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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top tips on how to upholster an old chair from someone who knows absolutely nothing about it

My mother bought this chair in 1961 for 5 shillings.  It was neither a bargain nor a rip off.  This is what it used to look like, so you can see why I liked it.  Trouble was, the velvet was worn to sheer, and a cloud of ancient dust flew up each time you touched it.

I asked three upholsterers about doing the job.  Two said it would cost £1000; one said it would cost £500 plus materials and talked rather a lot about gluing on braid; one refused the job altogether.  In the end, I decided to do it myself.  How hard could it be?

These are my top ten tips:

1.  Choose fabric that makes you weep for its beauty.

2.  Pick a day when you want a distraction – planning permission’s been refused; your parents are splitting up; your daughter’s boyfriend has got a job in Bali and she’s decided to give up her university place to follow him there.

3.  Be brave, be very brave.  
4.  Use the old pieces as a pattern but don’t be surprised if they bear no relation to what will actually fit.

5.  Think of it not as a chair but as a character out of Beauty and the Beast.

6.  Under whose moral code are wrinkles in velvet wrong?

7.  Hold the tacks in place with your fingernails.  It’s what they’re for.

8.  If anyone comments say “it’s meant to be like that”.

9.  If they persist, hand them a pair of scissors and a hammer and say “I’d like to see you do a better job”

10. Be jolly pleased with yourself and get started on another.