In July, with three other ladies, on a bright Monday morning, I found myself at J. A. Milton’s upholstery suppliers for a two-day upholstery course, receiving a warm smile from David Hayes (managing director) and Tony Dickin our tutor.  Tony has years of experience in restoring furniture, lecturing and leads restoration master classes, from Milton’s spacious and well-equipped workshop.

I was excited but a little dubious, as being an ‘unpractical person’ more used to composing words, I was curious how I would cope.  Sewing machines had been mentioned!  I needn’t have worried.  Tony gave clear instructions, was patient, helpful and stepping in when needed, all with a good sense of humour!

My project was making a ‘new footstool’ supplied in kit form, purchased from Milton’s ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ shop on site, which provides everything a ‘home furniture restorer’ needs on-line or as a foot customer, however small the order.

The other ladies bought their own restoration projects; a stripped back Parker Knoll armchair, a mahogany dining chair and two Brazilian Rosewood (now an endangered species) dining chairs.  All needing TLC in the traditional method of re-upholstering.

We gathered round for introductions and Tony informatively discussed each project, before we began the first processes.  For me, self assembling the stool base.  Glue, dowels and screwdriver.  So far so good.

Choosing a simpler project left me able to follow the other’s progression, something we all enjoyed over the two days. Tony explained history, styles and methods through the ages and moved between us as we worked.

The mahogany dining chair was disassembled, saving what could be reused and its springs re-lashed; we were all surprised how much twine and tying down was needed in its new built up layers! It was all twine, tacks and hog’s hair!

Parker Knoll had some tension springs replaced and a new upholstered back of ‘rubberised hair’.

One Rosewood chair had a newly crafted ‘rail’ on its base to perfectly match its opposite number ready for ‘caning’ at a subsequent Milton’s workshop.

By the end of the first day my stool was on its way with calico strips and foam glued to base, smoothed with round edges under layer stapled on and I went home happy, eager for day two!

Tuesday started with the sun already hot, though we were comfortable as the workshop was airy, cool and rhythmic with the tap tapping of tacks, thump, thump of staple gun, whirr of sewing machine and relaxed banter between moments of concentration, as we worked on.

I added a layer of ‘Woolsafe’ – those corners were tricky. I used the more forgiving fabric to soften my incorrect straight edges, for a softer effect.

Then the moment came to fit the ‘fabric of colourful watering cans’ and my stool was complete!  Achieved!   I hung up my favourite tool of the course, the staple gun, overjoyed with my new footstool.

Parker Knoll had new crisp fabric sewn into shape and fitted on its back, to be completed at home.  Mahogany dining chair was finished with tropical fabric fitted over its renewed dome shape, reminiscent of a Kipling poem.  Rosewood dining chair was ready for caning, the other had been rebuilt to its hessian layer.

We were all as pleased as punch, agreeing we had had a wonderful and instructive two days, with camaraderie and laughter.

I thoroughly recommend attending a Milton’s course, for knowledge, enjoyment and a delicious lunch!  Tony is an excellent tutor.

Jan Wilkins