What follows is a special guest post from the wonderful Jody Cooper.



2013- check list of things to do- see a bit more of the world, follow through with my idealistic-yet-never-materialise statements, such as ‘I will only eat meat from an animal who lived a happy life in a large field with his pals in Dorset’, AND to learn a craft- actually to learn a load of crafts- in the hope that I am shit hot at one of them so that I can cut my ties with the suburban 9-5 existence once and for all.

And so, it’s a Saturday morning (10am), in a snow covered nook of East London and I am in a sub-zero workshop with a group of 8 others jostling for a workbench closest to single heater waiting for the teacher of ‘An Introductory to Upholstery’ to start the class.

Sharron (our teacher for the two day workshop) is informative, hands on and really knows her stuff- she has been working as a professional upholsterer for 20+ years and her passion for upholstery is infectious. She begins by running through the layers of a drop seat that has been taken apart in advance of the class, and explaining a bit around the techniques and materials used throughout the centuries.

Our aim for the weekend is to take apart and reupholster a drop seat (we are allocated one each and must strip it right back to the wooden frame), and to rebuild/stuff/cover the seat to restore it to its former glory, which is much easier said than done.


The removal of 100s of tacks with a chisel and a mallet is surprisingly therapeutic, and it takes much of the first morning to get to a clean frame. The class goes en masse to a Café around the corner for a bit of warmth and a rest from the gruelling tack removal (gruelling for those of us used to an office existence).

The café itself is worth a mention, a deceptively large space with battered sofas, quirky art and a pretty decent mushroom and goats cheese on toast effort.


MdL Home

The other attendees are a pretty diverse mix of people, including a fashion designer, a lawyer, a media exec and an office admin, but all were lovely and a sweet camaraderie formed over the weekend.

Post lunch we looked at beginning to re-web and re-layer the drop seat (i.e. hammer in the 100s of tacks removed earlier). The seat begins to take shape again at this stage, although the effort required to hammer in straight line takes all of us by surprise, and there are some suspiciously wobbly lines. The end of the day came upon us suddenly, and I was loathe to have to stop working on my seat (be warned, upholstery becomes quickly addictive).

Next morning we started to add the webbing and to stuff the seat (we used treated coconut hair but depending on the type/period of the furniture things like grass, straw, foam, and hair (pig/goat/ horse hair of various quality)).

This proved the most difficult part of the process, as ensuring that there were no lumps, that it didn’t sag in the middle AND took a nice shape was tricky work. I kneaded, smoothed and cajoled my seat into a (pretty much) smooth shape, and all that was left to do was to pick out the fabric to recover the seat.


My seat, lumps and all, was wonderful. The whole weekend’s effort climaxed to this singular, lumpy seat that I am obscenely proud of.  It turns out that upholstery is MUCH harder than I had imagined, and I won’t be quitting the day job just yet, but I am already scouting around for an evening course to progress on with the skills that I learned from the introductory class, so that maybe one day I can give new life to tired pieces of furniture…