Dolls House Upholstery in Miniature Final Part -

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13 August 2012
imports_HAC_chair-002_47756.jpg Dolls House Upholstery in Miniature Final Part -
Make and upholster your own Retro style faux leather chair with Jane Harrop. ...

In the final part of our upholstery series, Jane Harrop will show us how to use leatherette cloth to upholster a Retro faux leather chair.

The Retro era is generally considered to be between the 1950s and 1970s, however, it is difficult to be absolutely precise. The biggest changes in upholstery methods and techniques are generally associated with technological advances. The biggest influences being the mechanical developments that took place during the industrial revolution and then the production of man-made materials at the beginning of the 20th century.

After WWII, by the early '50s, manufacturing restrictions had finally been lifted. Modern and contemporary furniture designs using synthetic fabrics and materials like tubular steel became extremely popular. The wealthy were keen to furnish their homes in up-to-the-minute style, and the less well off went for small and portable pieces of furniture like this chair to bring a touch of panache to their homes.

Leatherette or faux leather is made from a plastic PVC covered fabric, and was a fashionable upholstery covering this time being much cheaper than leather and requiring less maintenance. It was also produced in a wide range of colours and embossed styles. Prompted by the success of my Art Deco three piece suite using leatherette paper, I delved into my bookbinding box and came up with the leatherette cloth to furnish this retro armless chair.

Galvanised tubular steel was a revolutionary material and I am using aluminium rod to re-create this effect. I originally tried this project with tubing, but it easily distorted and broke, so I used the rod instead.

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Materials Required

  • From 1/2" diameter hardwood dowel cut 5 x 2" lengths
  • From 3/32" thick wood cut a piece 3" x 2" for back
  • From 3/32" thick wood cut a piece 2-1/2" x 2" for seat
  • Approx. 12" x 12" piece of leatherette cloth
  • 2 x 12" lengths of 1/16" diameter aluminium rod
  • Pewter sheet cut 8 x 3/8" x 3/16" lengths for brackets
  • Shoe polish in colour of the cloth
  • Tacky Glue
  • Super Glue Gel
  • Double Sided tape
  • Masking tape

Tools Required

  • Sand paper
  • Craft knife
  • Small saw/junior hacksaw
  • Small file
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Clean cloth
  • Nail clippers (optional)

Step 1

  • Split the pieces of dowl in half length ways.
  • Ensure that they are all the same size - if not, cut some more.
  • Retain the best 9 rolls of cushion

Step 2

  • Cut a small piece of leatherette cloth approx. 3/4" x 1/2".
  • Glue to the end of the wooden half-roll.
  • Leave the glue to dry.
  • Carefully cut away the excess cloth with small sharp scissors. Make sure you cut it flat and not at an angle.
  • Repeat at the other end of the piece.
  • Repeat this process with all 9 rolls.  

Step 3

  • Cut a piece of leatherette cloth 2-1/4" x 1-3/16".
  • Apply tacky glue to the rounded top part of the cushion roll.
  • Align one short end of the cloth with the end of the roll.
  • It should hide the outside edges of the end piece.
  • Then trim the opposite end to the same length as the roll ensuring it is covering the outside edges of the end piece.   

Step 4

  • Apply tacky glue to the flat side of the roll and secure the covering into position around the cushion.
  • The edges of the cloth should more or less meet on the flat side. Do not let it overlap or this will cause unnecessary bulk.
  • Repeat with the other 9 cushion pieces.

Step 5

  • Take the back piece and chamfer/angle one short end to 60 degrees.
  • Repeat on the seat piece.
  • Fit the two angled ends together and secure with masking tape on the back of the seat. Do not glue together at this stage.
  • This should allow for the back piece to recline slightly.
  • Put a piece of double sided sticky tape on the front of the chair (see 1st photo below).
  • Remove the top protective layer of the double sided tape and retain for use later on.
  • Take 1 cushion and position on the seat at the back of the chair.
  • The double sided sticky tape will hold it in position temporarily. (2nd photo below)  
  • Continue to position 3 more cushions on the top of the seat with no gaps between them.
  • Position the remaining 5 pieces on the chair back, again starting at the bottom and leaving no spaces between them. (See 1st photo below)
  • Draw a pencil line next to the front and top roll of cushions as shown in the 1st photo below.
  • Remove the cushions.
  • Remove the masking tape from the back of the chair.
  • Recover the the double sided tape with it's protective layer.
  • Trim each wooden piece back to the pencil line and check that the pieces fit nicely in place before continuing.  

Step 6

  • Glue the two wooden seat pieces together.
  • Support until the glue is dry.
  • I have left the double sided sticky tape in place as it will help secure the cushions later.
  • Cut a piece of leatherette cloth 6" x 3".
  • Glue this centrally to the back of the chair. (1st photo below).
  • Use small sharp scissors to roughly trim off the corners.
  • Cut into the fold of the cloth to allow neat coverage on the outside of the chair (2nd photo below).
  • Fold and glue the cloth on top of the chair.
  • Ensure that the surplus does not overlap and cause excess bulk.
  • It is important that the cloth is well glued down.
  • Wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth and leave to dry.
  • Polish the cloth on chair back and the 9 pieces with shoe polish and buff to a sheen.
  • This will also cover up any little mishaps or gaps you may have on the chair pieces.    

Step 7

  • Position and glue the seat pieces on the seat.
  • Start at the back of the seat and work your way forward and upwards.
  • Leave to dry.

Step 8

  • Using the diagram as guideline, bend the 2 pieces of aluminium rod into shape as per the diagram below.
  • As a guide, the length of the back piece is 2-1/2" above the bend, and 1-3/8" below the bend.
  • Use a junior hacksaw to cut off any excess rod.
  • Sand the ends smooth using a small file.
  • You may need to practice on spare rods until you are happy with the bending technique.    

Step 9

  • Cut and shape the pewter sheet into 8 brackets.
  • Use a piece of rod to get the shape correct.
  • Cut the brackets down so that there is an excess of 1/16" either side.
  • Nip off the corners of each bracket with nail clippers.
  • Use super glue gel to attach 2 brackets to the leg frame.
  • Repeat with the other leg frame.
  • Dry fit the leg frames and use a piece of masking tape to hold in place under the seat.
  • They should be approx. 3/16" in from the outside edge of the covered seat.
  • When you are happy with the position, superglue to the seat base.
  • Finally glue the brackets to the back of the chair.
  • If you can find longer lengths of aluminium rod than 12", then you can create the legs as one continuous piece.


This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.

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