Saturday, 16 July 2022

An unusual long stool

This customer had a long footstool, of the same construction as a typical seagrass stool, except that it's three times as long. At some point in its history, a previous owner had had it upholstered with a padded seat, and elaborate piping round the edges. It must have looked amazing when it was newly done, but the fabric was worn and dirty, and urgently needed a new lease of life. Mrs S just wanted it looking decent again so that she could put her feet up on it.
(Above) The stool prior to starting work on it

I suggested that it might be better to re-do it with a woven seat, which would be better suited to that sort of frame, and she agreed with me. 

I started stripping off the upholstery, which took AGES, as there were so many nails embedded in the hard wood of the frame. I also discovered that the side bars of the frame were badly warped. It seems the weight of the upholstery, and many years of it being sat on, had caused the side bars to twist. A stool of that length really needs a stabilising bar of wood in the middle, to keep it straight, but such a thing was missing here. You can see the result quite clearly in the photo below.


I removed the rest of the webbing and nails, and had a look at the side bars, which were impossible to unbend. Mrs S thought it would be perfectly fine just to leave them warped, if it was possible to weave a pattern over them, so I just twisted them back,  glued them in place, and added a stabilising bar in the centre.

Mrs S rather bravely left it to me to decide on the pattern. She wanted mainly darker colours that wouldn't show the dirt (as it's used as a footstool) so I picked out some nice warm dark colours of cotton cord, with a flash of yellow to make things stand out. I started off with a pattern I'd designed on paper, but soon realised it was too elaborate and ended up just making it up as I went along. 

In the photo on the left you can see the warp strands in place, and the start of the weaving of the weft strands. The stabilising bar across the centre is visible at the bottom of the photo. Notice the plastic clamp, holding the cord in position, top right. These things are invaluable for seatweavers!

In order to keep the pattern symmetrical, I worked it from both ends at once, working gradually towards the middle. It was a lot of fun to do, with a few head-scratching moments!



You can buy this type of cotton cord from our website  HERE. The colours used were Burgundy, Dark Brown, Moss Green, and yellow.

You can buy the SitUpon Seats Stool Book HERE. This particular pattern isn't in it, but a number of other patterns are, and if anyone particularly wants this pattern I'll draw it up and add it to the book. (All our instruction books are written, illustrated, printed and bound by me, Ally McGurk, at SitUpon Seats. They are not currently available from bookshops.)





Monday, 14 February 2022

THE RUSH SEAT

the rush seat

Evidence of rush seating turns up throughout history. The Vikings almost certainly used this method, and in mediaeval Italy simple rush-seated ladderback chairs were commonly used. Strangely, considering that the best rushes grow in England, there's no direct evidence of rush-seating in Britain before the 17th century, though it's quite likely it was used before this.

The pattern is simple, and must have been discovered numerous times by different people throughout history. It's simply a matter of creating a twisted rope of some local material, and wrapping it in a particular way around a wooden frame. You simply attach it to the inside of the frame, and work your way round, over and under, over and under, until you reach the centre of the seat. This produces a strong, but comfortable seat.

Above: stool seated with ready-twisted natural rush.

In the UK, the common bulrush, Scirpus lacustris, grows in the River Thames and various Norfolk rivers, and this is the plant used most of all in this country for rush seating. In the USA the leaves of the cattail plant are more usually used, and each country will have its favourite seating material. 

Anything that can be twisted into a rope can be used for this pattern. We often make seats in the rush pattern using seagrass, Danish cord, cotton cord and flax cord, and I've seen chairs made with brightly coloured nylon rope.

Above: a chair seat partly wrapped with rush cord. You can see the working end hanging loose in the middle. The next strand of rush will be tied to this, and the knot will be hidden inside as work progresses. We use plastic clamps to hold the rush in place as we work.

Above: two chairs from a set of four. The one on the left is still to be done, while the one on the right has been stripped down, cleaned and polished, and seated with paper rush.

You can find various materials suitable for the rush pattern on the e-commerce part of our website, SitUpon Seats Shop.

If you'd like us to reseat your chair, just send us an email to ally@situponseats.co.uk or give us a ring on 01900 813200.


Thursday, 25 March 2021

CANED CARVERS

 

I've just finished these two lovely old cane chairs. The backs were still in reasonable condition, but the seats were worn out and needed recaning. 

It's been a real pleasure of a job to do. The hardest part was matching the colour of the seats to the old, dark cane of the backs.

Chair cane is, of course, VERY glossy and hard on the front, and most wood treatments just tend to slide off, or, worse still, come off on people's clothes, so one has to be careful. When it does stay put, it tends to be very transparent and pale. But I think I've finally found the solution. 

I'd never tried water-based varnish on cane before, and didn't think it would stick, so I did numerous experiments with offcuts of ready-woven cane until I found the perfect combination. In the end I used a couple of layers of dark, spirit-based woodstain, plus, on top, another couple of layers of water-based, medium brown, gloss varnish. It's a good colour, and a nice looking finish. The customer was delighted!

The other interesting thing about these seats is that there are the same number of holes along the back and the front, although, like most chairs, the seats are trapeziod – i.e., wider at the front. It's much commoner to find there are more holes at the front, which leaves the seatweaver with the problem of making the sides neat, where extra strips of cane have to share holes with the usual horizontal ones. 

Having the same number back and front makes a much cleaner looking pattern. You hardly notice the slight distortion as the verticals splay out towards the front. I think it's a much more sensible solution, and if I were making my own chairs from scratch, I'd definitely do this.

 

Monday, 24 August 2020

WOODEN STOOL KITS ARE BACK!

        I know a lot of people have been missing our lovely wooden stool kits recently, which we couldn't get for a few months. At last, a new batch of wooden frames is on its way, so if you want one  – or some! – get your orders in, as they're sure to sell out soon.

    All these kits now come with our updated, new edition instruction books – either The SitUpon Stool Book, or The SitUpon Rush Pattern Book

    I'll be  updating the photos on the KITS PAGE as soon as the wooden frames arrive later this week.

    Please note, we are still awaiting new stock of cotton cord, but there's still a selection of nice colours if  you want a kit using this material. 


Monday, 17 August 2020

Seagrass stools

I've just been refurbishing a couple of nice solid stools. The one on the left has been done with a mixture of 2-tone seagrass and blue Danish cord, and the one on the right has 2-tone seagrass along with standard seagrass.  

The blue Danish cord is unique, I believe. I got a roll of it from the factory shortly before they closed down for good, and was reliably informed that this was an experimental colour which never went into production. It's a really nice shade of blue, and the stool reminds me of a clear sunny day in winter, with the bare branches of the trees against a blue sky.

I was very tempted to keep them for myself, but they are for sale!  Just £76 each, plus postage. Haven't got around to listing them on the site yet, but fire off an email if you're interested.


 

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

THE FINISHED OFFICE CHAIR

Here we are, all done!


I'm quite pleased with it. I know the front of the armrests is a little lacking in neatness - must try to improve my technique there, but if you can't learn on your own chairs, where can you?

Anyway, it's lovely to be sitting on something the right height for my short legs again (about 15½" from the floor to the seat.)

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

I don't usually do upholstery, but ...

... I thought this would be a good time to refurbish my poor, neglected old office chair.

When we first set up in business I bought this chair second hand, and replaced all the worn old fabric on it with nice, colourful, flowery stuff. It looked great! And  for me it's been the most comfortable office chair I've ever parked my bum on.

However, a number of years have passed since then, during which the chair has had a lot of use, and it's now in a really sorry state, as you can see below.


My comfy chair: BEFORE

I unscrewed the back, the armrests and the seat, and stripped off all the fabric and the horrid old foam. The back and seat are made from nice solid plywood, so it's a fairly straightforward job to replace the foam with new stuff.

The armrests, though, had seen better days. They're made from a type of moulded plastic with a bit of give in it, attached to a piece of plywood.  One is actually broken, with a piece missing at the front, and the other is all chewed up where some previous person had tried to staple a cover on it.  (I suspect this is actually the third time this chair has been recovered.)

So Steve, my brilliant partner-in-crime, has made new armrests for me, from plywood. He's even extracted the screw-in sockets to hold the bolts that fix the armrests to the arms, and fitted them into new holes in the new rests.

I've used two types of fabric for the new covers. The first is an orange, striped fabric from my stash; the other is some nice heavyweight denim from a pair of discarded jeans. I've sewn them together to produce a blue stripe down the middle of the seat and back.

Then it was just a matter of gluing the foam to the seat and back panels (using contact adhesive), covering said foam with tightly stretched lining fabric (held on with staples on other side) in order to produce a nice curved shape round the sides, and then the same again with the newly-made cover. So the back and seat look great! I'm almost tempted just to use it and forget about the armrests, but that would be cheating.

So the armrests are sitting outside on the picnic table at this very moment, waiting for the glue to dry before I put them through the same process of lining fabric, and then cover fabric. I should get them finished before bedtime! (Though there's another little problem that still needs solving, and it would help a lot if I could remember where I put that slab of Fimo about 10 years ago ... More on this later.)

I'm really looking forward to sitting on it again. The substitute chair upon which I currently sitting is not nearly as comfy.

Photos of the finished chair very soon!

And in the meantime, here's what I found underneath the seat. I guess Jim Oakes (with his nice handwriting) was quite proud of his work back in 1984. I wonder what he'd think if he knew one of the chairs he'd worked on was still in constant use all these years later, and being recovered for a 3rd time?