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Wednesday, 14 January 2009



KT, for those of us who live in the boonies, can you get a little more specific? What's in the toolkit for instance? How do you stretch on the burlap? What's the advantage of the 3 layers of muslin, hay, burlap? And the foam, how thick, what kind etc. Thanks!

Karen Templer

I can try!

I wish I had a before of Laura's stool, but you know when an old upholstered piece is lumpy -- with concave spots here and there? That's the "hay" (whatever it actually is -- I don't know). It doesn't break down evenly.

For our footstools, we'll just be using a firm rectangle of foam. Because of the differences in the style/design, mine will have a 3" piece of foam; hers a 1" piece.

The burlap is just pulled tight with the heel of your hand, like you'd do if you were wrapping a dining chair seat. It's stapled, then the excess is folded inward and stapled again. And it just provides a nice smooth barrier between the springs and the padding.

The webbing, like on Laura's, is actually stretched with a tool. Picture a small paint roller, the width of the webbing. But the part where the roller would be doesn't roll. It has rubber on the outer side and a row of sharp teeth on the inner side, pointing toward the handle. You stick it between the wood and the webbing, poke the teeth through the webbing, then rock it toward you to stretch it taut while you staple it. If you didn't have that, you'd presumably just pull it as tight as you could. And the woven webbing holds the coils tight from the underside. On the upper side, they'll get retied, then a layer of burlap -- so they'll be encased between the burlap and the webbing. Then a layer of foam sit go on top of the burlap. And we'll be ready for fabric.

millie rossman kidd

My husband's mother (an upholsterer)always called that hay "horse hair"? I think if it's not disgusting--like mildewed or something--you're supposed to try keep it and reuse it. She had all those great tools too, but no one knows where they went after she died.

Jim and I found this really great camelback couch in NYC and dragged it back to our tiny apt after stripping off all the gross fabric and cotton and getting it down to the coils. We has such big ideas about redoing it with down and all that.

But we were never able to get past the tying down stage. It was hard to get them down and even on such a big piece. It would have been great to start with a smaller piece like an ottoman. (And to have a class--we were stupid and thought we could tackle such a big piece on our own, just as his mother did.)

Can't wait to see your fabric picks!

Karen Templer

Hair is the good stuff -- that's what you use (as I understand it) if you're doing something soft and curvy, like a rounded back, button-tufted chair or something. And it's apparently a mix of animal hairs, never breaks down.

Hay would seem the be the poor man's version of hair. It seemed too fine and almost curly to really be hay, so I'm assuming "hay" is just the common name for whatever it is. But maybe it really is hay? I'll ask.

Sounds like your couch was about as difficult an upholstery project as one could ever take on! What did you wind up doing with it?

millie rossman kidd

After much agonizing we put her back out onto the street, and I believe someone else scarfed her up. The good stuff didn't last long in our neighborhood. Dumpster diving was alive and well.

Karen Templer

Just think how much you would have spent on hair!


That box of springs is hilarious. Oh this is such fun...

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Having the right tools is important. You have finished it beautifully.


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  • Hi, I’m Karen. In 2006, my husband and I bought a slightly frumpy 1905 Victorian cottage on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We’ve since been renovating the interior and remaking the garden. This blog tells the tale. To start at the beginning, click here. To be alerted to new posts, subscribe to the feed:

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