Upholstery is a craft which began in the Middle Ages and which has been passed on for generations. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘to provide (furniture) with a soft padded covering’ and is often used as a general term for stuffed, padded and sprung furniture.
A piece of furniture upholstered traditionally will consist of layers of materials, which have been built up by hand and will have taken skill and many hours to complete. A traditionally upholstered chair should last one hundred years. Some of the materials used in traditional upholstery are coil springs (post-1850), animal hair (horse, hog and cow), fibre (coir), hessians, cotton wadding and calico.
In contrast, modern upholsterers employ synthetic materials like dacron, vinyl, foams, serpentine springs, and so on.
Upholstery Evolution It is widely thought that the craft of upholstery evolved from that of the tent-maker. One of the first developments from tent-making was “wall hangings” and draperies at windows and around beds. The first signs of comfort for chairs came with the making of cushions, but it wasn’t until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that the stuffing of furniture began to evolve. A lot of the ‘not so liked’ jobs have been in the meantime eliminated by the manufacture of spring units, ready shaped padding (foam), and rubberised hair that can be cut off as a roll to a required length. There are also machines used in the trade, but for a first-class job it still remains a craft, where patience and skill of hand and eye play the most important part.
Examples of some of the type of work we do: