I recently acquired a beautiful antique regency Sussex chair. Although it was a bargain, the rush seat had completely disintegrated. As I had time on my hand, I decided to learn rush weaving and renovate the chair myself. After several set backs, I finally managed to refurbish this chair to a usable condition.
As comfortable as the seat is, I soon realised that the back of the chair cuts into my back when I recline on it. I thought the best way to solve this problem was to put a cushion. Initially I was just going to buy a standard cheap cushion but realised that the wrong cushion would completely ruin the look of the chair (such first world problems!).
I started my search for a cushion that would match the aesthetic of the chair and although it eventually led me to Liberty, I soon realised a decent cushion would set me back nearly £100. I was shocked! This is the capitalisation of cushions! A once humble padding, elevated to the status of fashionable home accessory! That got me thinking. For a price of a cushion, I could get quality materials and make more than one. Any spare cushions would make a lovely Christmas present.
I eventually found this beautiful upholstery fabric in Liberty but it was all sold out online. For £130 per meter, there sure are a lot of rich people out there. I decided to head to the store instead to see the fabric, and when I did, I completely fell in love with it. The price was a major drawback but I realised that I only need to buy enough to make a few cushions. This also meant that I was not setting myself to waste any materials.
I then got some cotton velvet, zips and silk piping. I thought I might as well source good quality materials and concentrate on a high finish. The final cost of one cushion was definitely much cheaper than what they sold in store, but I now understand why the price point is so high. Yes I could have used cheaper and synthetic materials but that’s not the point. It’s not always about the price but more the careful selection of appropriate and good quality materials, a high finish, sustainability, the creation of something that will last and that is easy to repair. At the end of the day, I am reverting a fashion piece back to a humble padding. Form without function is useless.
When I had determined the size of the duck filled cushions, I started drawing a pattern. Yes it may just be a square but I wanted to conceal the zip with a tab so had to draw a separate pattern for the back of the cushions. It initially took me a while to sew the zips in as I was working out the best way to create a professional finish. Eventually it worked out exactly the way I wanted.
To be honest, I hate sewing velvet. The pile can flatten easily and sometimes an iron can completely destroy it. The velvet also has a tendency to move about when it is being sewn. I had so much stress sewing it in the past that I was surprised at my confidence in attempting it again.
I was also glad of the choice of piping that I made. While there was a wealth of choices in the haberdashery shop, without a clear idea of what I wanted, the options soon became a tedious exercise in selection. Do I go for gold or navy, rope or bound, matt or satin? Eventually I settled on this navy silk satin binding that looked easy to handle and slim enough to not stand out.
I had to watch a YouTube video to remind myself how to finish the start and ends of the binding. Unfortunately, none showed the finish with this type of binding so I had to experiment with hand stitching the ends (which looked crude), gluing the ends (too messy) or just letting it be (the silk started to fray). Eventually I remembered seeing the finishing of a very expensive cushion; the binding just curved off leaving an overlap between the start and the end. It looked great!
I also learnt a trick when buying cushions. As duck filled cushions go flat very easily, I picked one size larger so it stays plump and provides enough padding for the back.
When I placed the cushion on my chair, the effect was an overflow of plumped opulence, inviting the weary to rest their buttocks on the seat and recline into respite. Maybe a glass of aperitif was involved (or maybe two), but I am elated with the results, especially since it took a while for this chair and cushion to come together.
Looking at all the other limp and uninviting store-bought cushions in the living room, I’m glad I stuck with my ethos of ‘why buy when you can make?’!