We ask Vicky Grubb, author of exciting new book, The Beginner’s Guide to Upholstery,
how she got started in upholstery. Read on to find out what inspires her work…
What first sparked your interest in upholstery?
I was always sewing as a child as my mum was a seamstress. When I was about 16 my nan gave me a 1960’s Ercol sofa and I covered it in fake leopard print fur. I suppose that was my first upholstery piece – I didn’t really know what I was doing back then though! After a few years in some unfulfilling jobs after university, I saw a career coach and she made me realise what my true passion was.
How did you get started?
I started taking an evening class in upholstery in my mid twenties at a School in Kingston Upon Thames. My teacher, Sarah Bolton, also did a college course on a Friday and I enrolled on a City and Guilds.
There are lots of vintage fabrics in your book – where do you source them?
Oh gosh, well, I look for vintage fabrics whenever I’m out – I just can’t help myself! I like going to car boot sales and flea markets and I like popping in to charity shops when I’m heading down the high street. The best vintage fabrics for me tend to come from collectors though, either found online or at flea markets, but you do get the odd surprise in a charity shop!
Do you really only need a domestic sewing machine to tackle the projects in your book?
I work on a semi industrial sewing machine and for adding piping and sewing up cushions its ideal and easy to use. It’s also portable so you can work from your kitchen table in your free time.
Do you need lots of specialist tools to start upholstery?
In my book I describe the basic toolkit that I use, I sell one of these on my website for £79 and this will give you the basics you need. For the projects in my book you will need to get yourself a staple gun, and they come in various forms. If you are buying a hand held stapler or an electric stapler, it’s best to buy one that holds a broad range of staple sizes as sometimes you will need a longer staple length for all those layers.
Have you got a favourite fabric designer?
Ooh that’s a difficult one, there are so many new fabric designers launching their ranges. In terms of new fabrics I love the geometric shapes of Korla Home. I also adore St Judes whimsical prints. With vintage fabrics I love Dekoplus which is a Dutch fabric company from the 60’s – they had a great range of Scandinavian prints, these look great on a vintage sewing box.
What item of furniture do you enjoy tackling most?
My favourite style of furniture is mid century style. I adore tapered legs, and slimline shapes. I enjoy a challenge though, so for me, the item I like to tackle the most is the chair shape I’ve not come across before.
Which is the most difficult?
I would say the most challenging thing about upholstery is coming across something you haven’t seen before, no two chairs are ever the same.
Is it getting harder to find good pieces of furniture at car boot sales etc?
I suppose it depends on what you are looking for. With the popularity of vintage furniture, its almost easier to find these days – however, sellers have cottoned on to this so these pieces are now more pricey. You can still pick up popular styles like a Parker Knoll wing chair in charity shops though for less than £50.
What project are you working on at the moment?
I’m just about to tackle eight lovely Ernest Race alluminium dining chairs for a client. She has chosen a wool fabric from Camira Fabrics. Other than that I have a studio full of students’ chairs at the moment booked on to my 6 week upholstery course.