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Stickley #369 Morris Chair #6: Leather Upholstery

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Blog entry by pintodeluxe posted 03-24-2014 11:12 PM 1955 reads 15 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Corbels, Pegs, and Washers Part 6 of Stickley #369 Morris Chair series Part 7: Ottoman »

I took a leather sewing class to learn how to make the Morris chair cushions.

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The seat cushion and the ottoman cushion require web frames. Here I am milling the half-lap components for the web frames.

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Web frame assemblies are glued together. The seat frame should be sized 1/4” smaller in all directions than the opening in your chair, to allow room for the leather and two layers of batting.

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Corner blocks are added to the large seat cushion for additional strength.

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I didn’t have a webbing stretcher handy, so I made one from a block of wood and some sheathing nails. Lengths of dowel create a handle.

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I stretch nylon webbing over the frame, and secure it with upholstery tacks.

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I use #10 or #12 tacks to attach the straps. An occasional staple helps the webbing lie flat.

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Seat cushion webbing complete. Notice how the straps are woven together.

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Next webbing is attached to the ottoman frame. The ottoman frame should be sized 1/8” smaller in all directions than the opening of your ottoman. This allows enough room for the leather and a single layer of batting.

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This is the underside of the ottoman frame. Notice how the corners are knocked off so it will fit inside the ottoman legs.

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Next a 12” square piece of 1” thick high density foam is spray glued to the webbing. This helps to crown the shape of the seat cushion.

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How does a woodworker cut upholstery foam? With a bandsaw of course. It works quite well, I might add. In projects where the cushion sits on top of the chair (some dining chairs built are this way), I will cut foam slightly oversized. In this case however, the cushion rests down in the framework of the chair, so the foam is cut to the SAME size as the web frame. I selected 5” high density foam for the seat cushion.

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Here at the upholstery class, full-sized templates are made from heavy paper. The templates are used to layout the required pieces, and held flat with several weights. The patterns are traced with a ball point pen, and the leather pieces are cut out.

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The seat cushion has 7” square notches removed from each corner. The corners are then sewn up with a blind stitch and a 1/2” seam allowance. Set the sewing machine for 5-6 stitches per inch. We sized the cover to reach 1/2” short of the inside edge of the web frame. That way when stretching the cover over the foam, you can pull it even with the inside edge of the web frame for a consistent look. Turn the seam allowance to one side or the other to direct the seam where it is less visible. The cover is then drawn down and stapled in place with a pneumatic stapler (electric staplers usually don’t set the staple fully).

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Cambric nonwoven fabric is added to the underside as a dust cover.

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Seat cushion complete.

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The 3” thick 1.8 density ottoman foam is attached to the webbing with spray adhesive. Then high-loft Dacron (polyester batting) is stretched and stapled in place. Aim for a snug fit that slightly compresses and shapes the foam.

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Trim the excess batting, and the ottoman cushion is ready for leather.

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The leather is simply stretched over the ottoman cushion – no sewing here. Start by placing one or two tacks in the middle of one edge. Then stretch across the width and repeat on the opposite edge. Next tack on a third side, and stretch across the length. This way you can pull all the slack out of the leather. Then you can work to the corners. We used tacks to temporarily hold the leather, and staples for permanent attachment.

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Excess leather is trimmed away.

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Cambric dust fabric is applied, just as with the seat cushion.

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Ottoman cushion complete.

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Now we can move on to the backrest cushion.

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Here I am sewing the welting (piping) at the class. I used 3/16” welting cord.

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Start by blind sewing a zipper tape to the bottom edge of the backrest plates. We used a #4.5 nylon upholstery zipper. Cut 1-1/4” square notches out of the backrest plates (all 4 corners). Blind sew the notches shut with a 1/2” seam allowance.

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The welting is stapled to one of the plates. The two plates for the back cushion are then stapled together with a Bostitch P-3 hand stapler. That way the leather isn’t moving around as you sew. For the main seam around the perimeter I used a 1/4” welting foot. All seams are made with #69 nylon upholstery thread. Polyester upholstery thread would also work, but it isn’t bonded and can fray.

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Here the backrest cushion has been sewn.

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Here you can see the effect created by notching the corners. It is called a faux-box cushion, because it fits the cushion well like a boxed cushion, but only has one central seam.

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We made straps and inserted them on either side of the faux-box corners. When the cushion is inside out, the orientation of the straps is pointing inward and downward. It’s best to just staple them in place, and turn the cushions right side out to convince yourself they are positioned correctly.

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We used a #4.5 nylon upholstery zipper. Make sure the zipper slide faces the correct direction (with the cushion inside out, the slide pull will be hidden).

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The backrest cushion is 3” thick 1.8 density foam, wrapped in two layers of Dacron. The first layer is wrapped side-to-side, and the second layer is wrapped front-to-back. The Dacron batting is attached with spray adhesive. Spray the edges as well, and pinch them together to close the joints.

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Next I blind stitched a slip cover, and placed it over the backrest cushion.

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This will help the leather slide over the cushion more easily.

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The backrest cushion slides easily into the leather cover.

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Backrest cushion complete.

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Finally I can install the ledger strips that support the seat cushion. The rear strip is mounted at the bottom edge of the rail.

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The front ledger strip is mounted near the top of the rail.

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Upholstery complete.

Next up I will finish the ottoman, and staining won’t be far behind.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush



18 comments so far

View AandCstyle's profile

AandCstyle

1316 posts in 909 days


#1 posted 03-24-2014 11:45 PM

Willie, I always learn something from your blogs. Thank you for posting the upholstery procedures. I know that I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I now have a much better understanding of the process.

-- Art

View johnhutchinson's profile

johnhutchinson

624 posts in 281 days


#2 posted 03-24-2014 11:53 PM

Fantastic tutorial !!!
I saw something on Sunday Morning about the leather used by Rolls Royce. They only use “boy” leather because “girl” leather might have stretch marks.
Sounded sexist to me. :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View waho6o9's profile (online now)

waho6o9

4915 posts in 1229 days


#3 posted 03-25-2014 12:24 AM

Making your own leather cushions is a great skill set to have, thanks

for sharing the process Willie.

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

1445 posts in 1799 days


#4 posted 03-25-2014 12:49 AM

Another great blog! Looking forward to seeing the finished set!

-- Dean

View Jerry's profile

Jerry

546 posts in 300 days


#5 posted 03-25-2014 01:18 AM

Willie you are amazing, I am totally gobsmacked! Thank you so much for posting all of this very valuable information. I’m wondering, are you selling this stuff? If so I’d like to know what marketing methods you are using. If you are NOT selling it, in my opinion you are missing an opportunity, your work is as professional as any I’ve seen anywhere.

-- I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone.

View sras's profile

sras

3835 posts in 1781 days


#6 posted 03-25-2014 01:40 AM

Looks like a worthwhile class! Totally professional.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

3358 posts in 1465 days


#7 posted 03-25-2014 02:12 AM

Thanks guys.
Jerry- I’m not selling my work, but I appreciate the compliment. Leather was new territory for me. I haven’t sewn anything since a pair of Bermuda shorts in middle school. Taking a class was a great way to pick up a new skill. The instructor had 30 years of upholstery experience, so he was a great resource.

Thanks again.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View NormG's profile

NormG

4170 posts in 1656 days


#8 posted 03-25-2014 02:13 AM

Wow, what a project and very useful indeed

-- Norman

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112081 posts in 2229 days


#9 posted 03-25-2014 02:36 AM

Super blog very informative and interesting.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View goggy's profile

goggy

64 posts in 2068 days


#10 posted 03-25-2014 03:47 AM

Outstanding! Nicely done. Can’t wait to see the finished product! Just sent you a pm the other day asking about the chair progress. Great visual tutorial as well.

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2644 posts in 2364 days


#11 posted 03-25-2014 04:06 AM

Willie,

Thank you for an excellent tutorial! I have my grandparents’ (very old) Morris chair that needs repaired and reupholstered and this should be very helpful when I finally get around to doing it.

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Hammerthumb's profile

Hammerthumb

1272 posts in 627 days


#12 posted 03-25-2014 04:11 AM

Absolutely awesome! A very inspiring project. Can’t hardly wait to see it finished. Great work Pinto. Bravo!

-- Paul, Las Vegas

View Tooch's profile

Tooch

614 posts in 528 days


#13 posted 03-25-2014 09:33 AM

This blog series has been so informative, and it is awesome that you took the time to take a sewing class to make your own cushions.

Very cool!

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View Roger's profile

Roger

14556 posts in 1456 days


#14 posted 03-25-2014 12:01 PM

Wow! What a very detailed picture how-to. Thnx for posting. Your chair looks, and I’m sure feels gr8!

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Kentuk55@bellsouth.net

View SPalm's profile

SPalm

4806 posts in 2534 days


#15 posted 03-25-2014 04:40 PM

Wow Willie, that is neat.
I did some upholstery years ago, but nothing this nice.
Taking the class was a good idea.

Well done sir,
Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

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