and surely if they can do it, I can give it a go!

What made you want to do the course?

George has covered 2 chairs and a sofa for us (plus lots for Mum and Dad) beautifully so when I heard that he ran courses I jumped at the chance. It took over 2 years to finally coincide the dates of a course with me being able to get to Somerset and my parents to be able to look after the kids.

Were you just replacing the cover or did the ‘innards’ need work as well?

I covered a Parker Knoll and the ‘innards’ were in perfect condition and didn’t need any work, so it was just a re-cover.

Everyone was doing different projects though, so although I wasn’t actually replacing the stuffing/ padding I got to see people doing it and I asked everyone a million questions all week! (Probably really irritating but they were all very kind).

Did the fabric you chose work well?

No, it was a terrible choice! I decided to use velvet, and for price purposes I decided to use the thinnest velvet I could which was still ‘ok’ for upholstery.

I had heard that velvet was a pain to work with, but I’ve never even sewn with it so had no idea how hard! It was fine in the end, and George gave me lots of tips, but it definitely wasn’t the best fabric to use for a first attempt, even a thicker velvet would have been better!

Was it hard work?

Not really, but George was always on hand to help when things got tough, like stubborn staples to remove or ‘walking’ velvet on the zip. Ask me that question again when I attempt it alone!

Are you planning to do more at home or would you need the space and tools provided on the course?

I definitely want to do more! I’m going to attempt another Parker Knoll in the hope that it will be a similar project.

The great thing about upholstery is that you don’t really need to buy too many tools. Mum has lent me a couple of bits which will get me going.

George has pneumatic staple guns for people to use on the course, it holds the fabric to the wood so tightly! He suggested that I got an electric staple gun (he said I should keep my eye out in Lidl for this!) if I can’t buy a pneumatic one.

I don’t think you really need much space for it either, I did my rocking chair in a tiny room in halls at uni! Unless you are pulling out dust covered horse hair- which you really need to do outside!

What were your highs and lows of the course?

I loved learning a new skill – it was so interesting to see the amount of work that goes into upholstery and incredibly satisfying to see average furniture be turned into beautiful pieces!

The course was 6 hours a day for 5 days without children, I love them, but it was great to be away from them!

I enjoyed spending time with 7 lovely women and George, there was a lot of chit chat to listen to which kept me entertained while I worked.

There weren’t really any lows! I suppose I was a bit disheartened when I realised that my fabric choice was terrible, but George assured me it would be fine and we’d make it work.

Are the kids allowed to sit on your beautiful chair?

It’s been hidden away in the spare bedroom until they are old enough to not have constant snotty noses! I sometimes bring it downstairs in the evenings just to look at admiringly.

Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s certainly made me want to do a course… but I don’t have anything that needs covering nor space for any more furniture!

If you’re based in Nottingham – the lovely Naomi Wagstaff teaches upholstery at All Things Creative, where I attended sewing classes with Deirdre last year.

Rosie McPherson Guest Blog

Today’s blog comes to you from my lovely friend – Rosie McPherson.
I sometimes say that I’m only friends with people if they knit or crochet. This is of course a joke – but not too far from the truth! I met all of my close friends in Nottingham through the knit group I attend (Knit in Notts), and some of my older (well- more long-serving!) friends have now started to knit and/or crochet.
One of these ‘older’ friends is Rosie – who I have known since school. She lives down in Bristol now so we only see each other a few times a year, but it’s always as if we just saw each other the day before.
Rosie has a good creative heritage – being the daughter of the artist Alan McPherson. She’s very crafty and talented and did some of the photography for Cute Little Knits, where her nephew Billy was a model.
After dipping in and out of knitting for a while, Rosie has now become a fully fledged knit addict – and I’m very proud to have inspired her along the way.
Over to Rosie!

The Triangle Hat – a beginners guide

So a few firsts for me, I had never followed a pattern, knitted a hat, attempted fair-isle or even made a pom-pom (nor have I ever written a guest blog for that matter).

My knitting history: I was introduced to knitting by Jem circa 2002, she showed me how to knit repeatedly and although I really admired the lovely things Jem made, I just couldn’t get into it. I found the maths (counting) hard but the real problem was attempting complicated things before I had the basic skills because I was impatient to knit exciting things!

So I didn’t want my first project to be a ‘boring knit scarf’, Jem came up with a pattern (lacey 4 row repeat) and taught me what to do. It took a lot of time & concentration and I was glad when it was done. My next project was a seemingly simple square patchwork baby blanket, but I made the squares small, so it took me a long time to complete, so much so that my nephew had it on his 1st birthday instead of on his birth as intended! So I gave up for a long while (whilst still envying all the beautiful things I saw Jem make). With hindsight I was telling myself that knitting wasn’t for me when actually I gave up because it was hard!

I got back into knitting two winters ago when I started to commute by train from Bristol to Bath, and there I found a lovely yarn shop called ‘Wool’.  I wanted a simple project to do on the train so I picked up a lovely yarn (Rowan Colourspun) and made a ‘simple’ circle scarf in moss stitch, I loved the result so much that I made another in exactly the same yarn for my mum! And I also made a chunky wool cowl (I really loved how fast it knitted up). I am no longer commuting by train so knitting is now an evening/weekend activity but I am definitely addicted to knitting scarves now! I did my third cowl this winter in Rowan fazed tweed. The finished product is definitely not ‘boring’ & I now prefer to invest in a beautiful yarn rather than a cheap fashion product.

wpid-img_20150217_104137.jpgI was ready for my next challenge and yet again Jem inspired me, her design for Spins & Needles looked amazing (I buy so many fashion hats for more than £12!) and she encouraged me to attempt making it. So I chose the same colours as Jem’s initial design, as I love the colour combination of mustard yellow (which can be unflattering next to the skin) & teal (my favourite).

I started the hat and on row one I messed up – I failed to cast on the correct number of stitches (counting not my strong point remember) so the first 2cm was something other than rib (quite obvious in the photo below).


I had never knitted with fine yarn, on really tiny needles before so I couldn’t believe how long it took to do just one row of 135 stitches! So normally being a perfectionist I would start again but I just couldn’t bring myself to. However Jem came to the rescue and suggested I sew the rib under rather than folding it up – which would hide the mistake and is another design option to consider anyway!

Fair-isle! I couldn’t get my head around the pattern at first but after speaking to Jem I realised it was actually pretty straightforward, she advised that I practice a fair-isle test square first and watch a few YouTube videos. And after watching a couple I cracked on. Her other really important bit of advice was not to pull tightly and to leave slack in the colour you are stranding. She also advised that I could catch in the stranding yarn as I go, but I didn’t actually do that as I didn’t figure out how and I am slapdash like that! Whilst doing the fair-isle I was worried that I wasn’t following the pattern correctly but the triangles started to form and that was a brilliant moment!

wpid-img_20150217_104043.jpgJem advised me to block it by sprinkling water over, gently patting and then leaving it to dry on a balloon (brilliant idea)! Also she advised to only sew up the top of the hat and leave the headband (as the balloon could stretch it out too much).

The next new challenge was a pom-pom, (I probably should have just bought a pom-pom maker) but again I was impatient, I wanted to wear this hat! I knew they were simple & looked up how to do one but then guessed the circle size (I used a random cup) & I didn’t realise that I needed to leave quite a large hole in the middle, so my first try just didn’t have enough wool in it and looked a bit limp (and I like a big pom). I thought I would have to order another ball of the Leyburn (yellow) but as I had some yellow and some teal, I decided I may as well give a two tone pom pom a go. And I like the result since the rest of the hat is multi-patterned, plus I could always do a new one if I get bored of it.

And yeah there are definitely a few wonky bits but I absolutely LOVE it! I can’t help pointing out to my friends that I ACTUALLY MADE IT! And I’ve had lots of compliments on it. I will definitely be making it again in new colours next autumn.

What’s my next challenge? Mittens (I’m hoping Jem will do a matching triangle pattern) and finally learning to crochet!



You can follow Rosie on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

The Triangle hat pattern is available here from Spins and Needles. Free when you buy the Rowan Fine Tweed to knit it for just £11.85!