|Home Sweet Workshop|
I love having a business in a historic commercial district which is unique. What surprises me is that I have continued to exist in this location for so long without spending a dime on advertising. All around me are restaurants, theatre events, clothing shops, gift shops and just about everything you would need for a diverse shopping experience. Then there is my shop.
My store/workshop/school is just off the main street and directly across from an elementary school. Like living next to the ocean and listening to its perpetual sounds, I have enjoyed the sounds of children playing and singing "happy birthday" for as long as I can remember.
My storefront looks like an old house, and there are trees and plants, and the windows are full of mahogany furniture. I prefer the low key image. I work here and, if you ask anybody in the business, this is where you go when you need specialized antique restoration. Same place. Same business.
So, one of the neat things about working like this is that I never know who is going to ring the doorbell. Sometimes it is for antique restoration, sometimes upholstery, sometimes people want to see the school, sometimes it is for odd jobs which I refer to other businesses.
Last week the bell rang and I discovered an elegant Victorian walnut parlor chair, in the Renaissance Revival style. It had its original finish, original brass wheels, and what appeared to be an early upholstery job with wool mohair. There was some evidence that it had been re upholstered only once before, perhaps 80 years or more ago.
|Wool Mohair With Cat Hair Added|
When I removed the upholstery, my suspicions were confirmed. There was the original upholstery, where the maker had used horsehair for the tufted back, and straw and Spanish moss for the sprung seat. Then there was a second effort, when the springs were repaired and the mohair was put on. During that effort, the upholsterer took the time to conserve the stitched edge of the seat foundation and all the stuffing on the back. He simply added a bit of horsehair to the top of the seat, and some cotton filling in the button area to improve the tufting.
|Original Stuffing with Cotton Added|
|Cord Held By Second Knots On Back|
|First Knots in Place, Cord Removed|
To repair the back, I first tacked new burlap to the frame. Then I carefully placed the original stuffing in place on the back, making sure all old tacks and rough edges of the original burlap and muslin were cleaned up. I kept the cotton repair the second worker had added, as it now had become the shape of the tufts. I measured out the spacing on the new muslin, transferring the pattern from the mohair fabric. To do this, I first iron the mohair fabric to return it to its original dimensions.
|Original Stuffing In Place|
I have found that visually laying out the tufts is better than trying to measure them and be precise about spacing. The reason is that the early upholsterers were experienced in this work and would tuft by eye. They were pretty good, but not precise. When you try to use old stuffing and be precise, it doesn't always fit.
|New Muslin Ready for Fabric|
That is the reason that, when I was done and looked at it, I noted that the third channel on the lower left was wider than the one next to it. I thought I had made a mistake, so I went back to the photos I took of the chair before I took it apart. In fact, I had exactly copied the work of the original maker.
|Professional Upholstery Conservation|
That was a relief and a confirmation that I was doing a good job. In another 80 years, I am sure that the next guy will discover the same thing, if he pays attention.