GOT ALOHA? Custom Vintage by Blue Velvet Upholstery
Visit our shop at 6-315 Upper Ganges Rd, Saltspring Island. We have a wide variety of fabrics to choose from and over twenty years of experience and knowledge in the art of upholstery.
Or call us at 250-537-4369 to book a free estimate in your home. We welcome your inquiries.
Slipcovers, Custom Upholstery, Window Seats, Outdoor Seating Cushions, Toss Pillows, Full Range of Fabrics, Headboards, Daybeds.
We supply Foam, Pillow Inserts, and all necessary materials.
February 3, 2013
Tagged cushions, custom, design, fabric, furniture, headboards, Saltspring island, slipcovers, toss pillows, upholstery, vintage, window seats
“I am indeed and mortally pierced with the seeds of love.” — By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept — Elizabeth Smart.
DEFINITION OF A BASIC SLIPPER CHAIR: Small armless bedroom chair constructed low to the floor (15″ high at the base rather than the standard 17″- 18″) in order to offer a reliable perch when doffing ones slippers.
HOW DRY CAN a definition be? Can we think of anything that should be this dry outside of Champagne? And is that all there is to a slipper chair, as Peggy Lee would surely have plaintively sung if she’d been pondering upholstery rather than sexual fulfillment? (Imagine!) We can only insist that this isn’t all there is to BLUE VELVET UPHOLSTERY’S Slipper Chair. While her style and original story may date back to Queen Anne, “Love is Enough” would never find herself dating someone quite so lacy now!
EVEN AS WE DREW OFF off her practical nightie and proceeded to custom-fit her fabulous physique for more heightened and romantic attire, we knew that L.I.E was really a Boudoir Chair at heart; a destination to sink into at the end of a night filled with the above-mentioned bubbly, not to mention warm summer breezes, and dancing under the stars.
YOU SEE: “LOVE is Enough” isn’t just a chair. She is a locale perched at the end of a winding journey, a place in which to remove every last article of clothing and not bother with slippers at all. Drape that vintage Victorian slip over her back or toss it in a heap in her lap (black looks divine on the parchment background.) And then picture yourself in bed until noon when a certain someone arrives bearing warm croissants, very old cheese and — what? more Champagne?
YES, MY DARLINGS. “Love is enough.” But a little mid-day effervescence should never be refused. Why? Because “Life is Short.” But that’s another story, another poignant truth — one that we must continue to insist is still some way off.
The concentration of the upholsterer is something to behold. Here, Kim Nash (saber in teeth) bends the slipper chair to her desires.
Inside arms set up on Slipper Chair
The inside tucks are carved and sculpted in.
Our poor slipper chair weathered a bit of neglect so that we could complete two side chairs and a fully-upholstered daybed, but in no time we had managed to begin setting up the fabric on the inside arms. Although upholsterer Kim Nash is adept at matching patterns (with extreme perfection) we have chosen here to line things up in such a way that the overall effect is most pleasing to the eye. “A sweet disorder in the dress” as the poet once said.
The tucks at the front of the arms are snipped, folded, sculpted and practically carved into place. Kim uses an old, bone bookmaking tool for this task. Each arm must match the other — and of course an experienced upholsterer has learned careful lessons regarding snipping out the exact amount of excess fabric (and not one thread more!) so that the fold will close neat, snug, and without bulk, almost as though it had been ironed into place.
STAY TUNED FOR PART VII: The final chapter of One
Slipper Chair’s Story.
WE HAVE NOW PREPARED THE INSIDE arms and back in same fashion as the seat. That is, we have renewed the coir fibre, tied it down, and then applied the burlap and tied it down too. As is true with any art, enormous discipline and control is required in order to achieve a look that evokes spontaneity and beauty.
After weathering a remarkable snowstorm on the Pacific Coast, we were chomping at the bit to get some of the lovely Arthur Sanderson fabric onto the seat in order to convey just a hint of the effect that will be evident when the Blue Velvet Upholstery Studio’s slipper chair is completed.
The restored seat and finishing fabric from Arthur Sanderson
All of the attention to detail and fussing over the many layers of stuffings pays off. We added a half layer of polyester wrap over the muslin cover as well. Our placement regarding the pattern repeat is intentionally off-centre as we find a certain asymmetry more pleasing to the eye than what is perhaps a more static “perfection.” In our next post, we’ll turn to the inside arms and back.
Another view of the symmetry of the restored seat on our slipper chair
We have fully re-webbed the slipper chair’s seat from beneath, re-fastened the springs to the new webbing and increased the tying of the tops of the springs to “eight-way.” Next we reinforced the hand-made seat edge (roll) with fresh burlap and then covered the springs with a product with more longevity than regular burlap. Our process regarding upholstery materials is intuitive and tailored to each piece — a combination of old and new. Every decision is driven by an assessment of the individual needs of the chair (in this case) sitting before us on the trestles. We have also completed a minor repair of the frame and now stand ready to begin replacing the coir fibre on the seat.
The chair’s seat is prepared for the coir fibre placement.
Next we pile the coir fibre back on, primp and fluffing all the way, and sew it into place with twine (bridle ties), using a honking big curve needle!
Original coir fibre is replaced on the slipper chair seat.
The coir fibre is tied in place with a BIG curved needle.
After the coir fibre is securely tied down we cover it with burlap and tie it down again. But we aren’t ready for the finished fabric yet of course. In our next post we’ll prepare the inside arms and inside back in the same fashion.
Burlap tied down on slipper chair’s restored seat.
Here’s where upholsterers get forensic, and it’s one of the most interesting aspects of the job. Note the hand-made edge roll, now manufactured on rolls, and the deteriorating hessian (burlap) cover. You can see the linen ties that stitched the burlap to the springs. First we check that the webbing beneath the springs is intact and that the springs remain stitched securely to the webbing.
Upholsterers are into forensics
In this case it isn’t necessary to restore the seat from scratch. We will bolster the springs by adding a new and tight layer of webbing from beneath and then re-stitch the coil springs to the webbing. Then we’ll add additional ties to the top of each spring. Any weak ties are replaced and the spring-work reinforced overall. Tying coil springs is one of the major skills in the art of upholstery. The end result must be secure, shaped properly (for the coming stuffings) and both prohibit undisciplined seat action while allowing required buoyancy.
Our slipper chair’s good bones …
Next Post: The Blue Velvet Upholstery Studio will begin to rebuild the seat in preparation for the finishing fabric.
Let us begin the disrobing of our small, charming chair bound for boudoir or intimate room of any kind. Note the abundance of COIR FIBRE made from the husk of coconuts. An alternative to animal hair, coir requires tight packing in order to create a dense-packed stuffing that won’t lose loft over time. Here we see it being revealed beneath a layer of cotton felt.
The slipper chair begins its initial revealing.
We will tidy up the coir fibre and re-use rather than resort to foam. Note the lovely edge roll (below) along the curve of the seat which serves to retain the loose stuffings and provides a firm edge leading up to the finished fabric.
The heart of the matter revealed.
Next: We shall reveal the condition of the springs and assess how we will proceed regarding all that lies beneath.
Today we began stripping the Slipper Chair Project, one of the limited number of custom chairs the Blue Velvet Upholstery studio likes to have in the shop window for sale. This is a 1940’s version of the sort of chair you might see with a negligee tossed over it, or the lady of the house drawing on her slippers (red, with feathers) in the morning — late morning. But nowadays such a compact and neat chair could be considered an accent piece for practically any room in the house.
Our fabric is from Arthur Sanderson’s William Morris Collection, a 100 percent cotton archival design called Love Is Enough, a flowing branch design in Pattern: Thyme Parchment. As I mentioned earlier, this is a reference to Morris’ poem of the same name. Here it is now, from the Oxford Book of English Verse:
|LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning,
|And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
| Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
|The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
|Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
| And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,
|Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
|The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
| These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.
William Morris’ Fabric Love Is Enough
Blue Velvet Upholstery has a full range of Arthur Sanderson large format books in the studio and they are a must-see for their beauty, longevity and classic design. But time now to get down to the nitty gritty. In our next post, we will begin to strip our boudoir chair and begin to see what’s at the heart of the matter, so to speak.
Kim Nash ties springs at the Blue Velvet Upholstery shop.
At Blue Velvet we have become practiced at combining traditional upholstery techniques with modern materials but this is only possible because, like a musician who has learned all the necessary skills before daring to improvise, Kim is well versed in complete restoration from the frame up. She has sewn horse-hair pads and hand-made custom edge rolls. She is as comfortable building up a steady layer of loose stuffings as she moulding foam to achieve the same effect. We look forward to inviting you into the shop to view further works in progress. Stay tuned for Blue Velvet’s One Slipper Chair’s Story, which will be fully restored and recovered in William Morris’ design Love Is Enough, a fabric referencing one of his charming poems.
Some furniture issues don’t require the time and expense required for restoration and re-upholstery. If the cover fabric is in good condition and the main problem seems to be seating comfort, consider refurbishing the seat cushions with fresh foam and a layer of polyester wrap. We carry both of these at Blue Velvet and can order, cut, wrap and reinsert foam into your existing cushion covers usually within the week. Having trouble extricating yourself from your sofa? Well, none of our backs are what they once were. Consider foam renewal for the sake of posture and ease as well.
An additional quick fix involves re-webbing the chair or sofa from beneath rather than tearing it down to the frame and beginning anew. Again, if the piece is generally in good condition and the fabric is still suitable, this re-enforcement of the deck can work wonders, assuming that all the spring work is intact. Combine this with a fresh cut foam cushion and a new layer of wrap and the difference can be dramatic.