The Upholstery Bureau really wants you to enjoy your course and your time in the workshop. If you have some questions, maybe I can answer a few here.
Concerns about Covid 19 Safety measures?
Currently there are no restrictions in place but you may wish to know that the workshop is well ventilated with doors on the farthest sides that are frequently opened to circulate air. On warm days, the rear door and two windows to the outside are left open. There will only ever be a maximum of 6 students, including you, on the same course. You have your own bench to work at and a tool box and a basket to stow your bags in while you are in the workshop. The workshop and its equipment is cleaned and sanitised regularly.
Do you need to pay in advance for courses?
Yes! And sometimes there are Early Bird offers (reducing the term fees) so you can keep an eye out for these.
What happens if you have to cancel ?
If you cancel more than 14 days before the start of the course, you will receive a full refund*(less any credit card charges). If you cancel less than 14 days, sadly, the Bureau cannot offer a refund, but you will receive a Credit Note. We can re-schedule your course up to 2 times.
If you have paid for a short or intensive course (2,3 or 4 days) and then find that you are unwell or cannot attend, you will of course be given a Credit Note to enable you to attend the next available course that works for you. We can reschedule up to 2 times only.
If you are enrolled on a One Day course, and give less than 24 hours notice that you cannot attend, I’m afraid you will be charged for the course. If the course is cancelled by the tutor, you will be given a refund or a credit note, which ever you prefer.
*If for any reason a course fee needs to be refunded, eg booked by mistake, then charges will be deducted for credit card payments (2% charge).
Can you make up a class if you miss one?
Yes – usually. The Upholstery Bureau will do their utmost to help you make up the class. If you are enrolled on an 8 or 12 week course, and miss more than one class, we will still do our best to help you to make up at least one but it may not be possible to make up all the missed classes, either due to your schedule or what space is available.
What happens if the Bureau has to cancel a course ?
If the Upholstery Bureau should have to cancel classes for any reason, you will be given first notice and your course or remaining classes will be rescheduled for as soon as possible within a 8 week period. If the course or class cannot be rescheduled to start within that period, then you will be issued with a Credit Note. If a refund is required, you will be refunded 50% of your fee or the remaining weeks of your course, which ever is less.
Can you leave your project in the workshop while you attend your course?
Yes – you may store your project in the workshop for the duration of your course. You should provide a dust sheet of some kind to cover it. To avoid disappointment, you must ensure that the tutor has agreed your project. Some students wish to leave their fabric in the workshop once they are at that stage, and that is fine to do so. Please label your belongings. Your project and fabric and any items are left at your own risk.
Is there parking on site ?
There is no parking on site in the blue yard by the Pub or Duke of London in Catherine Wheel Road, except for deliveries and collections (about 20 minutes). Parking is available at Morrisons (with their parking app) or the NCP in Dock Road or The Butts Estate (parking app).
What project is suitable for you to do?
If you are a complete beginner, you should start with a beginner type project and that’s a footstool, a dining chair or a pair of dining chairs, a drop in seat or two. Basically any single pad item. Please take a look at the Guide for Choosing a Project which provides an idea of the work and skill involved when doing different projects. Occasionally, a student might have ‘crafty’ skills, be a whiz at sewing and have a project that is slightly outside this criteria (such as a small nursing chair or prie dieu but these are considered carefully). If you choose a project that is too big or difficult, and without skills, previous knowledge or SPEED, you will find the job takes a long time. You could get discouraged before you’ve even discovered your talent! And of course talk to me and you must send me a photo of your project. Everyone, beginner or more advanced, should ALWAYS send me a photo of their project before bringing it into the workshop!
What tips are there for choosing a project?
Tip 1: If you are a beginner, start with a beginner type project such as drop in seat(s), a footstool or a dining chair or two or any item that has one or two upholstered pads. Sometimes a small nursing chair or prie dieu is an appropriate first project too.
Tip 2: I generally recommend that students rip out (removal of upholstery) their first project at least, with me, in the workshop as this is part of the learning process. And until you start ripping out your project, you won’t really know what lies beneath and your tutor can explain the layers you are removing and also see any particulars about your project. Consider too that there are pros and cons to older pieces (broken bits, hole-y wood, general disintegration!) but as well to modern pieces (poor construction, zillions of staples to remove, awkward for re-upholstery). We can carry out simple repairs and re-glueing in the upholstery workshop but we are not a restoration or wood workshop, so any paint or varnish removal (sanding or with paint or varnish stripper) needs to be done at home by you. You would need to strip off the upholstery appropriately and then take your project home to carry out this part.
If I recommend certain projects, particularly to beginners, I am considering your ability, other skills you may have, the length of your course and what you might reasonably finish in ‘good and reasonable time’. As students progress, I consider other projects in your class and how long these will take individual students to complete based on their skill level – and storage of all the projects in the workshop. While the Upholstery Bureau endeavours to be flexible and to cater to individual needs, it is not always possible to meet them.
Tip 3: If you are early in your upholstery career, I strongly recommend that you do pieces for yourself or very close family. Start with a footstool, drop in seats or a traditional dining chair(s) – a traditionally sprung dining chair or a nursing chair (some are acceptable). Small is not always easy, and upholstery is often ‘awkward.’ These are the sorts of projects where you achieve and finish sooner rather than later. The finished results will spur you on. You’ll increase your knowledge, improve your techniques as well as speed up.
Can you reupholster a sofa or chaise longe at The Bureau?
No, sadly there isn’t enough space to accommodate large projects like sofas, chaise longes, two seaters or large headboards.
What is traditional upholstery?
Traditional upholstery is the time honoured practice of using natural materials, hammers and tacks, needles and twine, hand-tied springs, stitchings and stuffings to create all the beautifully shaped pads and seating for older pieces of furniture. Like anything that is worth doing well, it does take time. Beautiful time and your hands and mind. We also strive to employ the best practises of conservation and preservation, by re-using horse hair and re-working any pads that are salvageable. Traditional upholstery is the building blocks of all good upholstery, whether you are doing modern or traditional pieces. Even if you love mid century furniture, your work and understanding will only be enhanced by doing at least 3 or 4 traditional projects. We often use a mixture of traditional and modern techniques now, tacking some elements and stapling other, to preserve the wooden frame.
What is modern upholstery?
Enter the staple gun, foam and zig zag springs. All marvellous things and usually quicker to create shapes and pads in many cases, depending on your skill level. However, many modern pieces require that you use specific and appropriate fabrics and you may require some good sewing skills. Again, we combine some useful traditional skills with modern, such as temporary tacking pieces first, using calico and sheet waddings to enhance the shape of pads aesthetically but also for comfort.
Do you need to bring tools or materials?
No, all the tools and staple guns are provided for your course. Materials for re-upholstery are also provided and you pay for what you use towards the end of your course. You need to bring your project and then later your own top fabric and any trimming if necessary. If you are doing a buttoned item, your tutor will help you with how to order these.
What fabrics are suitable for upholstery and how much will you need?
Once you have a project in mind, send me a photo of the item so that we both agree it is the right project for you. For beginner projects, you should only need between 1-2m of top fabric. For more advanced projects, you will learn to measure for top fabric and make a cutting plan on your course. There are Yardage Charts online too (search Yardage Charts for Fabric) that show pictures of loads of chairs, and you can usually find something similar to yours, and it will give you an estimate of how much fabric you will need. We will also talk about choosing fabrics in the classes, and choosing the right fabric for the job, as some fabrics are more difficult to work with, but you want upholstery weight fabric with a Martindale (rub test) grade of 30,000 and over. No elasticated fabrics and a good rule is that, if you can see through the fabric, it’s definitely not suitable.
Where do you buy fabrics from?
Designers Guild, ROMO, Clarke & Clarke, Ian Mankin, Linwood, Colefax & Fowler, Sanderson, Osborn & Little, Nina Campbell, GP&J Baker, Zoffany, Vanessa Arbuthnott, Loome, Zobodo – to name just a few of so many fabric designers…they all have websites, so that is a starting point for a little inspiration!
Haines Collection buys up designer ends of rolls that would otherwise be wasted. JustFabrics can do some great and less expensive fabrics – take a look online. Start ordering some samples and see what you like!
What places can I go to for fabrics?
The Curtain Factory Outlet in North Finchley, The Cloth Store in Portobello Road, Designers Guild Shop in the Kings Road, John Lewis Brent Cross, Peter Jones Sloane Square.
Are there any other costs?
Everyone has a materials’ sheet in the workshop to record what they use and towards the end of your course, the materials are added up and paid for by card. Most materials are available in the workshop and if necessary, your tutor will help you to source a material through an established upholstery supplier. I use Blackbarn Upholstery Supplies, upholsteryshop.co.uk, upholsterywarehouse.co.uk and jamiltonsupholstery.co.uk and buttoningcovering.co.uk as well as efoam.co.uk as well as other sites.
Is there any way I can 'fast track' and learn upholstery quickly?
Try an instensive course, or enrol for a full day each week. Work on a chair in the workshop, and work on a similar one by yourself at home at the same time. Just do more upholstery! If you are interested in doing a qualification, I recommend the Met School of Furniture in Aldgate or the British School of Upholstered Furniture in Henley.