Adventures in Upholstery!


Doesn’t sound very exciting does it?   For the last three weeks I’ve been going to  a class in traditonal upholstery all day on Saturdays and I’m absolutely loving it.   The class takes place in a tiny village on the way to Aberfoyle – about 40 minutes drive from my home in Central Scotland.   The  workshop is a tiny schoolroom attached to the original school master’s house.   Cosy and quaint , it’s like stepping back in time, several hundred years.

In the workshop

My tutor believes in natural products, recycling materials and ethical sourcing so it is just great to use natural jute webbing and hessian, recycled flock filling and sustainable coir or horsehair.

My first project is the complete revamp of a mid century vintage rocking chair for my son and his girl friend.  This is a major starter project and great fun – post to follow as this progresses.

I also took along this  antique captain’s chair which belonged to my mum and dad as a little side project.

New webbing

Padded with coir and covered with calico
Padded with coir and covered with calico.

Hessian webbed, hessian based, stuffed with coir, covered with calico and a layer of flock, before a finally being covered with fabulous Harris tweed from the lovely people at the  Harris Tweed & Knitwear Company it has taken on a new life and a true beauty.


I am so proud of the finished result.  

The final trim which is attached with upholstery pins,  is actually bias fabric as I didn’t really see a decorative braid working well on the tweed.   The oak frame was quite dirty and tired looking after being in storage for some time.   I stripped back the dirt using wood restorer, then applied a generous coat of wood polish and oils blended.  Finally I applied two coats of Liberon natural beeswax and buffed this to a lovely burnished sheen.   The natural patina of the wood and wear to the arms etc.  still  glows through maintaining the character of this lovely old chair.


And Here’s One I made Earlier!

My New Year’s Resolutions are all underway now – only one problem!   Not enough time.   Working full time and now going to an upholstery class all day Saturdays doesn’t leave much time for sewing (need to consider giving up work!).   The upholstery is going really well though – hard work but loving every minute and I hope to be posting the results soon.   My sewing project ‘the Red Jacket’ is going very slowly so I thought I would post some bits and pieces I made in 2013, so here we go.

The Madmen Challenge Dress

I took part in the challenge last year as I am a HUGE Mad Men fan.   This was my ‘Betty’ dress, but it could be a ‘Joan’ or whatever.


I based my dress on Simplicity Jiffy 4429 from the early 60’s.  The pattern was really easy, with only two pieces, but I misjudged the sizing badly as the sides needed taken in by about 4 inches total. This was also a pattern for a tall lady so 4 inches also came off the hem length. I french seamed the dress and fully lined it with cream habutai (also french seamed). I used a concealed zip and it went slightly wonky at the back v neck so I disguised the problem with a self covered button. I then decided to go all out and make a self covered belt and buckle. The buckle kit and belt backing came all the way from ‘A Fashionable Stitch’ in the USA.   Please ignore the wrinkly elbows and the bingo wings.



Harris Tweed Skirt for Burns day


Well I just love working with Harris Tweed!  Hand woven on the beautiful island of Harris, off the west coast of Scotland, this unique fabric is 100% wool tweed and I recall as a child, my Mum making tweed dresses for my sister and me,  which were so itchy we refused to wear them.   I chose a glorious pillar box red with muted check in deep violet and black.   My photography leaves a lot to be desired and the lighting was poor so in the shot above the colour looks more a deep russet.   I promise to practice taking better photos!

Harris Tweed has been enjoying a much deserved revival and I just love the designs of Katherine Hooker  (worn by the Duchess of Cambridge) and of course Vivienne Westwood.

I decided to make a Harris Tweed skirt as my first project of 2014.   The tweed fabric came from Harris Tweed and Knitwear Company in Tarbert and took 2 1/2 weeks to arrive due to the stormy weather and cancelled ferry sailings.  

Since there was to be “pattern matching” involved I decided on a simple straight style with a concealed back zip and vent (McCalls 3830) and I opted for style C which looks,  on the pattern pack, scarily like the end product.McCalls 3380

For lining I really wanted a good quality and weight of stretch satin.   Polyester lining fabric just doesn’t work with this weight of fabric I’ve found.   Also I have a ‘thing’ going on with mad patterned linings just now (see the Harris Tweed jacket I made for my Sis).   The animal print stretch satin in shades of pink, red, black and grey from Abakhan was just perfect.


I started by tracing the pattern onto heavy tracing paper.   Then came the arduous task of matching and pinning the checks across the width and length of the fabric with boredom breaks for a cup of tea every 30 minutes.   This is a tedious step but there are really no shortcuts.



I always get so nervous when it comes to the cutting stage even after all these years, but especially when working with a beautiful fabric like wool tweed.   The skirt came together really well and the zip went in with no problems.   After that the lining was just a bit of fun really.  

 As I still recall with terror, the itchy dresses of my childhood, there was no question that the waistband facing was ever going to be in tweed, so I cut this from the lining fabric and bound the edges with satin bias, which I also used on the hem and to finish the inside seams of the back vent.



I love my check skirt and wore it last weekend (to celebrate Robert Burns’ Birthday) with a little black sweater from French Connection and my new winter boots from Gabor in black suede and patent.   Very cosy!!!!!!



Sewing Machines – like handbags – you can never have too many!

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Well here goes – my very first post ever – and the first of my New Year’s Resolutions!

My resolutions for 2014 are:  to learn a new language (Spanish), to learn a new craft (upholstery) and to start my own sewing blog – so here goes!


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