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 the Excavation of the seat.
We previously loosened the inside arms around the carvings.
Mitchell turns to the outside back, beginning with the arms,
and after noting the stitching pattern used, cuts the ties to the showcover.
Moving to the inside arms, showcover and then the secondary (not-original) top layer of cotton batting was removed, exposing the original buildup on the arms.
The last generation upholstery styling moved away from the traditional tufted back
in favor of a slip-backed style which accentuated the lumbar section of the inside back. Mitchell cut the hand-stitching joining the lumbar section of the show cover,
revealing the original styling beneath.
The showcover drops, and we can inspect the inside back in its entirety for the first time.
New second generation layers of cotton batting and horse hair shown above.
A clue to various generations is the difference in the colors of the hair used.
The second generation cotton batting and horsehair is removed, labeled, and may be cleaned and reused if appropriate for the conservation of the inside back.
This is the original inside back, with the tufted buildup exposed.
The original upholsterer used a bit of horsehair around the buttons instead of cotton.
The top horsehair removed, the final pattern for the buttons of the tufting are exposed.
This appears to be filthy, and at first glance we thought it soot or carbon buildup,
but it is actually a topper of lint. Flock or flocking is the common name attributed to this type of stuffing. Flocking is lint findings left over from the cloth milling industry,
often used during the mid to late 19th century in stuffing seat squabs,
especially in England and France. It was also occasionally teased out
onto second stuffing surfaces to act as a soft malleable batting.
A 17 oz hessian membrane was used in the original foundation work,
stretched across the steel hoop and lashed along the edges.
The stamped letters are likely to be from the mill for the hessian burlap.
Several things happen at this juncture. Instead of the complete excavation, which is more typical, Mitchell took extensive patterns of the original inside back, above, which will be covered in the post on Upholstery Buildup. He then chose to temporarily encase the entire inside back within a muslin wrap until frame repairs, finish repairs, and the seat buildup was completed. This protected the historic inside back stuffings from losses in information through easing of the fibers during those treatment procedures.
Mitchell prefers to have the information from the excavation in his head as close
to the buildup/conservation time of a given part as possible…
in this case, after the seat buildup he will turn to the excavation of the inside back.
We move to the frame conservation, next post!
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An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.
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