During my search for a suitable upholstery fabric, I was pointed in the direction of ‘The Fabric Mill’ at Halley Stevensons which is on Annfield Road, just behind the University or find it on the web at What a great shop, with a fabulous range of fabrics all at very reasonable prices. It is well worth a visit.

They unfortunately didn’t have the type of piled fabric I was seeking, but I did have a good natter with Louise Forbes an ex-graduate who works there and is half of the furniture design partnership ‘TWIG’, see for more details of their work. Louise said she had seen bathmats in a similar fabric at Dunelm Mill, so a short bus ride later and I had my upholstery fabric!

The other upholstery elements; foam, wadding and tools I purchased online from; which have just about everything you might want in upholstery.

The other specialist fixings – Tnuts and Stainless Steel Allen Socket Countersunk Screw Bolts I sourced through Ebay.

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I’ve spent the past few evenings trying to find a suitable material in which to upholster this chair and failing miserable to source what I envisioned.

Wanting a deep pile that I could sink my fingers into I had initially thought to perhaps create the material myself either using a rag rug technique or latch hooking with thick rug wool. This is not only very time consuming but will also work out fairly expensive. As these two resources are quite limited at the moment I need to find a practical alternative.

Rug wool (cut to 15mm) and Fancy Yarn latch hooked onto rug canvas.

Rag rug sample created using old t-shirt fabrics. 

Going with the grass theme I remember the fancy shiny rugs I’ve seen in the shops the past couple of years, made from mixed tubular polyamide yarns. They are just what I want in terms of soft springy but hardwearing texture but the backing is far to stiff to be able to upholster with.

Second idea was the twisted or looped cotton chenille fabric used for bathmats, as this is thin enough to take round a curved form. Being cotton it would also dye reasonably well. Unfortunately most of these mats are a fraction too small for my needs – although this might be my compromise.

Microfibre Chenille – my favourite colour, but a slightly more dense surface would be preferred!

My favoured material choice is the microfibre chenille fabric that you find used in car cleaning mitts or fancy mop heads, and occasionally bath mats – but having spent half the day on the internet can I find a supplier who sells it by the metre – no! If you know someone who sells it PLEASE let me know.

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I’m just at the stage of finalising the design, and will be heading to the workshop this next week to do some testing, prototyping and tweaking of the design before making the final piece. Here is a summary of how the project is going so far!

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Since preparing these sheets for a presentation on Monday, I’ve decided to use plywood instead of  finger-jointing Beech sections, cutting the legs in whole sections from 18 mm and laminating the layers together. I hope this will give an interesting detail on the outside of the legs and will be structurally stronger overall.

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I’ve been getting down to the nitty gritty of scaled drawings on AutoCAD and Sketch-up this week, which has led me to the issue of exactly what forward sloping seat angle to use. There seems to be several pieces of research done into this and the conclusions vary widely. Cranz and the torso to thigh angle of 135o is widely quoted (her book actually states 120o to 135o.) Other researchers have shown much smaller angles are better suggesting just 4o to 6o, so the body doesn’t tend to slip forward so much and not so much weight is borne on the legs. One good comprehensive reference source I’ve found is a dissertation ‘Effects of seat angle on comfort and lower back pain at work’, by Margaret Catherine Graf.

I’ve decided in the end to tend towards the middle ground, and opt for a seat sloping forward 10 degrees. This angle reduces intradiscal pressure by approximately 30% in the lumbar region compared to standard sitting positions (Lelong et al 1992), yet is not too steep, so most of your weight is still borne on your sit bones rather than throwing a lot of your weight forward onto your shins.

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As part of the ‘partnerships, networks and connections’ ethos of this module, I have recently visited ‘Total Business Furniture’, at 63 Brown Street in Dundee, who supply high-end ergonomically designed office furniture. The director Mr Andrew Flaherty and his staff were very helpful and happy to discuss their furniture.

Unfortunately they no longer sell a kneeling chair because the one they had stocked (by Peter Opsvik) is no longer in production, and as they didn’t sell that many they have not replaced it with another model. Although people happily tried the kneeling chair and many liked it, often they would opt for cheaper or more traditionally styled office chairs. Perhaps there was a perceived need to purchase what they felt conformed to idea of what an office chair ‘should’ be like. One member of staff said that they had lent a kneeling chair to one lady with a bad back so she could try it out and then had problems getting it back because she loved it so much. I can relate to that, as I love my kneeling chair too!

They do however carry the HAG ‘Capisco’ Chair also by Peter Opsvik and desks that are variable in height and angle, so you can sit, perch or stand whilst working. This type of more adaptable working environment is more common in Scandinavian countries than in the UK. Mr Flaherty said these were popular with designers and architects, and remind me of my younger days as an architect when I stood or perched on a stool at a drawing board to work rather than having to sit at a computer desk.

The HAG ‘Capisco’ Chair is a saddle type chair. It can be varied in height according to your stature and height of the work surface; it also has an adjustable height footrest and a tipping mechanism that is adjustable to your weight so you can lean back in comfort.

The saddle seat is a ‘perch’, and works in a similar way to ‘kneeling’, by putting your back into correct alignment. I personally found the seat too wide between my thighs and therefore not very comfortable for me. I would have preferred the projection to be narrower. Perhaps a man would feel happier with this wider stance and/or have thinner thighs to go round it! It was a comfortable position though with respect to the back.

You can sit on the chair back to front and lean forward onto the back to give support. This was an extremely comfortable position, and makes the chair popular with dentists and therapists that find they need to lean forward a lot in their professions. It also made me aware that whilst sitting in my kneeling chair working at a computer, I pull myself close in to the desk and lean against it for extra support rather than leaning against a chair back.

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I brought a kneeling chair into the studio this week and asked my fellow students (18 in total) to try it out and tell me what they thought about this different way of sitting, and how they thought this particular chair could be improved.

Most of them had never used a kneeling chair before and I had to show several of them how to actually sit on it. Most found this quite easy or figured it out for themselves, however as this was a new experience, some found it quite awkward.

Before sitting down a few were initially a little dubious about how comfortable or stable they would feel in this position. This highlights a problem with how the current chair is perceived and how this needs to be improved. However virtually everyone was pleasantly surprised and I had comments such as ‘Oh! That’s much better than I thought it would be’, ‘I like that!’ to ‘That’s well comfy!’

The overall consensus was it was actually very comfortable and that they liked the kneeling position.

Only 3 people (out of 18) gave any really negative responses.

One who is quite small (c. 5’2”) felt it wasn’t well sized for her body. Although she felt it was quite comfy, because she had to sit far forward to rest her knees on the pad she felt more pressure was going through her knees than she would like and if she sat back she didn’t feel safe. Conversely one respondent who is very tall (c 6’1”) felt it was awkward for him to sit on, although the position was comfortable when he did so. (It is interesting to note that a similarly sized individual had no problems, so perhaps this is in some degree a matter of the perception.) One other individual whilst commenting that they could feel that the position made them sit easily with correct posture and that they felt comfortable, they would not be able to stay in that position because of a knee problem.

Many people commented not only on the comfort but how they were surprised at how effortless it felt to sit with good posture (compared to a normal 90o seat) and that it felt very good in their lower back. Some however thought that they would feel more secure if there was a back they could lean against if they wished. Others said that it was strange not having a back but because they felt balanced in the kneeling position they didn’t feel unstable. This chair is actually sold with a detachable back, which I had purposefully removed to see if it not having any would elicit any comments.

The whole point of the chair is to make you sit autonomously, a back is therefore superfluous. I have only recently removed the back and the first couple of times I used it after doing so I found myself leaning back and being a little unbalanced when I realised the back wasn’t there anymore. Now, a couple of weeks later, I don’t even notice it isn’t there, because my body knows that it isn’t, so I don’t try to lean on it.

Despite having read negative comments on websites about the kneeling position being a strain on the knees and legs, virtually all of the people I asked felt (as I do myself) that there was actually very little pressure put on either their legs or knees in this position (see above for the only negative comments). A few people commented that they felt the knee pad was maybe a little too deep (300mm) as they could feel the edge a little on their lower shin. This is perhaps a slight fault in this particular model. I previously had a kneeling chair that had a narrower knee pad (240mm).

The group was split evenly about whether they liked to have their feet (or at least toes) touching the floor to add a sense of stability and balance or whether they preferred them to be hanging loose and be totally free. One person commented that they ‘liked the feeling of being suspended’. Most felt that the 5-star base was awkward and got in the way of their feet, particularly when the chair height was set to a minimum, although some felt they would naturally rest their feet on it.

The preferred height for virtually everyone was actually the height I set the chair to when I work at a standard height table. That is 540mm at the highest point (back) of the seat. Is this based on the perception of how high a chair ought to be, I wonder? The group was also split on whether they preferred a seat that was on castors and pivoted, or was fixed in one position. On the whole they felt the latter would be perceived as more stable.

The amount of padding on the seat and knee pad was considered to be just right to give comfort and support by most people. One respondent however felt that she would prefer an ‘Easy Chair’ to be softer whilst another said he ‘preferred the kneeling chair to his sofa’ as he thought it comfortable and gave better support!

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Trying out different positions

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It is obvious that back pain takes numerous forms and what positions are found to alleviate the pain varies widely between individuals. For example I find moving helps, whilst others find lying flat or lounging helps them – something that causes me even more pain.

The most helpful responses were in the section asking about what practically and aesthetically they thought an ‘Easy Kneeling Chair’ for the living room should be like. The responses showed a high degree of coherency.

  • Comfort was obviously paramount.
  • All the interviewees said padding and upholstery were a must, although this was to be balanced with necessary support.
  • It was also widely stated that comfort and luxury could be conveyed by the materials through a sense of colour, warmth and soft tactile pleasure.
  • Creamy Neutral, Pastel or bold Warm Colours would be preferred. Structurally the warmth of natural wood was also mentioned. Black was definitely out, because it had negative connotations.
  • Warmth and Softness to touch were preferred. Perhaps upholstery of brushed suede fabric, velvet or sheepskin?
  • Lightness of structure so the chair would be reasonably easy to move with a bad back, needed to be balanced with it being solid enough to convey safety and security.
  • Preference for something modern, contemporary and sculpted in form or something that looked different.
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