General Upholstery Articles

Have you ever wanted to know how to buy used furniture, the principles of upholstery, or the value of making upholstery prototypes, or about doing mail order in upholstery? This section contains many articles about a wide variety of upholstery subjects.

Buying Used Upholstered Furniture

Are you thinking about purchasing a used upholstered sofa or chair? How much should pay for it? Will you have it reupholstered, or will you be using it as it is?

Each Piece of Furniture Has 3 Values

When going out to buy used furniture, the buyer should keep the following three values in mind, the true value, the value to the owner, and the value to the buyer. This knowledge will help to negotiate when you want to purchase used furniture.

True Value

The true value is based upon the market value of the item. How much would a number of reasonable buyers pay for the item. In some case, the true value may be based upon the appraised value. But for most common used furniture, there is no appraised value. To prepare yourself for purchasing used furniture, you need to have at least a vague sense what used furniture is worth. Here are some ways to educate yourself.

List the type of furniture that you will be looking for. Then look through the classified section of the newspaper to see what similar furniture is selling for. Look at online advertising, such as Craig's list. You may not be willing or have the time and resources to go out and look at each piece of furniture, but look at as many as you can in person. One of the best places to look at used furniture is at second hand stores and thrift stores. This will give you an idea of what prices are being asked for what condition of furniture. Keep a list of the prices you have found for each type of furniture.

Value to Owner

The value that the owner assigns to their furniture may vary greatly depending how badly they want to get rid of the item, how much sentiment they have in the item, how much they remember they paid for it. The owner may value it a lot more or a lot less than the true value of the item. This will vary from seller to seller. For the exact same item, 3 different sellers may ask 3 widely different prices. The price they ask reflects the value that the item has to them.

Value to the Buyer

The value of any item to any buyer depends upon how badly the buyer wants or needs the item and how much he is willing to pay.

The Strategy of the Deal

Buyers and sellers come together with different motives. The buyer is often thinking, “What's the most that someone will pay for this? (along with, “What is the least that I would take for this?” which becomes his low benchmark. And then he will set a higher price to allow himself to come down in price. He won't go to his low benchmark unless he has to.) Sometimes they don't set a price hoping that a buyer will pay them more than they would ask. Conversely, a client comes to the deal thinking, “What's the least I can pay for this furniture (or he might be asking himself, what is the most I would pay for this?) So I'll start at a lower figure in case I have to

Some sellers aren't used to haggling, or don't want to negotiate, so they put the price they want in their add and there price is “firm!” They won't come down in price. A Savvy buyer learns to recognize the difference between the two types of sellers, and adjusts his offers accordingly.

Before You Make an Offer

Never give an offer without personally inspecting the furniture.

  Sometimes you find pictures of used furniture online, such as on Craig's List. I would never offer a price just from a picture onlone.  I can’t tell from the small pictures how worn they are, however I don’t see any obvious wear or soil spots. I can’t tell what quality they are from a picture, so I’m just going to assume that they are typical new furniture quality (lower mid range). I’m not an appraiser, but I can give you how I’d make an offer. My rule of thumb is: my top price for a used item is ½ of new price if the item is in like new condition, then I would go down from there.

Before talking price, sit in the chairs. Closely inspect them and try them both out. Firmly try to wiggle the frame in all directions. See if the frame is rock solid..Sometimes one chair gets used more than the other. Are they comfortable to you? Is the foam too soft? Lift up the seat cushion. Is the deck under the cushion new and crisp, or do you see a lot of dust, etc. which indicate a chair that has been used more. Unzip the back of the cushion and look at the foam to see if it’s mashed down (indicating an older chair).
Also, ask them how old the chairs are. If they are only a few months or a year old the fabric could be assumed to have more wear left in it than if the chair was 5 or 10 years old.
Ask them why they are getting rid of the chairs. What is the history of the chairs?
With all that said, let me give you an example. I wouldn’t make an offer without actually seeing a sofa or chair in person. As an example, let us assume that you saw a picture of a couple of wing chairs on Craig's list. How much should you pay for them. From my perspective, if these chairs were in like new quality I probably wouldn’t offer more than $100 to $150 each. (but since I’m more thrifty, I’d probably offer closer to $100 each AND wouldn’t offer even this much unless they were in really good shape AND my wife and I really want them). If they were in moderate condition, perhaps I’d offer $50 to $75 each. If they show signs of wear or soil, perhaps $25 each, or less.
With that said, I’d go there and ask how much they want for the chair. Many times, if you let the other person set the price they often will ask less than you might offer, so try hard to make the other person give a price. Then, if you think it is too much, make a counter offer of a lesser price.

Leave an Offer

If you really want the item, but are unwilling or unable to meet the asking price, leave your name and contact info on a card or paper with the price that your are willing to pay. If the seller is unable to sell it for their price, and they really want to get rid of it, they may call you later and accept your offer.

Changing the Style of a Recliner backrest

We were asked a question if it was possible to change the style of a tufted semi-attached pillowback to be plain, like a living room chair.

Here are a couple things to consider.

  • It depends greatly on your skill level. If you are an experience professional upholsterer you will be able to change it any way you like, and therefore you probably don't need my suggestions here..
  • If you have a digital camera, take pictures your recliner before you tear it apart, and also take pictures of everything you do, step by step. It will make it much easier to figure out how to put the recliner back together.
  • But if you are an amatuer, then you should consider the following when thinking about changing the style on an attached pillow recliner.
    • When recovering a recliner you are safer to use the old cover as a pattern to make the new cover. It is a lot less work to copy the existing style than to change the style of the backrest. If you use the old cover as a pattern (which I'd recommend), before you take the attached pillow apart, mark all the seams. For example, on every seam, draw a match-up line on every seam with a corresponding letter (A - A, B - B, C - C, etc.) on each side of the seam. These will help you reassemble the pillow back as you sew it.
    • If the existing foam is in good shape and comfortable, you may want to reuse it.
    • Lazyboy recliners generally have a curved backrest, which almost necessiates have an attached pillowback. (You can make the backrest plain, but that involves some special considerations which I won't into here yet.)
    • If you do decide to change the style of the backrest, I'd strongly advise that you get some cheap or scrap fabric and make up a prototype. This would save you a lot of grief later on.
  • One of the beauties and attractions of using a recliner is the padding is generally shaped to fit your back (Lumbar support, an indent for your shoulders, and have it support your neck and head at a comfortable angle). Unless you are knowledgeable about how to shape the new foam to fit your back, you could have problems. If you replace the back padding, then the padding in the backrest may no longer fit your back and therefore not be comfortable any more.
    • If you do decide to change the style of the backrest, Then you will need to do some fittings along the way. I recommend that after you have recovered the inside arms and seat, and are ready to work on the backrest:
      • put the the recliner together and put the bare wood of the backrest on the recliner.
      • you put the foam in place and try out how it feels. On a recliner, to get the foam in the backrest to be comfortable, you often have to layer and glue sections of the new foam to make it fit and be comfortable for your back. You'll especially want to put in some foam for lumbar support. If you are an amatuer, then you may make some mistakes (which is OK and is part of the learning process).
      • that you make a prototype of your new style of the backrest and try that out. That would involve you:
        • fitting the prototype fabric on the chair with the backrest in the chair
        • sewing up the prototype cover
        • stuffing the foam into the the prototype cover
        • taking the backrest off the chair
        • attaching the sewn prototype cover to the frame with very few staples (just enough to hold the cover in place.)
        • putting the assembled prototype backrest back on the recliner frame
        • test out how it fits.
        • You may have to go through this whole process several times or more to get it to look good and feel comfortable for you.
      • Sometimes, especially if you are an amatuer, you may have to make several, or more, prototypes to get the look and feel you want. (This is OK and to be expected.) Even professionals often make more than one prototype when necessary.
      • When you have your prototype the way you want it, use it as a pattern to cut and sew your new cover.

Note: on most recliners the backrest has an attached pillow back, which is assumed with the above instructions. However, if you decide to put the foam directly on the chair backrest frame, you'd first need to put burlap over the springs and staple it to the frame. (assuming that the backrest frame is straight rather than curved) Then you'd layer (cut and glue) the foam to the frame. After that you'd make a prototype to use as a pattern.

The exact process you go through may vary depending up the existing style of the backrest and the new style that you want to me. It would greatly help if you had a picture of the recliner and the existing backrest.


Many types of cushions, for the seat and backrest, of sofas, loveseats and chairs are available. Some of your choices are listed below......

Many types of cushions, for the seat and backrest, of sofas, loveseats and chairs are available. Some of your choices are listed below.

1. Cushions with a Solid Fill

Foam filled cushions, wrapped with a pillow wrap.

Spring cushions, wrapped with cotton fill.

Spring cushions, surrounded by foam

2. Cushions with a Loose Filling

Feather/Down Cushions

Shredded Polyfoam Cushions

Polyester Cushions

3. Cushions with a Solid Core with Loose Fill Exterior 

Feather/Down Cushions with a foam or spring inner core


Some of these choices are explained in more detail on the following pages. See link(s) below.

Down & Feather Cushions

Down is often seen as the ultimate in luxurious living.

Recommended Uses

Down is often seen as the ultimate in luxury. Who  hasn't heard of grandma's down comforter?

In it's recommend uses, there are few things that can compete with the warming abilities of genuine down.

  • Sleeping bags
  • Coats
  • Comforters
  • Bed Pillows
  • Throw Pillows

Down is very light and fluffy, it is idea in keeping one warm. It does very well when it is on TOP of a person.

Not Recommended for Seating

However, using down or feathers in a seat cushion (by itself) is not recommended. Because if it's light and fluffy nature it does not support a person very well. When even a lightweight person sits on a down cushion he or she tends to sit right through the padding of the cushion. If the down in the cushion is packed together tightly to support a person, then there is no springiness or cushiness to the cushion. It looks and feels like a big blob.

Knowing this, if you or your client  still want to use down in the seat cushion(s) of your furniture then we recommend that you buy or construct a pillow ticking cover with inner baffles.


The ticking cover has an inner enclosure for the foam core and outer baffles to hold the down/feathers. The baffles hold the down in place when a person sits on the cushion. The foam provides some substance to hold a person up while the down in the baffles provide some feeling of softness.


Also see: Rejuvinating a Feather Pillow And Pillow Ticking Covers

Doing Mail Order

Recently I had a  client vist the RV Cushions page of my upholstery business website.
 She said that she had some RV cushions that she wanted me to make. Since I've never done any work mail order before, I'm trying to work out the details. I'm wondering, is mail order too much trouble, or does it have great potential to add to my business.

Getting Correct sizes
1. Client to measure the cushions
2. Client to ship cushions to us: We only need one of each size of cushion. Here are your choices:

  • Ship Cushion covers: Remove the foam from the covers and ship 1 of size of cushion covers to use.
  • Ship Whole Cushions: Package and ship 1 of each size of cushions to us. In some cases this might be helpful, but in most cases this is unnecessary.

How should the item be packaged? (this would have to take into the UPS package preparation guidelines.)  
Possible Packaging methods:


  • Plastic Wrap: Should it be shrink wrapped?
  • Cardboard Boxes:





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Finding An Upholsterer

How do you find a good upholsterer? What is a good upholsterer?

It takes work to find a good tradesman in any profession. Finding a good upholsterer is no different.

If an upholsterer has been in business for many years, there must be a reason why he is still in business. That is one good sign.

The Upholstery Trade

Upholstery is one trade that allows all levels of competence to find work. Rank amateurs to qualified professionals all have a place. Each skill level of upholsterer can find work from a corresponding type of client. The main problem is when any level or type of upholsterer is not truthful about the quality of his workmanship. However, with that said, it is not unusual for an upholsterer to think that he does better work than he actually does.

The services of upholsterers are as varied as the clients seeking upholstery work. Some clients have furniture where the fabric is completely worn through, that has the cotton hanging out in a number of different places. Some of these clients just want some new fabric on the furniture, and they don't want to pay very much. They don't care much about how good the work is, they just want a new cover at not much money. Other clients have high quality, antiques, or sentimental furniture and they want and expect high quality workmanship, and are willing to pay more to get what they want. And there is a whole spectrum of clients between those.

If an upholsterer claims to be “the best” and brags about his workmanship, then be careful. Those who claim to be the best seldom are. Often times those who brag are trying to cover up their lack of ability. An upholsterer who does good quality work doesn't have to brag. His work speaks for itself.

Skill takes years to acquire, although the time to learn can be dramatically lowered if a person is apprenticed to a qualified professional who is also a good teacher.

Upholsterers have various skill levels in a variety of specialties. Some may have lots of experience in one area, but very little in another area.


Find people in your life or on in your general area if they know of an upholsterer.

  1. Ask Your friends, especially your middle aged or older friends, if they have ever used an upholsterer. If so, ask to see the furniture that the upholsterer recovered and inspect it closely

  2. Ask your neighbors

  3. Ask people at church or other organizations that you below to.

  4. Yellow Pages: It might seem too simple, but the yellow pages is a good first place to start.
  5. Fabric stores. Many fabric stores who sell upholstery fabrics also keep a list of upholsterers.

  6. Antique Shops: They may know of a good upholsterer.
  7. Interior decorators. They need upholsterers to do work for their clients. You could have your upholstery work done using the services of the decorator/designer. Hopefully, an experienced Decorator or Designer would have a quality upholster available for them to use.

  8. The Internet: Some upholsterers have websites. However, many upholsterers are not very computer literate. So, some of the best may not have websites

  9. Better Business Bureau: run a check on any upholsterer and find out if they have had many complaints

  10. Chamber of Commerce.

At the upholstery shop

Be Prepared: Before going to the upholstery shop, make a written list of what things are important to you. Inspect your furniture yourself. (From experience I can say, many people never really look at their furniture.) Wiggle all parts of the frame, arms, back, legs, etc. Check the cushions, sit on them. If they have zippers (most do) look inside and see what condition they are in.

While at the upholstery shop ask to see some of the finished work, If they don't have anything finished, ask to see whatever is in process. Or come back later when they will have something finished. If necessary, be willing to go back several times. 

Ask to see pictures of their work.


Most upholsterers have ways of doing things that are common to each of them. Also, various upholsterers use different supplies.

Don't take anything for granted. If you want certain supplies used, or if you want something special done, clearly explain, or better yet, explain it in writing and make drawings. Go on the Internet and find pictures of what you want.

“No instructions” means, for the upholsterer to do things in his normal ways. So, unless the job is bad, don't complain if it was done differently than you expected. If you have expectations, tell the upholsterer, preferably in writing BEFORE you give him the job.

Quality & Process

Various upholsterers have different levels of quality and also will have various work processes:

  • Some upholsterers will strip the furniture to the frame, check/repair all joints, springs, etc.
  • Some will take off the old cover, but not may not repair anything else..
  • Some upholsterers leave may much of the old cover in place and put the new fabric cover right over the old.

I recently recovered some furniture for someone who lives out on a ranch. When the brought their furniture into me, that smelled so badly that I had to strip everything off of the frame, and I even sealed the frame with a sealant. All new padding was put back on the furniture. When they picked up the furniture, their truck smelled just like the furniture had at the beginning. they happened to mention that they had sick animals in the house for some time, probably on the furniture. The point here is that they have different expectations of their furniture. Having all the pleats be perfectly spaced was not a concern to them. The just wanted the furniture cleaned up.

I've heard it said that you can go across the Mexican border and get your car reupholstered very cheaply, but don't ask what type of padding they used underneath the fabric.

Work Orders

Be very clear and specific about your expectations and requirements. Make sure that everything that is important to you is written on the work order. Don't sign the work order and don't pay a deposit unless or until you are satisfied that the upholsterer meets your requirements (type of upholsterer, skill and quality level).

Many upholsterers give very minimal work orders, with very little written on them.

It is unreasonable to expect that upholsterers would give a very detailed contract like a building contractor would give. But the work order should included a detailed listing of all extra items, such as new foam, all new padding (if included), spring repair, frame repair, etc.

An upholsterer can say, “the price includes everything”. But what does "everthing"mean? In the upholsterer's mind it might mean something as simple as just putting a new cover on the furniture, re-using the old padding and cushions. But the client might be thinking that it includes all new padding, new cushions, etc. If an upholsterer says that it includes everything, have him explain (in writing) exactly what is included.


If quality is important to you, don't go with the lowest price. You generally get what you pay for. If an upholsterer is the cheapest, there is usually a reason why (less experience, less attention to details, poorer grade of materials, etc.). Remember this basic rule about most products and service, "Lower price = lower quality and less service". If price is the main issue with you, then go with the cheapest price, but don't complain about the quality of the finished job.

I once had a man call me up for a phone quote. He asked me, “You guys (upholsterers) are all the same aren't you? Why shouldn't I go with the cheapest price?” (and he probably did go with the lowest price.) However, to be realistic, if you don't care about quality, why pay more to get a better job?

What does the price include? When an upholsterer says that his price includes everything, he may be afraid that if he raises the price for new cushions etc. that he may loose the customer.


Each client has different backgrounds, experiences, temperaments, etc. One client may be focused more on the upholsterer's personality (or lack of it).

One upholsterer may be gruff, and lacking in people skills, but may do a really good job. Another upholsterer may be very personable, love to talk and interact with people, but his skills may be only moderate. Some upholsterers may have both qualities, they may be very social and also do excellent work.

Consequently different clients might rate the same upholsterer differently. One client might be insulted by what they perceive as the first upholsterer's “stand-offish-ness” and ... give bad report of this upholsterer. Another client may be more focused on the quality of his workmanship and give glowing recommendations of the very same upholsterer.

Just like one wife might say, “I've got the best husband in the world” ( he takes me out to dinner every night, he works long hours to give me a large house.. ) Another woman might say, “I want a man who will be home each night, who will be here play with the kids, who will do activities with me and the family."

Similarly, one client might say, “I've got the best upholsterer in the world. He only charged me $300 to recover this sofa.” While another person might say, “I've got the best upholsterer in the world. Look at how all those stripes match, see how fluffy the down cushions are,... He only charged me $3000 to recover my couch. (and both clients could have the same type of couch.)

The point is, when you get a recommendation, whether good or otherwise, ask the speaker what specific things they liked or disliked about the upholsterer and the work that the upholsterer did.


Reputation means public recognition that someone has consistently done a good job for many people in the past. If the reputation is attached to a one-man shop, then that person has the reputation. But , if the reputation is attached to a multi-person shop things get a little trickier. If there is a quality inspector, such as the owner or manager, who consistently checks the quality, then the quality may be consistent no matter which upholsterer does the job. But if each person in the shop is responsible for his/her own work, then the quality of your work might vary, depending upon which upholsterer in the shop does your work. In this latter case, ask to see the quality of the work of each upholsterer. OR, if you see a finished piece that is really well done, ask who did it. Then insist that the same person does your work.

But things can change with time. Reputation is an indicator of past behavior, but it doesn't always predict future behavior. Past reputation is not always an indicator of current quality. You might get a referral from a friend who had her sofa recovered twenty years ago, and she was very pleased. Well, a lot can happen in twenty years.

For example, the largest upholstery firm in Salem had a good reputation that it took years to build. Eventually the business passed onto the son. After a period of time, he had marital problems, and his marriage split up. The business then passed over to the x-wife. During the tumultuous years key people left the business, quality began to suffer, customers were unhappy, finances became a problem. Eventually the business suddenly closed.

In another example, an upholsterer in my town had a shop for years along the highway. In recent times he had diabetes and started loosing his vision. He should have stopped doing upholstery, but for some reason he kept doing it. During the last period of business lost most or all of his vision, and the quality of his workmanship dropped considerably. Once happy clients were now disappointed. The point is, things can happen. Always go into any business relationship with your own eyes open. Check for yourself what the current situation is

Finding someone with a good reputation doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to use your eyes and your brain.

Potential Problem Areas

Assuming that both parties are honest and want to do what is right, here are some potential problem areas:

  1. Unclear Expectations: The client doesn't clearly explain what she is wanting: she is unclear with herself about what she wants. She may not have thought it out what she is expecting, and so she doesn't clarify her expectation to the upholsterer.
  2. Unclear or Lacking Specifications: The upholsterer is unclear about what he will specifically be doing. The upholsterer may just assume that whatever he does will be fine with the client.
  3. No, or minimal, written work order. Many upholsterers don't write out many, if any, details on a work order about what he will be doing.
  4. Mismatch of client and upholsterer. Not every upholsterer is a good match for any one client. It often pays to put in a little (or a lot) of effort to find an upholsterer that is a good match for you. To find out more, read this article on Upholsterer Types . (There should also be a corresponding article on "Customer Types") If a client and upholsterer are mismatched, they can drive each other crazy.

Finding a good upholsterer can be a challenging, and sometimes frustrating, task, but putting in the continued effort can be rewarding. Few good things in this life come easily.

Furniture Upholstery

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Antique Reupholstery
Cutting Layouts
Pattern Matching
Quality Standards
Seam Binding
Skirts on Furniture
Tear-Down Methods
Upholstery Methods & Materials
Upholstery Principles
Upholstery Springs
Upholstery Trims
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Antique Reupholstery

Reupholstering Antique Furniture

setteeSee the original article at Winters Sewing

When you are considering having a antique reupholstered, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. What is most important to you? Preserving the frame, restoring to original, just making it usable, keeping the cost down, etc.?


Reupholstering Antiques

When you are considering having a antique reupholstered, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. What is most important to you? Preserving the frame, restoring to original, just making it usable, keeping the cost down, etc.?

Recovery -vs- Reupholstery -vs- Restoration?

Some people who bring in antiques to recover just want the cover changed, they say everything else (under the cover) is just fine. To be blunt, they don't really know what the insides look like. In addition to that, the average person doesn't really look at their furniture. It's often been with them for many years and they just (want to) assume that everything under the cover "is OK". Quite often, by the time that the furniture is brought to us it has already been recovered perhaps several times. Each time before the client may have told the previous upholsterers, "Just put a new cover on it, everything else is "just fine". However, the padding and fabric tend to hide the true condition of the springs and padding to the client. Over the years the fabric, padding, support linings, springs, and webbing have been slowly aging.

As an example look at this antique. From the outside everything looks OK. When we take the cover off we can see that the burlap and webbing is severely deteriorating. (click on the pictures for a larger view.)

Warman arm burlap


Warman burlap









Here are some general guidelines to go by.

  1. When you are going to the expense of having something recovered, it would generally be safe to assume that you want the springs and padding to last the lifetime of the cover. Generally you want the cover to wear out before the stuff under it.
  2. Unless the furniture was reupholstered very recently - AND - the springs and padding were replaced or thoroughly repaired at that time, then we would recommend that they be repaired or replaced now. Look through the Picture and Slideshow section of our website and you will see that the support structure (webbing and burlap) of many of the antiques are quite deteriorated, even when they look fine on the outside.
  3. Recovering (just putting a new cover over the existing springs and padding), is only an option if the frame is rock solid, if the springs and padding are in excellent shape. If the frame is even a little wobbly, or the springs are weak, then you would at least go for the reupholstery option.

Especially with antiques there is often much more work under the cover than what you can see on top.

What is your Purpose?

Restore for historical value?
Make usable for household use?

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. If you have an antique, should you go through all the time and expense of restoring* it, or do you just want to make it usable for your household?
  2. What is the furniture worth?
  3. It a rare piece? Would it be valuable it restored? Or it is it just a common antique? Where can you find out?
  4. What is the history of the piece? Does this particular piece of furniture (or this style) have any specific historical value?
  5. If it is a valuable piece, would it make sense to lessen it's value by just doing one of the lessor cost alternatives?
  6. OR - If it is just a common antique, would it make sense to go through the added expense of restoring it? Would the additional cost be worth it?

What Condition is the Furniture in?

Much of the time when clients ask us about recovering their antiques, they see their furniture in their minds as it was quite a few years ago. They see their furniture as they “want to see it”, not as it truly is today. The sofa or chair may have a fabric that is in relatively good shape where a previous upholsterer just covered over the previous upholstery. So those customers often say, “I just want it recovered. The rest of the chair is in good shape." However, the question is, have you actually thoroughly inspected your furniture? Have you tried to wiggle all the joints of the legs, arms and backrest?

Once we get the cover off, and open up the padding, then you can begin to see the true condition of the sofa or chair. When you have an antique estimated, you must have the awareness that it will cost you more than you think. It probably needs more work than you expect.

When determining how much work needs to be done, we go by the condition of the frame, springs, support linings, and the padding. We will not cover over the internal workings of a chair that is falling apart.

How can you tell what the true condition of your furniture is?

  1. First and foremost, pretend like you don’t own the furniture (or have someone else inspect it) and are inspecting it to see if you want to purchase it. Look it over very critically. Your job is to find everything wrong with it that you can. (Much of the time when client’s inspect their own furniture , they look at it through rose-colored-glasses. They don’t want to see anything wrong with it.)
  2. Firmly hold onto and wiggle all the major areas of the furniture (arms , back, legs, etc). Are the joints rock-solid, or do the the joints wiggle?
  3. Look under the furniture. Is the webbing still tight, or does the webbing bulge down quite a bit?
  4. When you sit on the furniture, does the seat give you good solid support. As you press down firmly all around the top of the seat, is it all firm, flat, and level, or are uneven or hollow spots.
  5. How long has it been since the chair has been reupholstered.
  6. At the time that it was done, were the springs reties, were the support linings replaced?
  7. If it has been more than possibly 15-20  years since the insides have been rebuilt, then there is a good chance the chair or sofa will need much work.

Upholstery Cost is Higher

Reupholstering antiques usual cost more than upholstering modern furniture because:

  1. The frames on antiques have had much more use and have been around longer than modern furniture. Unless the frames have been reglued lately, they may need to be glued. The frames are usually more brittle and we often have to reglue frame pieces that are loose and are coming off.

  2. The springs and padding usually need attention or repair.

  3. Antiques usually have wood around the edges and bottom of the furniture. The means:

    1. we have to work slower and be much more careful when tearing off the old cover and putting the new cover back on.

    2. Attaching fabric around the decorative wood involved extra work of attaching the fabric and then having to apply the trim over the fabric edges.

I've heard many times, when someone wants to have a antique recovered, "I only want the cover changed. Everything else is in good shape." The truth is that no one can see what the frame and springs look like under the cover. The fabric and padding hide the true condition of the frame. A high percentage of the time, when "recovering" antiques, I end up having to strip the furniture to the frame, removing the burlap, webbing, padding, and springs, then having to rebuild everything from the frame up. Sometimes I also have to take the frame apart and reglue it.

What is your Budget?

This will greatly influence your reupholstery options. If you are on a tight budget, then I would suggest that you either put the furniture away until you can afford to have it done right, or, perhaps sell the furniture, or give it to another family member, who can afford to have it done.

Things To Consider About Your Antique(s)

Although you see your antique as a single piece of furniture, it is actually composed of numerous elements. In reupholstery you need to consider each part.

The Frame

Structural: Are all the joints of the frame solid, or are some joint loose or squeeky? To check, go over the furniture and try to wiggle every frame part. the frame Regluing and reblocking the frame as needed. Sometimes this might completely disassembling the frame and regluing, adding new blocks (as needed) to the corners.


Cleaning: Over a period of years dirt, grime, and wax may have built up on the woodwork of your antique.

Restoration: Assuming that the old finish is salvageable, leaving the old finish on and cleaning and restoring as possible. stripping off the old finish could lessen the value of the furniture.

Refinishing: stripping old finish off, staining as necessary, adding a new finish of your choice


Type and condition of existing springs. Are the old springs in good shape; are they reusable or do they need to be replaced? Many of the antiques used the common hand tied springs, which are still being made today. Some antiques used unusual springs that are no longer being made. In this case, a decision has to be made to repair the existing springs (which usually costs more), or to replace the springs with another type of springs, or to remove the springs and use webbing and padding.

Here are some spring choices

  1. Use As Is: If the springs are in good condition, just covering over them might be a choice. But in most cases this would not be recommended.
  2. Re-Use Springs: reusing existing springs (replace any broken springs)
  3. New Springs: replace All springs with new springs


Type and condition of padding. Is the padding in good shape; can it be reused? -or- does it all need to be replaced? Do you want the same original type of padding, or do you want to replace it with modern materials.

Type of Materials originally used in antiques : Horsehair, tree moss, dried grass, cotton, excelsior, wood shavings.

Cost of materials: In the old days when the furniture was originally made, upholsterers and furniture builders probably used whatever type of materials and padding that was common and easily obtainable. Over the years since then, methods and materials have changed drastically. That which was once common place is often now rare and hard to find, and therefore expensive.

Labor for installing materials: Many of the materials used in antiques require very labor intensive methods of attaching them to the support materials. For example: horsehair

Modern materials, such as foam, requires very little extra labor to attach it to the burlap.

Padding Methods:

When having antiques recovered, many clients may not care what type of padding is used in the reupholstery process. For those clients that are concerned about the padding used, here are some padding choices to consider.

*Padding Note: a. When working with antiques, rebuilding the padding using the original methods and materials can be more expensive than the rest of the reupholstering process. b. The original methods, while common to the time period, were very labor intensive. Similarly, while the original padding materials were common to the time, nowadays, many of those materials aren't as common or as readily available today, so they very expensive as compared to today's padding materials.

Re-use existing Materials:

With any of these options, new padding is added over the top of existing padding if or as needed.

  1. Leave Existing Padding in Place: Assuming that the furniture has been reupholstered recently (with new burlap and new webbing), leave all padding in place, as much as possible, and put the new cover over the top of the existing padding
  2. Re-use Existing Padding & Add New Supports: Carefully remove the padding materials (cotton, hair, dried grass, excelsior, moss, etc.) off the furniture, as needed, and replace the existing supporting materials (webbing, burlap, etc.). Then re-attach existing padding materials and handworked areas mostly undisturbed to the frame. Add new outer-linings as needed to hold the padding in place. Add new padding on top as needed. (This is our most common option)
  3. Refresh Padding: same as 2. above, except old padding is removed, taken apart, fluffed up, and restitched, as necessary, in place. New interlinings added as necessary. (see Padding Note b. above)

All New Padding:

As in 2 & 3 above, the supporting materials are all replaced with new. In addition the padding is also replaced with new padding, with one of these options:

  1. Common Modern Padding: Padding replaced with new common materials, such as polyfoam, cotton, and other readily available materials
  2. Common Antique Padding: Padding materials are replaced with padding materials that are commonly used in antiques. This may be the same, or different materials that are currently in your furniture. This choice will be determined by what type of padding materials are in your furniture compared to what type of padding materials are readily available to us from our suppliers. (see Padding Note above)
  3. Same or Similar Padding as Original: As much as possible, padding materials are replaced with the same type or similar to the existing padding materials. (see Padding Note above)

Attachment: Methods and Materials

Tacks: Most of the fabrics on antiques were commonly fastened onto the frame with upholstery tacks and Upholstery Tacksa tack hammer. Some of the drawbacks about using tacks is they  damage the frame. Upholstery tacks are, in a small way, shaped like the splitting wedges that are used in splitting  wood. When the furniture was new, and had just one cover put on, and splitting damage wasn't noticable. But, when the furniture has been recovered numerous times using tack, this results in many tack holes in the same area. This can result in the wood in that are begin to have tiny splits in numerous areas where the tacks have been. Over the many  years I've done upholstery I've seen a few furniture pieces where the wood had been damaged so badly by tacks that that wood had to be repair or replaced before it could be upholsterered. The frames of antiques can become very dry (the result of many years in a warm house) and are very susceptible to splitting, especially with furniture that has been covered many times using tacks.

Nowadays, with the coming of the staple guns, fewer and fewer upholsters use tacks very much.
Staples: most upholsterers and furniture manufacturers attach the upholstery fabric to the frames using Staples & Tacksstaples. This is a very easy and cost effective method.
There several types of staples. The type that many upolsterers use, including me, is like at very thin wire, which does almost no damage as it goes into the wood. Unlike tacks, the thin legs of the staples leave the wood almost undisturbed.In the picture at the left, compare the thickness and shape of the shaft of the tack and the staple that goes into the wood. The thinner the shaft, the less damage to the furniture frame.

Cost: Unless an upholsterer is very proficient at spitting tacks, using tacks adds a significant amount of time to the upholstery process. So using staples is also a cost saving feature.
Preserving the Frame: An important point to remember that with antiques preserving the quality and stability of the frame is much more important that "how" the fabric is attached to the frame. While using tacks might be more "historically" true, using staples is less damaging to the frame.

Antique Upholstery Theories

Restoration: Restore as close to original as possible using the same types of fabrics, supplies and attaching methods as the original. (This can have various meanings depending upon the specifications of the client, the availability of materials, and the skill and knowledge level of the upholsterer. If you are considering having an antique restored, be sure to talk over specific concerns or wishes you have with the upholsterer before the price is given and the order is written.)

Here are some articles on Furniture Restoration:

To Restore or Not to Restore Some points to consider before refinishing an antique.


Reupholster Using Common Materials: Since the original makers of the furniture used the common material they could easily find, have the upholsterer likewise use the common materials that are available today.


When you own and care for an antique, you are steward of a relic of the past. What are your responsibilities to the past and to those who will own the furniture in the future. The basic premise of an antique is that it had a life (of sorts) before you owned it and it will probably have a life after you.


Restoration: There are various levels of restoration from reusing the existing materials to complete replacement. Also different upholsterers with different backgrounds and skill levels will do the job differently. (see Upholstery Theories above.)

Recovering: taking the old cover off and putting a new covering on.
Reupholstering: Often used synonymously with Recovering, but in a deeper sense, can be defined as doing a more thorough job, include frame rebuilding, retying springs, adding new padding, etc.


Down Feather with Foam Insert

Note, this page is from a message thread that was copied here when the site was upgraded. If you want to learn more about Pillow Ticking covers, go here.

Down Feather with Foam Insert

Submitted by luv2sew on Sun, 2007-10-21 21:41

I saw the pictures of the Cushions with the Foam Insert and Down feather wrap. Did you stuff the feathers by hand - of so where do you buy them? I am in California.

Thank You.



Down filled cushion

I am working on upholstering an antique couch and noticed how you made the down cushion on your website.  I have read all the comments and questions that are posted, but was not able to view the video that you have on an older post.  Do you still have a link available to this video?  I am hoping to make a foam filled down cushion, but am looking for a few hints.  The video I was attempting to view was posted on October 26, 2007 about building and using the bazooka.
Thanks for your help!


Video: Using a Bazooka to fill feather cushions

Hi Becky.

Here is the video on using a Bazooka to fill down cushions. I hope that helps.



Bazooka video

Hi Stephen,
Thanks for the link to the video.  It has helped a lot to be able to see it.  I also have appreciated all the postings that went back and forth between you and Janice, from TX.  I would also consider myself a novice and I hope to complete a full sized cushion for my sister's antique couch.  I still have a number of things to try to figure out so I most likely will be asking questions in the future.  I have already spent a bit of time on your website and am very thankful that I happened upon it.  Thanks for the time you have taken to share your thoughts with us!


Last 2 cushions

Hello, Stephen. It's been a while since my last post. With just the 2 remaining sofa seat cushions to construct I took a longer-than-intended break from my project but am now back on track. I just finished the 2 cushions but need more feather/down before I can fill them. Now, remember I was worried whether I'd over-stuffed the first 2....well now I have the empty new shells I've done 'before' and 'after' weighings to calculate how much we actually blew into each of the first 2. Amazingly they each contain the same amount at 4lbs. Now that means there's approx 1/2 lb in each of the 8 baffled (1.5") sections (the cushions are 24x27 with a 2" foam core), which doesn't seem over-generous having read your postings on the topic. That said, I wonder whether this sounds about right to you? By the way, I'm considering replacing the medium foam insert with the soft variety for the softer, more comfy feel I prefer.
Regards, Janice


Last 2 Cushions

Hi Janice,

I don't know whether the amount of feathers is right or not. I'd say, just test it out and see how it feels.If you decide that you want to weight out the down for each pocket, that is one way to get the same in each. That's fine. As for replacing the inner foam insert, I'd recommend just doing one first and see how you like it.

Best Wishes.



Mission accomplished

Well, we did it.  Our tube was too long and at 1.5" a little too wide but it worked!  One of us controlled the feed end, the other the pillow. I made a 'sleeve' from a ziplock bag to help keep the velcro from getting too clogged with down as we filled each section.  I realized I'd made the cuts in the velcro too long, which made the job harder than it needed to be, but we filled all 4 seat cushions.  For results see my posting on the Pillow ticking covers page.  The Elkins/Winters bazooka below.


About the foam ... and the bazooka operation

Stephen, it looks from your bazooka video as if you selected a really soft foam insert. I think my new sofa seat cushions are about the same thickness as yours (1.5 inch baffles)with a pocket for 2" of foam. Should I choose a soft type, too, do you think?

Also, when you're filling the sections, do you just go by experience in knowing that you've blown pretty equal quantities into each? And, do you really fill each, I mean until you can't add any more? Or leave some space?
Regards, Janice
P.S. Does all that air just seep/pass out of the down ticking as you fill - or do you have to press it out?


The foam is a medium

The foam is a medium firmness, although you can use any firmness/softness that you like. Since the down doesn't have much body, the medium firm foam gives a little more body.

As the the amount of the down/feathers, some people weigh out the down to get equal amounts. When I fill it, I start filling the very back first and the continue filling as I back the bazooka out of the pocket. As far as how much to put in,  I go be "feel". I flatten out my hands and spread out my fingers and pat the outside of the pocket all over to see how it feels. Then I use that same method to compare the adjoining pockets. If you put too little down in the pocket, it feelshollow and doesn't give any support. If you put too much down in the pockets, it will be too firm and solid. The right amount will still be kind of loose and fluff, yet will give you some solid support. The nice thing about this type of construction and filling method is that if you don't get enough down in the pockets, you can always open up the cushion and add more. If for some reason you want or need to take some fill out, use the bazooka to take some out and put it into another bag. 

Yes, the ticking "breathes". During the filling all that air seeps out of the ticking so no reason to try to press it all out.

 Best Wishes,



Stuffing with feathers & the video clip

After watching the video clip I would like to have a go at making the bazooka filler. I understand the process but don't know what the 'machine' is. I have seen some paint sprayer motors on the market, do you think that would work (if I removed the paint sprayer)? I'm in the UK and have feather sofa seat cushions that are in desperate need of re-filling and until I saw your video clip I envisaged being covered in feathers!

Thank you.


Thank you so much for the

Thank you so much for the information, I really appreciate it. I haven't used an air compressor before and will be a complete novice, but eager to have a go. I've just looked and have seen some fairly similar ones here in the UK. I can always use the compressor later for some paint jobs - my son would have loved one for the jobs when restoring his beloved old mini car!
Thank you, again.


    Hi Jackie, My current


Hi Jackie,

My current air compressor is a vertical design similar to this one from Harbor Freight (click on picture to see details.) I use this type because it fits better into the small space that I currently have for it.

Because I use other air tools, I use an air compressor with a tank, and this is the type I'm used to. I'm not sure if you use a tankless aircompressor if you'd have enough air pressure to make the bazooka work properly. If you already have that type, go ahead and give it a try. If you don't have an air compressor, would you have other uses for it besides just using it on the bazooka?







In the past I've had one the looked similar to this one. (click on picture for details) Either type (and other types) work fine.








Measurements down cover and foam insert

I would like to try to make your down wrapped cushion with foam insert, like in the video. I have two questions. When you make the down ticking cover is it the finished size of the cushion? Related to this is the foam insert also cut to finished size?

I have some experience making tradtional foam cushions and I cut my foam about an inch larger than the finished size.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.



Ticking Cover

Hi Alicia,
Glad to help.
I'd make the ticking cover just a little larger than what I'd cut the fabric cover. The fabric cover will compress the ticking cover a little. Making the ticking just a little larger than the fabric cover will help the cover be tight on the cushion.

The cutting size of the foam would depend upon how firm the foam is. If using a firm foam, I'd cut it about the finished size, but if using a soft foam, I might cut it a little larger, about the cutting size of the fabric.



Down cushions

I want to make a down cushion with the foam insert. How do you figure out how much down to get to fill the cushion?


How much down to get

A chair cushion 24" X 24" with a 4" boxing will take approximately 4-5 pounds per cushion.*


*Info take from the Hoch & Selby Supply catalog.


down feather with foam insert

I have a sofa with down back cushions that have lost their loft. I love the sofa and just want to restore the cushions to their original loft. Is this something I can do myself?



Restore the Fluffiness

Hi Heather,
There are many things that you can do yourself, if you are experienced at using a sewing machine.
When you say that your sofa has "down" back cushions, do you mean "real" down feathers, or a simulated/imitation down, which is often some type of polyester? Have you looked at the label on the cushion liner?
Now a note about "real" down. Down can be anything from 5% down/95% feathers to 50%/50% on up to 100% down (which is very expensive.)
If it is real down, then, if it won't fluff up, probably one of the simplest thing to do is to add some more feathers/down. Just buy a new down bed pillow and use those those feathers to add more to the sofa cushion(s). Be forewarned, when you start working with down/feathers, they fly all over the place. Be sure to work out someplace where it will be easy to clean up the feathers. If you watched the video on the above message, then you see one professional method of transferring the down.
After you are finished, take the pillow to the sewing machine and sew it shut.


Down Feather with Foam Insert

Here are three places in California I know working with poly-down envelops:

Pacific Coast Feather: 800-800-2874

Cushion's Work in San Francisco.

Good Luck


Down Feather with Foam Insert-addresses

Here are the addresses for the suppliers you gave:
Royal Pillow
2110 N.W. 23rd AVE.
Miami, Fl 33142
Phone: (305) 634-3415 9:00am - 4:00pm (Eastern)
Fax: (305) 635-7192
Toll free: (866)-Pillow1 (866- 745-5691)

Pacific Coast Feather
1 (888) 297-1778
1964 4th Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98134

Cushion Works
3320 - 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Ph: 415-552-6220
Fax: 415-552-6250


Filling the down Cushion

Hi Pam,

To answer your question, I have a (home-made) bazooka filler that I use for filling down pillows/cushions. This video* shows the process. The down/feathers you should be able to get at most wholesale upholstery suppliers. I get mine from Hoch & Selby in Portland Oregon. (Phone 503-234-6476 or 1-800-659-9904)

*video is in Windows Media player format.



Down Cushion with Foam Insert

Thank you so much for sharing that with me - that was awesome, great job and wonderful idea for stuffing the down feathers.

Wishing you much success in the New Year!

Pam Lawrence
Slipcover Sensations


Is This Chair Worth Recovering?

What do you do when you have taken in an upholstery job, taken a deposit, ordered and received the fabric, stripped the chair, and then you find out that the chair is a lot more work that you quoted. Will the client still want to proceed? If the client doesn't want to proceed, what do do about the client's deposit, the chair frame, etc.

I had another learning session. Sometimes when we start a job, we may find that the work will be more costly than the client is willing to pay. When working with clients, it is a good practice to help her decide what best fits her budget and her desires. It sometimes takes a lot of thinking and writing things out clearly to help the client decide what she wants to do. It is also extremely important to deal openly and honestly with the client, giving her all the facts she needs to make a meaningful decision.

Recently a client contracted with me to reupholster 3 pieces of antique type furniture. Since she lives almost an hour away from my shop, and didn't want to pay any additional trip fees, she paid a deposit on each piece and agreed to pay the balance for each piece as I finished it. I would send her pictures and she would send me a check.  I've finished two of them, and sent her pictures, and she has paid for them. All that has worked fine and she is real happy with what she has seen on the pictures.

On the last piece, the frame of this antique chair......

(Click Pictures to enlarge)
(Click here to see all the pictures OR click here to see the slideshow)

....... is a little wobbly, the finish is kind of beat up, and the back legs are about 1 1/2" to 2" shorter than normal, which tips the whole chair backwards instead of balancing the chair more evenly on all 4 legs.

After I finished the first two pieces and tore apart the last piece, I carefully inspect the frame. Then I made notes on a picture and made a video of the results of my inspection.

After reading and watching the video she had a better understanding of the condition of this last chair. She has decided not to have me do the chair and to use the fabric on another chair that she has (which matches the loveseat I just did for her.)

Here is what I wrote her in an email about the condition of her chair.

Quote from: Stephen to client

  I realize that you said that you didn’t want to spend any more money on the arm chair, that it was at your budget as it is. This leaves me with a struggle to figure out what to do. Whenever I upholster a chair, I like to have the frame be rock solid, so it will be a solid foundation for the springs, padding, and the fabric cover. However, the frame on your chair is a little wobbly, some parts of it are more wobbly than other parts. It’s not in real bad shape at the present. Of course, you could say that the frame is useable as it is. After all, you have had it in your house for years. The reality is that as a piece of furniture is used, any loose joints will get looser with time and usage. So, the question I ask myself (and you) is should I just cover the frame as it is, with it being a little loose, or should some parts of the frame be strengthened, or should I take it all apart, reglue and clamp the joints to make a very solid chair. But then again, we have the budget to work with. Since it’s your chair, and your budget, I decided to lay out the situation and the choices before you and let you decide what you’d like to do.

Here is a video showing  the frame joints of the your chair. Please watch the video so we can discuss what you’d like to do. In addition,  I’ve also attached pdf file with a picture of the frame of your chair, with the loose joints marked, and suggested blocks placement. The picture shows the maximum block placements. Of course, you can go with any amount that you’d liked, or none.
Attached to this email is a pdf file in which I’ve also included some comparison estimates to give you an idea of what the cost to do various repairs might look like.
I might suggest, that one possibility would be to reglue the arms, and perhaps put some blocks in to strengthen them. But you can decide what your budget is and what you’d like to do.

Another thing to consider is that the back legs are much shorter than the average chair. This tilts the whole chair backward (which makes it be more prone to tipping over backwards AND it puts more weight on the back legs (when someone sits on it) rather than distributing the weight over all 4 legs evenly. This was either a poor design when the chair was made OR the back legs were cut off at some time (which it is hard to figure out why someone would do that.)

Now,  I want to mention one other thing. The finish on the woodwork of the chair is kind of in rough shape. We don’t do refinishing, but I only mention this to say that if you had any thought of refinishing it, the best time to do that would be when the cover is off, and after any frame repairs have been finished. But, since you have a tight budget, I realize that you probably don’t want to think about  the extra cost or effort for doing that. And that’s OK. But I thought that I should at least mention that.

The client decided that she didn't want me to proceed with the job. She'd pay me for what I had done on the chair, but she wanted me to use the fabric on another chair. This other chair was a matching to the antique sofa that I had just finished.


How To Protect Corners

In some applications, such as in restaurants that have their booths covered in vinyl, vacuums and floor polishers can run into the corners of the booths and cause damage. How do you protect those corners from getting damaged? I was asked if there was some type of clear plastic corners that just screw on. This was my answer?

 Here's one rule of thumb I go by. Often times there are ideas about what I want to find. Then there is what is actually available. As you know, upholsterers have to be extremely creative, often finding or creating substitute items to replace what the original way. [u][b]What is available that will do the job?[/b][/u] Perhaps you can find the clear plastic corner protectors, perhaps not. Be open to other ideas. Maybe something else will fulfill the same purpose. I did a search on the Internet and here are some ideas for corner protectors:

  1. Here are some [url= Butyrate Corner Guards[/url] .
  2. Here are lots of pictures of various Corner Guards on Google . Flip through the pages of picture until you find what you like.
  3. Here is another type of Clear Plastic Corner guards.
  4. Here are [url=]more corner guards[/url] .
  5. And here are some more [url=]Clear and Colored Corner Guards[/url] .
  6. Use some leather, such as tool belt grade leather to put on corners. You can use decorative tacks or screws to hold it on. [url= this example[/url] .
  7. Call a Janitorial supply company and see what type of corner protectors that they have
  8. Paper and Packaging companies have a [url= protector like this[/url] .
  9. Here are some [url= Corner Products[/url] . 
  10. Perhaps some metal corner protects, [url= this[/url] , would do.
  11. Check with your local janitorial supply companies. They often sell corner protectors.
  12. Ask local Janitor and house clearning companies where they get their corner protectors.

There are lots of corner guards/protectors. Find out what is actually available and give you client choices. Be flexible.   Best Wishes, Stephen

Making Upholstery Prototypes

(This article was written for upholstery professionals. To see a version of this article for clients, go here.)

Upholstery is a very specialized trade. We often take on a wide variety of projects. Sometimes those are one-of -kind projects that we are creating from scratch, or we might be making a number of the same type of furniture items, such as cushions, church pews, or restaurant booths. Other times we may be altering the frame, the style, or the cushions on a piece of furniture. Even the most highly skilled of craftspeople need a plan of attack before starting a new type of project. Making the prototype in advance will give you both the knowledge and experience to work out a better plan.

If at all possible, the prototype should be made before we touch the furniture, not to take any of the furniture apart until we have made the prototype. In addition, it is recommended that you have the client look at your prototype before you proceed. You want to make sure that they will be happy with what you are able to do. If the client is not happy with the prototype, you need to decide if you are capable with doing this job. OR, make another prototype. In any event, do not proceed with the job until the client is happy with the prototype AND you re confident that you can duplicate the structure of the prototype on their furniture.

Occassionally we may take on a job that it way above us, that we just aren't capable of doing. Making the prototype in advance of tearing apart the furniture lets us know if we made a mistake in taking on the project. If the prototype fails or we are unable to please the client with the prototye, then it gives a graceful way to get out of it before we make a big costly mistake AND have the client uphappy with us. All we would have to do is give back the client their money and their furniture. Yes, we would be out a little money here, but not nearly as much if we put a lot of time and money into the project and have it all fall apart.

If we cut the fabric before we have a clear understanding of the job, making mistakes can cost us a lot of money. Planning our jobs ahead will serve both us and the client much better.

As an example of preplanning, before beginning building hundreds or thousands of a product, manufactures will create a prototype so they can see how everything fits together and to see if everything works as it is supposed to. The manufactures do have an advantage over an upholsterer though. They can spread the cost of the prototype over the entire production run, so that the cost of the prototype is very small on a "per piece" cost.

Upholsterers, on the other hand, can't usually spread the cost of a prototype over dozens or hundreds of furniture pieces. We can only apply the cost of the prototype to that one job, so we can't afford to spend very much time on making prototypes. However, we also can't afford to make very many mistakes with the client's fabric and/or furniture.

Whenever I'm doing an upholstery job, most of the time I just measure and cut the client's actual fabric. However, sometimes when I'm doing an unusual job, or if I'm uneasy about whether the job will work out as I imagine, I use some substitute fabric to test out my ideas. I keep cheap fabric around to experiment with. Any time I'm trying something new, that I'm unsure about, I'll make a pattern and/or a very simplified (no cording, etc.) prototype out of the cheap fabric to make sure it will fit. If I'm unsure about how to do something, I won't cut the job fabric, but will instead use the cheap fabric. Once I have my prototype the way I want it, I'll use the pattern to make the client's job.

Planning a Way Out


The main idea of making the prototype is (before starting the job) to plan both the job and to plan a way out of a potential disaster (that of wrecking the client's furniture or other project) and then not being able to satisfactorily complete the project. The prototype would help you gain the knowledge and experience needed to make the plan or to proceed without a written plan.

Planning the Prototype Process

By doing this (and before you have damaged the chair) you should get a pretty good sense of whether or not the job is doable by you using the chosen material. Yes, it is a lot of extra work, but sometimes it may save a disaster OR give you the extra assurance and knowledge that you may need before starting the job.

Prototype Materials

Then the question would come up, "What type of material (fabric, vinyl, leather, etc.) should I use to make prototypes?". The answer would depend upon what type of projects you will be making. Ideally, you should use a type of material similar to what you will be actually using on the job. However in many cases almost any type of upholstery fabric or vinyl can be used. Depending upon the project I have even used drapery and clothing fabric, whatever I happen to have around. For a while I had a roll of some self-lined drapery fabric, which I used until it was gone.

Ideas: Fabric stores (or even upholstery suppliers) often sell off undesirable fabric very cheaply. Watch for sales. Remember, when making prototypes, you don't care what color it is. The cheap fabric may be very ugly or undesirable - That's probably why they are selling it so inexpensively. But, for a prototype, it doesn't matter if it's an ugly color. You are making the prototype to make sure the project will work and that everything fits.

If none of those fabric ideas are workable, you either purchase some extra of the chosen fabric or you can have the client purchase enough extra for the prototype.

Making the Prototype

There are numerous ways to make prototypes, depending upon what the project is. Since we are not getting paid to make a prototype and we don't have a large run to divide out the cost, we need to make the prototype as simply as possible. So, much of the time I'll make a stripped-down version of whatever I'm making. I'm mainly checking size and how it fits, so I don't need any cording, special designs, etc. I'll also only sew it up enough to make sure it fits. Keep the fitting, cutting, and sewing as simple as possible.

Occasionally the project may require that you put more details and go to more work to make the prototype. That's just part of cost of doing business. Just accept it an go on with the project.

Should You Charge for Making a Prototype?

Can you charge for the prototype? Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can't. If a making a prototype is necessary or advisable, I will make one whether I get paid for it or not. Being paid for the prototype is not the most important factor. Turning out quality work will repay you for your efforts in the form or happy clients and positive word of mouth advertising.

Whether you can or choose to charge to make a prototype is often a judgement call. Part of the determining factor depends on your skill level and the type of project you are asked to do. If you have beginning skill level AND the project is a common type of upholstery, and you are just trying to figure out how to do it, then I would not recommending charging. It is all part of your learning process, and it is not good to charge the client for your learning process.

However, if the project is an unusual or complicated project and is a normal part of either redesigning something or creating a new style, then it seems appropriate to include the cost of the prototype in the cost of the job. OR you can choose to do the job on a time and materials basis. In either case, it seems advisable to tell the client about the extra costs involved......

Making a Pattern

One of the uses of making a prototype is in making a pattern for some furniture that has no original covering, or if you are changing the style of the furniture.

When you ask, "How do I make a pattern?", the unasked question I hear is "How do I make a pattern correctly the first time, without making a mistake?". I would direct you back to this article on making Prototypes. Making a prototype is allowing yourself to make a guess using scrap fabric and then try out the results to see how it fits. From that first prototype you see how far off your first guess was, then, if necessary, make a corrected second prototype and see how that fits. Then, if necessary, make any adjustments to your 2nd prototype pattern. Now you have your pattern that you can use to cut the real fabric. I doubt that even "high-tech" pattern makers make a perfect pattern every time.


Refuse Disposal & Helping Others

A very real part of the upholstery trade is taking off the old and putting on new. This leaves us with a need to dispose of: old covers, old foam and old cushion, scrap foam, etc.

Since we've bought and moved into a house in a small town, I've wondered what to do with the old stuff. Since I've had to get a new foam supplier who charges a huge difference in having to cut foam, I've been cutting the foam myself. As you know, that leaves a lot of foam scraps. My new foam supplier doesn't pick up and recycle the old and new foam scraps like the old foam supplier did.

Well, I've turned to giving away stuff on Craig's List. For instance, here are my latest two listings on Craig's list:
FREE - 3 Dining Chair seats (Independence)
Free Used foam pieces & some new scrap (Independence)

I've also attached a picture of those two ads below for when the listing will be canceled in a day or so.


I had just put the ad up for the free foam scraps when someone called me not ten minutes later. She came out tonight and took all my old foam and my foam scraps. Her daughter is making a large wearable teddy bear.

I also had someone call me about the dining seats. He said that he will come get them tomorrow morning.
Both of these came out from the large city of Salem to small Independence.

This isn't the first time I've gotten rid of stuff  on Craig's list.
I gave away an old chair frame that the client decided not to proceed with the reupholstery (she paid me for what I had done and I used the fabric on another chair.)

I also gave away an old wood shed that I was about to haul to the dump (and pay the disposal fee.) The person who picked up the old shed was very thankful to receive it.

I've given away other old cushions when I made all new replacement cushions. I've given away old foam when  I had just replace the foam in cushions.

It seems like there are people out there who are tickled to death to haul away our refuse.

Another good place to give away stuff is

Best Wishes,

Stiffeners on Furniture Skirts

Should you use a Skirt Stiffener?

To answer the question of whether or not to use a stiffener, you need to look at the purpose and use of a stiffener. Whether or not you need a stiffener often is determined by the type of fabric, the method of skirt construction, and the type of furniture that has the skirt.

There are several methods for making a skirt.

  • Many upholsterers sew all the pieces of the skirts and the top welt together. This method usually involves sewing a separate lining fabric to the back of the skirt flaps. This is the way that I used to do it for many years. However, I was never quite happy with the way that skirts looked. Whenever you sew a number of pieces together that all have to hang loose, it is very typical for the pieces to hang a just little uneven. Because of the differences between the weight of the upholstery fabric
    and the lining fabric, sewing the lining on can make the skirt buckle
    just a little. Using the skirt stiffener helps to keep the skirt hang
    smoother. You can get Skirtex (Skirt stiffener) at many upholstery suppliers. In any case, having the skirt stiffener is very helpful.
  • Another method of making skirts. In recent years I have learned to staple the welt onto the furniture separately, then to put the skirt flaps on individually. Since the skirt flaps are just a piece of fabric folded over, the only seams in the skirt flaps are just at the ends. By carefully stapling the flaps on individually, it is much easier to have smoother hanging skirts, thus mostly eliminating, or minimizing the need for a skirt stiffener. However, a skirt stiffener may still be needed in some cases.

I generally haven't used skirt stiffeners because folding the fabric over serves a very similar function as the skirt stiffener. Also, because there is no seam along the bottom of the skirt, the skirt is much smoother and has less need for a stiffener to keep it straight.

I'd say, if you want to use the stiffener, go ahead. It is very helpful.

When using the stiffener, you don't need to sew it into any seams. Just put inside the skirt to hang loosely. The make the skirt long enough (or cut the skirt stiffener down) so that it doesn't get sewn in the top seam. The height of the stiffener should fill almost the whole height of the skirt, but just a bit short so that the skirt will fold over at the top.




Substitution Theory - Finding Replacement Parts

Upholsterers often have challenges in repair/reupholstering furniture that was made recently as well as those made years ago. When the original manufacturers made each piece of furniture, they had specific fabrics, parts and supplies that were available to them. Sometimes they used whatever parts and supplies were used widely and readily available. In some case they had parts or supplies manufactured specifically for use on certain pieces of furniture. Over the years, since the furniture was built, the suppliers for parts and supplies haved change what they have available, or they have went out of business. Even the part that was made recently might not be available to upholsterers.

 By the time the owner of the furniture bring sofa or chair to the upholsterer, the specific fabrics, parts, or supplies used in the furniture may no longer be available, or may be very scarce and hard to find. That leaves the upholsterer to find and use whatever is available. Sometimes he repairs the part or finds some other type of part that will do that same job. Often times upholsterers have to be resourceful and creative to find whatever will work for the job.

Upholstery supply companies have some generic parts of the most commonly uses, but not parts that were only used in very specific furniture types. Often times substitutions are available to fit a similar use, but the parts themselves are much different than what on the furniture.

Upholsterers have to often "think outside the box", meaning: some people get it stuck in their head that there is only one way to do something. This type of thinking can hinder an upholsterer from seeing all the other possible solutions that are possible.

Top 10 Ways To Care For Your Carpet

Written and Submitted by Samson Rollins on Thu, 11/26/2009 - 11:33

Protecting your flooring investment and maintaining your carpet will promote a healthy, clean indoor environment. Here are a few quick and simple ways to keep your carpet and flooring up to par.

  1. Vacuum your carpet regularly, especially in high traffic areas. Approximately 75 percent of soil in carpet is dry and can be removed with the vacuum cleaner.
  2. Use a vacuum with a beater bar that is set to the correct height for your carpet pile. If the setting is too high for your carpet, you may not be removing much soil. If it's too low, your carpet will take a beating. Changing the direction of the vacuum cleaner frequently will make vacuuming more effective. Regular vacuuming will improve the overall appearance of the carpet and protect your investment.
  3. Change the vacuum bag for goodness sakes. A vacuum cleaner can plug up and lose most of its efficiency just by allowing the bag to become too full. Most bags will have a line about one-third from the top. You should not allow the bag to fill above this line before changing it.
  4. Have your carpet professionally cleaned on a regular schedule. Most of the large carpet manufacturers suggest having the carpet cleaned every 12 to 18 months. The frequency will depend on factors such as: number of pets in the home, number of children in the home, and the level of traffic that the carpet receives. If you have newer carpet be sure to read your warranty. Many of the carpet manufactures are starting to specify how often you must get it cleaned in order to maintain its warranty. Many also state that the cleaning must be performed by an IICRC certified cleaning company.
  5. Deal with the spills and spots as soon as possible. Proper spotting technique goes beyond the scope of this article, but when in doubt stay away from harsh over-the-counter cleaners which can sometimes set the stains and create a more permanent headache.
  6. Use entrance or walk-off mats in each of the homes outsides doorways. This will significantly reduce the amount of soil that is tracked into your home. The larger they are the more effective they will be. Don't forget, you must clean these mats regularly as well. 
  7. Reapply Protective Coating Regularly. Most carpet gets a protective coating applied to it during the manufacturing process. The purpose of this coating is to give it some stain resistance. Over time this coating will out due to factors such as: foot traffic, furniture, pets, spills and cleanings. If your long-term goal is to keep your carpet looking its best, it is important to have this coating reapplied on a regular interval.
  8. Avoiding soil filtration stains. Have you ever been in a home that had dark stains in the door ways of rooms and/or around the baseboards? These are usually known as filtration stains and are caused by air rushing through the carpet fibers and leaving behind some stuff that is floating around in it. The carpet in these areas is simply working as an air filter, collecting the oil, smoke, dirt, dust and anything else that may in it. One of the best ways to help minimize this problem is to make a practice of keeping the internal doors open. This helps to equalize the air pressure through-out the house and slow down the air movement in these areas.
  9. Avoid walking on the carpet with dirty shoes and even bare feet. Walking on the carpet with clean socks is one of the best ways to keep it dirt and oil free.
  10. Keep the pets off the carpet. Look, I love pets but they are one of the main culprits when it comes to causing carpet stains and odors. Samson Rollins is an owner of RoyaltyServicesGroup. The Carpet Cleaning experts located in Northern Utah. RoyaltyServicesGroup    Article Source:


Upholstery Essays

This was a TOC for:
A Wingchair's Life
Finding An Upholsterer
The Upholstery Process
Upholsterer Types

A Wingchair's Life

Winnie; the Life of a Wing Chair

by Faith Winters

Birth. It is noisy here with the sound of hammers large and small, the regular ping, ping, ping of nail guns. It begins to take shape. What started as a pile of wood has become the frame of a wing chair. The frame was taken to the next area where springs, webbing, support linings and padding are added. The chair still seems blank and bare as it sits in a row of other blank chair frames. They all look just a like; silent, unfinished and expectant. This one is picked out of the group and taken to yet another area of the huge warehouse. An upholstery craftsman begins to stretch a beautiful green, gold and orange tapestry fabric over the frame. The soft tapping of the tack hammer sounds almost gentle as each piece of fabric is carefully fitted onto the frame. The chair begins to take on color, personality and a richness of dimension. One could even say, the wing chair comes alive.

Winnie heard the soft ping of the tack hammer as the upholstery craftsman put the last pieces of tapestry fabric on her frame. She got a little disoriented as she was flipped upside down. The upholsterer put the final dust cover and shipping tags on the bottom of her frame. Finally, Winnie was complete. The upholsterer smiled with satisfaction as he looked at her completed beauty. Winnie could sense his pleasure and approval. She felt that he saw her as thing of usefulness and grace. She was delighted with her beautiful tapestry fabric. She was covered and wrapped with packing blankets and then took a long truck ride in the dark.

The showroom of the furniture store was brightly lit. Winnie was unwrapped and put next to an orange sofa with end tables and lamps. People constantly walked by. Some stopped to look at her, a few even sat on her cushion. But most just walked by, unseeing. She tried to look her most inviting and friendly. She tried to tilt just a little bit so that the light would show her shape and colors to the best advantage. She plumped out her cushion to look as comfortable as possible. Day after day, people came and no one picked her. The orange sofa was taken way and a green one put in its place. But still no one picked her. Winnie began to wonder if anyone would ever want her. She began to doubt that she was really useful and beautiful. Finally, one family did act like they might want her. But Winnie wasn’t sure she wanted to be picked by them. The man smoked and almost dropped burning ashes on her left arm. The 8 year old boy kept kicking her back leg. When they picked another chair across the aisle she felt relief. Later a young couple came by. The woman seemed to be a little full in the middle and the very man was attentive to her needs. They saw Winnie and crossed the showroom to get a closer look. “Oh pick me, pick me.” Winnie silently pleaded. The woman carefully sat down on Winnie’s cushion. Winnie found she could fit the needs of the woman’s body providing both firm support and soft comfort. The woman really liked her and stroked her arm and back almost lovingly. The man smiled. Winnie was delighted she had a home of her own at last.

Winnie was proud of her place of honor in her new home. She sat in a prominent corner of the living room where everyone saw her as they first came in. The rest of the room was decorated in colors that blended beautifully with her tapestry design. She was given a throw pillow to accent the deep gold of her tapestry. Although the man and woman generally sat on furniture in another room when they were home alone, many people came to visit the home. During these times Winnie was always one of the most used chairs in the living room. Winnie felt a sense of delight and purpose. She loved her home and her life.

After a few years, and two children added to the home, there was more activity in the family room. But Winnie sometimes became the special hiding place of the oldest girl. She would shove a special book under the cushion, then at busy times in the family the girl would quietly come into the living room, take out her special book, and curl up between Winnie’s arms. Winnie felt a warm connection with this child who would quietly read for hours. When company came the little boy liked to crawl around behind Winnie and peek out. But most of the time the woman had the children play in the family room. Winnie would miss their laughter and their games. She was most happy when she was a part of the family’s life. But her job was to provide a place of comfort to the guests of the home, to look beautiful and be useful, to be part of the clean, formal image of the household. She wanted to do her job to the best of her ability. Then one day the unthinkable happened! A guest dropped a glass of purple grape juice on the seat and arm. Winnie was horrified. She felt like she was ruined and could no longer do what she was supposed to do. It was her first big stain. A furniture cleaner was called out and most of the stain was removed, however some of Winnie’s new luster was gone. The faint outline of the stain could still be seen, but the pillow was set over it to hide it.

Winnie was older now. After the first stain there had been a few others. Most cleaned up okay, but Winnie’s color was beginning to fade and the arms were beginning to show a signs of age and wear. Finally a brand new chair came to replace her in the living room. Winnie felt sad. She wondered what would become of her now that she had lost her youth, beauty and purpose. The man of the house picked her up and she thought a sad goodbye to her beloved living room and her old life. She expected to be tossed out in the garbage, now that her living room life was over. She almost shed a tear as he took her down the hallway. But Winnie was not throw out, she was moved into the room that the family used most! It was like going to heaven! Now she could be with her beloved family all the more. No longer did anyone tell the kids to keep off her and she was snuggled into by kids, the dog and a kitty all at once. Life in the family room was the happiest years of her life.

The kids were almost adults now. Winnie had been with them through many changes and many friends coming to play. She had been bounced on, turned over to be part of a fort and knocked over when the boys played football. She was moved to a corner, growing old and getting shabby; a favorite resting spot for the pets. Now her fabric was threadbare in a number of places. The padding was beginning to show on the arms, the stitching was loose on the cushion. Winnie felt her joints creak when one of the tall kids plopped down in her and draped a leg over her arm. There was no doubt, Winnie was old now. One day another chair was brought into the family room and Winnie was picked up and made another journey down the long hall. But this time it was not heaven that awaited her, but the cold, dark garage. She was shoved into a corner next to some boxes. She felt all alone out here. The garage was lonely, off in the distance she could hear the family laughing and having fun, but she was not a part of that life any more. Winnie’s time would have been terribly sad had it not been for the kitty. Every day the cat would come in and curl up on her cushion purring before she fell asleep. Winnie felt grateful for the kitty’s company.

Winnie was startled by all the sudden activity. For days now the family had been cleaning and moving things in the garage. Then this morning very early they opened the garage door and Winnie was moved outside to the edge of the driveway. There were tables of stuff all around her. Lots of people came to look. Winnie felt ashamed of her shabbiness. Her cover was torn and dirty, and she smelled like a cat. Not that Winnie minded smelling like her only friend of these past few years. But she saw how people looked at her, sniffed and walked on past. It reminded her of being in the furniture store, but then she was in her glory, fresh and new. Now she was in her shame, old and worn out. No one would want her now.

By the end of the day much of the stuff that the family had put outside was gone. People had come and wanted it and took it away. Winnie still sat by the side of the driveway alone and unwanted. She saw the family begin to take some of the other unwanted things and gather them into boxes to be hauled away. Winnie thought that her life now was truly over. She warmly remembered her prominent years in the living room and her warm delightful time in the family room and the comfort with the cat in the garage. Winnie thought she had had a full life. She was content that it was over now. She was ready for the end.

The tall woman came walking up the street about dusk. Winnie could see her from far away. Winnie noticed that she seemed to be talking to the flowers and admiring their beauty. Then she stopped to pet Winnie’s friend, kitty. While the woman petted the cat she looked up and saw the old, tattered wing chair by boxes gathered on the side of the driveway. She went to over and looked at it more closely. Winnie was embarrassed as she noticed the woman was aware of her smell. Winnie felt disgraced by how much of her fabric was tattered and gone. The woman just kept looking her over, feeling the frame and the springs. Winnie was almost relieved when the tall woman walked away. Soon she wouldn’t have to be ashamed anymore, she would be taken away from people never to be seen again.

The tall woman came back in a car. She looked Winnie over again. Then she talked to the man of the house. They seemed to be in agreement on something. Winnie found herself being carried once more, for the last time, by the man of the house. But instead of being taken to the garbage, Winnie was put into the back of the tall woman’s car. She was being driven away.

Winnie was in a strange and dark garage now, unsure of her future. The tall woman came back and began to take off the tattered remains of Winnie’s old tapestry cover. All the soiled padding was removed and Winnie’s frame was tightened. Then new padding was added and a brand new blue fabric was being stretched over her frame. Each piece was carefully placed and the small fleur de les pattern meticulously matched. Winnie was being born again to a new life in a new home.

Winnie now had a place of prominence in the living room of an apartment. The tall woman often sat on her new cushion, snuggled against the wing as she was reading. There was no separate family room here; the living room was an integral part of the living area of the tall woman and her husband. Winnie spent many happy years amongst all the delightful stuffed animals, beautiful glassware and books of this home, being the favorite resting place of the tall woman. Winnie felt she was truly beautiful and useful, fulfilling her purpose in life.


Copyright 2007 by Faith Winters

Pictures copyright 2007-2012 by Stephen Winters

Upholstery Information


Upholstery Principles


Are there any basic rules to upholstery?

Rules are merely guidelines about what works in many cases. (Also see The Basics) The important thing is how the job turns out, not whether or not we followed a rule. The quality of the finished product is more important than the method used to produce it." You use whatever methods, skills, tools, and supplies needed to produce a quality product.


For the sake of clarity, I will use the word "guidelines" instead of rules. Over the years, like any trade or profession, upholsterers have developed different practices and methods that work best in many/most cases. It is much easier to do jobs when you follow one's normal practices. However, (again like any other trade) upholstery cannot be narrowed down to just following the prescribed practices. The upholsterer has to always be aware when other methods may work better than his "regular" methods. It has been said that (something like) "if you don't know how to do something in at least several different ways, then you really don't know how to do it well."

Over the years furniture changes, the tools and supplies available to the upholsterer changes. The expectations of clients change. The upholsterer must adapt to new types of projects and to use his skills to tackle many new challenges.

In the ever changing field of upholstery, more important that the upholsterer's skill is his willingness and his ability to learn new skills and methods, to adapt and change to  be able to tackle whatever projects come his way.

Upholstery Tidbits

Each of us in the upholstery trade, whether  advanced professional, or beginning do-it-yourselfer, has tiny tidbits of information that would be helpful for others to know. Upholstery is not a self-enclosed trade. Many people come into this trade with a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and interests. Even a rank beginner, who may have a wide depth of knowledge in other areas of his/her life, may learn or discover new or better ways of doing something, of supplies to use, that other more experienced professionals may never have thought of. In this society new materials are constantly being developed. Some of these may be useful to the upholstery trade. OR a person may have many skills in other trades or professions that might improve some of the upholstery methods. Which leads me to these thoughts

Today I'm repairing a couple of feather throw pillows. The pillows match the client's sofa, which she has had for about fifteen years. Because the feathers are coming throw the covers, the client wants to have the feathers replaced with a soft dacron filling. As I take the down ticking inner cover out of the outter cover, the multitude of feathers that escaped the ticking cover are all over the inside of the fabric cover. Because many of the feathers are stuck to, or starting to penetrate the fabric cover, the job of simply replacing the filling becomes more complicated and time consuming. It is a tedious task of pulling each feather loose from the cover. Consequently, I realized that I should have charged more for this job. However, when I took in the order I hadn't even thought about it being more work to restuff a feather throw pillow.


As I thought about that, I had an idea that this is a valuable bit of knowledge, but there's not enough information here to write an article. It's just a little tidbit of knowledge that would be useful to know. With this came a realization that there are a lot of little tidbits of upholstery knowledge that would  be good to remember and to share. These tidbids need to be easy to share and easy to find. So, I'm thinking about what would be needed to set up an "Upholstery Tidbits" section on this website. Perhaps something like a "classified adds" module, that is customized for this use, might be workable. I'll have to do some research and see what I can find.