Upholstery Basics by 62

upholstery basics: constructing coil seats — part I


When I’m out scouring for diamonds in the rough, one of the first things I do is take a look under the hood, or seat in this case. Coil springs are to chairs as horsepower is to engines, and while you could make it to work in a golf cart, wouldn’t you rather arrive in a Ferrari?

This month on Upholstery Basics, we’ll be completing lap one of our coil spring Grand Prix. Over the next three lessons, we’ll accumulate the tips and tricks needed to rejuvenate coil seats and transform them from lumpy to comfy. Put on your goggles, and let’s tackle some coil-spring tying! — Amanda

See the full how-to after the jump . . .

Materials

  • goggles
  • pliers
  • staple remover
  • scissors
  • air compressor and air hose
  • stapler
  • 1/2” long staples
  • jute webbing
  • webbing stretcher
  • ten 12 oz. upholstery tacks
  • magnetic tack hammer
  • Klinch-It tool and fasteners
  • button needle and button twine (can be substituted for Klinch-It)
  • spring twine

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.

Instructions

1. Make sure your chair is stripped to the frame and all fabric, padding, staples and tacks are removed. While you’re taking your piece apart, put your coil springs aside for later. It may also be useful to take notes on how the coil springs were arranged in the seat.

2. Turn your chair upside down and plan out where and how many webbing strips you can fit on the bottom of your seat without overlapping. The more strips you have, the stronger the seat will be.

3. Staple the webbing to the middle of one side of the chair, leaving a few extra inches beyond the staples. Do your best to attach the webbing to the middle of the frame where the wood is strongest.

4. Fold over the excess webbing and staple again.

5. Bring the webbing past the frame on the opposite side and around the teeth of the webbing stretcher. The rubber part of the webbing stretcher should be resting against the frame with the handle angled up at about 30 degrees.

6. Once you have the webbing and stretcher in the right position, slowly bring the handle down until the webbing is taut and staple. The webbing should be tight enough to barely flex when you push on it.

7. Cut the webbing off of the roll, fold over the excess and staple again.

8. Repeat these steps until you’ve stapled all of your vertical strips. Then do an alternating basket-weave as you attach the horizontal strips.

9. Reinforce the webbing by putting three upholstery tacks in every strip with a magnetic tack hammer. The magnetic side taps the tack in place, and the other side hammers it down.

10. Decide how to lay out your springs. The springs should be evenly spaced around the seat for maximum support, and placing them in rows and columns will make spring tying easier.

11. Look at the end of the spring. If it’s bent, place that side up, and orient the springs so the end is in the same position on every one.

12. Once you’ve decided where to place the springs, attach them to the webbing with a Klinch-It tool or use a button needle and button twine to tie them to the webbing. If you are using a Klinch-It, refer to the instruction manual for how to operate your tool. Every spring should be attached in three areas.

13. Place two tacks, half-way in, at the end of every vertical and horizontal row of springs.

14. Now we’ll attach spring twine to the tacks at the back and left sides of the chair. Measure a piece of twine that is twice the length of the row plus 15 inches. Fold the spring twine in half, and place the middle in between a pair of tacks. Then loop the twine around each tack.

15. Pull the twine tightly around the tacks and hammer down all the way. Repeat this for the rest of the tacks at the back and left sides of the chair.

The goal with spring tying is to shape the seat and connect all the springs together so they move as one unit. As you’re learning how to tie springs, you may find you’ll need to retie the springs several times to get them in the appropriate position and tight enough so they don’t feel bouncy when you sit on them. Don’t worry — practice makes perfect, and you’ll soon be tying springs in your sleep.

16. With the first strand of spring twine on every row, start with a knot on the second rung from the top. This helps create the domed shape we’re looking for on a tight seat. Starting with the back spring on the middle vertical row, pull the first strand of spring twine under the second rung and tie a single knot around it as you hold it tightly in position.

17. Move on to the other side of the same spring, and tie a knot around the top rung.

18. Continue tying a single knot on the top of both sides of each spring. When you reach the last side of the last spring, drop down to the second rung again.

19. Once all the springs are tied together in that row, wrap the spring twine around the closest tack, pull out any slack and hammer down. Staple down the loose end of the spring twine for extra security.

20. For the second strand in each row, repeat these steps but remain on the top rung all the way across.

21. Repeat steps 16 through 20 until all of the vertical rows are tied. Then tie the horizontal rows.

22. Repeat steps 13 through 20 for diagonal rows that go across all springs in both directions. When you’re finished, there should be a slight curved shape to your seat, and none of your springs should move independently.

I think I’ll stop for now before our engines overheat. Meet me back here next month as we pad our seat and get ready for fabric.

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62 Comments

Bernadette @ Dette Discovers

I have been looking for some easy-to-follow upholstery instructions for a while. What a clear tutorial, thank you! I especially love that she is doing all this hands-on work with bright orange finger nails! :)

Corinne

I’m obsessed with upholstery basics, it’s like my own personal How’s It Made?

M

If you haven’t considered it already, you should do a book. I’ve checked a couple of upholstery basics books out of the library and they do not do as good a job with photos and explanation as you do here. I would buy it!

claudia

please put the rest soon! i have just miss the last part and i don’t know how to go further! i have been looking for such a well made instruction for long time!
thanks.

natalja

oh maaaaaan already at the end!?!
I could go on and read forever, this is so interesting!
I bought an old chair from a garage sale which is in my storage unit for now, but once all the tutorials are out I need, I will tackle this project!
Why can’t you write parts of these tutorials EVERYDAY???

Kate O

Great clear instructions, thank you! Can’t wait to give this a try. Looking forward to next month!

gayle p

fabulous tutorial. really clear and helpful and interesting to read! please continue with the rest soon!

Pam Hipp

Fantastic! The photos and clear descriptions make it so clear. I can’t wait for the next installment!

lauren

ah! I have a sprung chair with rotted fabric/foam that’s dying to be re-dome. thanks for saving me a few hundred bucks.

IttyBittyBeastie

Incredible! I love bringing back to life lost items. Thank you for all those photos, instructions…time consuming, but greatly, greatly, appreciated!

Anna Rebellato

Excellent pictures and instructions! As one who does this kind of work, I can appreciate all the steps. The tying of the springs is extremely neat and professional. Thank you.

Maja

I’ve been scouring the internet for some easy instructions on how to do this since I thrifted a beautiful 50s armchair that desperately needs some reupholstering. Thank you so much for providing this information! Now I actually do feel like I can do this on my own!

MB@YarnUiPhoneAppv1.6

I don’t know if you’ll find coils at Vogue Fabrics (Evanston, IL), but you’ll find just about everything else for this DIY project. Heck, I think they’ll even do some in-house upholstery for you.

Johanne

This tutorial comes at a perfect time as I have two nearly identical chairs to yours that I have been wanting to refinish but didn’t really know where to start. Thanks so much! Your pics make it clear and completely doable! My pink Amy Butler fabric is standing by!

Michelle

I absolutely love this whole series by Amanda. I have been looking for something like this for ages. Thank you!

tracy a

i agree with all other commenters…this is fabulous! i live in a small town where no upholstery classes are offerred and alas, the one upholsterer in town doesn’t want to train me! so, i really appreciate this. i do have one question, though. step 20 says to repeat tying the string all the way across the row, but on the top of the coil only. it looks like the knot, on the outermost rungs of coil, actually go around the top and 2nd from the top? the knot doesn’t look as clean as the others, so i need a little help there! thanks so much!

deDezain

really like this instructions, I always wonder how they put the upholstery part of a chair, thank you! =)

smita

This one is a very good idea…but needs a little expertise and idea about DIY stuffs…Will definitely give it a try :)

Núria

Excellent as always! I love the fabric, would you mind telling us where it’s from?

Phyllis C

Fantastic job. I love tying springs – it’s my favorite part of reupholstering a chair. Your instructions and photos were very clear and concise. I too “look under the hood’ when buying vintage chairs to recover. If there are springs, it makes my day! I look forward to reading your next tutorial.

Amanda

Tracy A,
You are correct! The second strand of spring twine does begin and end by going around both the top and second rung. The process can be done either way, but I decided to stick with the top rung for the instructions just to keep it less complicated.

Nuria,
The fabric is a Manuel Canovas embroidery on linen. It’s really yummy! I will post a link to it once we finish the seat.

Thanks everyone for the great feedback! I’m having so much fun sharing, and it makes it really rewarding to have readers like you all! Can’t wait ’til next month.

Pat Moore

What a well thought out tutorial. I am looking forward to the next one!!

Linda F

awesome tutorial, I will definately give it a try. Now where do you get your supplies?

naomi

Okay, here are a bunch of questions. It appears the webbing never veers from 90º in relation to the seat bottom – right? On the number and placement of springs, I assume not too close to the edge of the chair, avoiding the look of a layer cake instead of a cupcake. When tying, are the springs compressed, or are they just held in place? Concerning the diagonals, it looks like the knots go over both the top and second tier of the springs – am I correct? The tacks for the diagonals should be placed at a 45º to the spring? I’ve always been interested in upholstery, especially after paying for bad jobs. One day, I’ll tackle my old club chair and a Federal armchair, after I find a nice little cushioned chair like this for practice. Thanks for a quite useful tutorial.

Brandy Aube'

Hey Amanda, great tutorial! I was wondering if you could perhaps share some resources for upholstery supplies such as foam, springs, etc…all the important stuff that you don’t see in the finished piece! Thanks! P.S. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Spruce DVD and can’t wait to attempt spring tying! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Yasmin Sabur

Wonderful tutorial. I love that your nails are polished. Even more I love the fabric shown in the image of the completed project. Where can the fabric be purchased? Thanks. Yasmin

Yolanda

Are you serious!? I am so elated to see this tutorial! I’ve taken classes before, but this will allow me go at my own pace and refer back to it if I need to. Spring tying is my nemesis – bring on the curb alert castoffs!
Thank you!
And, can I say- your nails look fab!

Yolanda

Judy A

Tying springs is exactly what has kept me from upholstering. Your tutorial is so clear that I now have no fear! Thank you for freeing my creativity! I too hope you write a book!

sitting in the sun

Showing off that fine coloured nail polish ai?

Karisoo

I agree with “M”. This is the best tutorial on constructing coil seats I have ever read. Thanks, think I’ll tackle that 1898 chair now.

Joy

I love the hands-on (especially with such happy nail polish) tutorial! I’ve always wanted to learn more and this gets my creative juices flowing!
Keep them coming!

Amanda

Naomi,
The webbing doesn’t have to stay at 90 degrees to the frame. You should have as many strips as possible, without overlapping, and you may have to slightly angle them to get them evenly disbursed across the seat bottom. There should be some space around the springs so they don’t hit each other or the frame when you sit on them. Most of the time, you can use the same springs you pulled out of your chair when putting it back together. Springs should be compressed when tied, so they don’t feel too bouncy. And yes, it is easier to place tacks for the diagonal rows at an angle, though not required. See my last response about the knots around both top and second rungs. Thanks!

Brandy,
So glad you’re loving your video! I would suggest finding local supply companies in your area, if possible. We use the Austin upholstery supply company and get deliveries twice a day, which is really convenient. If you don’t have a local supply shop, try http://www.diyupholsterysupply.com. I have not ordered from them, but it looks like they have the tools and supplies we use.

Yasmin,
We carry the Manuel Canovas fabric at Spruce and would be happy to order it for you. You can call us at (512) 454-8181.

Thanks all! And by the way, if you haven’t already, try a gel manicure. I recently stumbled upon it and will never go back. It lasts for 2 weeks, even with massive hands-on work!

Helen

Love the tutorial! Just wondering, once you’ve stripped the chair do you need to fill in the tack holes that are left before beginning to reupholster? And if so, how would you do it?

Thanks.

Karen Pound

Amanda,

I am totally/completely inspired. Just bought a 1920’s victorian sofa. I am jumping off this re-upholstrery adventure and will learn ‘how to’ upholstery this beauty. Question, what if the frame needs to be secured and reinforced? Would you consider a tutorial that surrounds this common question. Much obliged – Karen

Kate S

That’s a great tutorial. Can you show also how to finish the chair (with the fabric) nicely?

Amanda

Helen,
It’s not necessary to fill in the tack holes before you start upholstering, unless it’s riddled with so many holes the wood won’t accept staples and tacks. I’ve only seen this once since I started upholstery, but if you do come across this, mix sawdust and wood glue, fill in the holes, and let it dry.

Karen,
A tutorial on reinforcing frames sounds like a great idea. I will see about working that in. In the meantime, clamps and wood glue will fix most loose joints. Otherwise you may need to consult a woodworker.

Kate,
Stay tuned for more blog posts. I’ll be continuing with this chair, so you’ll get to see it from beginning to end.

Emma

I love you Spruce! I have been attending upholstery classes, recovering a chair almost identical to this one here in Australia. I’ve always meant to take photos at each stage like you have so I could recover more chairs on my own and you have done it for me!
Can’t wait for the next instalment. I only wish we had an Aussie Spruce!
Cheers,
Emma
Yes to a book too

Jo

Great tutorial. It is interesting to see the differences in materials and techniques across the world. We don’t get webbing nearly as wide as that in the UK and we tend to lash springs with a single strand of twine. I shall have a go with the double strand technique next time at get a sprung chair.

Debi

Thank you so much. I need to repair my Grandfathers leather office chair. I think I can do this? The springs worry me.

Val

Thank you so much!!!. I need to repair a chair for a good friend.Tying the springs is exactly what has been keeping me from upholstering. Your tutorial is so clear that I now have no fear! Thank you soooo much!

Cindy

Shhhh! Don’t tell my husband, but I think I’m in love with you! No, not in a creepy way – in an omg-I-can’t-believe-I-finally-get-how-to-do-the-dang-springs-in-an-upholstered-seat sort of way! LOL

Missy

Finally, someone who makes springs less intimidating. I do have a question though. I notice the front piece of wood has a curve. Does the webbing follow the curve? Not sure if that would throw off the height of the spring in that area. Thanks. My chairs have that same curved shape.

Geri Belt

I’m up to this spot, but am having trouble with putting the fabric on. can you tell me where to go to see that?

Marg

This is just what I have been looking for, clear photos, and basic instructions step by step, I hope you will show us how to do a curved love seat.

Roberta Noll

I have a chair quite similar to the one shown. I would like to know more about it. Can you help me? Thanks.

John

Question about twine. Hardware store sisal twine versus hemp twine, is there a huge difference? The rating on twine is either ply or pounds, what’s the correlation? Thanks.
John

Amanda Brown

John,
I’ve used the sisal twine when I’ve been in a pinch, but I find it to be very rough on your hands. I’ve never used hemp twine, but I would imagine it is similar to jute. Ply refers to the number of strands in the rope and pounds refers to the strength of the rope. I don’t believe they correlate to each other. I picked up a 7lb. jute twine that seems about half as durable as it needs to be if that helps you gauge twine strength. The Ruby Italian jute twine is five ply and has worked great for all seat spring tying I’ve done in the past. I would suggest it over any twine you find at the hardware store. Bottom line, the twine should not break when you pull as hard as possible (the 7lb. twine did), and it’s best if the rope has a smoother exterior so your hands don’t get cut up with hours of spring tying.

LeAnne

Amanda, Thank you so much for the great tutorial! You commented in your post to Naomi that the springs should be compressed when tying, but there isn’t any mention of compression in the tutorial. Can you elaborate on that? Also, I have a friend with a sofa that needs the springs worked on. Can you provide/add a diagram of what the tying would look like on a larger piece-like a sofa? I can’t visualize connecting the diagonals with a piece that has more vertical rows than horizontal rows.

BTW- gel nails rock!

Jojo

Just found your tutorial, Amanda, THANK YOU! I’ve just finished the painstaking deconstruction on an antique seating stool, and was trying to imagine where to begin, and now I can follow this very well done instructional. It appears in the deconstruction my seat was tied from the underside vs the sitting side.

Julia

I LOVE this tutorial.. GREAT JOB!! How do you know what size springs to use. My chair doesn’t have any because all I bought was the frame. I need to buy some and I don’t know how tall they should be. I think I need 9 gauge because its for the seat of a queen anne type chair. Any thoughts?

Cynthia Kane

I agree with sooooo many of the above comments….did you publish a book yet? With your simple and clear way of teaching and pictures you welcome others to want to get started on a project if they don’t already have one to work on!!!! Thanks for making this available to all of us….keep up the fantastic work!!!…:)…:)

sheila

thank you execellent examples and attention to detail on how to reupolster with springs. Very helpful

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