September 2018

It’s all happening this summer at Needle Rock. Not only has the sun kept shining, bringing day after day of glorious sunshine, Needle Rock has a great new-look, and a great new feel! As well as a fabulous new website, I’ll be bringing you a new monthly blog, giving you an insight into the workings of my small, but well equipped, upholstery workshop on the beautiful coast of west Wales.

Breaking news - Needle Rock are absolutely thrilled to announce we are agents for the Designers Guild – Interior Design, Luxury Home Décor & Furnishings. Featuring the most up-to-date fabric collections from some of the worlds’ leading fabric designers including John Derian and Christian Lacroix, Needle Rock can now offer some of the most sought-after designer upholstery fabrics available. With so many gorgeous fabric designs to choose from, the only limitation is your imagination. I was delighted to receive the first order at the workshop in early July.

I’ve got a few projects on the go at the mo’ – kicking off with a creative design on a pair of beautiful, matching Edwardian oak ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ chairs. As soon as I saw the ‘Quill velvet’, I just knew it had to be one of the first fabrics I worked with from the Designers Guild portfolio. This exquisite fabric will be paired with velvets from the ‘Varese II essentials collection ’, so keep an eye out on the Instagram feed for this duo which will soon be up for grabs.

Unless you’ve delved into the world of upholstery, you’d never know there’s so much going on beneath the layer of top fabric. Ripping out a chair (upholstery term for ‘strip’), enables you to delve into the build up of a chair, layer by layer. There is just so much going on! I recently ripped a vintage armchair back to its wooden frame, and the process of a full rebuild began. It was labour-intensive, and took plenty of hours in the upholstery workshop, but the finished result was well worth the effort.

In this first blog, I’m going to give you a little insight into the world of upholstery. Having documented the rebuild of this armchair for my professional qualification with the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) in Traditional Upholstery, I’ll give you a taste of the work involved to restore and rebuild such a piece of furniture. In this month’s blog, I’ll show you the process of rebuilding the arms of the chair, and later blogs will revisit this particular chair to see how the transformation process continues.

Stage 1 - Rebuilding the arms on a traditional armchair

Always take a photo of the chair before ripping out. It’s amazing how quickly you forget what it used to look like. Once the frame is bare, check it for damage, and carry out any structural repairs. The webbing is the first layer to be added and gives the chair a structure. This is followed by a layer of springing canvas (often known as ‘hessian’ ). These initial layers give a building platform, on which to add black fibre – the first stuffing in a traditionally upholstered chair. Black fibre is a natural by-product of the coconut industry, which is dyed and dried, and as well as lasting longer than the original ginger coconut fibre, it’s less dusty too. Wear a protective face mask, as it’s a mucky job, the black dust gets everywhere (so make sure you keep all your precious fabrics well out of the way)! Once in place, the arm spaces (created by the initial webbings) can be filled with any bits and bobs of redundant stuffing materials lying around the upholstery workshop. (I used some ginger fibre which I bought years ago when I was new to the world of upholstery. It’s more dusty than black fibre, and difficult to stitch up with, so I won’t be buying that again).

Next, linen scrim is tensioned in place and backfilled (so there’s no gaps), followed by the tacking of the scrim to the chamfered edge of the chair. This is a bit tricky, but practice makes perfect! The contours of the chairs are followed when ‘stitching up’ – generally with two rows of ‘blind stitch’ and another row called ‘top stitch’. This creates a firm edge which can be felt on the finished product.

The process continues with a second stuffing of horsehair (actually it’s a mix of 80/20, hog hair/horsehair, but always referred to as ‘horsehair ’). I love working with this product, it’s so soft and malleable compared to the black fibre of the first stuffing. Two layers of cotton wadding are put on the top of this to stop any prickly hairs popping through when you’re seated! Top this off with a smooth layer of calico, which must be taut as a drum, as this is the layer directly beneath the top fabric. Any wrinkles or ruckles at this stage will be visible when attaching the final, and most expensive, top layer. It’s a delight to get to this stage. Top tip: When applying the top cover, it’s a day to be make-up free, especially lipstick! After all that work, take no chances! When perfect, cover with plastic as you’ve got this all to do again with the back and the seat. More on this project in later blogs

Who’d have thought there’d be so much work to do – especially as we’ve only covered the arms so far.

p.s. I did say there’s more to this upholstery business than meets the eye…. just saying!

So, until the next time, have a great month, and let’s hope the sunshine continues to shine!

Bye for now,

Ali x


January 2019

Happy 2019 to you all, the time of year when we're making plans for the year ahead. Here at Needle Rock, I'm launching a new arm to the business with some highly desirable and unique creative upholstery pieces available for you to buy. Check out the one-off pieces on the For Sale page. With access to some of the world's most desirable designer fabrics, I am reworking both vintage and antique seating options into pieces of beauty. If you are looking for something different then give me a call at Needle Rock, I can design something just for you. I have lots of stock available ready for the magic to begin, and if you're after something we don't have - we can source it for you from our network of dealers across the UK. I'm just absolutely loving it! I could do with another me really - but the days are already getting longer, and with more daylength there's a natural rhythm of increased productivity! With the brand new website launched last year, coupled with social media campaigns - yes you are finally going to see me on Instagram, Pintrest as well as Facebook, I am hoping it will be the most enjoyable year yet!

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"Highly recommend Ali, beyond pleased with the end result, fabulous job Needle Rock".
Megan Louise Daly

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