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Old 01-26-2005, 06:37 AM
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tuck 'n roll how-to guide?

I am building a traditional '54 Chevy custom and am looking for some kind of guide to the fine (seemingly lost) art of tuck 'n roll upholstery.

The entire original interior of my car is a write off (it's been sitting in a field for twenty years, plus it seems to have had some fire damage at some point). Even my seat frames may not be salvageable at all, so I have to start from scratch.. and I mean scratch... from bare floorboards up.

As I am in South Africa, interior kits and reproduced parts are not an option for me (especially large items like whole seat frames) as importing from the U.S. is way out of my budget, so I have to fabricate everything myself.

However, Cape Town is not really "Africa" as most people imagine, and there do exist a number of very good auto upholsterers, but they want to charge me and arm and a leg, and I want to learn the skills anyway.

I am not afraid of hard work, as I have no option or lazy solutions available. Any help or advice on this matter would be very much appreciated.

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Old 01-26-2005, 07:59 AM
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tuck and roll

There are two ways of accomplishing tuck and roll.
First, using a piece of chalk, a carpenters square, and at least a 1 meter straight edge, draw out your pattern on your fabric, on the front side.
Lay out your fabric, with a thick layer of dacron fiber fill ( one inch or 2 1/2 centimeters is sufficient) sandwiched between your fabric and another type of cloth, usually a light weight denum or cambric.
Make your first stitch down the center of your fabric, then alternate from side to side of that with the rest of your stitching, working outward to the edges, in a sort of bulls eye or whirl pool pattern. Space your stitches a minimum of 2 iches apart. You can go as wide or as narrow as you desire from that point on.
Tuck and Roll is a common expression for what is other wise known as channel stitching.
The alternative method is to use a 1/2 inch or 1.75 cm foam backing on your your fabric, and sew it the same way, The thicker you make your backing, the deeper your channels, and plusher looking your seats will be.
If you want more of a pleated look to it, what you will need to do is to make sure your fabric on the backside is pulled very taut while your upper fabric has little strain on it while sewing. This will make for deeper channels between the rolls. Do not cut your material to size of your pattern but cut it at least 3-4 iches wider and at least 2 inches longer so it will allow for the "shrinkage" of the material as you go.
When making a stitch, using your hands, pull the fabric out and taut so you wont wind up with wrinkles or bunching of your fabric.
If you are looking or a diamond pattern, you will need to draw out your design and sew it in the same manner as with straight channels. If you desire to go with a tufted diamond pattern, then no sewing is required of your fabric other than assembly.
To do this, figure out how far spaced you want your buttons or tufts to be, mark your fabric for those spots, and you will need to use a heavy thread with a large needle, double threading the needle with a piece of looped thread that has been run through the eye of the button. Run the needle through the fabric and backing in the marked locations, pull the thread through. Using a piece of scrap fabric, or some of your filler, separate the two ends of your thread, place your scrap between them and pull the thread down tight and tie it. You will want your scrap piece to be close to at least 1/16th inch or I would say about 3 mm thick when the thread is tied down snug over it. This will give you a very sharp looking tufted seat cover.
I would recommend that you make your tuft diamonds at least 10 cm X 10 cm or 4 inches by 4 inches. You can make them as large as you want. An alternative to using scrap on the back of your fabric would be to install the seat cover, then push your needle all the way through your fabric, and the foam cushion of your seat and then tie the button threads around the wire backing on your cushion. This will really add to the plushness of your seats appearance, making it look like an overstuffed couch.
If you have other questions feel free to shoot me a PM.

If you are looking to doing this as an avocation, part time job, check around your local tent and awning shops and see if they have a good used sewing machine for sale.
I bought the one Im using now for $100 US, and with about $50 in repair parts, I was back in business.
Many of those companies have older machines in perfect working order for sale, but have replaced them with newer machines with larger bobbins, to speed up production.
Since you are not doing piece work, production time isnt quite as critical.
Sewing together a vehicle seat or seats will soon trash a conventional home sewing machine, and home sewing machines dont have a wide enough bite, nor generally a walking foot, for pulling the fabric through the machine, which is a necessity to coming out with a professional looking product.

Last edited by Max Keith; 01-26-2005 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 01-26-2005, 08:53 AM
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Max Keith, What you are describing (first part) is just a pleated cover. A true "Tuck and roll" shows no stitching. It can be accomplished by,, 1. Cutting strips the width desired, sewing them together face to face on a piece of backing and then stuffing each tube or roll with a foam strip or whatever ( The famous " Mexican" tuck and roll jobs even used horse hair and newspaper).

I always used a pre-cut channeled foam with a cambric backer. Available in several widths and thickness'. Lay fabric out and mark the back with your spaced lines and then start at one end of the piece and sew the pleats from the back side, progressing across the panel. This gives a true "Tuck and roll".

My father owned the largest trim shop in northern Michigan and I cut my teeth on seat covers and convertable tops. I did many a tuck and roll job.. As a matter of fact I traded a tuck&roll job (56 Ford pu.) to get street headers and exhaust done in my old Anglia, back in 1969.
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Old 01-26-2005, 11:10 AM
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And that pleated cover that you see done on all the "soap opera" car shows will look like %$#@ in a few years on a regularly driven street car when the glue lets go. And it eventually does let go!!

Vince
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Old 01-26-2005, 11:47 AM
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tiajuana tuck and roll

BOB, I agree with you on the tuck and roll. Ive done a few of those myself and you know as well as I do they are somewhat labor intensive.
Back in the 70's I had opportunity to see some of the tiajuana jobs when I was in California.
Channel stitching is attractive and in my mind a better suited alternative.
I thought about describing a true tuck and roll job but my mind couldnt quite come up with the words for it. Vapor lock of the brain today.

Not sure what seats 302/Z28 is referring to, but if hes referring to a tufted seat, they last as long and wear as well as any other job. there is an early 50's caddy running around that is a daily driver that I did a tufted seat job in back in 85, and its wearing quite well. I guess its all a matter of the craftsmanship put into the job.
Ther are a lot of would be upholsterers out there that dont know how to do things the right way.

And I dont know of any genuine upholsterer that glues his/her work together.
That sounds like a serous hack job to me.

The way I sewed my tuck and roll was to just double over the material and then sew it 1/4 inch in from the fold, then sew the fold to the backing. Saves a lot of cutting time.

One other advantage to doing it that way is that if and when you have a seam break, you wont have stuffing coming out through the opening.

Last edited by Max Keith; 01-26-2005 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 01-26-2005, 08:03 PM
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Watch the hot rod shows, especially Boyd's. The upholsterer cuts grooves in the foam that is attached to a door panel. He then sprays adhesive on the back side of the material. He rolls ithe material onto the foam and with a wheel forces the material into the groove cut in the foam. He then moves on to the next one and so on. The only thing holding that tuck in the foam is a thin strip of glue. We have a member of our club who had a 34 redone a few months ago because the above described job done on it before was coming loose.

Vince
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Old 01-26-2005, 09:05 PM
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tiajauana tuck and roll

Let that be a good example of what happens when you have upholstery done with crappy workmanship. I personally dont watch those shows as I dont enjot all the theatrics.
I have enough stress in my life with out watching a bunch of supposed adults scream and hollar at each other and act like spoiled little kids.

I do good quality work and so that kind of work offends me.
Guess if I ever was stupid enough to waste money on a Boyds car, Id have to do my own interior.

Why is it there is always enough time to do something over, but not enough time to do it right the first time?
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Old 01-27-2005, 02:31 AM
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Thanks guys, I would say you have me off to a good start, the upholstery is the bigger half of my job. The seat frames themselves are the other part. Anyone have any tips on fabricating a seat frame from scratch?
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Old 01-27-2005, 04:53 AM
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I totally agree with you Max.

Vince
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Old 01-27-2005, 05:11 AM
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BOBCRMAN, Your description sounds more like the result I am looking for, hidden stiches, but it seems as though a lot of the basic principles described by Max would still apply.

Max, any particular advice on the non pleated panels for a seat cover or door panel, and how to assemble all these panels together to make a complete cover?

I could also use some advice on piping. Not sure how to get in touch with you using a private message but I'll figure it out.

Seriously, thanks guys for your input.
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Old 01-27-2005, 06:09 AM
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There are some very good books that describe the seat building process, with pictures. You really should pick those up.

Wheres Horvath???
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Old 01-27-2005, 06:27 AM
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Kristkustoms, I would love to get a book, any particular recommendations?
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Old 01-27-2005, 07:53 AM
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I picked up a book a few weeks ago at Barnes and Noble on upholstery. I did not have a lot of time to browse and the book looked pretty good, I got it home and found it did not even touch tuck 'n roll. Gotta take that one back. If anyone has a suggestion of a good book I'd be interested too.


I know how girls just looove the feel of tuck 'n roll.
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:07 AM
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tiajuana tuck and roll

As for attatching your fabric to the door panels, you will first want to sew them together if you are making a custom design. Attatching is done with staples to the back of the board which you use as the door panel itself. I would first wrap the fabric around the door panel, after spraying glue on the front side of the door panel and glue the edges on the back side of the panel, then go back and staple them.
If you want to dress up the edges to keep them from getting scuffed, try using a strip of flexible U channel, as is used around the edges of car roofs on the interior, or even the chrome stuff used as door edging for the supermarket bang, dent, and chip competition.
As for sewing the non padded panels to you padded parts, the only thing you really have to worry about is when you sew across the tubes of the tuck and roll.
As I mentioned in the PM reply to you.
The best way to eliminate wrinkles or puckers in the edges of your tubes, is to first sew the ends of the tubes shut, going slowly and be sure the ends are pressed down flat and have a neat symetrical appearance to them.
You will want to have all the various panels of your cushion (the part you sit on) sewed together prior to doing your accurate cutting for assembly of the entire covering and the same for the back (the part your back rests on).
As for a seat frame, I would take careful measurements of your interior, then go rob a seat out of your local salvage yard that will fit. That will save you a lot of building time, and you will also have the slide tracks with it.

The problem is that most any book you find on automotive upholstery wont show that as that is considered an advanced skill.
You might do better by looking at a book on furniture upholstery, and could find it there, as tubing ( same as tuck and roll) is a common practice in furniture.

Tuck and roll isnt that difficult, its just time consuming. Read back to BOBCRMANs comments.
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Old 01-29-2005, 10:06 AM
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here is a tuck and roll tech I picked up from the HAMB.
http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/s...ead.php?t=8315 This is a real detailed how to for tuck and roll. If you decide to post anything on the HAMB, take some time to learn what the board is about, and READ the rules.
PS They just moved to a new host for their board, and it was down yesterday, so if the link doesn't work, give it some time and it should work again.
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