If you are going to walk the walk, you should talk the talk.
What is spool furniture?
Let’s first explain what it isn’t. If you search the term on Pinterest, you will find a bevy of DIY tables, chairs and bookcases made from giant, industrial spools. That is not true spool furniture.
Rather, it’s furniture with a specific type of bulbous turning that resembles a row of spools or bobbins. The turning is called spool turning or bobbin turning. Bobbin chairs, like the ones in the first picture, are a type of spool furniture.
Spool furniture first appeared in early North European pieces in the mid-17th century. The Cromwellian chair named after Thomas Cromwell is an important example from that period. It also was made in America at that time.
In America, in the late 19th century, spool furniture became mass produced with the introduction of the machine lathe. Factories began to produce lengths of turned wood initially meant to be cut into individual spools for thread. Instead, however, the lengths of wood became legs, bed posts and crossbars. The furniture became so popular that commercial spool factories could sell their entire output to furniture makers.
Spool, or bobbin turning, appeared in all forms, including table legs, bed frames, cribs, mirrors and chairs. In the late 19th century, beds were the most prevalent.
Another name for the later, mass-produced spool furniture is Jenny Lind furniture. Do you know who she is and why?
Jenny Lind has been called the Lady Gaga of her day. A very famous Swedish soprano, she also is well known for her good works. In addition to furniture, she has streets, a town, a clipper ship, a locomotive and even an island named after her. In the mid-1800’s, Lind made a triumphant tour of America and donated all of her proceeds to charity (almost 10 million in today’s dollars). According to legend, Jenny slept on a spool bed during the tour. Since the world was mad for anything Jenny, her name stuck to the furniture form.
Photo credits: Cromwellian side chair photo from Christies Mirror from Etsy. Bedroom with spool beds. Nursery Bobbin chairs with leopard pillows from Bluestone Main Sewing spools photograph by Mike Savad via Fine Art America. Jenny Lind. Giant spool tables via Upcycled Wonders.