From Frame To Fabric: Making An Ottoman From Scratch

Week Two: If At First You Don't Succeed, Tie, Tie, Tie Again

My post this week is going to be pretty short due to my raging success in class. True, last week started out a little rough. But clearly I just needed a warm-up before I unleashed the tiger. I walked in and grabbed my staple gun like a pro; I tied those coils; I stretched that canvas; I hammered those nails, bing, bang, boom. Done. I then spent the rest of class basking in the glow of my personal victory. And Matthew's jaw? On the floor.

[Oh wait a second, I'm sorry. That was my fantasy version of the story. Silly me. I get so confused these days. Here's what really happened…]

Week Two:

When I arrived at the studio on Tuesday night, I found that a number of my classmates were already there, all gathered around the conference table in the main room of The Furniture Joint, waiting. Matthew was sitting nearby at his desk, playing his guitar. I have to say that I found it amusing that we all sat in relative silence, listening to the plaintive strumming of Matthew's guitar, while we waited for the clock to chime 6:00 pm. (Okay, so the clock doesn't actually chime.) It was like a sweet serenade before death. While my guitar gently weeps indeed.

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Step One: Finishing Tying the Coils

At 6:00 pm we all filed into the work room and gathered around one of the tables so he could demonstrate—yet again— the tying sequence for the coils. (It was a different demonstration table than last week! Was I going to get lucky and have it be the table with my project? Alas, I think we all know the answer to that question.) With this quick demonstration— which seemed to make more sense to me this time around, actually— we were sent to our tables to finish tying three rows of coils on our ottoman. I was in good spirits and confident that I'd finally grasped it and would get it done quickly and efficiently.

...

An hour or so later and I was still on my first row. At this point you must be thinking, and I wholeheartedly concur, that this was getting pretty ridiculous. I'd actually finished a whole row—keeping the tension going with my left hand while I twisted and looped the twine with my right— and was half way through the second row when Matthew came around and told me that I'd done it all wrong and needed to start completely over. (Nooooooooooo....!) It was because of this error that I fell even further behind, but in my defense, I wasn't the only one that was still struggling with it. There were a few of us that were still fighting to get it right. And actually, I ended up getting it! (I did, Matthew!) A little too late in the game, since by that point we needed to move on to the next step and Matthew still needed to whip out the last row for me. But if time wasn't an issue, I would have been able to do it all myself. So, better late than never.

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Step Two: Cutting and Stapling the Muslin

The next step was to take four pieces of muslin, stretch them tightly across the four open sides of the ottoman, and trim them down. This, I am happy to say, I totally got. My rocky relationship with the staple gun last week seems to have grown into at least one of grudging mutual respect. I wasn't going to abuse him, and he wasn't going to hurt me. The end result of this step wasn't pretty (my staples were crooked, and I cut the edges of the muslin all jagged), but that fabric was taut! And this is the one (and only step so far) where I didn't need to have Matthew or Antonio help me. Yes! Hey, I take what I can get.

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Matthew demonstrating how to staple down the burlap.

Step Three: Cover Coils with Burlap and Staple Down

I was getting into a bit of a groove now. Once we'd stretched and stapled the muslin down on the sides, we took a large piece of burlap, placed it on the top of the ottoman over the coils, and started stapling it down right along the edge of the wood. As Matthew warned, the important part was to monitor where we were stapling at all times to make sure that we didn't accidentally staple the twine beneath and snap our coil ties.

[Side Note: Upon hearing that this was a possibility, I had a mental vision of what my life would be like if I snapped those ties I had worked so long and hard on. (Oh, all right! That I, Matthew, and Antonio had worked so long and hard on. You readers are such sticklers!) I was imagining a slow motion horror scenario: the gut-wrenching realization and the resulting downward spiral into despair and despondency. Not to mention an unfinished ottoman, the symbol now of everything I've ever wanted to achieve in life.]

I didn't snap the coils. In fact, I stapled so far away from the coils that my burlap wasn't very secure on the frame. So Antonio (what a good sport that guy is) had to go back in and put in a bunch of extra staples for me.

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The fox (y) edge.

Step Four:

The final step of the evening was to take our four pieces of fox edge (two longer pieces and two shorter pieces) and staple them tightly and tautly over the burlap along the top of the ottoman. Matthew said that this defining step would determine if our ottoman was lumpy or not. If the fox edge wasn't stapled just so with the rounded edge creeping over just this amount, then I might as well resign myself to a strange and unattractive piece of furniture that I won't want to say I had any part in making.

My first pass at this elicited raised eyebrows and a long exhale of breath from Antonio, who then proceeded to take out every single staple I'd just put in. He pointed out how crooked I'd stapled the fox edge. (Yes, it was a little off the beaten path, but was that so bad? Yes. Yes, it was.)

With Antonio's help I finished stapling all four of the fox edges to the ottoman before the end of the night. Matthew then informed us that the whole class was two steps behind where we were supposed to be, and then he also apologized to the class that I had held them all up. Oh man! Slow and steady apparently does NOT win the race in Matthew's class.

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Next week we need our fabric, which I have not bought yet. This weekend I'll likely be headed to the Lower East Side to peruse some fabric stores. This ottoman is intended to be a nice footrest for the arm chair in my living room (custom made by Molly Worth of Chairloom). This could be tricky! Pattern and color suggestions welcome.

Till next week...

Related Post:

Making An Ottoman From Scratch: Week One

Interested in trying out Matthew's classes for yourself? Get more information here. You can also check out Matthew Haly’s Book of Upholstery published in 2009 on Random House’s Potter Craft imprint. It explores techniques, tips and tricks to producing upholstery projects at home.

(Images: Cambria Bold)

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