October 29 2011
Melanie Porter began her professional life working for a knitwear designer based many miles from her London home. “I spent a lot of time on the train,” she explains, “and so when I failed to find any fabric with which to reupholster an old chair I’d bought, I decided to use the time to knit a cover myself.”
Her fellow commuters may have been puzzled by this ever-growing piece of fabric, but friends who saw the finished chair were so impressed that they began to ask Porter to knit covers for them. And thus a business was born.
Each commission begins with the piece of furniture to be covered (chairs form the bulk of the business, but she has covered lamps, side tables and even shelves), which is first stripped back before being restored or reupholstered using traditional techniques. This blank canvas is then covered in a series of highly textural panels, which Porter knits by hand.
The design and colour of these panels is, of course, up to the client (Porter does home visits with her vast card of yarns), but she encourages people to hold off any final decisions until she has stripped the furniture back to its frame. “It’s not until you get back to the bones of a piece that you can really get to know its personality,” she says. “And it’s the personality that should dictate the design.”
Exuberant personalities such as Nora the nursing chair (second picture, from about £1,200) do make up the majority of Porter’s portfolio, but she will make covers for quieter characters too. Charlie, for example, sports a rather traditional diamond pattern in keeping with its Edwardian frame (first picture, from £2,000), while the pretty Perry sofa is the last word in elegant chic (from £2,400).