Ripping Yarn



Readers with long memories may recall that rusty duck has dabbled with upholstery in the past. Those thusly endowed may also remember that things didn’t go quite according to plan.. (here).

Jessica must be well and truly caught up with her backlog of tasks if she is contemplating yet another project.. yes? No. Then surely she should be complimented on her forward planning if she has winter projects lined up even before the summer is properly done? Ha Ha Ha. Ha Ha HAAAAA!! No.


We need to go back to early Spring and an open air market at which I spotted a(nother) rather adorable partly upholstered chair. I know for sure it was early Spring because I remember it being bloomin’ brass monkey cold. It was before breakfast too. To grab a bargain sacrifices sometimes do need to be made. Icicles forming on the end of your nose and an empty stomach may be two sacrifices too far. Getting out of bed before 5.00 a.m. makes it three. To my mind the saving grace was finding the chair. Absolutely perfect for the new bedroom. To Mike’s mind it was another thing to add to the list of things that never get done. He was quick to point out that the chair purchased several years previously still lay abandoned in a corner of the dining room, mid stuffing, and the second of the pair (pictured above) not even begun. His desk chair is also on the to-do list, we mustn’t forget that.

An accommodation would need to be reached. I would sign up for an upholstery course, yes, that would get things moving. So I did. The earliest available starting date was September and, as we all know, in Spring that sounds such a very long time away. Everything chez rusty duck would be under control and all tickety-boo by then and I’d have simply oodles of spare time. As such I completely forgot about the course. Until a couple of weeks ago when the request arrived for the fees. Ah.



The perfect fireside chair.. ?


The plan is to strip back the second, untouched, of the original pair of chairs or ‘ripping out’ to use the technical lingo. This is the one I will take with me to the course and then build up its sibling in parallel as homework. Using the skills gained I should then be ideally placed to follow through with the bedroom chair, recovering the sitting room sofas, any other impulse purchases that may yet be made.. oh, and that desk chair. Mustn’t forget about that.

The hardest part has been getting to grips, literally, with the tools of the trade. A well designed tool, in the proper hands, makes any job so much easier. It has just taken a little time, more YouTube videos and several new body piercings to reach that point. Tack removers, and upholstery staple removers in particular, have sharp edges and can be lethal things. It’s probably just as well that I started work a few days ahead of presenting myself to teacher. Evidence of self mutilation should have largely faded by then. Although to be fair, having gone another round with the berberis and wrestled more brambles on the bank in recent days it’s hard enough to remember which injury relates to what.



Β With the chair stripped back to the frame I have interesting clues as to its provenance. Thus far googling hasn’t shed any further light on its history but I haven’t given up yet. The chairs are definitely French. Hardly surprising when we bought them from a couple of French chappies out of the back of their van.



Wish me luck.


2017-10-26T10:05:41+00:00September 4th, 2017|Tags: |


  1. Em Parkinson September 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Very envious! I’ve been concentrating more on the illustration than upholstery jobs recently so Adam missing it very much. Just got planning to build a workshop in the garden so I can take in things that won’t fit up our stairs to the spare bedroom….the current workshop. Beautiful chair and good luck indeed! X

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      The workshop sounds brilliant, mine is the dining room! I’m glad you are back to illustration too, you have such a talent.

  2. Melody A. September 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Love a person that can see the swan from the ugly duckling, have wanted to take a crack at trying this type of endeavor too!! so like you have several pieces I have kept until I have the time to try it !! lol isn’t it amazing all the information we can get now of how to’s and where did something come from and who we are , that is one thing I find so intriguing about the time we live in. Good luck, can’t wait to see how it goes, take care from Iowa

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      There is so much available online, it’s great. I did try following video tutorials, the problem is there is no-one to tell you whether you got it right or not. And if the foundation layer of the upholstery is wrong then everything else will be too. It all feels very challenging at the moment, hopefully in time it will be as easy as falling off a log.

  3. FlowerAlley September 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I see lots of potential in that lovely chair. Share how it goes. I love a good project.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      I love a good project too, especially ones that stretch me a bit. I think this one fits the bill!

  4. New Moons For Old September 4, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Oh, Jessica, you are brave! I have a very very simple bedroom chair in need of reupholstering but so far I’ve chickened out of starting. I look forward to your progress. Hope it goes well. x

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks. Apparently you are supposed to start with a footstool or something easy! As usual I have leapt in at the deep end without being able to swim.

  5. Backlane Notebook September 4, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Great chair and lovely project.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks. I hope I can do it justice.

  6. smallsunnygarden September 4, 2017 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    So what is it about spring and autumn that induces us to leave the familiar comforts of half a dozen decently underway projects to seek out the adventure of entirely new ones… always requiring partially or entirely new skill sets as a matter of course! Actually I’m in hopes you can answer that question? I can’t! πŸ˜‰
    Having said which, I’m definitely admiring your latest undertaking – upholstery does scare my socks off! But I know the results will be wonderful, and I love those chairs even in their disheveled state. I’m sure they’ll be fabulous finished! Best of luck!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      I can answer in terms of how it is for me.. when something gets too comfortable I get bored with it and need something new. There are so many unfinished projects littering this place. Every so often, usually on a rainy day, I apply myself properly and one of them gets finished. I don’t know why it doesn’t happen more frequently. The feeling of accomplishment is wonderful!

  7. Denise September 4, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    You don’t need luck, Mrs Duck. You have talent!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      This time I might need luck!

  8. Kris Peterson September 4, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    It always looks so easy on those TV DIY shows! The chair does have a lovely form. My best wishes with your new enterprise. Were it me, I’d be packing the chairs off to my local upholstery shop or, as I’ve done with a loveseat long in need of a new cover, I’d throw a large quilt over it.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      It looks so easy on all of the YouTube video tutorials as well. Somehow everything is different when you actually come to try it for real. Throwing a large quilt over it is Plan B.

  9. wherethejourneytakesme September 4, 2017 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    You’ll be on the second one before you know it! I have a retro Parker Knoll Knitting chair here and I enquired how much to recover – Β£240 was quoted plus fabric…ouch – even though I can sew I am not sure I would be good at upholstery. Perhaps I need to find a class too – I will watch to see how you get on first.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Apparently my hammering technique needs to improve. I’m told it helps to be angry. The deer were munching roses outside the greenhouse this morning. That should do it..

  10. Marian St.Clair September 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    It’s a handsome chair and I love the casters. I’ve heard the reason casters are common on antiques is that they made it easy to mop wooden and stone floors in the days before rugs were common. I love the history of old things, don’t you?

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      I do. That’s why I was so delighted to find the maker’s label. I just wish it had included a date. I shall do more googling and see if I can track down the factory and when it was operational. There has to be a record of it somewhere.

  11. Sarah September 4, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    You always like to take on a challenge Jessica! I’m glad you didn’t get talked out of buying the chair , I know it will look wonderful when you finish it. Good Luck with the course. Sarah x

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has tried upholstery has loved it, so I’m hoping it will be the same for me. It will be a great skill to have, not to mention save us a packet as we continue to decorate the house.

  12. justjilluk September 4, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Good luck!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      Shall need it this time..

  13. Sue Garrett September 4, 2017 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Look forward to seeing how things go.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue. It’s going to take longer than working on my own because of the gaps between course dates. But at least I should be doing it right!

  14. CherryPie September 5, 2017 at 12:21 am - Reply

    The chair looks fabulous, I am imagining what it will look like when your project is completed πŸ™‚

    You mentioned spring… I have not noticed summer it seems to have been brass monkey weather on and of throughout the summer months.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      We’ve had a pretty miserable summer here too. I was hoping September might be the saving grace, it often is. But apparently we have rain for the next five days.. bodes well for the chair!

  15. Virginia September 5, 2017 at 2:02 am - Reply

    The Best Of British Luck to you Jessica. Did the videos show you ‘how to hold your mouth’? There’s tools, technique, leverage, and ‘how you hold your mouth’ … then just Pure Brute Strength needed I discovered. I did an Ottoman a few years ago, and although I was very happy with the result, it wouldn’t have got finished if it weren’t for the Brute Strength provided by the instructor on occasions. I just wasn’t strong enough.

    I (we) all look forward to seeing the next instalment (wounds in technicolour excepted)!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      Springs require brute strength. That I have discovered. Apparently upholsterers of olde used to hold the tacks in their mouths and spit them to the required position on the frame ready to be hammered in. Thank goodness for magnetic hammers!

  16. Sam September 5, 2017 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Ooh, what a lovely shape that chair has – I’m sure you’ll transform it into something wonderful. And it’s always good to learn a new skill (injuries notwithstanding!), especially one that will save you a shed-load of money at the upholsterers. Good luck.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      It’s the shed load of money that is the main motivation. But you’re right, it is great to learn a new skill. It proves the grey matter does still exist. Should be fun too.

  17. Denise Nesbitt September 5, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

    WOW! I think today we have seen a change in seasons….need to get my winter project on track…not sure what but I need to discover something! lol!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Suddenly it has got autumnal. Condensation on the bedroom window one morning last week. Oh dear. And five days of rain in the forecast. I think I shall need to do the same.

  18. womanwalkingblog September 5, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

    What lovely chairs. Am sure that they will look wonderful however and whenever they are restored. There’s something so exciting about taking on a new project, isn’t there? Probably why we never get to the end of them – there’s always a new to do appearing on the scene. Enjoy the class. Ceri

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Mike is very much a completer finisher and despairs of all the projects I have on the go in various stages of un-done-ness. But I have to be ‘in the mood’ and having a selection of things to do increases the likelihood that rainy days can be spent productively. Then an interiors magazine drops on the mat or there’s an email from something like Houzz and a whole new idea springs to mind..

  19. Colleen September 5, 2017 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Jolly hard work I recall from my course and tough on my arthriticky hands. But it’ll be lovely to have a FO that’s all your own work. Good luck!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It’ll probably be a UFO for much longer than it’s an FO. But I live in hope. And yes, very hard work.

  20. derrickjknight September 5, 2017 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Great chairs. Good luck. When you have finished would you like a go at our sofa? πŸ™‚

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Only if I get Jackie’s home cooked meals provided.

  21. Steve September 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Looks like a great chair to work on. I have done a number in the past and going to a class is well worth the investment. Hopefully they will help you get the right materials etc. You cannot stuff a chair with any old stuff! Good luck.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Apparently my chair was originally stuffed with dried palm leaves, further evidence that it is of European origin. Palm leaves not being readily available in the UK..

  22. Sarah Shoesmith September 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I misread the title as ‘Ripping Yam’ so I am only too pleased to learn that no tubers were harmed in the making of this post. Perhaps pretending to need a lot of help at your course may render your chair revamped by the teacher… it’s got to be worth a try… it worked for me during the woodwork term at school when we were required to construct a three tier egg rack πŸ˜‰

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      I don’t think I will have to pretend to need a lot of help.. A three tier egg rack? Crikey. That sounds really complicated. My school was the old fashioned type. Only boys were allowed to do woodwork. Girls did sewing and cookery. I excelled at the first and failed miserably at the latter.

  23. Caroline September 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    I have recently taken on the task of restoring an old teddy bear and thought I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Perhaps I haven’t when I think of the task you are tackling. Very best of luck! So looking forward to seeing it with a new covering, it’s a beautiful chair.

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:48 pm - Reply

      A teddy bear sounds a really fun project! And a manageable size. The tough thing with a chair is that it is unwieldy and needs to be moved constantly as you work your way around it. And it hurts if it drops on your foot.

  24. The Big Garden and Croft September 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    J & D > Good luck! We tried this once, and vowed never again. Probably you’re more patient, or more talented, or luckier than us. It’s a nice chair : no point wasting all that patience, talent, skill, luck, hard work on something mediocre. Or wood-wormed. And as for the queue of unfinished jobs : everything has its time and place, and we find certain tasks get left undone for absolutely ages (we durst not admit how long!) and then, suddenly, perhaps all in one day – bish bash bosh – done!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Definitely not more patient. Don’t you find you have to be in the mood for certain tasks? Some days it happens and some days it never will. Tomorrow it is supposed to be raining (surely not). I shall get up determined to bish bash bosh!

  25. Caro September 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Wow – intrepid! I hope the course is everything you wish for – a friend did similar here in London and found it very compulsive. I look forward to reading about this latest venture of yours!

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      Many people have told me upholstery is addictive, I hope it works for me. I can kind of see it.. but perhaps you need to be skilled first. At the moment it’s all a bit of a struggle and my fingers are sore from too many close encounters with the hammer!

  26. Brian Skeys September 5, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    I look forward to seeing the finished product. ( With you sat in it relaxing!)

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      Oh gosh I wish! I can only hope that progress is quicker once I acquire the skills.

  27. offtheedgegardening September 6, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Love that label! Good luck, sure you will be a natural. x

    • Jessica September 6, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      The label is fab isn’t it? Apparently part of it alludes to ‘steam factory’. That must date it surely.

  28. snowbird September 6, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    What a lovely project, those chairs are beauties! Look forward to seeing the finished

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Those chairs have been languishing part upholstered for far too long. At least I can see a way of getting them finished now!

  29. Jacqueline Mumford September 7, 2017 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Envious. envious, envious !!! I LOVE your chair and want it …….. I found one very similar a while ago and, foolishly let my husband talk me out of it … I ‘ve lost a couple of things that way …. I should know by now to ignore him.
    Good luck with the renovation ….. you’ll do a great job …. I actually am one of those people who love it the way it is. XXXX

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      I rather like it the way it is too, but Mike is not one for shabby chic. Shame really. I’m toying with the idea of using new hessian for the backs. Compromise!

  30. ginaferrari September 7, 2017 at 8:28 am - Reply

    How exciting and what a fabulous project! So much potential in that chair… which reminds me of a couple of refurbishing projects I had planned but seem to have been left on the back burner!

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      There are a few of those around here too. Just a few… πŸ˜‰

  31. Brenda September 7, 2017 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Best of luck and don’t lose a finger! I am a sucker for bringing lovely old things back to life and those chairs are crying out for new clothes. I can’t wait to see what you do with them.

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      It’s so satisfying isn’t it, re-purposing something old. I found an old charm down the back of the chair. Only plastic, a pig, perhaps from a Christmas cracker. But it gives the chair far more meaning than had we just ordered something new from an out of town store. I’ll work it into the new upholstery somewhere. It belongs with the chair.

  32. aberdeen gardening September 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Perhaps not all of us would be able to picture the end results. Makes me want to keep checking to find out.

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure I can picture all of it yet. Certainly not the top fabric. The chairs are for the sitting room which isn’t ‘done’ and doesn’t really have a colour scheme yet.. the chairs may well decide it.

  33. hb September 8, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Those look to be wonderful chairs, even better when you are done. You will surely learn something valuable from your project, and it is something to help you forget being stuck indoors in bad weather.

    One of the comments about about nails in the mouth made me recall the man long long ago who installed the flooring in my parents home–he worked with a mouthful of nails and managed to smoke cigarettes non-stop at the same time. Ex builder of wooden boats. He would drive a nail into the oak with two whacks of his hammer. All that probably takes practice.

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      It sounds horrific doesn’t it, a mouthful of nails. The trouble is an upholsterer needs more than two hands.. one holding the fabric in place and one for the hammer. So an upholstery hammer has one magnetic end for picking up the tack and just tapping it in place sufficiently to hold it there. Then the hammer gets turned around and the tack is whacked. And that does take practice!

  34. ANNAREED September 9, 2017 at 8:39 am - Reply

    I look forward to seeing the finished product.
    Good luck,

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Anna and welcome. Thanks, it may be a while…!!

  35. Cathy September 10, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Yes, I can see how signing up for a class could be the only way to get some projects finished – it is so easy for other things to get in the way πŸ˜‰

    • Jessica September 11, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Too true. The discipline of attending, especially as deposit money has already changed hands, ought to do it.

  36. Linda P September 14, 2017 at 9:35 am - Reply

    All the best with the course! I know you like a challenge and I look forward to seeing more as you make progress with the project. I would find something hands-on like that daunting, but I would enjoy researching the history of the chair. Hope you find out some info about that. .

    • Jessica September 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      It is daunting. I’ve done plenty of curtain and blind making in the past but this is totally different. I have to get used to wielding a hammer! It’s fun though..

  37. Torrington Tina September 15, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    We will look forward to seeing how these little projects progress. I am not going to be tempted to start anything like that here yet, too many other bloomin things to do, like you!

    • Jessica September 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      At least watering the garden isn’t one of those things!!

  38. Donna@Gardens Eye View September 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Good luck with the course…..I love this chair and look forward to your progress and any clues to its provenance.

    • Jessica September 20, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks Donna. It’s good to feel that I am making progress at last. These chairs have been hanging around far too long!

  39. Practical Parsimony September 21, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I took an upholstery course because I had things to upholster. When you said “tools,” my first thought was a tack puller.

    • Jessica September 21, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda and welcome.
      They are lethal things those tack pullers! I’ve exchanged body piercings for bruised fingers now, thanks to the hammer blows. It’s not for the faint hearted this upholstery thing is it? But I hope it will save me shed loads of money in the long run.

  40. Peter Herpst September 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Good luck Jessica! What a project but, seeing what you’ve been able to accomplish in so many areas, I’m sure that these chairs will be gorgeous once you’ve done your magic!

    • Jessica September 23, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Peter. I’m discovering upholstery is almost as exhausting as hill gardening.

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