We spent last weekend webbing, bashing and stitching our way through an upholstery course at The Goodlife Centre. We had no idea that there was so much involved in traditional upholstery but we loved it and both ended up with a footstool that we’d made ourselves, pretty impressive huh?
The Goodlife Centre is in Southwark and runs a wide range of practical, hands-on workshops. Everything from upholstery, sewing and woodwork to even things like plumbing and basic electrics. All of the tutors are super knowledgeable and friendly and emphasise that you’re there to relax. The building itself is an old cardboard box factory which is steeped in history. There are so many windows that every room is flooded with natural light, something that probably helps explain why everyone in the building is in a permanent good mood!
When The Goodlife Centre moved into the building they had to build walls to separate out the different studios. Instead of cutting each room off from the other though, they made windows between each of the studios which means you can see three different classes going on at any one time. It’s really inspiring to watch people a few metres away work on something completely different to what you’re doing. We liked spying the class next door who were making wooden stools.
Our class was run by Jan who was brilliant at showing us all the techniques we needed and making sure we could all work at our own pace. We probably annoyed her a little by messing up our upholstery slip knots again and again but she did a good job of covering it up – sorry Jan!
We started with a wooden rectangular frame for our footstool and literally built up the seat layer by layer. You start by creating the base criss-crossed webbing then add hessian, grass, more hessian, hair, fabric, wool, more fabric and finally your furnishing top fabric. Phew! In-between the stages you also have to add blind stitching and top stitching to create firmness around the edges. It was tough work and our fingers were pretty sore afterwards but we were told it should last for 100 years so it was definitely worth it. Our finished footstools also look pretty lovely, don’t you think? We both finished our stool legs with Annie Sloan’s clear soft wax.
This little collage shows each layer of Hannah’s foot stool, it’s such a great way to see all the work that went into the final stool – we love it!
Inside both of our stools we were given a sticker to write on, saying who had made it and a little note for whoever finds it perhaps 100 years from now. Jan told us that in one of her classes where students bring in an old chair to restore, a woman had found a letter inside written by the Victorian woman who had originally upholstered it. She put it back after she’d restored it along with one of her own.
The Goodlife Centre is one of those places you go and just think YES, this place gets it. Everyone is so happy and supportive and the creative atmosphere was truly inspiring. Thank you to everyone at The Goodlife Centre for having us, especially Alison and Jan, we’ll be back for more soon!
Hannah + Rosie