Monday, 13 January 2014

learning upholstery at NFWI Denman… or the upholsteress ventures forth again

2014 Upholstery Workshops at Denman College

Upholstery for Beginners: Drop-in Seats
31st March to 2nd April 2014
8th to 10th August 2014

Immerse Yourself in Upholstery
22nd to 25th September
8th to 12th December

NFWI Denman's Upholstery Tutor at Large

this year i'll be practising my future role as Upholstery Mistress-at-Large of my own Traditional Upholstery School by teaching at various well-esteemed venues, including the WI's Oxfordshire HQ Denman College.

these upholstery workshops at Denman include two-day 'Drop in Seats for Beginners' and week-long 'Immerse Yourself in Upholstery' sessions for those who want to earn their blisters and achieve impressive results. 

these classes signify a revival of upholstery at the WI, of which i am most proud. 

the Epping WI a very long time ago (check out that pouffe*)

a little bit more about 
'Immerse Yourself in Upholstery' 
at Denman with Joanna Heptinstall 
(in case you're thinking of booking)

there is no set structure to this workshop. the intention is to give my Upholstery Lovelies the time and space, tools and materials to crack on with their furniture and learn new skills as they work. my task is to keep them busy and working safely and to be on hand to explain and demonstrate traditional upholstery skills and each new process as they come to it. 

mini masterclasses in specialist skills such rustling up double piping and creating perfect scrolls are presented as required.

my inaugural november 2013 class of Upholstery Lovelies included Sam, Jim, Kathy, Linda, Andrea and Pamela. their projects included:
  • 15 drop-in seats (i know! 15!!!!!!)
  • two mid-century fireside chairs
  • two wing arm chairs
  • one curvaceous throne
  • one pouffe, according to the dictionary it's pronounced ‘poof’ or ‘poof-ay’, depending on how silly you want to feel (see end note*)
we were based in the Craft School's Bawden Studio, where the messier crafts are taught so happily it was OK to allow tacks to ping onto the floor, and wade through piles of fluff and hair.

typically, our first day was incredibly noisy as it involved much stripping off old fabric and tacks using mallets and chisels with inevitable blisters and bumps. (indeed our jubilant hammering raised eyebrows, but noise is a necessary part of upholsterers' fun so we shut the doors and carried on). some of my Lovelies had never seen a magnetic hammer before, others were determined to make headway in an unfinished evening class project, so there was plenty of ideas and know-how being shared around. by day two all were beginning to tackle corners, expertly smooth and stretch and hammer accurately. 

for me, watching their happy frowny faces immersed in their work was quite lovely...

in between bouts of frowny contentment, there was much banter and i remember enjoying a highly informative rummage in Pamela's well-stocked tool box.

and Upholstery Lovely Andrea added an additional bit of excellence with an elegant webbing style learned from a past tutor…

…of course, i knew that.

happily my first Immerse Yourself in Upholstery workshop at Denman was voted a success by my Upholstery Lovelies, who had all made huge headway that they could be very proud of.

in fact they did so well that i would like to offer them congratulations…

the Class of 2013 Awards

Jim – for perseverance, ambition, generosity and stamina

Linda – for careful workmanship and cheeriness in the face of tricky complications

Kathy – for careful workmanship to achieve quality results despite an endless battle with gimp pins

Sam – for making enormous headway with a daunting task

Andrea – for achieving quality results and making a real difference

Pamela – for miles of exquisite stitchery, sharing her skills and having  completed chair to take home

Well done, one and all!

and as Denman's Upholstery Tutor-at-Large, i would like to offer them a few little words of advice to remember when they continue the fine craft of upholstery their own homes. here are my…

Most Useful Important Rules
  • only attempt a corner when your fabric is smoothed and fixed to a perfectly snug fit.
  • cut a dummy calico corner before committing scissors to your top fabric. if it’s not perfect, adjust and try again until you are confident of getting it spot on.
  • never cut a corner at the end of the day when you are tired. save it for a new day and tidy up instead.

suitable projects for 
Immerse Yourself in Upholstery at Denman

it is most important to enjoy the process of learning your new skills without feeling as though you are racing against time. so here is a list of furniture which would suit a three or four day upholstery course at Denman…
  • a stuff-over chair or, possibly, a pair
  • drop in seat chairs (allow one per day)
  • a piano stool
  • a footstool
  • a fireside chair with upholstered seat and back but not fully upholstered arms



* a final note about pouffes
i'm quite sure doris called hers a 'puffy'. (an east yorkshire accent probably had quite a lot to do with this). hers looked like a giant kneeler and i believe that, as an enterprising and skilled handmaker, she upholstered it herself. i remember that puffy well... on Friday evenings i would squabble with my sister about who got to perch on it in front of the fire and balance their ham and mustard sandwiches on their knees while watching Dr Who on doris' black and white television.

No comments:

Post a Comment

oo yes... do let me know what you think. i'll endeavour to write back to each and every one :-)