RE- UPHOLSTERY? © SLIPCOVERS ? ©

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RE- UPHOLSTERY?

WHY NOT!
Chairs and sofas can be reupholstered
IF

THE FRAME AND SUSPENSION SYSTEMS ARE GOOD QUALITY.

But first: how do you know if an upholsterer is a good upholsterer?

No matter who recommends an upholsterer,
you must visit their workshop,
examine their craftsmanship,
appraise their organization and professionalism!

Then, it is critical to verify where your furniture will be upholstered:
by workers in their supervised premises?
or sent to a sub-contractor?

I’m emphatic about this because of my experience!
My family sofa needed reupholstering.
A prestigious NYC interior decorator firm recommended an upholsterer as
‘one of the best’.

 …..this photo illustrates one reason their work was unacceptable! bad upholstery277Balls of questionable filling!
No cambric or muslin casing!
These are ‘hidden crimes’!

After discovering ‘this’ and several other objections to their work,
I ‘dropped-into’ the upholsterer’s workshop without an appointment
and learned 
my sofa had been re-upholstered by a sub-contractor! 

Ultimately, all inferior work was corrected, but
I won’t recommend this upholsterer to anyone.
I was later shocked to learn that many upholsterers
use sub-contractors.  

My experience compels me to advise against
hiring an upholsterer who uses sub-contractors!

When you finally proceed with a work order,
no matter how ‘simple’ you think your work is,

specify and clarify each detail ON PAPER!  

Consider each of the following — and include all details as:
Tightening joinery of frame components.
Retying or replacing of springs.
‘How’  a pattern must be matched.
List lining—if your fabric should be lined— including the skirt.
If you require welting, what kind? (plastic is not acceptable).
Specify quality of cushion fillings: all to be encased in cambric or muslin.
Specify additional pillows and specific quality of fillings.
Specify arm covers and their size.(skimpy will keep falling off).
………………et cetera, et cetera.

Take nothing for granted!
Ask questions!
List every minute detail!

Make it known you will ‘drop-in’ to observe progress on your furniture
then do
so!

SLIPCOVERS:

Slipcovers change ‘the look’ of furniture.
They also hide worn upholstery—but must fit well.

Some furniture manufacturers sell good quality furniture ‘upholstered’
in cambric or muslin
 — for consumers who want slipcovers. 
‘Perfectly-sized’ slipcovers are
 made in a variety of fabrics
so the
 furniture ‘looks’ upholstered.

This is a good way to buy good furniture that’s easily maintained and transformed as income and needs change. Slipcovers are practical for families —because most of today’s fabrics can be washed or dry cleaned.

If you want furniture to have seasonal change; slipcovers are magic!
And when you no longer want slipcovers,
you can re-upholster
if the frame and suspension system of a chair/sofa is good. 

No matter how you hear about slipcover craftspeople:
 first: visit their workshop,
second: examine their craftsmanship, 

third: appraise their organization and professionalism!

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: ARTISAN METAL FURNITURE

JUDGING VINTAGE UPHOLSTERY©

If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
https://dearfriend.buzz/category/furniture/?order=asc

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JUDGING VINTAGE UPHOLSTERY

DON’T THROW GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD! 

Before buying a used or vintage upholstered chair/sofa,
answer the following:

Who previously owned the chair/sofa?
Even if it’s ‘family’ furniture, answer the following questions honestly to decide if you want to incur the expense of re-upholstery!  (
I truly enjoy each of the family chairs/sofas I’ve had re-upholstered!)

Is the chair/sofa frame sound?
This is critical; most of the sofas I’ve seen ‘curbside’—had collapsed frames.
If the frame is NOT sound, pass.
If the frame is sound: consider re-upholstery.

Does the chair/sofa have webbing and tied coiled springs!
If yes, this indicates good suspension.
Without webbing or coiled springs, pass.

Is the upholstery fabric worn?
This indicates only usage. Consider re-upholstery.

Open the zipper of a cushion. Is the soft filling within a cambric casing?
Shreds or lumps of fabric or polyester without casing is poor quality but
if the frame and suspension are okay, consider re-upholstery.

Lift the corner of the chair/sofa.  Is it relatively heavy and stable?
Light and wiggly indicates poor quality frame and suspension system.pass.
Heavy and stable is necessary for lasting quality. okay.

Can you feel the frame through the arms, top or back of the chair/sofa?
If you can’t: good!
If you feel the frame, fillings and padding are inadequate and the frame will
eventually poke through upholstery fabric.  A good upholsterer can correct this.

Do you hear squeaky sounds as you sit and move around on the chair/sofa?
This probably means springs are inadequately tied — but can be re-tied
by an upholsterer.

If squeaks come from ‘joined components’ of the frame:
the components are probably not properly joined
. pass.

Is the depth of the chair/sofa right for you?
Because chairs and sofas must accommodate human frames of different sizes, chairs/sofas are made in many sizes.

Too deep, add throw pillows.
Not deep enough?
Keep looking!

Is the height, width and mass of the chair/sofa right for your room?
Remember, room sizes, ceiling heights and sizes of other room furniture are variable. Chairs and sofas need to be in proportion to the room. Only you can judge this !

Be sure to carry a magnifying glass and tape measure so you can examine upholstery with the professionalism of a home inspector. If you describe inadequacies using specific terminology to explain why a price is too high for the quality, you can gain leverage for negotiation.

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: RE-UPHOLSTERY?   SLIPCOVERS?

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE QUALITY OF UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE IS GOOD?©

If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
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20 years ago, shopping for loveseats, I investigated everything a consumer should investigate. The frame, suspension system, fillings, etc. were good quality but the upholstery fabric I had chosen was no longer available—and I was given the option to supply my own fabric.

The furniture manufacturer approved my choice of Pierre Deux’s tightly woven red and white plaid linen. I purchased the required yardage and sent it directly to their factory. Despite my anticipation of two beautiful loveseats………
                                      ………they were DISASTER !
bad upholstery for blog 1

The president of the factory refused my phone calls.
A librarian researched the name of the CEO/owner of the furniture company
—and I wrote him a letter.

The indisputable power of my letter were the 21 photographs—accompanied by specific, detailed descriptions of unacceptable work! e.g.:

 1.  No attempt to line up and match the small repeat plaid anywhere!
 2.  Cheap plastic welting causing irregular edges.

 3.  Insufficient fillings in back cushions caused sagging excesses of fabric.
 4.  Facing over a zipper was incorrectly stitched and teeth were exposed.
 5.  A staple was exposed in the back of a loveseat.
 6.  Instead of ‘feathers and down in a cambric casing’ cushions;  cheap
poly material was shoved into upholstery cushions.

 7.  Raw edge fabric was STAPLED onto the frame under the skirt.
 8.  Fabric on one side of a love seat was tighter than the other side.
 9.  Skirts were of different lengths and the plaid ran downhill.
10.  Parts of the frame were covered with linen without PADDING!

The CEO/owner called —apologized—and told me the
loveseats would be remade to my approval.
20 years later, I still enjoy my good quality plaid loveseats!

My advice?  Never, never, never, give up! 

OKAY!  READY TO SHOP?

Choices are endless when selecting sofas and chairs.
Choose a style and 
size to fit you— and your room.
The lack of labeling information means you 
must verify
information about the frame, joinery, suspension system,
fillings, padding 
and cushions.

COMPONENT PARTS & RAW MATERIALS:

frame………hard wood of one species.
joinery……..mortise and tenon preferred. Double doweling is also good.
webbing…..tightly woven quality jute as a base to hold springs.
springs…… coils of steel wire, 8-way hand-tied.
fillings……..animal hair or man-made fillings cover frame and springs and
creates the shape of the sofa or chair
.
padding……final layer to assure a filled, smooth surface for upholstery fabric.
edge roll……sturdy coil of fiber, eliminating gap between cushions and base.
cushion fillings..varieties from down to man-made for seating comfort.
upholstery fabric….consumer’s choice of color, pattern and texture.
welting………fabric covered cotton cord sewn between seams to retain shape.
dust cover….cambric tacked to chair/sofa bottom keeps dust out of springs.

PRODUCTION CONSIDERATIONS:

Frames:
Chair and sofa frames must be kiln-dried hardwood of the same species and frame components should be joined with mortise and tenon or double doweling. Where legs are joined to seat frames, corner blocks must be glued and screwed to the seat rails for reinforcement. About these, there is no compromise. Don’t be afraid to sit on the arms of the chair or sofa you plan to buy and verify the strength and solidity of the frame.

Suspension system:
Taught, woven webbing topped with closely placed 8-way hand-tied steel springs is best. When the design of a chair/sofa is very ‘slim’ and there is no space for 8-way hand-tied steel springs: sinuous steel springs are probably used. These must be in very close parallel rows and connected by small steel helical springs to help the sinuous springs act together in counteracting weight and combating ‘sag’.

Even though you like the style of a chair or sofa, be sure it’s comfortable for you. Test for the ‘bounce’ you prefer—just as selecting a mattress. Check all labels and discuss the warranty regarding springs. A sofa not guaranteed for at least 10 years casts doubt about its quality.

Fillings & Padding:
For comfort and durability, fillings must be firm, resilient and covered with quality padding for a soft hand. If you feel the wood frame through the padding, fillings are not adequate and frames can eventually rub or poke through. Ask the specific names of the fillings and padding materials used in the chair or sofa. If the store can’t tell you, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer.

Application of Upholstery Fabric:
Upholstery fabric may or may not be lined —but if the fabric it is not tightly woven, it should be lined. Upholstery fabric must be securely pulled, stitched and tacked to the frame.

If fabric is sewn together with welting, the welting cord must be cottonnot plastic. Plastic welting is rigid and causes fabric to fray at the corners. Insist upon good sized removable arm covers and make sure they can be laundered or dry cleaned. They add years of wear to a chair or sofa.

Cushions:

Open cushion zippers.
Exposed foam or shreds of foam are a ‘red flag’.
FILLINGS SHOULD BE IN THEIR OWN MUSLIN CASING!  

Too hard? Too soft? Sink down and can’t get up?  If cushion fillings are not pleasing, inquire if there’s an option to make them more soft or more firm. If not, leave and shop in a different store.

Be a Goldilocks!

Finding ‘one size’ to accommodate both a 5’2” and 6’2” person is daunting.
Sit in all of them until YOU find one that is just right!

Sit back. Is the pitch right for YOU?
Does the depth  allow the front of the cushion touch the back of YOUR knees?
Do YOUR feet reach the floor? Good.
Do YOUR knees reach toward your chin? Bad.

Be sure a chair or sofa is scaled for the room: Height, Width, Depth & Mass.

Be adamant. Be persistent.
Don’t buy anything until you have legitimate confirmation from the manufacturer or retailer about ‘everything’  under the outer fabric.

If complete information is not available from your retail store,
• check the manufacturers’ website
• phone them
shop at a different store. 

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: JUDGING VINTAGE UPHOLSTERY

UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE PRODUCTION:PART II©:

If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
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I visited two celebrated upholstery factories in the U. S. and one in Italy:
each fastidious in their choice of raw materials and production methods for upholstered chairs and sofas.

Their collective standards of excellence provide the criteria necessary
to judge the quality of upholstered furniture at any price.

frames for chairs for blog

Each frame is a non-splitting hard wood of one species.

After components are joined with mortise and tenon, frames are ready for the suspension system: strips of jute webbing are tacked to the frame and stretched, tightly woven and stitched to provide a firm, flexible foundation for springs.

blog for webbing xx

Steel coils are placed by a springs specialist—to fill the entire seating area.
The size and gauge of the coils is varied to support stress; heavy coils are densely packed and positioned under the knees and along exterior edges.

blog springs for sofa p

Spring coils are sewn to the tightly woven burlap base and the process is repeated for the back of chairs and sofas as well as upholstered arms.

blog spring story

Springs are compressed and 8-way tied so their original
tension and shape is retained throughout use. 

blog xxxxfor springs

 Hand-knotting allows differentiation in stability and pressure.

blog of burlap on chair

Burlap, placed over the 8-way hand-tied coiled springs,
is tacked down as a foundation for fillings.

Every layer of filling, whether foamed plastic—animal hair or whatever the specifications require —is covered with flannel or muslin—to prevent filling from shifting. This ‘unseen’ covering is sewn as carefully as if it were upholstery fabric.

STUFFINGS FOR UPHOLSTERY FOR BLOG

Flying fingers reveal the sensitivity of a craftsman’s touch as he judges the amount of filling for a chair and then sews a second covering of burlap over the filling.

FILLINGS FOR UPHOLSTRY

Frames must never be felt through fillings.

EDGE ROLL:

Edge roll for blog x

A craftsman rhythmically moves a magnetized hammer to
his lips to retrieve an upholsterers’ tack clenched between his teeth.

An edge roll, (a heavy coil of fiber) is attached to the front edge of the wooden seat rail to add strength where body pressure is applied when changing from a sitting to a standing position.

Edge rolls eliminate gaps beneath cushion. It also raises the appearance of the base of the sofa. Edge rolls are stationary (not connected to the spring action) and covered with muslin for a firm application.

CUSHIONS:

dOWN FILLINGS FOR BLOG XX

Cambric covers are sewn to encase
specified fillings for seat and back cushions.

Above, light and fluffy goose down is stuffed into cambric covers.

PADDING FOR UPHOLSTERY FOR BLOG

Here, a dacron polyester fiberfill is the final padding
tacked and sewn to provide a soft hand beneath the upholstery fabri
c.

COTTON WELTING

welting cord for blog
Upholstery fabric is cut from a pattern and usually lined to impart body and combat stretchingIf welting is specified, soft cotton cord  (never plastic) is covered with bias-cut upholstery fabric and sewn into the seams.

Sewing upholstery to chair blog
Upholstery covering is both hand-tacked and hand-sewn by master craftsmen.

TUFTING:

 To create real tufting, craftsmen must pull cords from a button on the front of a sofa through to the back where each cord is secured.quality tufting for blog

Physical force is necessary to pull heavy cords from front to back.
       blog tufting
In a ” SOFA VS. CRAFTSMAN” battle.  The craftsman won!

 Tufting on less costly furniture may be only an ‘appearance of tufting’,
achieved by inserting a pronged button— known to fall out in time.

The final step for good quality upholstery is a cambric dust cover— tacked to the bottom of chairs and sofas to prevent dust moving up and into the webbing and springs.  

Production of good quality upholstered furniture
is
 undeniably very labor and capital intensive. 

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: JUDGING THE QUALITY OF UPHOLSTERY