Dolls House Upholstery in Miniature Part 3 - Working with Cotton Fabric

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27 April 2012
imports_HAC_edwardianthreepiecesui_20469.jpg Edwardian Three Piece Suite
In the 3rd part of this series, Jane shows us how to make and upholster an Edwardian three-piece suite using cotton fabric. ...
Dolls House Upholstery in Miniature Part 3 - Working with Cotton Fabric Images

This is a great project for those who aren't keen on cutting their own wood. You can easily substitute the 1/16" wood with mount board, and the 3/16" wood with foam board, both of which are available form art/crafts shops. You will still need wood for the legs though.

Working with Cotton Fabric

  • I would recommend using lightweight 100% cotton fabric for miniature upholstery.
  • Lightweight cotton is produced in a huge range of colours and small printed patterns, many of which are produced for patchwork. Specialist patchwork shops sell small pieces of cotton, known as fat or thin quarters. A fat quarter is 22 x 18 inches and a thin quarter is 9 x 44 inches.
  • The main difficulty, particularly when ordering from a website, is the ability to gauge the size of the print. When I do find some the right scale, I buy them and store until required.
  • One of the benefits of working with patterned cotton fabric as opposed to plain silk, is that glue or water won't mark the fabric quite as noticeably. Cotton fabric is also more stretchy and flexible than silk and much easier for the beginner to upholster with.

Choosing Fabric Trimmings

  • Trimmings are generally used in upholstery to cover the edges of fabric and hide tacks, but they are also good for emphasising the shapes and lines on a piece of furniture as well as providing decoration.
  • Specialist traders dealing in small scale haberdashery are the best choice for trimmings and often sell a wide variety of delicate braids and cords. When choosing trimmings ensure that they are the correct scale for your furniture.
  • Three piece suites have been made since the 18th century, but would only have been afforded by the very wealthy. Developments in the mass production of furniture making at the beginning of the 20th century meant that comfortable, matching, upholstered suites became available to the mass market.
  • During the Edwardian era, printed chinz cotons were particularly popular as they gave the room a ligher, more feminine look.



Suitable fabric and trimmings selections


From 3/16" strip wood or foam board cut:

  • 3-1/2" x 1-5/8" cut 1 for sofa base
  • 1-7/7" x 1-5.8" cut 2 for chair bases

From 1/16" strip wood or mount board cut:

  • 2" x 1-5/8" cut 6 for sides
  • 1/2" x 1-5/8" cut 1 for sofa cushion
  • 1-7/8" x 1-5/8" cut 2 for chair cushions
  • 3-1/2" x 2" cut 1 for sofa back
  • 2" x 1-7/8" cut 2 for chair backs

From 3/16 x 3/16 square mahogany stripwood cut:

  • 1-1/4" lengths cut 12 for legs

Also required:

  • Cotton fabric, approximately 12" x 12" square
  • 9" x 1/2" length of micropore tape
  • 200g weight wadding approximately 12" x 5"
  • Trimming - approximately 30"
  • A4 white card for templates
  • Beeswax polish
  • Mahogany wood stain
  • Thick tacky glue


  • Sand paper - various grades
  • Mitre cutters or sharp knife
  • Small file or emery board

Step 1

  • Take 6 of the leg pieces and cut or sand each end to an angle of 75 degrees.
  • These will be the back legs.
  • Polish these and the remaining 6 front legs.


Step 2

  • Using the template below, cut out a card template.
  • Transfer this to the 6 side pieces.
  • First roughly cut away the excess wood with a sharp knife or wood clippers.



  • Tape the pieces together with masking tape.
  • Using first medium then fine sand paper, smooth and shape the curves.
  • All 6 pieces should then be the same size and shape!


Step 3

  • On the sofa and the 2 chair bases cut out 3/16" squares from each corner.
  • Always cut against the grain first, then with in the grain to prevent the wood splitting.


  • Stain one side of each base piece with mahogany stain to match the legs.
  • If you used foam board, paint to match the legs.

Step 4

  • Place the base piece stained side up on a flat worksurface.
  • Position and glue a front leg into position in the 2 front cut out sections and leave to dry.
  • Slightly angle the cut out sections of the back two holes with a file or narrow emery board.
  • Check that the back legs fit in correctly, and adjust until you have a good fit.
  • Don't glue in the back legs yet.



Step 5

  • Cut 2 pieces of fabric 2-3/8" x 7/16" for the chair bases.
  • Cut 1 piece of fabric 4" x 7/16" for the sofa base.
  • Attach a length of micropore tape along the centre of each.
  • Fold 1/8" of fabric over widthways and lightly glue.
  • Repeat the procedure on the other side to make a strip measuring 3/16" wide.



  • Position and glue the fabric trim around the edge of the base pieces.
  • Thus enclosing the front legs and secure the fabric to the sides.

Step 6

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  • Take the cushion wood pieces.
  • Lightly cover one flat side with glue.
  • Place on the wadding.
  • When dry, trim the wadding back to the size of the wood.
  • Lay this piece wadding side down onto the underside of the fabric.
  • Cut out a piece that is 3/4" larger on all 4 sides making sure the pattern or grain is straight/lined up.
  • Trim the corners of the fabric.
  • Glue the opposite ends of the fabric neatly to the underside.
  • Glue the remaining fabric to the underside of the wood making neat corners.



Step 7

  • Position and glue the cushions on top of the base construction.
  • Make sure that all the outside edges are flush and positioned the correct way for the grain/pattern of the fabric.
  • Run a line of glue along the join at the front.
  • Position a length of trimming/braid on top securing the ends to the sides.


Step 8

  • Take a piece of card and draw a pencil line a third of the way down.
  • Place a chair back piece between two side pieces on the line.
  • Leave a gap of 1/8" between each piece.
  • Draw around the outside edges.
  • Repeat this with the 2nd chair, and the sofa.
  • Cut out the template.



Step 9

  • On the wooden pieces, draw a pencil line 1/4" up from the bottom edges.
  • Glue a piece of wadding on top of each one leaving the 1/4" below the lines clear of wadding.



  •  Cut a piece of fabric 1/2" larger than each wooden piece.
  • Glue the fabric over the wadding, securing the material to the wood at the base of the wadding.
  • Glue the excess neatly to the back of each piece.


Step 10

  • Take the chair back template and check the fit against the covered back and side pieces.
  • All the outside edges should be flush - don't forget there is a gap of 1/8" between the pieces!
  • If necessary trim the card to size.
  • Cover the chair back template with fabric but NOT with any wadding.
  • Line up the outside edges of the back and side places with the card template and glue together.



Step 11

  • Run a line of glue along the side and back edge of the chair base.
  • Fold and secure the the back construction around it with the bottom edges flush.
  • I have used an elastic band to hold it in place whilst the glue dries - see 1st photo below.
  • Repeat with the other chair/sofa pieces.
  • Carefully run a fine line of glue along the fabric joints on each piece of furniture.
  • Position a length of trimming on top securing the ends to the underside.
  • Position and glue the back legs into position on each piece of furniture.



Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6 (Coming Soon)

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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