If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Springs are compressed and 8-way tied so their original
tension and shape is retained throughout use.
Hand-knotting allows differentiation in stability and pressure.
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.
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.
Frames must never be felt through fillings.
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.
Cambric covers are sewn to encase
specified fillings for seat and back cushions.
Above, light and fluffy goose down is stuffed into cambric covers.
Here, a dacron polyester fiberfill is the final padding
tacked and sewn to provide a soft hand beneath the upholstery fabric.
Upholstery fabric is cut from a pattern and usually lined to impart body and combat stretching. If welting is specified, soft cotton cord (never plastic) is covered with bias-cut upholstery fabric and sewn into the seams.
Upholstery covering is both hand-tacked and hand-sewn by master craftsmen.
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.
Physical force is necessary to pull heavy cords from front to back.
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