Albeit, slightly OT, but does anyone out there have some experience
and possibly words of advice, concerning supplying cushions for a
Morris Chair? Talking to upholsterers, I'm probably looking at $300
minimun and WAY UP for the work. I would like to do a nice job on
these, but not break the bank! What is the going rate for a couple of
decent cushions? I don't even mind doing them in cloth instead of
leather. As a complete neophyte in the upolstery arena, can I do this
myself? Anyway,........you get the idea! Your own experiences? Wooden
slats? Spring seat? Woven webbing? Any thoughts on the subject would
You are in luck. The recent edition of Woodsmith vol.26/ # 155 gives
revised plans plus a plan for the upholstery. Actually the upholstery
item is on line at Woodsmith's web site. Cheers, JG
If you have the skill to build the chair then
yes, you can upholster it yourself. But...
you'll need an industrial sewing machine
(the clutch and other internals will quickly
be destroyed by doing this heavy work on
a domestic use model) with a walking foot.
After paying for a rebuild on my wife's machine I
decided to get my machine out of storage or
just hire the work out to a competitent
I have an on again/off again source for
whole hides. I can do something the
size of a Morris chair for less than $100
in materials but the colors are limited to
overstock materials on first class airline seats.
Right now the colors du jour are light blue
and cream. Not the best selection.
BTW...$300 for a good job with leather
cushions isn't at all bad.
On 3 Nov 2004 22:57:40 -0800, email@example.com (mrmortise) wrote:
There's at least one professional upholsterer who has been known to
read this group (Perry). I'd very much appreciate their comments.
What's a "Morris Chair" ? The Stickley #369 ? A reproduction of
one of Morris', with traditional upholstery ?
$300 doesn't sound unexpected, if it's really the grade it claims to
be. Upholstery is the meeting point of two expensive costs; high
materials costs and large amounts of one-off skilled hand labour.
In the 18th century, upholstery could be 3/4 of the total price of a
finished piece. As a good commercial #369 lists for $2500 - 3000 these
days, $300 doesn't sound all that bad ! (I appreciate this isn't an
Do you have a breakdown of this price ? What were they offering, and
how much was being spent on materials vs. work ?
Upholstery is getting rare these days. Cheap stuff is banged out by
the truckload with huge production-line processes applied to it.
Custom work is very much a niche market, and most of it's for
re-fitting bars and commercial premises - lots of work in a big run,
which is economic for a workshop to produce. A one-off chair done in a
commercial workshop is going to soak you on price, no question and the
upholsterer might still not be making sensible money on the deal,
because of the one-off nature. You can improve this by being flexible
to the upholsterer. Don't demand it that week, let them influence the
materials choices (within limits).
For a Stickley Morris, you're talking about cheap work done on an
expensive hide. There isn''t much to do, either just two loose
cushions on a slatted base, or a cushion and a slip seat -- but the
material quality is enormously visible and so you'll be spending top
dollar for single large pieces of high quality leather.
Talk to your leather supplier. Tell them what you're doing. Selecting
two excellent panels for the visible sides and two lesser panels for
the back and sides can be a worthwhile saving - but make sure the
colours match. Some people have made the back cushion invertable, "to
equalise wear". This is a bad idea, IMHO - it's unnecessary, it needs
top grade hides on both sides, and the wear patterns of the rerar
slats will appear on the front.
Gustav Stickley wasn't an upholsterer. He got a bit wound up in his
"Every man his own cabinetmaker" attitude and so his upholstery work
was unadventurous, simplified and not especially comfortable. The
original cushions for a Stickley Morris were a sprung slip seat in the
base, and an envelope-sided bag for the back.
Slip seats are very traditional. Any book on upholstery restoration
will tell you how to make one. It's a simple insert frame (usually
beech or ash, with screwed half-laps). This is then filled with woven
hessian webbing, coil springs are tied to the webbing and various
layers of hessian, calico and soft paddings are laid over this and
tacked in place. The materials aren't cheap, simply because there are
so many layers, even good padding fibre is expensive, and the hand
work needed to make it is pretty lengthy.
An alternative to the slip seat is to make a loose cushion and place
it over a slatted base. This is how I'd probably do it (on a big
recliner anyway). A slip seat is fine for an upright dining chair,
but they don't work desperately well for deep seats on angles that you
The slatted base is crossways ash slats. For a chair these can be
quite wide and the front and back slats should definitely be wide and
butt against the front and back rails - otherwise the cushion can tend
to bend down and be lost. The cushion itself is a simple foam slab,
which is much cheaper than making a sprung seat. Use Dunlopillo
natural latex rubber foam, if you're doing high grade work. Talk to
your foam supplier (not just a small shop with no range) because it's
crucial to use the right stiffness grade. You _can_ use good quality
PU foam, so long as you get real upholstery chair-seat grade, but I
can't claim to like this stuff. Many foam slabs are actually laminated
(soft surfaces on a firm block), to control stiffness. For a #369 I'd
think seriously about laminating a tapered strip of firm foam across
the front edge, to better retain the shape.
The original back cushion was an envelope of hide, loose filled with
a soft batting. These soon slump into an ugly bag. The real way to do
it is to make an inner envelope of hessian, pack it with fibre and
then stitch through from face to face to retain it in place. This can
then be wrapped in batting and calico, before being slipped into the
hide envelope. To avoid slumping, this should still be slip-stitiched
into the top of the hide covering. The original cushions were held up
by leather straps stitched into the side seam, then looped over the
rear posts of the chair. If you extend these on the inside, then you
can stitch a shoft length of webbing to them (before sewing them up)
and this can be used to slip-stitch the inner bag to, after assembly.
Some people favour a flap in the top seam of the cushion, held on the
frame by press studs, as they're less obvious than the loops.
For comfort, I just wouldn't do this. I'd go with a latex foam slab.
Done right, this will give less trouble with slumping and it's much
easier to do it right.
The original cushions were envelopes, with a single side seam. I might
well make a box seam, with a separate edge strip. I'd probably make a
D cushion though, where the face and top edge were one piece, just to
avoid a seam on the most prominent edge.
I wouldn't make authentic Stickley upholstery. Like so much of
Gustav's work, he's just doing it wrong ! If you're the modern
Stickley company, or you're doing completely accurate reproductions,
then you may not have the choice. Latex foam is out of period ('20s
to '60s) but it's still one of my favourite materials. Easy to work
with, not too expensive, gives good results.
Fireproofing is an issue for upholstery. So long as you buy the
materials through the right trade, then it's no problem to achieve the
standards. You may need to note these though, and maybe attach the
For a Victorian-period Morris chair, then traditional upholstery is
really the only option. You'll also have to search to find real
covering materials. If these are authentic (tapestry isn't impossible)
then they'll cost more than $300 alone, or else a chair might be
constructed especially to display some material that has been made for
On 3 Nov 2004 22:57:40 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (mrmortise) calmly
Yes, if you can learn to do proper woodworking, you should be able to
learn proper upholstery, too. When I heard "$700-1,000" for cushions,
I had an easy decision.
Slats are easiest and probably best for posture, webbing is softer,
and I've heard that sinuous spring can be a real bitch.
For the price of a couple upholstery jobs, you could buy one of HF's
brand new industrial sewing machines and tables, learn how, and do it
yourself. I'm eyeing that option myself right now.
Alternatively, you could buy material off Ebay, buy cut foam pieces
from http://www.foamrubber.com /, and have a local piece-worker sew
the covers for you. I found a great upholstery book by W. Lloyd Gheen
titled "Upholstery Techniques Illustrated" for $4 on www.half.com a
while back. Look for that and "Upholstery: A Complete Course" by David
James at your local library if you don't want to purchase them. I
perused quite a few others and none had the clarity, range, or depth
these two did, at least to me.
I found decent foam at Fred Meyers in a 30x72x3" size for $12.99
which will work for the backs. I need a thicker, firmer foam for the
bottoms of the Craftsman couch I'll be building soon. I just signed up
with a local (2-hr drive or free delivery on Wednesdays) wholesaler of
upholstery materials in Eugene, OR. since I have a business, so I get
better pricing for the things I can't find on Ebay or Yahoo. I buy
rolls of thin foam, binding, nylon, and glue for my line of laptop
glare guards now, so this will be an easy addition.
Murphy was an Optimist
http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
I preferred the Gheen book but James covered the frames
a bit deeper if I recall.
Well, he asked. <g> I don't know if he wants a real copy
or just a comfy chair.
Murphy was an Optimist
http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
email@example.com (mrmortise) wrote in
I've taken a couple of upholstery classes at a local fabric shop. Both
classes were taught by a professional upholsterer who was moonlighting.
His approach was to have students bring in individual projects (the only
limitation was that you had to be able to carry your project in yourself,
e.g. no sofas). We got good one-on-one instruction because there is so
much hand labor that he could teach you a technique and you'd stay busy
for quite a while before you needed more help.
The best part (aside from learning enough to upholster a couple of chairs
on my own at home) was that really trick parts were done by the
instructor, whose philosophy was that it was better to have him do the
hardest parts and have the student finish the project rather than having
the student get frustrated and quit. Some students were obviously more
advanced and he would gladly teach some of the more esoteric methods to
those interested. For example, leather upholstery on a complex chair
My antique Morris chair that I am sitting in as I type, has coil springs in the
base that are tyed, and covered over with webbing, and fabric over the webbing.
The cushons are foam, covered with fabric, that I saved from another chair.
I had a friend in the upnolstery business re-tie the springs, and do the
On 04 Nov 2004 21:50:03 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Over40pirate)
Is that Stickley upholstery ? Could I trouble you to ask how many
springs they used ? (you can usually feel them from beneath).
It's hard to find accurate details of Stickley furniture in the UK.
He's near unheard of, and it's rare to see examples, let alone get the
chance to properly study them.
The Morris chair has 9 conical coil springs under the seat . The bottoms of the
springs are supported by metal straps that cross at the center spring, and are
attached to the chair frame on the sides.
Not sure what Stickley upholstery is, so I cant tell if it is or not.
If anyone wants a picture of the springs etc. let me know.
By the way, I tied my own springs and did all my own webbing. Did all of
the work, in fact, except for a couple of tricky corner details on one
project, which trained me enough to tackle them on the next.
On Monday, January 12, 2015 at 7:44:03 PM UTC-6, dbj wrote:
I don't know what/how the foundation (wood base/framing) is for the seat of
a Morris chair, and I've never upholstered a true Morris chair, but I'm pr
esently upholstering a somewhat similar type chair (outdoor/patio, metal fr
As with this outdoor furniture, I suppose a Morris chair has either a woode
n base or a jute webbing base, that the springs rest on, are attached to.
The springs are, then, tied to each other and to the base (or to the perim
eter framing the jute webbing is attached to). These patio chairs have a
3/4" (treated) ply base.
Surely you realize we are speaking of tying coil springs, not K-arc (zigzag
or "S" shaped) springs. Additionally, attaching coil springs to jute webb
ing is done with Klinch-It fasteners (you'd need a Klinch-It tool).... It c
an be done with hog ringers, but is kind of hard to do so; and they can be
tied/attached with wire or twine, also. On my my chairs, I used wire and 1
/2" crown molding type staples to attach the coils to the ply.
I'll take pics later today.
Yes, the frame is oak and it had jute webbing long ago. There's a minimum of
string holding the coils together, which are hefty. Heftier than other outdoor
furniture redo's that I've seen, but maybe the tying part is the same principle.
I think there was jute webbing on top and bottom of the coils-no plywood. We
have a hog ringer, according to my husband. Can't wait to get going on these old
beauties. I got 2 of them cheap at an auction for a winter project.
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 4:44:03 PM UTC-6, dbj wrote:
There was probably jute webbing on the bottom, only. Burlap above the spri
Stretch your jute webbing, as tight as you can, across the span of the fram
e, say front to back. Don't be affraid to stretch it really tight, as tig
ht as you can. For left to right strands, weave the strands over & under t
he front to back strands; Again, stretch the Lt to Rt webbing as tight as y
ou can and attach to the frame.
You're going to have lots of difficulty attaching the springs with hog ring
ers. You might want to use small paper clips (wires), hooked/looped throug
h the jute webbing, over the spring coil, then back through the jute webbin
g. Twist tie them. Tie each spring, to the jute webbing, at four points.
Your coil springs likely has a large coil at the top and bottom of the spr
ing unit. The pics I'll show has a large coil at the top and a small coil
at the bottom.
My pics show 2 methods of tying: The 8 point tying method (preferred) and
the 4 point method (not the preferred method, but works in a pinch). Also
note, in the pics, between the coils, the twine is tied to crossing strands
of twine, part of the fully tied configuration, fully 8 point tying at all
possible tying points. Re: the first 4 pics on the opening page. The fi
rst pic shows pretty much what your seat should look like before covering y
When tying your springs, tie them so that they are in a slightly compressed
posture (slightly spring loaded). You don't want them to be fully extend
ed and tied in that fully extended position.... but make sure they are not
compressed too much, not compressed such that the seat contour looks disfig
ured when it is upholstered. Does this make sense?
Cover the top of the springs with burlap and attached the burlap edges to t
he seat frame. *If it were my chairs, I would next add a layer of 1/4" fel
t, just on the topside of the springs (not along the sides, if applicable),
and hand stitch it (along the edges) to the burlap. Add cotton padding un
til you can't feel the individual springs, then a layer of fiberfill (quilt
type batting). Then you are ready for your upholstery.
Tying the springs: Pic 2 shows one end of the twine attached to the ply/fr
ame, then it is draped over the springs, then there is 2' length of twine b
eyond the edge of the spring unit. You'll need about 2 extra feet of twine
for all the knots you tie, so that, after tying all the knots, you'll have
a tag of twine for attaching to the other side of the wood/seat frame.
Any questions? Concerns?
On Thu, 04 Nov 2004 22:26:10 -0800, Fly-by-Night CC
I've seen a lot of variation in the quality of upholstery classes.
It's an expensive subject to teach (materials costs) and there's a
tendency for the classes to be very low-end, just to keep their
operating costs down. Even if you're prepared to pay for real
materials, it can be limited by what's available.
One of the biggest problems for the part-time upholsterer these days
is just finding the tools and materials. It's getting rare, even in
big towns that were once noted for furniture making.
www.jamilton.co.uk shows some promise for UK mail-order, but I
haven't dealt with them myself (just waiting for my first order to
I didn't much like the Gheen book myself - seemed very stuck in 1950's
styles. "Traditional" materials, but not accurate or detailed enough
to cover high-end restoration work. The "modern materials" content was
pretty low-end too - James has a better explanation of just what good
foams could do, and how to choose them.
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