Upholstery craft is old and very varied. Furniture renovations have been popular in recent years, many repairs furniture at home, others use the services of skilled craftsmen from upholstery workshops. However, this profession is also changing with the development of materials, technologies and increasingly high demands on design. While the mind and skills of upholsterers were once available only to the wealthiest, today virtually anyone can use the services of an upholsterer.
People have softened and insulated their beds since ancient times, but it was not until the invention of the needle with a hole that they made it possible to create a bag that they stuffed with a soft material to sleep on. This method was used in upholstery until the 15th century - the masters stitched together material of plant and animal origin, while using beautiful upholstery fabrics. These products were expensive and only available to the richest.
The invention of compression springs. is considered one of the turning points. They increased seating comfort and also reduced the time required to produce upholstered furniture. Originally, springs were made using wooden forms, like two cones. However, the iron wire used was not yet flexible enough, so the springs were deformed relatively quickly. At the beginning of the 19th century, however, there was a significant shift in the quality of wire, which was signed by the massive expansion of metal springs as a construction material in upholstered furniture. Compression springs were patented in Vienna in 1822.
Springs brought convenience and time savings in the production of seating furniture (image source: fler.cz/magazine)
Another big milestone was the invention of polyurethane foam in 1937, for which we owe the German pioneer Otto Bayer. Thanks to technological improvements, today upholsterers have at their disposal a large range of soft polyurethane foams of the third generation. They are produced in blocks or shapes and have raised the quality of upholstery work to today's level.
Just as upholstery materials are constantly evolving, furniture constructions are also subject to more demanding tasks, and the upholstery industry is being improved in all directions. Upholstery, however, still largely depends on the skill of the master upholsterer. In Slovakia, this three-year course can be studied at secondary vocational schools, but also at the Woodworking Faculty of the Technical University in Zvolen. Today, this trade can be learned in modern conditions thanks to dual education.
When making new pieces of furniture, but also when renovating and reupholstering old chairs or armchairs, it is very important to follow the correct procedures and have the necessary equipment. The basic equipment also includes a special sewing machine with higher performance, the invention of which gave a new form to this craft and made it accessible to the masses.
Industrial sewing machines are adapted for stitching large parts and several layers of thick upholstery fabrics or leather. The inventor of the first sewing machine is considered to be the German designer Charles Frederick Wiesenthal, whose machine from 1755 had a needle with an eye in the middle of the needle. It copied the movement of the hand, but it also had many disadvantages.
He forerunners of today's super modern sewing machines, invented by Howe and Saint (image source: commons.wikimedia.org, trustedclothes.com)
The Englishman Thomas Saint built a sewing machine with a chain stitch in 1790, which was perfected 10 years later by the German Baltasar Krems. The machine was able to feed fabric smoothly and had many interesting features that are still in use today. The most important of these was the needle with an eye at the tip, which was the basis for the invention of the double-stitch sewing machine. It was first used in 1830 and we owe it to the Austrian tailor Josef Madersperger. American Elias Howe, is also considered the inventor of the sewing machine, who patented a machine with a double stitching stitch and a boat. In its time, it was up to five times faster than a hand sewing needle.
The Singer brand came to the market with the first electric machine in 1889. The same company started to write new history in 2002 thanks to a computer-controlled sewing and embroidery machine. Stitches have never been so regular and clean.
Singer sewing machines (model from 1918 in the photo) were also widely used in Slovakia, and you can still find them in many Slovak households. (image source: sewmuse.co.uk)
New sofas and armchairs are easily available today, but what many of these pieces of furniture lack (especially if they are mass-produced sofas, where the sofa is just a consumer product) is a kind of originality and charm that old pieces of furniture had. Therefore, it is not surprising that many try to preserve and restore the furniture inherited from their ancestors. Technologies have advanced, but one of the main purposes of upholstery - to make a sofa a comfortable and aesthetic element of living - remains the same. However, it is still true that upholstery is a traditional craft with a maximum share of handwork, which gives it a high added value. And that's why in every upholsterer's workshop we still find, of course, special needles for hand sewing.
Information source used: n-i-s.cz