We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with upholstery buildup
of the inside back, inside arm, and seat.
Muslin was secured and the inside back and arms
readied for the decorative showcover.
The outside back and outside arms, as well as the
bottom band (apron) will be completed after the showcover and buttoning
is completed on the inside back and arms.
Other than the obvious — that is, our client liked the fabric
and the colors went well in her historic home —
the showcover was chosen because Mitchell knew the velvet
was reminiscent of velvets in the 19th Century,
and so was a good choice for historic reasons.
The lovely fabric is a rayon, cotton and silk pile
on a tightly woven cotton base with a dense thread count.
The gold flecks cause a shimmering effect as you move around the chair.
Trims were also period appropriate embellishments,
especially in their modest appearance with a touch of gold
to play against the gold flecks in the velvet.
When the fabric was delivered, it was immediately unrolled,
a yardage verification was performed, and the entire roll checked for flaws.
Flaws are a common occurrence, and additional yardage must be requested
from the company and/or the fabric returned for replacement.
Patterns were created, which is a lesson onto itself.
Fabric was cut.
Buttons were made (and BTW we usually make extras for our clients.)
Cut into squares, the hand-operated machine
cuts the circles for the button, then molds it onto the metal forms.
These machines are indispensable to a serious upholstery studio.
(Note these images are from another project.)
The inside back muslin was covered with
a thin layer of felted organic 100% staple cotton.
(We buy organic whenever we can.)
The batting acts as a soft buffer between the muslin and showcover,
protecting the showcover from premature wear.
The batting also acts as a dust barrier (filter) and
softens the surfaces creating a sumptuous look and feel.
Buttons were placed as shown above on (note these images are from another project.)
A very long button needle is used to place the location of the button through many layers; the button threads are in the needle in all of the images above.
Once the needle is placed it is slowly pulled through and tied (images 5 & 6).
Cotton is used to keep the button from ripping through the foundational cloth.
Once the button is set at the right length or tension (and this is not easy to do),
the folds are placed, as they rarely “fall”into a pleasing folding pattern.
Buttons were installed;
now the entire chair can be closed up.
Moving to the arms: Mitchell applied stitching and lashing methods to the intersecting
points between the inside back and inside arms (image 1-4, above). it was necessary to
cinch the back’s termination points tightly to the internal stuffings and steel frame
in order to prevent slipping and easing of the area where the inside arm begins.
The inside arm was hand-stitched which also allowed the seat-to-arm gully to define. Mitchell secured and buttoned the inside arm show cover. Note how nicely the
arm-top squares creating a comfortable support for the forearms?
Pausing to show the entire chair at this stopping point.
Note the extra fabric pulled through the seats.
Moving to the seat, Mitchell places a light layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting
placed over the muslin prior to the showcover, for the same reasons as the
cotton batting on the inside back: protection from premature wear,
a dust barrier (filter) and softening the seat ever so slightly.
Mitchell’s notes: At first glance a pattern repeat on a design like this seems
inconsequential. It is not! This showcover had a repeat which was visible and
demanded attention to centering, balancing and matching the motif as it related
to the contours and spatial aspects of the chair. I notice pattern mismatches and
sloppy placement, and believe even laypersons (clients) will notice over time.
The bottom band was created. The modest diameter
decorative rope braid was hand-stitched below the front edging
prior to padding and final upholstering of the showcover.
Stitchings and stuffings and lashings and soft cotton toppers,
all for the front decorative banding! It is surprising to non-upholsterers what
measures are taken to ensure long-terms viability of a soft-structure object with
little rigid structure within… all hidden, all an important part of our upholstery heritage.
Decorative front banding was
tacked using #2 blue-tacks,
ready to be blind-stitched.
Yes, Mitchell spits tacks;
true upholsterers do!
The decorative rope braid was pinned
and secured with a locking back stitch.
The chair was turned upside down.
A layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting was followed with 400 ct percale muslin, stretched, pinned, and blind-stitched to the foundational cloth.
A final pattern of the outside back was created by Mitchell;
material was cut and machine stitched readied for application.
Another layer of organic 100% staple cotton batting
was placed over the percale, pinned to the underside
of the decorative rope braid, and blind-stitched or tacked.
Decorative gimp braid was carefully secured
using a good grade white tacking glue.
Mitchell included a secret pocket beneath conserved pieces when possible.
Provenance, a DVD or thumb drive, family photos with
the piece can be stashed in a waterproof container.
Remember the steel hoop listed to one side from a regular sitter favoring a position? Notice how the inside back asymmetrical contour lists above?
This is due to the steel hoop listing.
It also effects how the button’s elevations are seen in certain photos,
though they are level — it is an optical illusion due to the tilted frame.
In person the chair rarely reveals the listing but the still shots reveal it!
The Planter’s Chair completed in our studio!
An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.
If you would be interested in notification of online classes
coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.
It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.
©MPF Conservation. May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.