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Meet the Craftsman :: Amanda Neat, The Furniture Whisperer

This blog series has been borne from my own curiosity for how things are made; from my love for traditional crafts and admiration for people who dedicate their time and passion to create things in traditional way. Our first and opening guest of Meet the Craftsman is Amanda Neat, the Upholsterer .

Mandy in her Workshop in Teynham

Amanda Neat in her Workshop, Teynham

I found Amanda through Google, searching for an upholsterer in my area. I was looking for someone who could restore two quite old armchairs that I was given free (I understood pretty quickly why!).

We named the armchairs Betty & Bert because when I took them out of my car and placed them in my courtyard, they looked like two elderly people having a conversation. I knew the restoration wasn’t going to be easy or cheap. Their joints were tired and the guts literally full of living moths! I did not let them anywhere near my house!

Betty & Bert

Then I met Mandy. She understood my need to restore these two! We started with Betty. And here she is in her full glory waiting for her husband to catch up…

Preserving an old piece is more than just having the job done. It is more of a rescue mission, requiring skill and patience. It’s like pouring a new soul into the object that otherwise would end up in a skip.

I present to you Amanda, the Furniture Whisperer:

Amanda also kindly agreed to keep the record of different stages of the renovation, to show us the entire process!

1. Has upholstery always been your career? If not, what else did you do?

Upholstery hasn’t always been my career. Over the years I’ve had many jobs ranging from factory work to Nannying. One of my best and most interesting occupations was helping to restore Sarre Windmill, which my father and brother owned. Once it was restored, it was run as a business, producing flour. I then became a Miller!

2. When was the first time you thought you would like to become an upholsterer and why? Has someone/something inspired you?

Having come from a family of restorers of Mills, Steam Engines and Shepherds Huts, I was itching to get into something that I felt I could do. I happened on upholstery when I came across some beautiful fabric at a flea market and needed to do something with it. My husband bought me a footstool kit for my birthday and it all evolved from there.

Chair in original state

Chair in original state

3. How did you learn?

After having done my first footstool, I investigated having some lessons in Upholstery. I initially had a one day a week, for four weeks lesson on how to do traditional upholstery on a dining chair. I then took up another evening class course for six weeks, where I completed a Victorian armchair. The rest is self-taught. Any Upholsterer will tell you that no matter how long you have been upholstering, you are always learning as every piece of furniture is different.

4. I know you mastered both: more traditional technique and the modern way of upholstering, what are the differences and when would you apply each of them?

There are two types of upholstery, traditional and modern. Traditional uses time honoured traditional methods, skills and materials to create a comfortable and long-lasting seating. It is the more expensive way to have furniture upholstered. There are many stages to the traditional seat, webbing, springs, hessian, 1st and 2nd stuffing (with a lot of hand stitching) hair, cotton wadding, calico and finally the chosen finishing fabric. Modern upholstery is a cheaper way to upholster more modern furniture. It is mostly foamed based, using webbing, hessian and Dacron to produce a cheaper version of upholstery and is used on mostly post 1950’s furniture.