Sunday, 13 May 2018

Harris Tweed and an Ercol Suite

Some time in 2016, while on a trip to our wonderful North Norfolk coast we spotted an Ercol Chair in a vintage shop in Holt. We were attracted to it  but the cushions were in the original fabric and needed recovering. 

Image of original chair 

I decided I could do that. We liked the chair and later spotted a high backed  Windsor version on eBay (the initial chair was a low  backed Windsor). However, bad luck got in the way of the first two attempted purchases but eventually we found one locally. Again this needed recovering. I have not done upholstery like this before. We decided before we went to the Outer Hebrides in 2016 that we would buy some Harris Tweed for the recovering from my favourite Harris Tweed Shop, Harris Tweed, Isle of Harris in Tabbert (1). 

Estimating the amount was difficult, but I guessed as long as I estimated over it would be fine....I could always make something with what was left. 

We went to Harris and bought the material which would co-ordinate with the lounge which we were in the middle of decorating. Life got in the way- the decorating took longer, we went to Shetland, I knitted etc so we got to 2017.

By chance I was at DesignerMakers 21(2) in Diss running some natural Dyeing Workshops at the same time as Bethany (3) had a pop up shop with some delightful artwork and some Ercol Chairs like ours that were sprayed shocking pink and white. 

One of Bethany’s chairs

When we got home we found out that both of us wondered if our chairs could be sprayed too but in colours to co-ordinate with the Harris Tweed and the redecorated lounge. Bethany was great, there was much colour matching and samples and the chairs  went to the sprayer in Bury St Edmunds. 

We had one replacement cushion made, the others were all in good condition and  I made the covers. This was a big job, we had estimated the amount of fabric needed before buying it. However we needed scale diagrams to get an accurate cutting plan. I took the covers apart to ensure that I cut out the exact size for the cushions. They needed to have no ease so they looked ‘tight’ on the cushions. Zips were purchased from Jaycott’s (3) and I learnt as I went along. Adding the buttons through the back of the upright cushion was the biggest challenge -not counting doing the construction in the correct order. I backed the seat cushions with iron on interfacing (as I do when I sew my own weaving), this came from Gill Arnold (4).

We got photos of the sprayed chairs from Bethany and I was more than pleased with the cushions, wouldn’t it be great (I thought) if we could find a sofa to match and replace our leather sofa. So time for another search on eBay and this time we found one straight away and set off to Essex in the motorhome to collect it.

We did wonder as we got close if we could get to the owner, our van is just more than 2 metres wide and we needed a large detour just as we approached the village. This sofa was in great condition, all new cushions and they had been recently recovered.  It did seem a shame to recover the suite but recovering in Harris Tweed was the plan. 

I contacted the shop in Harris, sending a sample and crossing my fingers. They had the length and even though this had got close to Christmas 2017, they were sure it would be delivered before Christmas. So a massive parcel of Harris Tweed arrived. The sprayer kept the chairs to get a good match and I came to realise I was committing myself to as much upholstery as I had already done. 

This was daunting. 

We collected the suite before Christmas and just LOVED what we had had done. 

The two chairs were upholstered for Christmas, this is a quick snap of one:

I had a break for Christmas. 

Then I set about the task of recovering 4 more cushions. Again the buttoning was the most challenging, but I had already done this twice. I was very glad I had a long weaver’s needle and enough strength in my body to squeeze the cushion whilst pulling the thread though and fastening on the back button. 

I was rewarded by their appearance and couldn’t stop looking at them. 

The completed suite 

We know that Ercol Chairs first show wear on the arm tips...this is where the ones we started with had gone. So I have knitted them fair isle mitts to match the colour scheme and actually feel they add to the look. 

Fair isle mitts detail

I have just returned to normal sewing. This time a pair of trousers for myself...which being trousers are proving a challenge of a different sort..this is another story for a later time. 

  1. Harris Tweed from Harris
  2. DesignerMakers21 in Diss, Norfolk
  3. Bethany - the designer of the chairs
  4. I find Jaycotts have a great selection of zips, in colour, size and type, all at a reasonable price and they deliver quickly
  5. I have taken several workshops with Gill Arnold over the years, focused on couture and tailoring. She sells good quality interfacing of all types.


  1. Brilliant! The colours are so beautiful and fitting for furniture.
    I've done some upholstery myself, even with piping.
    I think you did a great job.

    I know how the Harris Tweed feels, I have some myself.
    Did you wash it before use?

    1. I replied below Monique as I forgot to press reply first !

  2. Thank you, it took time but was worth it, the inspiration for the room is the colours from Norwick beach.
    No, I did not wash it before.

  3. Wonderful work- you've certainly created something" beautiful and useful". The colours are lovely and the mitts made me smile!
    Joy x

    1. Thanks Joy, the mitts besides being functional are a bit of fun. Developing plans in my head for cushions now.....

  4. Hi Janet, thank you for your comment on my website
    Your upholstered chairs look fab, too!