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Trimming and Fitting

In Detail: Our Seat Kits

24th APR 2020

Reading time: 7 minutes

Our seat kits are the best in the industry. Made to original specification with quality materials.

The production of our seat kits takes time, knowledge and skill. We manufacture all our restoration seat kits from our Cheltenham workshop with dedication, precision and attention to detail.

From accurate pattern making to digital cutting technology, our seat kits are made to fit. Our genuine pleating methods alongside our HF (high frequency) welding processes means we deliver exceptional seat kits sympathetic to all original detailing and finishes.

Read more about the key details that help us craft exceptional seats and upholstery below.

Original Specification Patterns

All our seat patterns have been reverse-engineered from original specification trim. This gives us the confidence to know that we supply seat kits that fit to original seat frames and foams without any risk of working from patterns that have been altered unknowingly over the years by various trimming interpretations and after-market replica. To this day, we still house a large archive of original seats in our workshop which we regularly refer to for pattern information and seat production.

Originally starting out in pattern making and cutting in the North East of England, John Skinner acquired the knowledge to make accurate patterns from original seats by carefully taking them apart, tracing off each piece and recording production notes and assembly instructions.

For many years, our sewing machinists dedicated much of their time in the workshop to marking and cutting out these patterns by hand, but having now transferred all our patterns into a digital library we can cut them with speed and millimetre precision using our on-site CNC machines.

A Jaguar XJ-6 Rear Seat cover taken from our archive of original interior trim. John Skinner would only take patterns and information from trim that he knew to be genuine factory production to ensure our seat kits fit to original framework.

Original Seat Welding & Leather Embossing

We use our on-site High Frequency Welder to add original specification weld patterns to vinyl cushions, backrests and panel work. (Welding is the process of fusing together vinyl and foam under high heat and pressure to press weld lines and patterns into the surface of the vinyl – you can read more about our weld tooling here).

Welding was seen most commonly across Austin Healey (specifically 3000, Mark 3 BJ8 Front Seats, Rear Seats & Quarter Panels) and Triumph TR4 – TR6 Seat and Panel Kits.

Austin Healey BJ8 models featured a small, offset square weld pattern across their seats, whilst Triumph TRs had an offset diamond pattern running in lines either front to back (as seen on the Triumph TR5 & TR250 models) or horizontally across (as seen on the TR6 models).

We are one of the only companies in the world to have the original weld template designs for these cars and offer the welded finish as standard in our kits.

For our customers wishing to upgrade from vinyl to leather seats, we offer a ‘Perforated Embossed’ finish to the surface of our leather. Whilst this is non-original for leather seat work across Austin Healey & Triumph TR models – any leather seats leaving original factory production lines would have been plain –  we offer this as an option for our customers wanting to upgrade to leather whilst keeping a feel of the original vinyl styling.

The ‘Perforated Embossed’ finish that we offer for leather seats is original for Jaguar models – having most commonly been seen across the later E-Types and the majority of the Jaguar Saloons.

Triumph TR6 Front Seats in New Tan Vinyl showing the original diamond weld pattern.
Triumph TR6 LeatherFaced Front Seats with our Perforated Embossed finish to the pleated panels to imitate the welded design that would have been seen on the Vinyl versions. Also note the exact colour matching between the Leather used to the seat panels and the Vinyl used to the seat surrounds.

Consistent Colour Matching

Where our seat kits use a combination of vinyl and leather – often in the case of LeatherFaced seat specifications – we have carefully colour matched our materials to allow for a uniform appearance when viewed side by side. This means that a pleated leather seat panel sewn into a vinyl seat surround will show complete and seamless consistency of colour between the two materials – and let’s not forget our leathercloth pipings have been colour matched to co-ordinate too!

We check any materials arriving at our workshop against our standardised colour library to ensure they sit within our accepted colour tolerances and we work closely with our suppliers to help us maintain this consistency. It also gives us peace of mind to know that sewn items being stitched in our Sewing Department are going to match with panel items being worked on by other members of our team in our Trimming Department.

This Triumph TR3A Front Seat shows a seamless match of colour between the Midnight Blue Leather Pleated Seat and the Vinyl covered Seat Back and Framework.


This Austin Healey BN1 Front Seat in Biscuit Light Tan shows excellent consistency of colour across the three different materials used to make it – Leather to the Seat Cushion, Vinyl to the Seat Back and Framework, and Leathercloth to the Piping and Hidem trims.

'Tuck & Roll' Pleating

We use a ‘Tuck & Roll’ pleating method to all our pleated seat panels. This uses a slit foam method to create tuck-and-roll pleats across our seat cushions and backrests. Unlike imitation pleating (made simply from stitch lines across a length of material), we stitch our pleats into precision pre-cut 17mm slit foam to give depth, definition and a quality finish to our pleated panels. Our pleating method, in combination with our engineered piping, gives our seats beautiful shaping and a long-lasting structure.

Imitation pleating can be seen here on these Triumph TR2 seats. Lines are stitched across the cushions and backrests in rows to resemble a pleated look. The overall look is very flat is often used as a finish across more budget focused restorations.
These Triumph TR2 seats have been manufactured by John Skinner using our ‘Tuck & Roll’ pleating method to give the seats a rounded, well-upholstered and comfortable finish.
A John Skinner Triumph TR3A trimmed Front Seat (right) next to an after-market interpretation (left). The after-market version has stitched imitation pleat lines, is incorrectly piped and overall demonstrates poor quality workmanship and construction. John Skinner’s pleats show more depth and definition, alongside the correct combination and placement of white and self-coloured piping.

Engineered Piping

We have developed an engineered pre-slit and part-glued leathercloth piping for use across our seat kits. The construction of this piping gives a quality finish to our cushions and backrests as the piping core has room to ‘move’ within the leathercloth surround, allowing it to shape to the curvature of the seats whilst giving a firm structure to the seat outline.

Leathercloth is an ideal material for piping as its lack of stretch ensures it maintains its shape. Its surface finish is also very difficult to catch and snag, making it resilient to wear and tear. It sews beautifully round corners and curves without wrinkling or sagging and gives structure to our seats without adding bulk.

(Although we would always recommend leathercloth piping, we can make vinyl piping to order if there is no suitable colour match for your seat material in our leathercloth piping range).

Our leathercloth piping on this Austin Healey 3000 Mark 3 BJ8 Front Seat gives a smooth, pristine finish with no wrinkles or added bulk.
This Austin Healey BN7 is an example of the effect poor quality piping & seat construction can have on the overall look and finish of a restoration. The piping is too thick, adding a weighty bulk to the seat profiles whilst giving a ‘wiggly’ finish to the Spare Wheel Cover.


John Skinner made the interior for this Austin Healey restoration, using Pale Shadow Blue Leathercloth Piping to give a beautiful structure and outline to the seats and upholstery whilst allowing for flexibility in fitting.

Austin Healey BJ8 Chrome Piping

For customers looking to restore their Austin Healey 3000 Mark 3 BJ8 Front & Rear Seats, we are able to supply the original chrome piping that would have been added to the vinyl seats leaving the original factory production lines. Often referred to incorrectly as ‘gold’ piping (the result of the original chrome piping yellowing through age and sunlight exposure), we are – at the time of writing and to the best of our knowledge – the only supplier to offer this chrome piping as per original specification on our Austin Healey BJ8 seat kits.


An original Austin Healey BJ8 Rear Seat showing a ‘gold’ looking piping which would originally have been chrome but has yellowed over the years with age and sunlight exposure. This is an observation made by Ditlev Clausager (1990, p.73).


Austin Healey 3000 Mark 3 BJ8 Front Seats manufactured by John Skinner with chrome piping to the outer seat profiles as per original specification. Image also shows original vinyl weld pattern applied to the pleated panel sections.


A few more details that make us really proud of our Seat Kits…

Traditional Machinery

We manufacture all our seat kits on our Seiko and Singer sewing machines. Sturdy and robust, similar machines to these would have been used for original factory line production.

Notch-to-Notch Assembly

Our on-site CNC machines cut our patterns with millimetre accuracy. Notches along the perimeters of our patterns indicate to our machinists how much tension to allow between each notch point when piecing our seat kits together.

Our Skilled Team

Our skilled team of machinists have extensive sewing experience and assemble our seat kits with precision and care. A small team, our machinists have been with us for many years and have built a comprehensive knowledge of all of our sewn parts.