Dolls House Upholstery in Miniature Part 6 - Using leatherette paper

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17 July 2012
imports_HAC_artdecostylearmchair_63850.jpg Art Deco Style Arm Chair
Jane completes her history of upholstery and uses leatherette paper to upholster an Art Deco three piece suite ...

Traditional materials and methods of upholstery continued to prosper during the first half of the twentieth century. Mass production of upholstered furniture thrived as techniques improved and the growing numbers of middle class home owners desired fashionable home furnishings. Three piece suites were particularly popular for their comfort and as well as being a status symbol.

The Art Deco movement had a big influence on furniture design and was characterised by its clean and simple, distinct shapes. Synthetic fabrics became commercially available at the beginning of the twentieth century and played a huge part in the design, construction and price of mass produced upholstered furniture. Synthetic fabrics were often much more durable and considerably cheaper than natural fabrics and were particularly popular when printed with strong geometric patterns.

During the Second World War the government introduced a Utility Scheme to save on the unnecessary usage of materials and to standardise upholstered furniture design. Fabrics were required to have small patterns to avoid wastage when matching joining pieces and arms were generally left un-upholstered.

After wartime restrictions had been lifted the production of upholstered furniture flourished with the use of new materials such as plastics, moulded plywood and tubular steel, allowing designers to be much more creative.

Today advances in technology ensure that upholstered furniture remains popular. Traditional and modern methods are combined to reproduce historical classics, as well as modern and contemporary designs.

Leatherette paper

In the first project of the series, I demonstrated how to upholster a wing armchair using leather. The advantage of using thin, soft glove leather for miniature upholstery is it’s naturally stretchy and therefore easy to manipulate when covering a wooden padded frame. The disadvantages of upholstering with leather are the cost and the occurrence of natural blemishes in the skin - if it isn’t best quality. An alternative to using leather for straightforward upholstery is leatherette paper. It is also known as leather paper or embossed leather paper and is commonly used to cover boxes and books.

There are many benefits of working with good quality, leatherette paper against other upholstery coverings.

·         Should tacky glue come into contact with the outside of the paper, it can simply be wiped away with a damp cloth.

·         It is easy to cut and won’t fray.

·         Tacky glue won’t bleed through the paper.

·         Any mishaps and the paper can be touched up with a similar coloured shoe polish.

Leatherette paper sounds marvellous doesn’t it? Unfortunately its main disadvantage is that it isn’t pliable, which makes it unsuitable for many upholstery projects. We can however, use it to cover this Art Deco three piece suite as it is made up in simple, unpadded, block sections.

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Materials required

NB: this project uses a lot of wood and because it is all being covered there is no need to keep to the same wood type or use best quality. I have taken the opportunity to use off-cuts and in some cases the grain of the cut does not always run with the length.

Wood pieces for one armchair (double up to make two armchairs)

From 1/4” (6mm) thick wood:

  • Eight 1/2” x 1/2” (13mm x 13mm) for blocks
  • Two 2-11/16” x 2-1/8” (68 x 54mm) for back
  • Two 2-1/8” x 1” (54mm x 25mm) for seat spacers

From 1/8” (3mm) thick wood:

  • Four 2-3/4” x 2” (70 x 51mm) for arms
  • 2-1/8” x 2-1/16” (54 x 52mm) for base
  • 2-3/16” x 2-1/8” (56 x 54mm) for seat

Wood pieces for the sofa

From 1/4” (6mm) thick wood:

  • Eight 1/2” x 1/2” (13mm x 13mm) for blocks
  • Two 4-1/4” x 2-11/16” (108mm x 68mm) for back
  • Two 4-1/4” x 1” (108mm x 25mm) for seat spacers

From 1/8” (3mm) thick wood:

  • Four 2-3/4” x 2” (70mm x 51mm) for arms
  • 4-1/4” x 2-1/16” (108mm x 52mm) for base
  • 4-1/4” x 2-3/16” (108 x 56mm) for seat

General materials

  • Three A4 sheets of leatherette paper for covering
  • Six 9” x 1/2” (229mm x 13mm) strips of thin card for edging

Tools required

  • Glue
  • Sanding paper
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Craft knife

To make a chair

NB: Extra instructions needed for making up the sofa will appear in italics.

Step 1

Transfer all the measurements to the arm wood pieces.   

Step 2

Cut and sand the pieces to size. Refer to the previous step photograph to shape the curved section at the front of each arm. It is a good idea at the final stages of sanding to tape the four pieces together to ensure they are all exactly the same shape.   

Step 3

Position and glue four blocks, wide side down, to each corner of an arm piece. 

Step 4

Once dry, position and glue another arm piece on top to sandwich the blocks in-between. It is important to ensure that the two side pieces are both in-line with each other. Whilst the glue dries, keep checking to ensure they do not go out of alignment. Repeat the procedure with the remaining arms and block pieces.  

Step 5

Take a completed arm piece and position and glue the strip of edging card all around the outside edge. It is essential that the card is thoroughly glued into place. Start and finish at the back bottom corner. Repeat the procedure with the remaining arm construction.    

Step 6

Take the two back pieces and glue together. Once dry, chamfer a short edge to an angle of 80 degrees. On the sofa, chamfer a long edge.

Step 7

Take the base piece and chamfer a long edge to an angle of 80 degrees. Repeat the procedure with the seat piece, this time on a short edge. Basically you are chamfering an edge that measures 2-1/8” (54mm) long on each piece. On the sofa, chamfer a long edge on each.

Step 8

Position the base piece with the chamfered edge sloping downwards towards your work surface. Glue a seat spacer, positioned on its narrow edge above and just slightly set back from the chamfered edge. Glue the remaining seat spacer on top of the wood piece at the opposite end and flush with the outside edge. 

     Step 9

Position and glue the seat piece on top of the construction with the chamfered edge sloping downwards and positioned more or less above the chamfered edge on the base piece. The opposite straight edge is flush with the seat spacer at the front of the construction.

     Step 10

Position the back piece on its chamfered edge to slope backwards and glue the seat construction up against it. All outside edges should be flush. 

Step 11

Once dry, sand the top edges of the back piece and the front edge of the seat. 

     Step 12

Take an arm construction and place on top of the leatherette paper. Cut out a piece the same shape but slightly larger all the way around by 3/16” (5mm). 

Step 13

Glue the excess paper to the straight outside edges of the arm construction. Snip off the paper in the corners to avoid the paper overlapping and causing bulk. Only glue the excess paper to the outside edges of the arm construction, DO NOT allow glue to come into contact with the sides as it will flatten the overall effect.

     Top Tip

As you proceed through the next stages always wipe away any excess glue seepage. Any other glue coming into contact with the outside of the paper can be wiped away at the end of the project with a damp cloth.

Step 14

Snip down into the paper to make the shaped part of the arm easier to cover. 

Step 15

Glue the excess snipped paper to the edge of the arm ensuring it is well glued down and sits nice and flat as you do so - this will help to achieve a neat overall finish. 

     Step 16

Repeat the procedure on the opposite side of the arm. Ensure there is no overlapping of paper.

Step 17

Cut a strip of leatherette paper 1/2” (13mm) wide from the length of the sheet. Glue the paper around the outside edge, starting and finishing underneath the bottom of the arm. Ensure that the paper is thoroughly glued down. 

          Step 18

Cut a piece of leatherette paper the length of the sheet and 5/8” (16mm) wider on each side of the chair frame.  See 2nd photo above.

Step 19

Starting under the bottom of the chair, fold the paper up the construction, gluing the excess on the sides of the chair, and cutting any excess paper to avoid it overlapping and causing bulk. Snip in to the paper on each side of the frame when it reaches the back of the seat. Only glue the excess paper on to the outside edges of the seat construction, DO NOT allow glue to come into contact with the front of the chair as it will flatten the overall effect.    

Step 20

At the top of the chair, lightly fold the paper and cut into the folds of paper on each side. 

Step 21

Fold the paper around the sides and glue the excess on the back. Trim the paper at the top of the chair to the width of the seat for a neat fit.    

Step 22

Lay the construction on top of the leatherette paper and draw a pencil line, on the paper, against the outside edges of the chair.    

Step 23

Place a ruler on top of the pencil lines and trim to size using a sharp craft knife. 

Step 24

Glue the paper to the back of the chair and any excess to the underside of the chair.     

Step 25

Position and glue the arms to each side of the chair. All back and bottom edges should be flush. Repeat the procedures to make up another chair and the sofa. 

Go to part 5.

Go to part 7.

Jane Harrop can be reached on Tel : 01625 873117 or visit her website: (you will have to copy and paste this address into your internet browser).

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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