Spruce (Storey Publishing, 2013) may well be the only resource you need to upholster and refurbish your furniture. From the start of the project to its finish, Amanda Brown lends her expertise with easy-to-follow instructions and detailed photographs. In this excerpt from Chapter 3, the beginning stages of tying coil springs leads you into properly refurbishing the jute webbing of a Louis XVI chair.
Before springs, seats were padded with natural materials such as horsehair, cotton, and hay. It wasn’t until the 1800s that coils were used to pad upholstered furniture. Initially, soft iron and poor tying techniques caused springs to lose resiliency and shift around with use, resulting in a lumpy and uncomfortable seat. Two centuries later, we’ve learned how to manipulate springs with an eight-way tie that anchors them in place, so they provide maximum support and comfort for many years.
As I did with this Louis chair, you can add coil springs to any piece of furniture. If you’re content with your furniture as is, it’s not necessary to add coil springs, but keep them in mind for those pieces requiring a little more cush for your tush.
Attaching Jute Webbing
- Jute webbing
- Staple gun
- 1/2″ staples
- Webbing stretcher
- Magnetic tack hammer
- 10-ounce or 12-ounce upholstery tacks
1. Jute webbing provides the foundation for the springs and all the padding on the seat, not to mention the sitter. With the chair flipped over, determine the maximum number of strips, without overlap, that will fit horizontally and vertically on the bottom edges of the chair. My hand is the same width as the webbing, so I use it as a measuring device.
2. Evenly space the strips of webbing on each side of the frame. With the webbing connected to the roll, attach the cut end with 4 or 5 staples to the center of the wooden bar where it’s strongest. Leave a few extra inches of webbing beyond the staples.
3. Fold back the excess webbing and staple again.
4. Pull the webbing across the frame and over the opposite side. Hold the webbing stretcher against the edge of the chair with the handle up at a slight angle. Bring the webbing over and through the teeth of the webbing stretcher, then pull the handle down until the webbing is tight.
5. When the webbing is tight enough to resist movement with pressure, secure it in place with 4 or 5 staples.
6. Cut the webbing from the roll a few inches beyond the staples. Fold back the excess and staple again.
7. Repeat steps 2-6 until all vertical strips of webbing are attached.
8. For the horizontal strips, weave the cut end over and under each vertical strip until it reaches the side. Staple, fold back the excess, and staple again. Repeat steps 4-6 to attach the opposite end. If you started by weaving over, under, over the vertical strips, weave the adjacent strip under, over, under. Continue alternating the weaving pattern and attaching the webbing until all the horizontal strips are in place.
9. When the webbing is attached to all four sides, hammer three upholstery tacks on top of every end of webbing. Use 10-ounce tacks for pieces with petite frames and 12-ounce tacks for bigger pieces, such as large armchairs and sofas. Tap the tack in place with the magnetic side of the magnetic tack hammer, then flip the head around to hammer it in the rest of the way.
3/8″ v. 1/2″ Staples
As you work through the projects, you’ll notice a change in the length of staples used for different parts. The longer 1/2″ staples are used for layers that are structural or receive a lot of pressure, such as seat webbing and spring twine. They’re also better for attaching exterior layers that have multiple layers of webbing, fabric, and other materials beneath them.
If they’re stronger, why wouldn’t we use 1/2″ staples all the time? On some furniture, 1/2″ staples are too long, going all the way through or splintering the wood. Also, 1/2″ staples are more expensive. It may seem negligible, but over the lifetime of your upholstering, you’ll use millions of staples, and it adds up.
Want more projects from Spruce? Read Sewing Knife-Edge Pillows.
Excerpted from Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design © Amanda Brown, photography © Ryann Ford, used with permission from Storey Publishing, 2013.