December 1, 2010
Put a Sock on It
Bertjan Pot upholsters his latest chair in a single piece of wool.
The Dutch designer Bertjan Pot has produced what is likely 2010’s coziest seat: Jumper, a long-limbed armchair covered from top to bottom in a single piece of knitted upholstery—sort of like a giant toe sock for furniture. Getting the cover made was the easy part. Pot saw a “miracle machine” at the Textielmuseum, in Tilburg, Holland, that can knit wool sweaters in a single pass, with no additional stitching needed. (Made by the German company Stoll, it’s called the Knit & Wear machine.) A chair-shaped sweater seemed entirely possible. “But the problem with using knitted materials for upholstery is that it has a lot of stretch,” Pot says. “And when you start using it for upholstery, it will wear a lot faster than when the textile is not so stretchy.”
Then Pot thought of felt, a wool product that is plenty durable for seating applications. “I thought, What if you would just take that cover that you knit-ted and wash it at a hot temperature, so it becomes felt?” he says. Making this work was not as simple as it sounds—it took significant trial and error to get the knitted wool to shrink to the proper dimensions—but the plan eventually succeeded. The felted cover has a slit in the bottom, so that the chair parts can be assembled inside the upholstery. First the seat goes in, then the rear legs are inserted and screwed to the seat, followed by the armrests and, finally, the front legs. “It’s like dressing a baby,” Pot says. “It’s very carefully, one hand at a time. And you’re building the chair while dressing it up.”
It’s durable. The upholstery is rated at 33,000 cycles in the Martindale abrasion test, which exceeds the Association for Contract Textiles’ guidelines for general contract use.
The cover is knitted wool that
has been felted by being washed at a high temperature.
By precision-shrinking the wool
cover, Pot has created an upholstered chair with virtually no seams—only the four screws used to attach the armrests are visible.
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