I’m here in my workroom and I thought I would chat with you guys a little bit today. I’ve got some upcoming workshops I’ve been talking to students about projects for the classes. And one thing I hear often and it’s really hard to help students understand this or anybody just starting out on upholstery is picking that first project that you want to work on for your upholstery project. You may have a piece like you see here sitting in your living room or wingback chair or something along these lines and you think oh I really want to do that piece but if you’ve never done a poll straight you’re setting yourself up for frustration and I don’t know about you but when I’m working on a project or doing something for the first time that I’ve never tried before I hate it when I get frustrated during the process. I get really confused and you get angry and then you really start making more and more mistakes.
So it’s really the best choice if you can start off with a project that’s more on the simple side you have that chair that you want to do or you have a sofa maybe in your living room that you want to try. But that’s not where you want to start.
[00:01:01] You might want to start with something like a dining room chair that has an upholstered seat and maybe an upholstered back. You could start with some of the antique rocking chairs you see that have an upholstered seat but have an eight-way spring system underneath them. Now those are pieces that are going to give you some of the skills it’s going to give you a chance to work through the process and get the feel of what it feels like to a piece but they’re not going to totally overwhelm you and once you’re overwhelmed if you’re like me everything goes downhill from there. It’s like you just can’t get back on track. You get angry you put the piece down and then you never go back and finish it.
[00:01:36] So starting with the piece that will give you the skills that you need but give you that satisfaction and that feeling of pride because you could do it might have been a little bit difficult. It might not be perfect the first time it rarely is. The first time I ever painted a piece of furniture it definitely wasn’t perfect and it’s still sitting in my home and needing to be redone. So I know exactly where you guys are coming from and picking things like the Martha Washington style chairs or even the Queen and style chairs that have an apostrophe seat in an upholstered back where the seat and back touch. Those are other good piece of furniture to start off with. You get the experience of making the cuts where the inside back meets the seating area and where the deck meets the inside back post, but you don’t have all the complications of the arms you don’t have the wings to deal with.
I’ve had several people want to start off with like channel backs or tough pieces of furniture. Now that’s really going a little bit crazy. If you’ve never ever worked with fabric that’s another reason to not start with something too complicated.
People will say to me I’m coming in from sewing you know I’ve made quilts I’ve made clothing or I’ve made clothes for my kids and it’s still a lot different than working with fabric on a piece of furniture and the fabric for upholstery is a lot different to work with than say a fabric that you use for a quilt. So if you think of the quilting fabrics they’re very light when you put them through your sewing machine. They feed through the sewing machine very easily because you’ve got a sewing machine that can handle them. But let’s say you’re working with a Singer home domestic sewing machine that you have and you’ve picked a Chanel fabric or something like this fabric. Behind me that’s a heavyweight fabric. And you try to put that through your home machine. It’s usually not going to give you the best results. So thinking about what it is that you want to accomplish and choosing the fabrics and the pieces of furniture that will give you the experience to actually learn and not be frustrated.
[00:03:32] We make mistakes and those mistakes are actually learning opportunities. They’re not mistakes in a way that you did something wrong because you weren’t good enough at it. It’s like you’re learning and when you make that mistake think about what you did. Look at what happened because of the way you cut it wrong or the way you pulled the fabric wrong and kind of get that into your head and think about it the next time that you upholster a piece look at it and say to yourself okay last time I made the cut here and I ended up with a bare spot on the outside of the arm. So now you need to think through where should I have made those cuts in order to still have enough fabric to cover up the areas that I needed to cover or I’m pulling the fabric tight on the seating area of a chair. And I’ve got all these dimples happening in the fabric. Well, it’s because your pull is not even front-to-back across that surface. So those are all the things that I call learning opportunities and not mistakes because we all have to start at the beginning.
Nobody starts off upholstering their piece first piece of furniture and having it be a fully tufted settee from a Victorian set or something and have it come out exactly right and be a spectacular piece. That’s just not how it works.
[00:04:41] We all have to start at the beginning. We all learn differently. Everybody learns at a different pace and that is OK there’s nothing wrong with that. So that’s why when I work with students in the workshops and I talk to people on the phone or I have email conversations or even conversations on YouTube and on Facebook with people just learning the process, don’t get upset with yourself. We all started right where you are and maybe we’ve been doing this for years. Of course, we’re ahead of where you are. That’s no reason for you to get discouraged with yourself.
[00:05:12] But the one thing I can definitely tell you is when you’re getting ready to do your first or second or maybe even your third upholstery project don’t set your goals too high. You want to have a piece that’s going to turn out that you’re proud of but you also want to have a piece that you’re going to enjoy doing. And you’re going to want to finish. If it gets you frustrated it’s never gonna get done. And then your garage is going to still be full of unupholstered pieces of furniture.
[00:05:36] So I hope you’ll check back and let me know what projects you’re working on. So thanks for spending some time with me today. I’m going to get back to sanding my frame so that I can get this baby painted.
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