East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #4A: Mattress Spring Buildup

by DKP

We had the opportunity to conserve the wonderful Eastlake style sofa-bed by A. Hansen Co., Chicago, Ill., below.  Our client restored a Victorian in NE Portland, and this sofa-bed will grace her office.


This is the fifth post in a series on this project, and the “buildup” series will take you through the buildup of both the mattress and the seat, back and arms — the last three being the more traditional parts of a sofa.  This post continues from the previous post: East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #3: Finish Reparation.  To begin at the beginning go to Eastlake Sofa-Bed Upholstery Conservation #1: Excavation.

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This post will show the buildup for the sofa-bed mattress.  We tried something different in these posts, which is to film Mitchell treating the pieces, and allowing him to explain the solutions he created to the problematic areas of the piece.  I apologize in advance for my shaky filming; this is our first attempt and some videos are better than others.

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Mitchell surmises the sofa-bed was designed by the framemakers without the input of a master upholsterer, and so, the upholsterer had to work with the frame and its inherent design problems.  Mitchell, too, had to work with these same problems.  Because this will continue to be a working piece, our intent was not strict conservation, and so, he rectified the problems, and discusses them in the short videos below, from our YouTube channel.  You can see how long the video is by the minutes in parenthesis in the title.

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EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #1 (5:52): Mitchell discusses the frame issues + intended fixes as we begin the buildup.  Buildup involves the soft form, leading up to the show cover and passementerie.  We will reuse most of the original stuffings.


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EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #2 (2:17): Mitchell discusses the way the mattress spring deck must work, and the failures of the original buildup.  #2 is an overview.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #3 (2:42): Mitchell discusses the new tacking rails in detail, and the finished 4-way tie.  Mitchell did not use an 8-way tie because he wanted a softer feel; part of this is following the lead on the original spring.  When someone sits on this mattress they will sink (it is not like our mattresses today) but when they lie down it feels comfortable.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #4 (1:29) + #5 (1:47): Mitchell continues on the 4-way ties and speaks to the side tacking rails.  He shows the first step in insuring the flex points work when the mattress moves, and discusses the issues with the tie to the inside back.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #6 (2:03):  Again, he discusses the side rails and how the mattress will tack into it, and the zig-zag of the new side rails.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #7 (3:39):  Mitchell discusses the inside back flex point.   He explains how the springs were lashed to the board, and the use of canvas or cotton to keep the springs from clanking and wearing.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #9 (0:51):  Mitchell speaks to the foot-rest tack strips and the front seat rail, which he continues in #10.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #10 (2:37):  The seat is flexed shut, and Mitchell discusses details about the seat or foot-rest hinge, the front seat rail, and the issues he must solve in the seat.  He continues to discuss the front seat rail in future videos on the seat spring buildup.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #11 (0:53) + #12 (0:55):  The new structural header positioned mid-outside back was discussed, from the front in #11, and from the back in #12.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #13 (0:37): Mitchell shows us the spring header ties.


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EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #14 (2:08): Mitchell discusses the use of a burlap spring topper, not original to the mattress as far as we can surmise.  #14 is an overview.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #15 (0:54):  The burlap spring topper is shown in detail.

EAST LAKE SOFA-BED BUILDUP #16 (1:13):  The side boxings and top of the burlap spring topper are discussed.


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The inside back was an integral part of the mattress, as the mattress head rests on the inside back.  The inside back panel pod foundation was created.

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New tack margins, new 11lb jute webbing, and new dust membranes made of 13oz burlap were applied.  Below, Mitchell is applying a fiberboard tack strip to reinforce the application of the foundation to the frame.

Again, while most of this is historically accurate (even tack strips), it is true that we are restoring this sofa-bed with the goal of everyday use, while mitigating or curing inherent engineering limitations original to the design.  This is not strict conservation, but restoration using conservation techniques, preserving historical stuffings, stitching patterns, and an eye to historical intention.  Deviations were made to allow for a better working mattress.

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A similar buildup was created for the footbed/sofa seat, using new 11lb jute webbing, and a new dust membrane made of 13oz burlap.

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The segmented burlap spring topper described in films #14-#16 was applied.

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The springs were tied to the topper using a modified Holbein pattern.

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Below, the segmented spring topper is shown from the back, where each piece of burlap drops between a spring.

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Videos we chose to remove from this posting can be seen on our youtube page.  The next step is the buildup of the sofa seat as it must be completed before the we can go further with the mattress buildup: East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #4B.  Will post when written!

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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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