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.