All Tied Up – A Welcomed Distraction!

Hello!  If you’ve been following us, you know we’re experiencing some exciting new changes this coming spring:  I’m moving the Sage & Twine cottage shop to the village of Contoocook, NH and will be open FULL TIME!  Becky is currently revving up for four phenomenal BARN SALES in Lillington, NC that include more pickins to delight the home decorator, painted furniture lover, and picker alike!  Her first sale is coming up fast, April 22-24!  Boy, do I wish I lived closer.  It’s going to be fabulous!


In the meantime, with an Audible book in my ear (seriously, you’ve GOT to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt) and a brush in my hand, I’ve been busy painting the days away.  Whether walls, trim, stairs, doors, or furniture, I’ve been up to my elbows in paint.  Some days it feels like I get more paint on myself  than anything else!  For those of you who know me well, that’s like a pig in well, I think you know what I’m getting at.

So while I’m busy slapping paint all over the place, I’d thought I’d share with you a welcomed distraction I’m hoping to finish before I open the doors to my new shop this May.  Notice the word, hoping (wink, wink)……

A few years ago, I came across two antique chairs for sale in an old, local barn owned by an acquaintance of mine.  They were her mother’s and like so many of us, she’d been holding on to them in hopes of doing something with the chairs one day.  Well, she was ready to give the two beauties up and after some thought, I decided I was ready for a challenge.

I’d never done any kind of serious upholstery before.  I’d always wanted to take an upholstery class, so I signed up for one down in Boston at the Eliot School of Art.  My instructor Paul and his brother John are phenomenal at what they do and I bet could upholster a moving car, one-handed with their eyes closed.  Seriously!

The first thing they had us do was strip our pieces down to the bare bones.  I was so excited to start ripping things apart, I forgot to take a before pic. Ugh! I do that way too often.  Besides hay and dust flying around, rotted layers of musty, old upholstery fabric gave way to hundreds of antique tacks used to fasten everything.  There were definitely a few moments of “What was I thinking?!”   Eventually, I got down to the frames.   It only took 4 hours but I finally removed all those tacks.  Talk about a workout!  I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the tools below.

Once that dirty, dusty feat was accomplished (next time I’ll bring a dust mask!), back home they went to be painted and finished.  I used Miss Mustard Seed’s “Ironstone” milk paint and finished with her furniture wax.

Back at class, I was ready to get this party started!  The next step was to add new webbing.

antique jute upholstery webbing 23 feet by Luncheonettevintage
It needs to be tight, so a stretcher like the one below is used while you tack it down.

Webbing Stretcher - Gooseneck Ref: TOGWS

It’s important to alternate the strips of webbing; weaving in and out to create strength and support, as it’s the foundation for the springs and all the padding, not to mention the sitter!


I used a special tack hammer with a magnetic tip like the one below.  It holds the tacks on the end while you tap it down in place.

Vintage Tack Hammer > Antique Old Forge Blacksmith Shoe Hammers Iron ...
Next come the springs.  I kept the original ones from the stripping process because they were in really great shape.  You can tie the springs to the webbing, but I used a fancy gadget with aluminum prong-like fasteners to hold them down tight.  I wish now I had taken a picture of that fun tool or written down what it was called.  Next time I’m documenting everything!

Once the springs were attached, I began tying and knotting them all together with hemp twine to form a network of support for the padding.  Through this process, the springs were compressed tightly to form the domed shape for the seat.


There’s a whole systematic approach to tying from the back to the front, side to side, and diagonally from the corners.  Tack nails are placed at specific points around the edge of the seat frame and knots are tied around the springs with twine and then anchored tightly to the chair frame.  IMG_0846
I stapled burlap over the top side of the springs.


I used one of the school’s industrial staple guns like the one below.  The thing worked like butta!  I think that’s going on next year’s Christmas list for sure.

Next, an “edge roll” was stapled around the edges of the seat to prevent the hard edge of the chair from uncomfortably meeting the back of the knees or sides of the legs of the sitter.  This consisted of a roll of cotton surrounded by more burlap.


Now for the padding.  Finally, I had a reason to dive into those green rubbery foam mats in the back of JoAnn Fabrics!  I measured a 2″ thick high-density foam (like the one below) to fit the seat and back of the chair and laid it over the burlap.  The fit needs to be tight with the edges of the chair, but not so tight it creates waves or bumps.  Then you got it, more staples!  Here’s an example of the materials needed for the padding steps.

Extra cotton (like that in the wrapping above-right) was then added to fill in the gaps and round out the shape of the seat.  A few (full) layers were also laid across the the entire area of the foam and a thin piece of muslin (also above -left) was stapled over the foam and cotton to keep it all together.  This step also provides a smooth surface underneath the upholstery fabric.

IMG_0886 A gazillion staples and tacks later, this is where I’m at now.  I chose to use some fabulous vintage grain sacks I bought online for my upholstery.

Vintage linen grain sack, pale with blue stripes. Nubby slubby

The chairs were so elaborately carved, I felt they needed some rusticity to balance it all out.  I’ll divulge how they came out over the next month.  I’m hoping (there’s that word again!) to have them finished and ready to go home with a new owner when I open the doors in Contoocook mid-May.

It was fun to hold a staple gun for a spell, but now it’s back to paint brushes for me!  What projects are YOU working on right now?  We’d love to hear about it!  Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.

~ Amy



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