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June/July/August 2014


We’ve Moved Full new AMUSF contact details inside

Blind Cord Safety The new regulations explained

Official journal of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers

Howard’s Way A highly specialist approach to upholstery


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher

Jan Turner Editor

Visit the Manchester Furniture Show 13-16 July 2014 June/July/August 2014

Our lovely accountant/financial advisor Peter Hubbard quite rightly says in his Q&A answers featured in this issue (see page 26 – In The Hotseat) that the best piece of advice he could give to someone starting out in the world of upholstery and soft furnishings would be to have a good financial and business plan. He’s absolutely right, of course, and in all the years of running our ‘Hotseat’ feature, it is one of the most fundamentally sound pieces of advice that anyone has provided. Writing things down is not only important for your business as a whole, but for individual estimates too. Each individual job is a building block of your overall business, so get the costs wrong for that and the bigger business picture all goes to pot too. For there are those who rely on a quick calculation, if not quite “on the back of a fag packet” then something close to it; and who reason that after years in the trade they “just know” how much everything costs, how long a job is likely to take and the sort of cost to charge. They’re making a living, thank you very much, albeit not a particularly great one, so who needs to write down a business plan or a job estimate? How wrong they are. While I appreciate age and great experience make the whole job of estimating and costing that much easier, there is a great danger of complacency. Of losing track of what all those little bits are actually costing now and how long a job really takes.

We’ve Moved

Full new AMUSF cont act details inside

As Liz Cox of Signature Interiors says in her Member Profile slot (see page 18): “You need to ensure that the business side of your business is flawless.” Blind Cord Safety The new regulations

explained Official journal of the Association of Mast er Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers

Howard’s Way

A highly specialist approach to upholstery uk

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher Editor: Jan Turner, AKA PR T: 01756 795374 F: 01756 798789 E: Sales: Joanne Miller T: 01732 783561 E: Tim Boden T: 01732 783561 E: Jarrod Bird T: 01565 659414 E: Published by Interiors Media Limited Unit 11, Riverside Business Centre, Riverside House, Riverlawn Road, Tonbrigde, Kent TN9 1EP T: 01732 783561 F: 01732 783562 E: Registered in England no. 6397722 Printed by Headley Brothers

And working out where you want your business to go really does provide direction and goals – especially important for those who employ other people. Sharing aims and objectives makes them feel part of a business that is going places and imparts a great sense of motivation. Just as providing fully itemised estimates is not only good for the customer, but the estimator too, so drawing up a business plan is good for you and any employees. As our own association manager Richard Ranklin so succinctly put it in a recent U&SF article, “providing a fully thought out and itemised price ensures you don’t inadvertently set up as a charity!” And as Peter Hubbard points out in this issue: “Business plans should never be written in tablets of stone but should be adjusted and re worked according to how events unfold. If you have a plan you will always have a route to work to.” Sometimes we underestimate the power of written information but putting something down on paper and setting it all out is vital. It gives everyone involved direction, understanding and expectation. So well done Peter Hubbard for reminding us of that. Until the next time…

Jan Turner



AMUSF Contacts Head Office Association General Manager: Richard Ranklin E: Administrative Assistant: Susan Tyler E: The Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers Ltd, (AMUSF Ltd), The Clare Charity Centre, Wycombe Road, Saunderton, Bucks HP14 4BF T: 01494 569120 E: Website:

News 6&7

AMUSF News Update and Branch Briefings


Industry News

Features 10



Feature: Blind Spot – New Regulations Update

Beds, Bucks, Herts and North London – Wendy Shorter T: 01727 824358 E: Hants & Dorset – Kevin Lee T: 01489 572108 Kent –Davin White T: 020 8854 4402 London – Wynne Gilham T: 01708 752333 Surrey – Ron Mercure T: 020 8941 4521

14 & 15

Fabric Update: A World of Choice


FAMU Outing




Member Profile: Signature Interiors

20 & 21

Feature: Howard and Sons Furniture

Regional Contacts


Memory Lane: Medieval Memory Loss


In the Hotseat: Peter Hubbard

Branch Contacts

West Midlands – Joan Milton T: 0870 777 8934 E:


AMUSF news roundup

Awards and celebrations

From Left to Right Joan Milton, Alison Godfrey, Steve Franklin, Kate Weston, Jo Evans, Rose Turvey, Gill Taylor, Prue Murray and Zoe Salvidge

J A Milton Upholstery Supplies, currently celebrating 25 years in business, held its annual Open Day at the company’s Ellesmere, Shropshire classrooms in May. AMUSF president Ron Mercure presented the latest intake of students with their AMUSF Craft Certificate for Traditional Upholstery – including six passes with distinction and one with a credit. Said owner Joan Hayes, who first started up in 1989, working from home as a furniture restorer: “It was good to welcome all our students and guests to the Open Day and we were especially

pleased to see other AMUSF member upholsterers attending. It is important for young students to meet and talk with established member businesses to learn more about the industry. In the past this has resulted in successful placements within these businesses for some lucky students.” After starting in business, J A Milton became specialists in reupholstery and making bespoke upholstered furniture. Joan became involved in teaching upholstery at two Shropshire colleges in 1988 and it was while teaching that she

From Left to Right Ron Mercure, Prue Murray, Steve Franklin and Joan Milton


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

discovered how difficult it was for the DIY enthusiast or small business person to obtain tools or materials. It was a realisation that was to lead to the launch of her mail order Upholstery Supplies Catalogue and the significant expansion of her business. Said Joan: “The catalogue has been written for the complete novice, explaining the use of the tools and materials as well as using samples. Today, we are slowly but surely taking over Ellesmere Business Park from where we ship all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the world!” Joan has been a professional upholsterer and teacher for 25 years. She is very active in the industry both as a director and as past president of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers of which she is a Fellow. Joan is also a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and The Worshipful Company of Upholders in London.

AMUSF WEEKEND AMUSF members will have a chance to see the association’s new office and exciting support facilities at this year’s AGM meeting. Plans to hold the meeting at Wyboston Lakes in Cambridgeshire have been changed to give members the opportunity to see the new office at The Clare Charity Centre at Saunderton, Bucks on Saturday September 6. Said association manager Richard Ranklin: “The facilities here really are second to none and include serviced offices for a range of charities and not-for-profit organisations. We are able to use one of the excellent meeting rooms and conference facilities for the AGM and members will be able to see for themselves how very spacious and well maintained everything is, along with the very lovely grounds. “We look forward to welcoming as many members as possible along to the day. More details will be announced nearer the time but we wanted to announce the date so it could go into diaries now!”

AMUSF news roundup


Wycombe in March - it had been based there since its move from Cardiff in 2011. Now fully installed, association manager Richard Ranklin and administrative assistant Susan Tyler are in one of many offices occupied by charities and associations at the centre. Full new contact details can be found at the front of this magazine. Said Richard: “The AMUSF owes a huge debt of gratitude Richard Ranklin and Susan Tyler at the new AMUSF office to the BFM for offering us The AMUSF has moved to a new office help and support when it was necessary to within the Clare Foundation Charity Centre move from Cardiff but it is time to move on in Saunderton near High Wycombe. as they are selling their premises in High The association moved from its office at Wycombe. the BFM’s Wycombe House in High “The centre itself is set in glorious green

Branch briefings I For their last meeting the Hants & Dorset branch held a cheese and wine evening. It was considered a very pleasant way of holding a meeting. Because so few members now attend branch gatherings it was decided to always include some form of Dorset and Hants gathering socialising at future get-togethers. The next meeting is due in June, date to be confirmed and with a BBQ, weather permitting. All Hants & Dorset members are encouraged to go along for a good and convivial time. Contact Mary Crack on 01489 572108. I On Wednesday April 23, members of the Bed, Bucks, Herts & North London AMUSF networking group met at Waddesdon

Beds Bucks Herts and North London branch outing

countryside and the view from our window – not that we have time to look at it – is a vast improvement on looking out onto Platform 2 of Wycombe Railway station. The premises include conference and meeting facilities along with great opportunities for networking with the various and diverse groups who also have offices here. Transport links are good with a railway station in the village and close links to the M40. “However, there is one major downside to the move and that is the refreshment trolley that comes around each morning – if my waistline expands any further I will lay the blame squarely on the AMUSF! “Members will have the opportunity to see the centre for themselves by joining the board at the AGM later in the year.” For more information about the centre visit:

Manor for a behind the scenes tour of the house and conservation department. Curator, Rachel Boak, gave a very interesting talk and tour and everyone was impressed with her knowledge of the house and textiles. A visit to the conservation department gave the group an insight into Fine detail as seen on Beds Bucks Herts and the intricate work that North London outing goes into conserving some of the manor’s fabulous textiles. Said Wendy Shorter: “It was also great to catch up with other members over a lovely lunch and to discuss the issues of the day, namely the new Child Safety Regulations for blinds.” The next meeting will be held in the autumn. Contact Wendy Shorter for further details: I Health has dominated the concerns of Kent branch members over recent months with several members suffering from ill health and, as a result, some have not attended meetings for some time. The branch would like to extend its very best wishes to those unable to attend at the moment and looks forward to seeing everyone as soon as they can. Dates for next meetings: June 2 and July 7. Branch contact is Davin White on 020 8854 4402.

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher


Industry roundup INDUSTRY URGES CAUTION OVER CHANGES TO FLAM REGS Changes to the Furniture & Furnishing Fire Safety Regulations are in danger of increasing rather than reducing the risk to consumers if they are rushed through. The warning comes from the British Furniture Confederation, the organisation which represents the furniture industry’s main trade associations in their dealings with government. “While we fully support the aim behind the amendments to reduce the amount of fire retardants used in furniture, so improving consumer safety and reducing costs, we feel they are being too hastily introduced” says Paul von der Heyde, chairman of the BFC. The fear is that the tests proposed (alternative cigarette and match tests using FR compliant CM foam) currently lack sufficient technical detail and have not been robustly trialled. “The proposed change also ignores many of the industry’s current concerns about the existing regulations,” says Mr von der Heyde. “The industry has, for the past two years, been working closely with BIS over proposed amendments to the current regulations and we are disappointed at this piecemeal approach, which focuses on making this one amendment now, with other revisions addressed at a later date. “We are also concerned that other issues that have a significant impact on the industry have not been addressed. They include the definition of seat pads and scatter cushions, the classification of outdoor furniture and the confusion around headboards and bed bases. We would much prefer a full and well considered revision of the regulations so the industry only has to take on board changes once and consumer safety is increased by eliminating current areas of confusion or weaknesses in levels of protection. The recent media attention from programmes such as Fake Britain and Watchdog on upholstery and beds which fail flammability tests emphasise the need for everyone to work together to ensure our regulations are consistently effective and more easily enforceable.”

EXHIBITION ROUNDUP Reviews G May Design Series (ExCeL, London, May 18-20): The furnishings fair hosted its first Fabric Pavilion showcasing 36 hand-picked designs from textile specialists displaying their latest collections. Exhibitors included Heals, Swaffer Fabrics, Pedroso & Osorio, Abraham Moon & Sons, Alhambra International and Barker & Barker. The Pavilion was held within a dedicated area of the Furniture Show, one of five design districts which also comprised DX, Decor, Lighting and Kitchen + Bathroom. G Proposte (May 7 – 9, Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy): Europe’s leading home textile manufacturers showcased furnishing fabrics and curtains to an international audience. G IFEX (Indonesia International Furniture Expo) 2014 (March 11 – 14, Jakarta International Expo): More than 500 leading international furniture and craft companies exhibited their latest products at the show which was integrated into the peak season of the ASEAN furniture exhibition series.

Previews G Manchester Furniture Show (July 13 – 16, Manchester Central): The 2014 Manchester Furniture Show continues to attract new exhibitors. Latest bookings include Holroyd & Jones, Annaghmore Agencies, Crown Home Décor and Mystique Interiors. Upholstery continues to dominate with Lebus, Ashley Manor, Buoyant, Wade,

Westbridge, Cavendish, Alpha Designs, Comfort Zone, BM and Whitemeadow leading the ranks. News of a major new Italian leather company to be announced very soon. G Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles (August 27 – 29, Shanghai New International Expo Centre): Asia's leading home textile event offering industry professionals an opportunity to source design inspirations through the conveniently structured product displays and a fringe programme. In 2013, 1,321 exhibitors and 39,189 visitors joined the event. G MoOD (Brussels Expo September 9 – 11): The international trade fair is said to be the most complete and largest collection of specialists in upholstery fabrics, window textiles and wall coverings. G DECOREX International (Syon Park, September 21 – 24): Previously staged at Syon for 10 years, the show returns there for 2014 to allow the UK's leading luxury design and interiors show the much needed space to accommodate more exhibitors and larger stands. Over 13,000 visitors attended the show in 2013. G The NBF Bed Show (September 23 – 24, International Centre, Telford): Back for its fifth year with the addition of a third hall, the 2014 Bed Show will be bigger than ever before providing visitors with a chance to see and learn more about the latest technological innovations in beds. Online registration has opened at

NORTHERN BIG SHOTS MAKES BIG BUCKS The first Northern Big Shots event has been hailed a great success, raising more than £12,000 for the furnishing industry’s charity, The Furniture Makers’ Company. More than 70 industry stalwarts took part in the event held near Skipton in North Yorkshire. Action stations at the first ever Northern Big Shots


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014


BURNING QUESTIONS Steve Cotton, technical specialist for flammability and physical upholstery at FIRA, answers more commonly asked questions from AMUSF members I’m doing upholstery and soft furnishings for a domestic property that is to be rented out. Do any different rules apply from a non-rental property?


Properties for domestic use, whether for personal use or to be rented out, are still considered to be domestic and not contract environments, therefore all upholstery must comply with the requirements of the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations. Therefore, the landlord of rented property is legally obliged to make sure all of the upholstered furniture that comes with the property is fully compliant with the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations.


I reupholstered a sofa 10 years ago using the customer’s own fabric. They now want to donate it but charities will not accept it without FR labels. Can they sell it privately instead without the need for labels?


The Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations state in section 15 (1) that no person shall supply any furniture or other article in respect of which any requirements of these Regulations is not satisfied. However, this is not normally assumed to apply to an individual sale between one member of the general public and another as it is not viewed as a business and therefore would not be policed by Trading Standards. If an individual decided to make a business out of selling furniture, even if it was making their own beanbags


Match test

and selling them on online auction sites, then the products would be covered by the Regulations and they would have to ensure all upholstery was fully compliant.

I’m struggling to ‘age’ many reupholstery pieces to determine whether they are pre 1950. Any advice please – am I able just to take the owners word for it?


The Regulations clearly state in 4(b) that the ‘Regulations do not apply in relation to the supply of materials when the person supplying them knows or has reasonable cause to


believe that they will be used for recovering or re-upholstering furniture manufactured before January 1, 1950.’ Therefore, if the owner of the furniture states that it is pre 1950 then it is allowable to re-upholster it in appropriate non-compliant materials. To cover yourself against future problems it would be advisable to get your customer to sign a statement that says they confirm the furniture is pre 1950 prior to reupholstering the item. For safety reasons it is also advisable that, where possible, upholstery components are replaced with fire retardant versions. However, this is not possible for all upholstery products that were used in pre 1950 furniture.

For more information about FIRA visit, call 01438 777 700, or email Steve Cotton has been with FIRA International Ltd. for 14 years and is an expert in flammability. He also has a great working knowledge of foams, mattresses and fabrics and currently represents FIRA on BSI committees dealing with foam performance.


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

ESTABLISHED 1899 NEXT DAY DELIVERY NATIONWIDE Hundreds of upholstery and soft furnishing lines including foam, leather, trimmings and vinyl Fabrics supplied include Robert Allen, Ross, Wemyss, Jim Dickens & Rioma. Tracks & Poles by Blacksmith, Decotec, Integra, Riel Chyc, Silent Gliss & Speedy. Own van delivery throughout the South West, and beyond by carrier.

Glover Bros Ltd., Broadgauge Business Park, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset TA4 3RU Tel: 01823 431910 Fax: 01823 431920 Email:


BLIND CORD SAFETY AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE New child safety standards for internal window blinds, published by the British Standards Institute in February, have been welcomed by the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA). Andrew Chalk, director of operations for the BBSA, which has campaigned for safer blinds and has worked with UK government and EU standards bodies to make child safety standards for window blinds much more stringent, explains the new regulations. he BBSA estimates 20 million window blinds are sold in the UK every year, with the majority bought from mass retailers or online and installed by the consumer. The value of the UK domestic blind market is estimated at £450 million per year. According to RoSPA, since 1999 there have been 27 child fatalities where children have become accidentally entangled in window blind cords and chains. This led to an EU Decision in 2011 which mandated changes to the European standards which have just been published in the UK. While all standards are voluntary, compliance with the new window blind standards ensure that the trader is meeting the legal requirements to sell a safe product as determined by the General Product Safety Regulations. The requirements affect new internal blinds fitted to any premises where children aged 0-42 months are present or likely to have access and so apply to all homes, all public buildings and the publicly accessible areas of commercial buildings. Essentially it means that if a blind has a cord or chain that could create a hazardous loop, the blind must be supplied with an appropriate safety device installed on the product. However, there are many blind styles that contain no cords at all or have concealed or tensioned cords. The 2014 standards aim to protect children through the following measures: • Limitations on cord and chain lengths • Safety devices for preventing any cords or chains from creating a hazardous loop • The testing of all safety critical



Andrew Chalk

components of internal blinds • The testing of complete blinds using safety devices • The installation of safety devices on the product at the point of manufacture and the correct fitting of these when blinds are installed • Safety warnings and product instructions In addition, the scope of the standard has been expanded to include all internal window blind styles. In the absence of a standard for corded curtain tracks, the requirements of the blind standard are likely to apply to curtain tracks too.

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

The standards are: • EN 13120 – Internal blinds – Performance requirements including safety. This references two test method standards: • EN 16433 – Internal blinds – Protection from strangulation hazards – Test methods • EN 16434 – Internal blinds – Protection from strangulation hazards – Requirements and Test methods for safety devices Importantly, the new standards also cover safety devices which can be fitted to existing blinds operated by cords and chains, so ensuring such devices are fit for purpose. The BBSA launched its own ‘Make it Safe’ campaign in 2009 to educate the trade and consumers of the potential hazards of internal blinds operated by looped cords or chains. The campaign is supported by RoSPA and The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT). It has seen 1,600,000 Make it Safe brochures in circulation and over 430,000 safety packs distributed by RoSPA. BBSA members have also developed many blind styles which are child safe by design without any operating cords or chains or with concealed or tensioned cords. The BBSA is a trade body formed in 1919 which represents suppliers, manufacturers, retailers (both shop and online) and installers of all internal and external blinds and shutters, and has around 380 members. The organisation also provides advice to safety bodies, Trading Standards departments, councils, coroners and Child Accident Review Panels on blind cord safety. For further information on the BBSA and Make it Safe visit

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A WORLD OF CHOICE The fast moving world of textile fashions brings a world of choice to the soft furnishings sector this summer with a return to globally inspired patterns that find their strength in an eclectic mix of colourful designs. world away from the safe plains that ruled during darker economic days, the resurgence of bright pattern is a sure sign that Britain is on the mend. The Look to aim for is busy and homely: random but carefully thought out. At Sanderson, the first ever Emma Bridgewater print and wallpaper collection has been launched bringing cheerfully informal patterns by the famous pottery designer to life for the home. All fabrics are suitable for curtains and upholstery and printed on natural unbleached cotton. They can all be treated for BS5852 Source 1; Match Test & BS5867 Part 2 Type B (Contract Curtains) on request. Zoffany meanwhile, has launched the Woodville collection of florals showcasing painterly designs with a contemporary but


Inherently FR fabric from Jim Dickens Kilim chair+drapes

Sanderson - Emma Bridgewater - Pomegranate living room


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

sophisticated edge. The fabrics can also be FR treated as above and for BS5852 Crib 5 (Contract Upholstery). Over at Heals, the furniture store’s first fabric collection since the 1970s has been unveiled with an exclusive own-brand range created by established and up-andcoming designers – including Zandra Rhodes, Diana Bloomfield and Cressida Bell. All fabrics in the new 1810 collection are suitable for light upholstery with regards to Martindale. Suitable for curtains, blinds and cushions, the six co-ordinating prints in Prestigious Textiles’ new Italian Gardens collection uses florals, stripes, tropical birds and stylised damask on 100% cotton in zesty, on-trend colourways. The new Nomad collection from Kobe is an eclectic mix and match of fashionable colours with sturdy materials such as velvet, leather, suede and wool alongside more refined silks and linens. Using different folkloric patterns, ikat motifs, embroidery, prints and weaves, the different elements of design come

Heal's Fabric - Diana Bloomfield - Tea Time


Nomad from Kobe

include colours such as marine, pine, taupe, dark mushroom and greys as well as a new Dales check. Suitable for the upholstery of contemporary furniture, wall coverings and lampshades, horsehair fabrics are inherently flame retardant and

The Italian Gardens collection of fabrics by Prestigious Textiles

together to create a sense of global wanderlust. At John Boyd Textiles, where they have been weaving horsehair fabrics since 1837, the company has introduced new colours and weaves into its portfolio. They

Swaffer fabrics - among exhibitors at the first Fabric Pavilion at the May Design Series

The world of furnishing fabrics received a major blow in April when Derek Crowson, founder of Crowson Fabrics, announced his retirement after 36 years and the closure of his fabric business with effect from April 17. One of the world’s largest home furnishings companies Crowson Fabrics, together with its brands, including Monkwell, Charterhouse, Dovedale, Design Archives and Hill and Knowles, were distributed throughout the world. Derek Crowson said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed creating and leading Crowson Fabrics, a company I founded in 1978 and one which has been synonymous with designer quality furnishings. During the 1980’s and 90’s we were producing approximately 10 million metres of fabric annually at our own print works partnership factories worldwide, supplying over 8,000 independent retailers and most of the major high street stores and furniture manufacturers in the UK and around the world.” The company also built one of the largest archives of fabric designs. The company has said it will honour all its suppliers, staff and other creditors in full as well as giving continued support to all its loyal customers for a period of time through its substantial stocks. After that, some products will still be available for some time through its appointed selling subsidiary company Charterhouse Fabrics Ltd, Tel 01825 761055 or email Account settlements will continue to be collected under the name of Crowson Fabrics.

the company can also hand embroider any design onto the fabrics. The May Design Series – held at ExCel in London last month – hosted its first Fabric Pavilion, showcasing the latest collections from an edited collection of 36 British and international brands. John Boyd Textiles - Temple House sofa

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher



EARTH MOVING EXPERIENCE The ‘earth moved’ for the Fellows when they visited the headquarters of JCB in Uttoxeter for their lunch this year. he Fellows visit to JCB made a change to the usual format of visiting stately homes or anything connected with furniture or upholstery. One of the world’s top three manufacturers of construction equipment, JCB employs around 11,000 people on four continents and sells products in 150 countries. In just 68 years the company has gone from one man in a garage in Uttoxeter to a major global brand. JCB remains family owned and boasts some of the finest engineering facilities across the globe, producing a range of over 300 machines. The Fellow’s visit included a personal tour of the new ‘’Story of JCB’’ exhibition and the assembly line of the world famous Backhoe Loader machine. There, members saw how the machine is built from the delivery of the sheet steel through its profiling, laser cutting, welding, paint shop, and assembly stages to the final finished product. Said Clark to the Chapter Mary Crack: “Bob Bishton made the suggestion to visit JCB and as he lives fairly close to the facility, offered to do all the organising for which I cannot thank him enough. “The weather was perfect - blue skies and endless sunshine. We were divided into three groups and assigned a guide for each group. It was truly one of the most


The Fellows at JCB

interesting tours I have been on. Those who didn't come missed a wonderful experience.” Following the lunch, AMUSF member Stephen Franklin was presented with his Fellowship by AMUSF hon president Richard Cole who attended the event with his wife Sheila. Said Mary: “We had such a wonderful

Stephen Franklin (right) receives his Fellows certificate from hon president of the AMUSF Richard Cole


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

and interesting day that we will try to do something similar next year.” The Fellows AGM and weekend will be held at the Holiday Inn, Warmsworth near Doncaster on July 25 to 27. Members of the AMUSF are welcome to attend for a weekend of socialising which is not limited to Fellows. For more information contact Mark Crack on 01489 572108.

Past president Graham Carpenter in action on the JCB trip


Another handy tip, courtesy of MyDecozo – the UK’s largest online soft furnishings forum. This one relates to working with a pitched ceiling. A forum member was recently presented with the challenge of dealing with fitting a track up against a pitched ceiling. The garden room had replacement windows running up to the ceiling and the client did not want the track flush to the frames. For the track to function properly, it needed to be vertical, so a way was needed to create a suitable fixing surface at the top of the window. The neat solution was to make some small spacers from a piece of batten, shaped to fit the angle of the ceiling. These created a flat vertical surface for the brackets and were pre-drilled so that the screw passed straight through to the rawl plug beyond. The spacers were painted to match the wall.

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Member profile


LOOK Name of business When established Owned by Location Speciality Number employed

Signature Interiors 2000 Liz Cox Hampshire Soft furnishings, upholstery and design 3

How long have you been doing your job? I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember. I added upholstery in around 2004 and more recently interior design.

manager or Wendy Shorter of the AMUSF, but also colleagues who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. When you talk to a fellow upholsterer/soft furnisher, the talk always turns to....? Recently it’s all about the new child safety standards for corded blinds and tracks – that’s got everyone talking!

How long did it take to really learn the skill? I think it takes several years to really feel comfortable and confident with these skills. Do you consider yourself a craftsperson or tradesperson? Both – the skills are a craft but for the business to succeed I’ve got to be an economically viable tradesperson. What makes up the bulk of your work? The bulk of our work currently is a 50/50 split between soft furnishings and upholstery but the design side is growing quite quickly too. What keeps you motivated? Each project offers different challenges to work through which makes the weeks varied and interesting. What aspect of your work do you most enjoy? I like the artistry and creativity I can bring to many projects.

Liz Cox

in London. Everything had to be in London by 9.30 a.m. on a Thursday morning but the fabric wasn’t delivered to me until 3.00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon (yes, the previous day!) And the most unusual/bizarre/funny request you have ever dealt with? To upholster a media pod, both inside and out. It looked a bit like an igloo and I was asked to upholster it in two colours of leather over foam of various thickness (including the floor, built in seat and counter sunk media devices) with a deep buttoned ceiling which included 150 fairy lights. What are the most pressing issues currently facing your business? Getting the marketing strategy right.

Professionally, what is your greatest frustration? Stock availability – both the lead time frequently required and the withdrawal of products from the market.

How long have you been a member of the AMUSF and how important has this been to your business? About four or five years - time flies when you’re having fun so it could be a little longer! I’m proud to be a member and would recommend it to anyone.

Tell us about the most challenging project you have ever undertaken. I made various items for a royal bedroom

Professionally, who or where do you turn to for advice/ a second opinion? Often Richard Ranklin, the association

How do you keep your skills and techniques updated? I regularly take courses, read trade magazines and articles and am involved in various online forums. What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in this business? It’s obviously very important to hone your skills but you need to ensure that the business side of your business is flawless. Where do you see the future of the industry? Custom work – a battle to take on the mass production market isn’t likely to succeed. What has been your proudest professional moment? One of the UK’s top jewellery designers, who recently bought some pieces of my work, gave me a glowing testimonial. Those pieces are now on show at a lovely London address. Contact details: Tel: 07590 197216 Website: Email:


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014


H. Webber & Sons

58 Dene Street, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 2DP

Tel. 01306 740433 Fax. 01306 740811

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HOWARD’S WAY It was one of the best known names in upholstery. And as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the furnishings sector, Howard and Sons furniture remains amongst the most sought after in the business. t’s also one that requires a particular approach to reupholstery. As Giles Bray, one of the country’s foremost specialists in the renovation of Howard furniture says: “People buy Howard furniture for comfort. You sit in one of their chairs and it feels fantastic - you literally just sink in. “Howard chairs and sofas were made from the very finest materials and set a new standard in upholstery. In 1866 the company patented the ‘Elastic Seat’ technique and in that patent George Howard describes putting a fixed down filled feather cushion on top of the springs. Before that, upholstery was all about horsehair and very much harder.” Regularly auctioned for five-figure sums (a sofa in need of restoration and which had been badly reupholstered, recently fetched £30,000), Howard furniture was started by John Howard in 1820 and is


Giles at work on sofa arm

considered to have been at its zenith between 1870 and 1935. Chairs made during that period in particular can be worth a lot of money. Says Giles: “The company really rethought the whole business of comfort and developed the idea of fixing the feather cushion to the frame – but in a way that that it could still be manipulated and plumped up again later to restore the comfort.” And it is such subtleties of construction that can sometimes be overlooked when upholsterers restore a piece of Howard furniture, according to Giles. “When some people reupholster a piece by Howard and Sons, they miss the point of the shape and the way in which the feather cushions are used in the design. With the Bridgewater model especially, the design is made to a very specific template and a lot of Howard chairs follow that principle with all the How NOT to treat a Howard frame


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

proportions carefully worked out.” Based near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, Giles is a member of the Guild of Traditional Upholsterers and has been working with Howard Furniture for about 30 years. One of very few specialists in the field, he has been perfecting his technique over that time and 80% of his work is now restoring and reupholstering this famed line of furniture. Passionate to the point of making his own springs for the pieces he restores, Giles says sympathetic restoration is vital. “But there is hardly anyone around who does so. One constant problem is lack of stock availability – particularly on things like the really sensitive springs that need to be used. That’s why I make my own but it’s incredibly labour intensive. “A common mistake is to mess about with the frames. I’ve seen some shocking

Good springs are a vital ingredient

examples with big nails and staples on joints that may be coming apart but this can do so much damage to the frame

itself that they become a nightmare to restore. “The temptation when reupholstering them is to overfill the cushions – I often see cases where people have crammed in too much filling. A Howard chair should be a fairly light item – they are not heavy or bulky chairs but poor restoration work can make them such. “As well as using springs that are too hard, another common problem is using the wrong fabric – if a Howard chair or sofa is not correctly reupholstered or covered in the wrong fabric then it can lose the very comfort factor for which they are known. It often comes down to the materials used – if they are not right then it simply won’t feel the same. “Howard and Sons used the very finest fillings including the very best horsehair which was incredibly springy – there is actually nothing like it now so I recycle the original as best as I can. They also used really pure down and mixed it with 10% duck feather just to add a little strength. “The upholstered furniture made by the company really was among the finest of its day and, when sensitively restored, continues to offer very high levels of comfort. “It is that, along with the classic designs which still makes Howard chairs among the most sought after pieces of furniture around – hence the great interest when a piece made during the company’s most accomplished period comes up for auction and also the reason for high prices so often paid today.”

Howard sofa

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher



BITA SHOWCASE UPDATE 2014 Prestigious Textiles and NV Blinds were among more than 40 brands taking part in The British Interior Textiles Association (BITA) London Showcase which ran alongside Chelsea Design Week in March. Prestigious Textiles showed its Accent collection of prints which puts the emphasis on modernity by drawing together an array of bold geometric repeats and naive graphics derived from botanical forms. Retro-chic overtones are enhanced by a series of mid-tone palettes ranging from hot and feisty shades to subtle, cool hues. For more information Tel: 01274 688448 or Email: Meanwhile, N V Blinds launched its latest double roller blind collection, Horizon. Main features include perfect light control: Horizon is described as being more flexible than a standard roller blind and has a softer look than a Venetian blind. The blinds are also child safe, fitted with either a chain tidy,

Prestigious Textiles

N V Blinds


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

easy-break connector or motorised operation. The range consists of five fabric qualities, with a choice of 27 contemporary colours. The maximum blind size possible is 2700mm wide x 2500mm drop. For

more information call 01843 608780. The BITA roadshow sets off on a three week UK tour this autumn, from September 9 – 22. Kicking off in East Anglia, it then goes across the country to the South West, Midlands, North West, North East, spending the last two days in London - in the same week as Decorex and Focus at the Wyndham Grand Chelsea Harbour.

New products


A range of contemporary acrylic curtain poles, using chrome as an accent to highlight the modern lines. Available in both solid acrylic and hollow acrylic, this collection is a simple yet stunning solution to any interior. Please contact Byron & Byron on 020 8344 7979 or email for more information.

BTS Webrider compact unit Save on foam, easy to install, keeps your dome looking good for longer, helps fillings last longer

“Webriders� Versatile Pocket spring units. Add more comfort and shape to your seats! Perfect for a domed tight seat, backs and arms.

Available in 3, 4, 5 & 6 spring lengths

Contact us on: 020 8871 2569 Email:

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher


Memory Lane

MEDIEVAL MEMORY LOSS Another look back through the AMUSF picture archives…. igging deep into the AMUSF memory chest we find more tipsy treasures from times gone by! This motley collection of medieval members (and let the editor be clear that the reference here is to dress code not date of birth!) is reported to have gathered more than 10 years ago for an AMUSF event in the North East. In researching some background to the event, U&SF encountered only hazy recollections: a lot of ‘vaguely remembers’, ‘possiblys’, ‘could have beens’ and ‘fairly sures’. As our esteemed director of training, Wendy Shorter, told me: “I can’t remember the date but I know I had a great time.” Clearly a good night then, the finer detail of the function would appear to have been lost in the midst of time. But as a result of prolonged and exhaustive journalistic investigation, this magazine can exclusively reveal: • It may have taken place in 2002 • It was possibly in Durham • It is believed to have been at the Red Castle Hotel • It might have been a medieval night • People are thought to have eaten with their fingers and imbibed copious amounts of mead • Nobody can remember anyone else who was there


Believed to be L-R Derek Caplin, Ron Mecure -current AMUSF president- and wife Linda.

Rumoured to be Joan and Dave Hayes

Could be AMUSF training director Wendy Shorter


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

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IN THE HOTSEAT... ….WITH PETER HUBBARD, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE FOR THE AMUSF How did you get into this business? I’ve been in accounting in the manufacturing sector all my working life, predominately in food manufacturing (from sandwiches to pizzas, lasagne, cooked meats and milk). In the last 15 years I have diversified and now work with everyone from clock makers to concrete slab manufacturers, electrical retailing, locks and keys and, of course, the upholstery business! I joined the AMUSF at a very difficult time and it has been a great achievement to be a part of this fantastic team. What gives you the greatest satisfaction? I like to see business thrive and grow and to feel that I have made a contribution. If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing? Some years ago I passed my private pilot’s license, so if I could get the chance to turn back time, I would have quite enjoyed some part of being in the aviation industry - maybe even a pilot! When it comes to sport do you fall into the active or armchair camp? Football or rugby? I am 100% in the armchair camp. I’m not really a football lover although I will watch internationals. Most seasons I go and see the local teams play in Exeter, both the Exeter Chiefs Rugby and Exeter City. My main sporting passion is Formula 1 - I can’t miss it and have travelled to watch it everywhere from Silverstone to Spa. What winds you up? I think because I have quite an organised mind I like things to be neat and tidy. Not being able to find something that, for instance, hasn’t been put away in the right place does wind me up. How would you most like to be remembered? Someone who was very good at what they do professionally - guiding, teaching and mentoring. Beyond that, being a great


father and grandfather to my three children and grandchild - with a new one on the way. Is your glass half empty or half full? My glass is always half full as I am always optimistic about all aspects of life both professionally and personally. I feel there can always be a positive outcome to almost all situations. Your perfect day? My perfect day is with the sun out, the kids and family round, dog relaxing in the garden, hot tub bubbling, lovely picnic spread and lots of fun and laughter. Your desert island disc? Robbie Williams’s Angels. It’s my favourite song ever and I even bought a guitar some years ago to learn how to play it. Years later it is still on my list of things to learn. Perhaps on the desert island I might get the time.

the winter keeping us nice and toasty. There’s also a bookcase full of interesting bits and bobs that mean a lot - and of course the big TV!

What’s the best thing about our industry? Although I am an accountant, I have always worked in the manufacturing sector and enjoy learning the practical side of things which make the numbers come to life. The AMUSF has given me a glimpse into a deep rooted tradition and I love being part of all the heritage and tradition.

Doer or talker? Doer. Why talk about it when you could be doing it. Having said that, the doing should always be well thought through.

And the worst? Finding the balance between progression and automation while maintaining the core values, skills and tradition.

Best piece of advice to someone starting To have a good financial and business plan. Plans should never be written in tablets of stone (and invariably change the moment they are written) but should be adjusted and re-worked according to how events unfold. If you have a plan you will always have a route to work to.

What’s in your living room? Two sumptuous leather sofas with fur throws, a log burner that roars throughout

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher June/July/August 2014

If you could do it all over again what would you do differently? Nothing……… you become a better person by learning from your mistakes.

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher  
Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher  

June / July / August 2014