This is an extremely instructive activity, even if only for understanding what’s involved when hiring an upholsterer, knowing what to ask, and appreciating the various labor and material costs involved. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, as they say, and Mr. Teacher has me doing the deluxe job on these chairs. You may recall that the breakdown of the previous upholsterer’s work netted (per chair) a piece of burlap, a rotten (clearly re-used) piece of 2-inch foam, a layer of cotton batting/half-inch foam (cotton on one chair, foam on the other) and the fabric. That’s burlap, foam, cotton, fabric. In my deluxe version, it is burlap, edge-roll, twine stitching, cocoa mat, 3-inch foam (Teacher agreed with me), polyester fiber, and next will come the fabric. Again, I'm breaking it down step by step for my own future reference, but anyone who’s interested in all the details is invited to keep reading:
First, here’s where we left off last week: burlap and burlap-wrapped edge-roll, blanket-stitched to the springs with flax twine.
Next comes a nice dense barrier, which also levels out the seat with the edge-roll. There are options, but Mr. Teacher likes felt — the kind of 1/2" composite felt that goes under carpet — or cocoa-fiber matting. The studio was out of felt, so we went with cocoa mat, laid in place and trimmed to fit the contours of the frame.
The next step was to make a paper pattern of the shape of the seat. The pattern gets laid on top of the foam and traced with a felt pen, adding 1/2" all around; then the foam is cut with a little power saw, like a jigsaw. (Apparently an electric knife is also a popular tool for foam cutting. If you see one at a garage sale, pick it up for me, will ya?) Then the foam gets put in place — in my case somewhat forcibly, since the thickness brought it up right up to the arms and back.
Over the foam goes a layer of polyester fiber, which I’m not really fond of. Were I to do these again, I think I might just use muslin at this phase. Anyway, the polyester is tucked under the foam at the sides and back. Then the trick is pressing all along the edge, pulling down the little bit of excess that creates, and stapling it to the top of the frame, compressing the foam as evenly as possible along the way and creating a slight gap between the foam and the arms/back. Along the front, it needs to be stapled in front of the edge-roll, so rather than being tucked all the way under the foam, it's just sort of folded under and then stapled.
And with that, I’m ready for fabric. It’s all cut and ready for me to start sewing on Wednesday. This is the scary part.