Upholstering an old chair...but what are these straps for?

Linda Weeks
by Linda Weeks
This really cool old chair, came to me without any springs or padding, just completely naked. I just cant figure what the straps are, perhaps for holding springs, I don't have a guess!
this is the seat, undressed.
cool design, eh?
Even have this cool little dado doodad, separate from seat
  32 answers
  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on Dec 15, 2015
    They appear to be an older, narrow version of upholstery webbing. Looking at the chair, they could be original to it. Modern day webbing is made of jute and is about 3 inches wide. The purpose of the webbing is to hold other "fillings" in place, such as foam, batting and the like. The webbing is pulled taught with a tool and tacked or stapled to the underside of the frame of the piece and woven in a lattice-like configuration to add a secure base from which to build the rest of the piece's upholstery.,
  • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 15, 2015
    thanks for your reply: I have never come across webbing like this stuff! It's made of some type of metal... I'd like to know how this webbing is supposed to be treated! It sure doesn't want to come off!
    • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 15, 2015
      @Linda Weeks .Honestly in my opinion I do not think it matters. This is a very unique piece and take it for what it is instead of analyzing. just enjoy the piece .
  • Rosemary Rosemary on Dec 16, 2015
    If it is made of metal, it could be an early form of serpentine springing. I think you could just leave it and cover with a dust sheet on the bottom. I would web on the top of the chair seat I think.
  • Rrcyr Rrcyr on Dec 16, 2015
    Probably for better support of whatever you use as a seat cover and stuffing... Old furniture was way much solid of any chair or piece of furniture made in series now. Most of old furniture are hand made... Just cover it and you're lucky to have a chair like this... Enjoy!
  • Mickey Baron Mickey Baron on Dec 16, 2015
    This could have been when they filled cushions with horse hair! I've found these straps on older chairs before. They sure held up good! Do you plan on using 2 colors of stain? That would look AMAZING!
  • Tara Kotry Tara Kotry on Dec 16, 2015
    If it's leather it was used before springs. The pillow part was just that, a pillow tacted on the top of the chair. The pillow usually stuffed with wool, feathers, anything that could be used to stuff a pillow.
  • Lauren365 Lauren365 on Dec 16, 2015
    I think they were the bottom support for coils. The end of the coil would be twisted on to secure it, the coils would be tied together (ever heard of 8-way hand-tied?), then strapping, padding and material would be secured on top. If you do an internet search for how to hand-tie furniture coils, you should find some videos
  • Dana Rogers Spear Dana Rogers Spear on Dec 16, 2015
    It's called jute strap I think. I restored an old chair. The cushion part had a wooden frame with the material and cushioning wrapped around it. Without the jute, it felt as though you were sitting on a doughnut pillow. The Jute strap gave 'bottom' support
  • Phil Ready Phil Ready on Dec 16, 2015
    I think they supported springs which then supported horse hair padding with fabric on top
  • Shonda Thornhill Shonda Thornhill on Dec 16, 2015
    Those chairs didn't have springs. The straps did double duty, they held the cushion and provided support.
  • Mikkigirl Mikkigirl on Dec 16, 2015
    The straps hold the pillow (or padding) and provide some "give" to make the chair more comfortable.
  • Janet chambers Janet chambers on Dec 16, 2015
    That is what I think also. The chair looks old. I had a couple of old chairs that just had the straps in the bottom. I think the straps just hold the pillow. If need be, maybe you can tighten the straps just a bit so you don't feel like you are sitting in a hole.
  • Carol Ann McDaniel Carol Ann McDaniel on Dec 16, 2015
    What are they made of and how are they fastened to the frame?
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 27, 2015
      @Carol Ann McDaniel they are secured with nails to the underside of the chair, and they are metal! a bit rusty, but they don't seem to be in any way weaker for it
  • Accentuations! Accentuations! on Dec 16, 2015
    The straps are support pieces to hold the seat up! They provide support for the seat and also a bit of "cush" as they did not use springs. I would not removed them unless you plan to add a different material.
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 27, 2015
      @Accentuations! it would be one deep cushion if it was supported only by the straps.... thank you for the input!
  • The chair looks to be victorian maybe Eastlake. I have one very similar and the straps on it held the horsehair cushioning in place as well as the springs. Yes my chair had springs. There would have been a fabric covering between the straps and the springs. the horsehair was stuffed in between the springs. and over the top of the springs to provide cushioning. I would leave the straps on there and place a board in the bottom just above them cut to fit and fill the area with a high density foam and cover the top with the fabric of your choice. The edges of the chair wiuld have had a nail head trim around the edges with an ornate braid.
  • Allison Hill Spillane Allison Hill Spillane on Dec 16, 2015
    Yes, just support for the cushion..
  • Lainey Howell Lainey Howell on Dec 16, 2015
    There is usually a board on top of the support straps that is padded and upholstered. They are vital to not falling through the seat! If they are in good condition, keep them as they are.
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 19, 2015
      @Lainey Howell - I appreciate the input. I think I may just put a board in and pad it like there's no tomorrow
  • Ell1783210 Ell1783210 on Dec 16, 2015
    Hi. The straps are webbing support for the springs. You can buy or hire a webbing stretcher to reapply tight webbing. The springs are secured to the webbing by stitches. There are some really good on line tutorials or otherwise you could buy a book on traditional upholstery. To keep it authentic and keep cost down reuse as much of the original upholstery as possible.
  • Julie Aamot Julie Aamot on Dec 16, 2015
    At the museum where I work we have a chair similar to this. It does have springs.
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 27, 2015
      @Julie Aamot that's what I was thinking. If I can find some springs, and do the stringing, then it would be time for padding, etc. Thank you! Wish I worked in a museum!
  • Rebecca Thomas Rebecca Thomas on Dec 16, 2015
    The springs are sewn in rows on the straps. Then at the top are "sewn" together with twine, then covered with stuffing (used to be horsehair and the like) and then covered with a layer of cotton (like quilts are filled with), then a layer of linen, then the upholstery fabric.
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 19, 2015
      @Rebecca Thomas That sounds as if it is just what I need to do, if I want to do right by this cool old chair! Thanks!
  • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 19, 2015
    Thanks, everybody! I know nutting about no upholstery!
  • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 19, 2015
    ...and it is complicated! I may just cut a board as a base and add padding. Unless I run across some springs somewhere...
  • Nancy Neely Nancy Neely on Dec 20, 2015
    Please post an after picture when you finish. That's a lovely chair!
  • Avafiner Avafiner on Dec 21, 2015
    I do upholstery they are going to hold up the dense foam you need to use for the seat and wrap a piece of quilting poly fill around it is a flat piece of poly . and your ready to go .it is just a different kind of spring
  • Ell1783210 Ell1783210 on Dec 22, 2015
    Just a follow on to my previous post. This looks like a period chair with some value so worth sticking to traditional methods so you don't devalue it. Maybe worth getting a quote from someone to do it for you? It can be a bit scary to attempt a first upholstery project but well worth it in the end ! Joining an upholstery class can be fun too. That's how I first learned and got hooked!
  • Avafiner Avafiner on Dec 26, 2015
    the foam has to be a hard dense foam then wrap around quilting poly fill it comes in a long flat piece .make sure the foam is thick enough to come to the top of the chair not sunken in
  • Gerrie Gerrie on Dec 27, 2015
    Your chair had 4 springs in it when it was made. They were fastened at each of the joints where the straps meet. They were then tied (might find the instructions in youtube for that) and burlap was then stretched over them and tacked to the rails. Then an edge roll (usually made with burlap and stuffed firmly.. can be purchased by the foot from an upholsterer) was fastened to the top front rail. Usually a moss was then packed as a stuffing (and I mean firmly packed) but I have used cotton as the moss or hair is not easily available. Then the whole of it is covered with a firm muslin (even a piece of sheet can be used here.) Now, be sure it is pulled on firmly.. the seat must be pretty firm and a bit on the hard side. NOW, yo are ready to install your pretty top fabric. I am a retired upholsterer. Hope this helps.
    • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 27, 2015
      @Gerrie Thank you! I will take your advice to the bank. I know it's not an easy job, but I'd like to do it well!
  • Em Hooper Em Hooper on Dec 27, 2015
    Sounds as if what LInda needs is retired upholsterer to do or instruct......Good info Gerrie. Maybe with a couple of books from the library, Linda can see what you are describing. I'm thinking that this chair will not have any antique value in the end (chalk paint, etc.), so it might be just the piece for practicing on. Am I correct in guessing this is an Eastlake era chair?
    • See 1 previous
    • Em Hooper Em Hooper on Dec 29, 2015
      @Gerrie See my first comment below. The commenting system on this site mystifies me!!! This one should be below your comment about teaching in adult ed.....
  • Linda Weeks Linda Weeks on Dec 27, 2015
    I wanted to solve the mechanics of this project, and I think I got enough info from hometalk to know how I need to begin! Big job, so it may take a while, but thanks everyone!!
  • Avafiner Avafiner on Dec 28, 2015
    where do you live I can refinish and upholstery the chair for you
  • Em Hooper Em Hooper on Dec 29, 2015
    "Love what do, do what you love."!!!!!
  • Christina Christina on Jan 01, 2016
    If the strips are of a rubber nature then I feel. They would be the"springs" with a wadding and rubber piece about 2/3 inches. Deep over the top of them then an