The Upholstery Trade

The upholstery trade includes the following:

  • Furniture Upholstery
  • Automotive Upholstery
  • Marine Upholstery
  • Outdoor and Canvas work


While it includes some of the others, this website focuses primarily upon the Furniture Upholstery Trade.

The upholstery trade can involve anything as simple as just taking the old cover off of a chair and replacing it with a new cover. Or, when necessary, it can involve stripping everything (fabric, padding, support linings, and webbing) off the chair or sofa frame, leaving just the bare wood frame. When the furniture has been stripped to the frame it is much easier to take apart and reglue the frame, if needed. Only a small percentage of furniture needs to be reglued. If the frame is solid, then it won't need to be taken apart.

Amatuer Upholstery

Simple upholstery skills can be picked up rather quickly. Some rudimenterary skills can be learned by beginning as an amatuer do-it-yourselfer. Many do-it-yourselfers get started by recovering simple furniture like dining chair seats, side chairs, or footstools. It takes very little tools or equipment to amatuer quality work. Using thinner fabrics (such as drapery prints or "all-purpose fabrics), and making cordless seams, a regular home sewing machine can be used for most of the sewing in the beginning. 

Professional Upholstery

It takes a few years to develop a professional skill level. Upholstery skills may be quickest learned at a trade school from skilled upholsterers or by working as an apprentice from a professional upholsterer. A beginning upholsterer will make many mistakes that must be corrected during the process of learning the proffesional level of skills. It is in the constant process of learning the right way AND of correcting mistakes that the skill is learned. A beginning upholstery often either will not see his mistakes or won't want to go through the trouble of correcting his mistakes. So having the professional right their to point out the mistakes and show the student right way (and makes him correct the mistakes) is extremely valuable in the learning process. 

A person who wants to learn upholstery quickly should treat it like going to college. This involves moving to where the college is located, paying the tuition and treating it like any other schooling. It will take some time and cost a fair amount to learn the skill. Fortunately, going to an upholstery school does not take as long as many other trades. Some upolstery schools have courses that are only a couple months long (or shorter).

With that said, there are not many upholstery schools around and probably won't be one close by where you live. For many people who want to learn upholstery, moving across the country and taking on the expense of full time schooling may not be an option. If that is your case, realize that you do have other options. Although it is best to learn the trade from a professional, a person can also learn the trade on their own. See Getting Started in Upholstery.

For more information, see the left side menu below and the menu at the side of this page

A Story About The Upholstery Process

Frazzled, but Recovering

By Stephen Winters

Have you ever wondered what happens to those old worn out sofas? My wife and I run an upholstery business out of our home. Customers don’t just magically come to us. We keep a display ad in the local West Salem Newspaper, and in both Salem telephone directories, all have our family portrait in them. I think that it helps people feel familiar and comfortable with us as they think about having their well worn furniture recovered.

The process begins when the telephone rings. “Winters.” I use our last name in answering calls, just as a big business might say, “Mervyn’s.” Since we use the same telephone line jointly for our business and our personal calls, this serves as both a person and a semi-business approach of how to answer the phone.

I hear the client reply, “Hello, is this the upholstery shop?”

“Yes,” I answer. “What can I do for you?”

“We have an old sofa that we’d like to have recovered. Could give me some idea as to what that would cost?”

“I’ll need to ask you some questions about your furniture,” I respond. “so I can have a better picture of what it looks like. How long is your sofa?”

“Its about seven feet long, I think. Just a minute,” He pauses. In the background, I hear, “Honey, long is that sofa?”

“Seven feet,” Comes the faint reply from his wife.

He comes back on the phone, “Yes, its seven feet long.”

“How many loose cushions does it have,” I ask.


“How old is it?” I ask this question because furniture of various ages was made in different styles and levels of difficulty. It also helps me to know how much work may need to be done on it.

“We bought it when we moved to this house,” he says.

“How long have you lived in your house?”

“Just a minute,” he replies. Then, softly in the background I hear, “Dear, how long have we lived in this house?”

“Don’t you remember honey?” his wife responds. “We moved here just before Johnny was born. He’s thirty-three years old now. It’s a shame he’s not married yet. Do you think he’s going to marry that girl he’s dating now?”

“He’s not interested in that.” He tells her, and then he comes back to me. “We’ve been here about 33 years.”

This 3-way dialogue continues as I ask him a few more questions. “How many loose seat cushions does it have? Does it have any loose back cushions? Are there any buttons? Is there a skirt? Does it have a low back or a high back? Do the springs and the frame seem to be in good condition? How long has it been since it’s been recovered?” I may ask a few more questions, and then I try to give him a rough idea of what it will cost. “If it's what I’m thinking it’s like, then it would probably run about $900 to $1200 for labor and fabric. That could change once I actually see the furniture.” I also ask him how soon he needs the furniture recovered. Frequently we are booked out several months before we could start on his job. If he is in a rush to have it done, then I may refer him to another skilled upholsterer.

I realize that our services might not be a good match for everyone who calls. Each client has different needs and expectations. Some want their furniture done quickly, while others would like it covered inexpensively, and a few clients appreciate high quality work and are willing to pay for it. They know from experience, “You get what you pay for.” These are the type of clients that our service best satisfies. As I give the price over the telephone, I try to qualify which type of customer is calling, and give them appropriate answers. When the expectations, prices, and schedule dates are clearly explained at the beginning, we each know if we want to proceed any further.

Giving the phone quotes before we go out to give an in-home estimate saves the customer and us time and frustration. Many people are unfamiliar with upholstery and have no idea what is involved or how much it costs. Clients typically give several different responses to our phone quotes. Most are calling to find out the cost, to decide if they want to have their furniture recovered, or to buy new furniture. Some just gasp as they hear the price; it’s a lot more than they expected. Others will politely say, “Thank you, I just wanted to know how much it would cost. I’ll call back if I’m interested.” Lastly, some callers have already had furniture recovered in the past, and are familiar with the costs. Many of these ask us to come out and do an in-home estimate. Once we agree upon a time and date, I enter their name and information into our computerized appointment calendar, and set a reminder to prompt me two hours before the estimate. I also add the directions to their home into the computer.

When the scheduled day arrives, either Emmy, my wife, or I will call the client about an hour or two in advance, to confirm the appointment. After this, I load the fabric samples, my picture-book, a clipboard, blank work orders, carbon paper, clean scratch paper, and a calculator into the van. Before I leave, I check the directions, or look on a map, to plan how to drive to their house. Upon arriving I gather the office supplies, my picture-book, and a few sample books, and go into the house. During the usual one to two hour estimates, I show pictures of my work to the clients and get them started looking through the fabric samples. Then, I’ll look at the sofa, checking the frame and the springs, and measure the cushions for new foam.

As I start figuring the estimate, I often chat with them to pass the time and to build a rapport. We may talk about the history and quality of their furniture, about our families, occupations, and different places that each of us has lived. As the clients finish looking through some of the sample books, I take those books out to the van and bring in more. At this point, they have some time, if they need it, to talk privately, until I come back inside. When they find a fabric that they like, I finish the estimate, filling in the fabric pattern, color, price and totals. After explaining each itemized charge to them, I tell them that they don’t need to make up their minds right now, that this is just a free no-obligation estimate. I’ve learned from experience not to push or coerce them in any way. I try to be helpful and give them all the information that they need. I only want to recover their furniture if it is a good decision for them, as well as for me. Some decide to think about it, because they can’t find a fabric they like, or they are not yet ready to proceed. However, many decide to go ahead with the job. I say to them, “I need a deposit of about one-half, so that I can order the fabric.” After they write the check, I record the payment on both copies of the work order, have them sign at the bottom, and give them a copy. I inform them that “I’ll order the fabric tomorrow morning” and that I’ll call them when I’m ready to do the piece, in a couple of months. When we are finished, I take everything back out to the van and return to the shop.

After bringing the samples back into our house, and hanging them up, I take care of the record keeping. In the past, I've lost some customer work orders, which created a lot of stress; I never want that to happen again. Therefore, I promptly enter the information from the work orders into Quickbooks, our accounting software. With that completed, it’s not a catastrophe if I loose the original. However, I do file it away in our filing cabinet, which gives us a double protection. Next, I make out a new Purchase Order in Quickbooks for the fabric. Since I usually do most of my estimates in the evenings, I can’t order the fabric at the same time. In view of that, I add a note to the appointment calendar to order the materials on the next business day. Ordering the supplies is a different matter; since we won’t immediately need them, or the foam, we order these things about once a month. They are added to a standing add-to-as-sales-are-made purchase order for each vendor. When we have enough to make a minimum size order, we have the items shipped to us. While I’m still at the computer, I also add the job to our work-scheduling calendar. This concludes the paperwork until the material gets here.

Within a week the roll of fabric, packaged in a long, gray, plastic bag, arrives by UPS. It’s time to fill out more paperwork, and enter more data into the computer. First, we compare and verify all the written records. After retrieving the vendor invoice from the outside of package, we compare the listed pattern, color, and yardage with those written on the fabric ID tag, the sample book, and the customer’s work order. Second, we do a visual inspection and verification. We take the roll of fabric out of the package and compare the color and pattern with the customer-approved sample. Then, as we measure the fabric by rolling it through our yardage counter. As we reroll it we carefully scan the full width of the fabric to watch for flaws or color inconsistencies. With the verification process completed, we attach the customer’s name to the fabric and put the material on the appropriate shelf, where it stays until the furniture is brought into the shop. Depending upon how busy we are, this may take anywhere from a week to several months. (Note: if the fabric is a velvet, they is is best to hang the roll so that the pile of the velvet doesn't get crushed or matted down while the fabric is in storage.

After we have worked through the jobs in front of this job we notify the client that we are ready for their furniture. Most of the time the clients will bring their items into our shop. When they can’t do that, we make an appointment to pick up the furniture. If it is a sofa that needs to be picked up, we also call one of our friends to go along to help carry the other end.

Once it’s in our shop, before I tear it apart, I make a sofa cover parts list by measuring and writing the size of every part of the old cover, seam to seam. As I measure each piece on the furniture, I add several inches to the actual size to allow for being able to hold into the fabric as I attach it to the sofa. Here is a sample showing some of the part as i write them on my list:

Cush top 30w x 23h
boxing 73w x 5 1/4h
welt 115
zip 42w x 3 3/8

F deck 34w x 14h
F band 28w x 6h
F band welt 28
IA 36w x 27h
OA 32w x 17h

I may add a few inches here and there to make some parts extra big, as needed, to be able to trim them to size. Dozens of pieces need to be cut, such as: the cushions, tops, boxings, cording, and zippers; the inside back, faces, boxing, and cording; the arms, inside, outside, and facings; the decking, front deck and decking fabric; the outside back; and the skirt, long face, cording, and underflaps. The measurements are taken front to back, side to side, and top to bottom, as I write them on my notepad. Lastly, I measure and record the width and length of the roll of fabric.

My paper is full of carefully written measurements and notes, ready for the layout. The computer drawing software that I use for my layouts allows me to two slides, a background and a foreground. In order to make the layout of each job simpler, I’ve previously created some templates that already have everything configured. (see "Setting Up LibreOffice Draw for Cutting Layouts"), ready to use for jobs of different yardages. For example, when I’m doing a layout for a sofa I open a New Template-Horizontal. The window comes up with the ready-to-use background and foreground slides. On this particlular template the background has a rectangle scaled to simulate 14 yards of fabric, which measure 54” by 504.” The foreground slide also has numerous small rectangular boxes, with the name and dimension labels already attached, scaled to approximate the size of the furniture cover parts.

As I start my layout, for each pattern piece needed, I simply copy and paste a box, resize it according to the measurements on the sofa cover parts list. Then I re-label it with the new name, such as, “Outside Arm” or “Front Back.” When separate boxes have been created for all the pieces on my sofa cover parts list, I start arranging the bigger boxes on the foreground slide to fit inside the large fabric rectangle, which shows through from the background slide. After this, the smaller pieces are put in around the larger boxes. This works in much the same way that a seamstress uses a pattern to make a dress. She rolls out the fabric and places the various parts of a dress pattern on top of the fabric, moving them around to where they fit best. This is what I do, except I do it on the computer screen. When I am finished, I print send it to the printer.

Using this layout, I mark fabric pieces in the same way it is laid out on the paper. Since I have a plan to follow, the cutting of the fabric becomes a simple matter, although it takes a lot of time. As the pieces are marked, they are cut, labeled, and placed in grouped piles, such as: arm pieces in one pile, decking pieces in another file, and cushion pieces in third pile. Before the pieces are sewn together, the larger primary pieces, such as the face of the inside back, are laid on the sofa and trimmed to the correct size. Then all of the corresponding pieces, that need sewing, except for the seat cushions, are sewn in place.

At this point, it’s time to work on the sofa frame. After taking the old cover off, I remove the many staples that are protruding. I check for any loose joints, inspect the springs, and replace any old or damaged burlap or support linings. After the frame has been properly inspected and put in order, its ready for the new fabric.

The first part of the new cover to be attached is the decking, which consists of two pieces of different kinds of fabric. The front deck, made from the covering fabric of the sofa, extends across the length of the sofa from about 6 inches under the front of the seat cushions forward and down toward the base of the sofa. The neutral colored, muslin type decking fabric is sewn to the front deck. These cover the cotton and the burlap that go over the seat springs. The cotton is split, to expose the burlap, across the length of the sofa about six inches back from the front edge. Two layers of cotton give additional padding to the front spring edge. In beginning to attach the fabric decking, I place the two sewn corner darts over the padded front corners of the spring edge. During the sewing process, the attached decking fabric is temporarily folded back to hang over the front of the sofa, exposing the back side of the half-inch seam allowance. Using a five inch circle needle, threaded with a heavy sewing twine, the seam allowance is stretched tight side to side and fastened at the outer edges to the heavy edgewire. Following this, the rest of the seam allowance of front deck is sewn to the burlap. The muslin decking fabric is then lifted up, laid over the padded springs, and tucked through the horizontal openings at the back and sides of the deck. It will be stapled later from the outside of the sofa. The front deck is now measured as it is pulled and stapled at the bottom. Finally, the decking fabric is pulled tight and stapled around the back and sides.

Subsequently, the arms are padded with another layer of cotton. The inside arm fabric pieces are placed over the padding, with about 3 inches extending over the front and top edges. The remainder is folded back where it meets the inside back. Several staples are used to attach the top of the fabric in place. Slits are made in the material at the lower front and the back, and then the fabric is tucked through the long narrow openings. After securely tacking the rest of the top, the bottom is pulled snugly and stapled in place. The front of the fabric is now fastened as it is folded around the corners and curves at the top. Lastly the fabric at the back of the arm is pulled and stapled in place.

Now we are ready for the inside back, sometimes called the front back, to be installed. The pre-sewn cover, which is still folded inside out, is aligned around the arms, and at the top corners. Slits are made at the sides to go around the frame structures. Other cuts are made to form tails at the bottom corners. The two top corners are padded and then measured as they are fastened. After this, to lower the curved shapes down tightly onto the arms, the two tails are pulled down through the slots at the bottom. Then, the top of the back is measured and stapled across the sofa. Lastly, the bottom of the inside back is pulled and stapled, as it is measured from the front.

With the inside of the sofa fastened, the cushions can be fitted. First, the center of the deck is marked, front and back. Then two of the new cushion tops are placed face down on the deck to evenly overlap at the center and the front. They are marked to fit around the arms and the inside back. Next, those two cushion tops are placed face to face, with marks aligned and adjusted as necessary, and are both cut to the same size. Each of these is placed face to face on the two remaining cushion tops, which are also cut to the same size. While they are together, alignment short-marks are spaced around each matching cushion face, top and bottom.

At the sewing machine, the cording is sewn around each the cushion faces. Then the boxings are sewn to each cushion face as the short-marks are aligned. After the zipper is attached, the cushion is double sewn to tighten all the cording and to strengthen the seams. When cushions are turned right side out, they are filled with new polyester wrapped polyfoam. They are zipped up, placed on the sofa to verify a good fit, and then, set aside.

As the sofa is finished up, the outside arms are attached at the top with a cardboard strip. After the frame is padded, the outside arms are pulled and tacked at the bottom and the back. A metal tackstrip is used to blind tack the front edge. The outside back is finished in the same manner, with the cardboard strips at the top and the tackstrips at the sides. The sofa is then turned on its back. A black dust cloth is stapled to the bottom, and then the legs are attached. The sofa is turned back upright, and the lint is blown off with an air blower. After putting the cushions back on, the last task is to take a picture of the finished furniture.

It’s finally time to deliver the sofa. Emmy calls the customers to arrange for delivery. If needed, she also calls a friend to help. She prints out two copies of the work order, as I take the seats out of the van. I load the sofa into the van and deliver it. Once its been carried into the customers’ house, I talk to the clients to see if they like it. I never get tired of hearing, “That’s beautiful! I’m so pleased with it!” Upon receiving the check, I mark their copy paid, have them sign my copy, and leave.

When I arrive back at the shop, I make a copy of the check and enter the record of payment into Quickbooks. Emmy makes out a deposit slip and takes the check to the bank. And the job is done.

There are a lot of details to successfully operating an upholstery business. Careful planning and meticulous attention to details are key to doing high quality work and developing long term customer approval. The high level of client appreciation and satisfaction makes all the hard work worth the effort.

Getting Started in Upholstery

Acquiring Skills

tear downAs in any career, developing a quality of workmanship (known as skill) is of utmost importance. Skill doesn't come quickly or easily Here are a few tips to help you along the way. Let me say, don't try to make a living at upholstery while you are getting started. You should have a day-job that pays the bills. Doing upholstery should be your second job that you do after hours. It has been said that it takes 3-5 years to get a business to be profitable. If you are wanting to go into upholstery as a profession, I'd recommend that you take this long term view of gradually working into doing it, while keeping your paying job. 

  1. Get Rid of perfectionism! Yes, you need to focus on doing high quality work, but that comes later, after you have acquired some skill. At the beginning perfectionism will kill your interest. You need to realize that your first pieces that you recover will be a mess! Your work will be very sloppy at first. Accept that fact, and persevere through it. Make the messes and have fun while you are doing it. 
  2. Acquire Some Knowledge:Knowledge can come in a number of ways. I started this trade working with my dad at the same time he started. He did not know much more than I did, so I had no one to ask how to do something. Also, there were very few upholstery books or videos available. My knowledge came primarily by doing the work. When my family first started in the upholstery business we worked mostly for poor people, working cheap, giving credit (Boy, did we get burned a lot!). But we kept going. We had to succeed, we had to eat, we had no other income. Here are some ideas of how to begin to aquire some knowledge about upholstery.
    1. Take an upholstery class at a local college, high school, trade school, etc.
    2. Read upholstery books
    3. Borrow, rent, or buy some upholstery videos.
    4. Volunteer to work at an upholstery shop free of charge.
    5. Make friends with an upholsterer, and ask if you can just come in and watch him work.
    6. Apprentice yourself to an upholsterer.
  3. Get Some Basic Tools.At first, you may still be evaluating if you really want to get started in upholstery, so you might not want to buy very much. This is very understandable. But also realize that you don't have the right tool, then the job will be much harder. Here is a list of some basic tools
    1. Sewing machine: This is perhaps the single most important, and most expensive, tool/equipment that an upholsterer needs. The best type of a sewing machine for upholstery is called a "walking-foot" industrial sewing machine. If you have committed yourself to doing upholstery, don't settle for any other type. It is understandable that someone may not want to spend a lot on an industrial sewing machine until he/she has really decided to commit himself/herself to doing upholstery. But, also understand this, not having the correct sewing machine makes everything harder. During a transition period in my life I worked with a home sewing machine for about a year. Even as an experience professional upholsterer, trying to sew heavy upholstery fabrics on that machine was a real trial. With that said, as you are starting out, you can indeed use a home machine. You just need to use light-weight fabrics that the home sewing machine can handle.
    2. A Digital Camera. If you don't have a teacher available (or even if you do), one of your important tools for learning is a digital camera.
      1. Take pictures of the furniture from every angle before you take anything apart. Then take pictures at each major step as you go. Take more pictures from more angles that you think that you will need. When you start putting the cover back on, you can use the pictures as a guide to help you remember how it went back together.
      2. If you need help, you can take pictures of your problem, and then email the pictures to another upholsterer for advice.
    3. Stapler. A hand stapler will work. An electric stapler will be better. An air stapler (providing you have an air compressor, is the best type of staple.
    4. Hand tools: hammer, screwdrivers, staple removers, ripping chisels, rulers, squares, skill saw, jig saw, electric drill, etc. (more to follow)
    5. For more information on tools, go to Basic Upholstery Tools,
  4. Set up a designated work space (that is not shared with anything else): To succeed at learning upholstery, you need to set aside, and set up, an area to work in. If you try to share a space with something else, you probably won't succeed. Every time you think about doing some upholstery, you'll see the other clutter that you first have to clean, so you won't even get started.
  5. Get Some Furniture to Practice On:After getting a few basic tools, you need a good supply of furniture to practice on.
    1. Use throw-away furniture: For your first pieces I would suggest that you get some old furniture (look in dumpsters, thrift stores, ask friends), find some furniture you can get for free or very cheap. Since you are using old junk furniture, you shouldn't feel afraid that you'll ruin it. Anything that you do will be better than it is.
    2. Do work for friends and acquaintances. Let them know that you are just practicing and you will do any simple pieces for free while you are learning. The advantage of doing the work for free (rather than using old furniture that you've collected yourself), is that the client will pay all the expences (purchasing fabric and supplies.)
  6. Get Some Fabric: On your first pieces you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabtric. You just need some very cheap fabric, the color doesn't matter. Then use that cheap fabric to cover your first piece(s). As you gain more experience, then you can purchase better fabric.
  7. Schedule your upholstery time. Put this on your calendar as you do any other appointment. Then make sure that you keep this appointment and do the work.
  8. Just Do it! The hardest part of getting started is getting started. While going to classes is helpful, it's not a requirement. Upholstery is something that you can learn just by doing it. Sometimes students may use taking classes as an excuse not to get started.
    1. Don't use endless time going to classes, reading books as an excuse not to get started. Although all these things are helpful, nothing will help you learn as much as actually getting started.
    2. You will learn more by recovering some furniture (even if you are scared and don't know what to do) than you will by reading endless books and taking countless classes. Yes it will take you a while on the first few. But you will figure it out as you go, and you will learn. Just do it and you will learn!

Learning Upholstery




In learning upholstery (or any trade or skill) you first have to set your intention (to tell yourself that you WILL learn upholstery). It is all to easy to tell yourself "I don't have a teacher", OR "I don't know what to do", OR "No one will let me", OR any other excuse you might have. If you really want to learn, you will put aside all the reasons why you can't do it do it and you will do begin.

Find A Teacher

There are a number of ways to learn the upholstery trade. Of course, the best way is to have a patient experienced professional train you. But sometimes that's not possible. If you can't find a teacher, you can still learn upholstery on your own.

Find Resources: If you want to learn here are some suggestions 

  • Have a professional teach you.

  • Take an upholstery class at a trade school (perhaps you could move closer to one during the time you are learning.)

  • Take an upholstery class at the community college.

  • Try to get a job at an upholstery shop (providing they are willing to train you. Some upholsterers won't train anyone for fear of training competition.)

  • Volunteer to work for free for an upholsterer. Some of the time you'd be doing clean up and other "non-learning" time, which migh help motivat the upholsterer to spend time training you. It takes a lot of time and costs money to train someone, even if the trainee is working for free.

  • Go the the library or bookstore and get some books on upholstery.

  • Get some videos on upholstery, See our list of people and places that sell upholstery videos here.

Take An Upholstery Course

Learn by Doing

If you can't find someone to teach you, you can still learn. It will just be a little harder. I learned the trade the same time as my dad. We worked cheap and did work for poor people. As people pointe out my mistakes, I figured out better ways to do things. (I hate to be fussed at, so I tried hard to find better ways to do things.) I had no one to show me how to do it. But I learned it by just doing it. You have an advantage, besides this website, there are several other upholstery webboards. and there are a number of upholsterers at each of these that you can ask questions of.

The Upholstery Business

Want to go into the Upholstery Business? Go to this page that gives ideas on Getting Started into Upholstery .


Upholstery Discussion Forums

Just Do It

My dad use to say, "Pretend like you know what you are doing and go ahead!" Upholstery is one trade that you can learn as you do it. No need to "wait until you have learned enough to get started. You can get started by getting old furniture that is cheap or free, recover it using cheap fabric, and  then sell it.

Practice, Practice: The best way to learn is to actually do it and to practice a lot. Do anything and everything you can to actually get some furniture to practice on. Get some furniture to practice on: look around your house, your neighbors for old discarded furniture. Go to garage sales and see what furniture you might be able to pick of for free. While you are starting out, just use some real cheap fabric. Don't worry about the color. If you don't yet have a walking foot upholstery machine, you can still do some work; just use thin fabrics, such as cotton prints, and sew it with your zipper foot. Don't let anything stop you: Realize that you'll make a lot of mistakes. Don't even think about trying to do it perfectly to start with. That perfectionism will keep you from trying. Just assume that your first pieces will look a mess. Accept that fact as part of the learning process. No one will do a professional job on the first few pieces. A word of advice, Unless you want to just keep first job to compare agains, you might not want to keep the first few pieces that you do. As you get better, you'll feel embarrased at the way the first pieces look like.

The article is taken from a webboard where I originally answered a question from another poster.




Earning While You are Learning

You are not yet what you are going to be. You are an upholsterer in training.

When you start to learn a new trade cash flow is key. Many people don't have money enough to just stop working and learn upholstery. Many people may need to support themselves (doing upholstery) while they are learning. I've been there myself. Many years ago, when I started working with my dad (and the others in my family) in the upholstery business we worked for poor people, who could afford much and didn't expect much, (who were just glad to have a new cover to replace the old worn-out tattered cover. We worked cheap, gave credit (got enough of a down payment to cover the expenses, and gambled on the rest.) (and to be sure, some people didn't pay, oh well.). Since there were all four/five of us working we were able to survive, to learn, and to grow the business.
During the process there are many ways to become motivated to learn better upholstery methods. As an example, over the years (as some of the client's complained to me when the job wasn't right). I didn't like to be fussed as, so I learned to do better ways.

There are very few upholstery schools or upholstery training available, and those that are available tend to be costly. In addition, upholsterers generally don't like to train other upholsterers because they would be training their competion. So, that leaves many would-be upholsterers to learn on there own, kind of an on-the-job training. And, let's face the truth. A beginning or amateur upholsterer does sloppy work. That is only to be expected, and that is OK as long as the client knows what to expect. No matter what your skill level, just always do your best. Keep trying to do better and to keep learning.

I believe that there are clients suited to each level upholsterer. For example, there are some client who haven't been trained or don't have the life experiences to be able to see one quality of furniture as compared to another. They don't care about having high quality furniture. They just want their furniture recovered in something different. In many of these cases, price will be the determining factor. Very few clients will be OK about paying the same price as having a professional upholsterer do their work. You should price your work according to your skill level. You don't need to say "I'm an amatuer and do sloppy work". Rather, you could say something like this. I'm at the beginning level, Or amatuer, Or an upholsterer in training (or however you can honestly phrase it. Then, along with that, have lots of pictures and samples of your work. Then you can feel competent that people are getting what they are paying for.

 The important thing is that you just be open to what your level of skill is at. I would suggest that you say that you are an upholsterer in training. In addition, have lots of pictures of your work posted all around so that your clients can see them.
One main issue that could pop up is if a beginning upholsterer (who doesn't yet have the skill) would pretend to the client that he is highly skilled. That could spell disaster for both the upholsterer and the client. But if the upholsterer is honest about his skill level and has finished work and/or pictures showing, that would minimize much of any problems.

I went through a similar feeling of insecurity when I first started making slipcovers, which hang differently than upholstery. But, once I started posting pictures of my slipcovers I gradually relaxed and stopped fretting as much. The beauty of having lots of pictures for your client to see is that it shows the clients what your skill level is. If a very picky client comes in and sees your pictures, she will respond according to what is important to her.

It takes some years before an upholsterer becomes proficient at his/her work. You are at the level where you are supposed to be. You will get better with time and practice.

I would suggest that, even as a beginning upholsterer that you take lots of pictures of your work all the way through the upholstery process. This has a couple of benefits.
1. It shows the clients exactly what to expect when you do the work for them.
2. Knowing that you will take pictures as you go along motivates you to do better than you may otherwise do. It is much liking having the client right there watching everything you do. I've noticed that it has motivated me to my best at all times. Many the time has been that I've thought about the pictures and that has made me to my best.

One of the most important things to learn is to always be truthful and honest in everything that you do. Deal fairly with the clients, and be honest about what you are, and aren't, able to. For example, if you promise high quality work, and aren't able to produce, it will come back and bite you.

Figure out what your strengths are and build on that. What do you do well? What do you like to do?

Advertise Your business

I can't stress this point strongly enough. No matter what your skill level it helps to advertise your service or business. See some articles on advertising by clicking here. I also strongly recommend that you get your own website. See article by clicking here.

Fundamentals of Upholstery

It has been said, "The people who are the best in the world... are the best at the fundamentals" While this was not said about upholstery, it certainly applies. Learn to the fundamentals well and you will be doing quality work. But, then, one might ask, "Just what are the fundamentals?" That is a reasonable question that deserves an answer.

Learning Upholstery FAST!!!

In this country it seems like everyone wants to have things instantly. This attitude can easily transfer over to learning a skill, such as upholstery.

You might ask me, "How can I learn upholstery really fast!"

I would respond, "You can't. Next Question Please?"

That wasn't quite what you expected. So you might change your question a little, "What is the fastest way I can learn upholstery?" To this I might reply, "Wrong Question."

All kidding aside, I would turn the focus around and ask you a question. "Why do want to learn upholstery FAST? "

To this you might say, "because I want to cover my furniture and perhaps do some work from friends."

To this I would reply, "Cover your own dining chair seats. Go buy some fabric, take the cover off the chair seats and put the new cover on. Then find another piece to cover, and another, an another." To be sure, at first you will do a sloppy job. But that's OK, you are learning. You will get better with each piece that you do..."


You might answer my question this way, "... because I want to start doing upholstery for a living. I want to do work for other people.

Well, my answer would be the same, "Cover your own dining chair seats first. Go buy some fabric, take the cover off the chair seats and put the new cover on. Then find another piece to cover, and another, an another. To be sure, at first you will do a sloppy job. But that's OK, you are learning. You will get better with each piece that you do..." and this would be followed by one very important piece of advice: Fix your mistakes as soon as you see them. Fixing your mistakes is one of the fastest ways to improve the quality of your work.

Whether you want to just do a few pieces for yourself, OR if you want to make a career of upholstery, the answer is the same. Just start doing it. Start where you are with what you have available to you. If you can't find a teacher, start without one.

You might reply, "I can't find an upholstery class, OR the class starts in 2 months, etc." My answer would be the same. Don't wait, "Just start doing it. Start where you are with what you have available to you. If you can't find a teacher, start without one."

In any event, don't TRY to learn fast, you'll put too much pressure on yourself and thus hinder your learning. Just keep aware and do your best in each moment. As you continually try to do your best, you will continually get better. Upholstery is a skill that takes many years to learn well. As long as you are focusing on learning fast you will be hindering your learning. One good way to learn is to slow down and learn each step well as you go along.

Slow down and learn each step well.. Take time to pay attentions, watch and study what you are doing. Think about what you are doing. As you proceed, review in your mind what you have done and what you are doing.

As you take the furniture apart, keep your camera handy and take lots of pictures of how it was put together. This wil be your guide to put it back together.

What is the Secret it Learning Fast?

Now, to answer the question, "How can I learn upholstery FAST?". You will learn at whatever speed you are capable of learning. The only things that will help you to learn faster is to continue to cover furniture as much as you can. There is no trick and no magic about it. To learn upholstery: just do it.

Even if you don't have a teacher, fill all your spare time with upholstery projects. Cover as many pieces as you can. Work on furniture as much as you can. To start with, do work for free for other people, they purchase the supplies and the fabrics. Tell then that you are just learning and not to expect perfection. Better yet, buy cheap chairs at yard sales, etc. When you are finished sell the chairs. This way people will see what they are getting.

The Secret: Be Proactive!

While it would help you learn faster if you had a teacher, there are very few upholstery schools or upholstery teachers around. Fortunately you can get some upholstery books either at the library or online. In addition you can buy some upholstery videos or search through YouTube to find upholstery videos.
If there is any "secret" or "magic" to learning upholstery it is this: Don't just read the book! Don't just watch the videos! DO IT. The more you put into practice what you read or watch, the quicker you will learn. If you are really in a rush to learn upholstery, then fill EVERY SPARE MOMENT with you reading upholstery books, watching upholstery videos and then finding an upholstery project to do and doing it.

When You First Start

And here is another key point. Especially on the first few pieces of furniture, it would be better if you got some old junk furniture from wherever (garage sale, thrift store, junk pile) to cover. That way you aren't under the added pressure of trying to make them good enough to please someone else. (Imagine if while you were just learning that you did a very sloppy job on some friends furniture.) When you are finished with those pieces, sell them at a garage sale, Craigslist, etc.

Starting An Upholstery Business

What do you need to do to start an upholstery business. The answer will vary depending upon your knowledge and skill level of upholstery and business practices, you desires, your finances, your determination to persevere through difficult times.

For example, if you have little or no knowledge and experience of the upholstery trade, then, of course, you must learn some basic upholstery skills before you start a business. This article does not include that.

Let's assume that you already know the uphostery trade and want to start your own business. The first question to ask yourself is, "Why do I want to start my own business?"

  1. Do you want to make all the profit of working for yourself?
  2. Do you want your time to be your own?
  3. Are you tired of having someone else be your boss?
  4. Are you tired of following someone else's orders

It has been said that when you work for yourself, you can make your own choices. A running joke is that "when you work for yourself, you can work any 80 hours a week that you want." Although this seems funny, it is more true that we want to admit. Working for oneself requires a lot more time and effort than working for someone else. I easily spend a third to a half of my time doing "non-paying" work..... (giving estimates, answering the phone, answering emails, writing ads, doing bookkeeping, organizing the fabric samples, working on the website....) It is so much easier to just work your 40 hours a week for someone else.

Starting your business

  1. Set up your workshop 
  2. Get fabric samples. If a fabric sales rep comes to your home, they want to see some evidence that you are in business.
    1. A set up and functioning workshop
    2. A customer area, sales desk, sample table or shelves.



10 Steps To Starting A Business at Business.Gov

Starting and Managing a Business, SBA

Tips on Running Your Upholstery Business at

5 ways to start a company (without quitting your day job) at CNN

Kim's Upholstery: Do You Want To Learn How To Upholster Furniture?

Supporting Yourself as You Learn

Learn the upholstery trades takes time and comes in stages. During this time you have to eat and need a place to stay. Don't expect to just quit your job and start making a living at upholstery. If you have a job or other way to support yourself I strongly recommend  that  you keep that other income until you have learned upholstery sufficiently AND you have developed a clientel sufficient to support yourself.

The Secret to doing Quality Work!

Would you like to know the "secret" of doing quality work, perhaps doing work that is a higher quality than your competition? Would you like your clients to give you high praise for your work. Would you like to feel the satisfaction of a job well done, day after day?

Well, the "secret" to doing astoundingly quality work is simple. it is basically just doing the fundamentals well.  The best upholsterers in the world just do the fundamentals extremely well. It involves taking a strong devotion to detail, of studying and practicing your craft, hard work, keeping aware of what you are doing, giving your best effort and taking apart sloppy work and doing it over again. And perseverance, never giving up, trying over and over again until you get it right..

Examine your work as you go along. It is extremely important that you correct your mistakes as soon as you see them: If you put aside correcting a mistake until later, then you'll have a lot more to take out and it will be a lot harder to correct (if you even decide to fix it.). You'll also be training yourself to overlook your mistakes. Consequently, the quality of your work will deteriorate.

However, if you do correct your mistake as soon as you see it, then you'll be training yourself to watch for mistakes and you'll seem them quicker and quicker. You will also be looking for and learning better ways to do your work. Eventually you may start catching yourself before you make the mistake and thus save yourself a lot of time. Over a period of time the quality of your work will begin to improve more and more.

One big principle of doing quality work is precision, to do it one step at a time. Check each step before going on to next Step. The quality of the whole job is no better than the quality of each part. If the part is not good, the whole will not be good. So, as you are working on each piece, whether taking it apart, preparing the frame and the padding, measuring, cutting and sewing the fabric, or attaching the fabric to the frame, stop at each piece. Check each piece to make sure that is is made right, it is square or round or well padded, etc. For instance, if you are trying to make a nice looking cushion where the corners all line up you have to make sure that you mark and cut the fabric square, sew it straight and even, having both the top and bottom fabrics pulling evenly. There is no short cut do doing quality work. You must give your full attention to each piece. AND, most importantly, if you see it now going together right, STOP and take it apart and do it better.

Before you start sewing or stapling something together, first line up the centers, make sure the grain in the fabric is straight. Pin the fabric together or tack the fabric lightly to the frame before proceeding.

Upholstery Videos

Upholstery Videos from around the internet. We are not involved with any of these videos or websites, but put them here for your use. Be sure to check each website out and use your own judgment before ordering anything.

  1. Upholstering Antiques by Buckminster Upholstery. The teacher is a true craftsman who does a lot of antiques. He also does restoration quality work for some historical archives. Although not recommended for those just starting out in upholstery, I highly recommend his videos for those wanting to learn how to upholster antiques in the traditional way.
  2. Decorating and Upholstery Instruction with Vista Upholstery
  3. Upholstery Videos by Tomlen Jr.
  4. Merv's How-To upholstery videos
  5. Automotive Upholstery Training Course: "Included in this Training Course is 11 Videos that will teach you every aspect of Automobile Upholstery. You will learn Basic Sewing, How to sew Pleats, (Tuck & Roll), Diamond Tufting, Convertible Tops, Door & Trim Panels, How to make your own Patterns, Rebuilding Seats, Sunvisors & Flames, making your own seat foam cushions, How to make custom rugs, and many more!"
  6. Upholstery Training Videos by Vista Upholstery Enterprises: "Learn professional upholstery: auto, marine, furniture and slipcovers"
  7. YouTube Upholstery Videos . A collection of Upholstery How-to videos on YouTube
  8. Google Upholstery Videos  A collection of Upholstery How-to videos on Google Video
  9. Tomlen Upholstery Videos - "We have videos on a variety of projects."
  10. Upholstery Training Academy has several collections of DVD's teaching how to upholster various projects.

Note, if you know of any uphostery training videos not listed here, or if any of these links are no longer available please contact me

Upholstery As A Career

I"ve been doing upholstery for most of time since 1966. There have been times I've enjoyed it and times that I wished I was doing something else. Upholstery is not a high paid trade and it is a lot of hard physical work (not as hard as digging ditches or the like) But all in all, upholstery is a good trade.

Nowadays, when I see so many people out of work, I thank God that I have paying work to do. Upholstery supports my family. It also gives a good sense of being productive and building a good reputation. It gives me a chance to meet a lot of really nice people.

I find being a self employed upholsterer one of the most challenging jobs, and yet a very rewarding occupation. It is challenging in that a very large amount of my time is spent in "non-paying" work (i.e. making out estimates and work orders, answering the phone, waiting on clients, paying bills and doing the bookkeeping, checking stock and ordering fabric, figuring out what supplies to order and when, figuring out how much foam to order and for what jobs, scheduling when I will be doing what jobs, figuring out when to bring in what job, cleaning up and reorganizing the show room, making sure the prices are up to date on fabrics, doing cutting layouts for the job I'm working on, etc. Sometimes an enormous amount of time gets eaten up by these various tasks. Some days I get very little, if any, upholstery work done. Sometimes I have to neglect the some of the above tasks just so that I can get some jobs done so that we can pay bills. I'm fortunate in that my wife helps with some of the bookkeeping, ordering fabrics, helping with the clients and some other jobs that she can help with. It would be much harder if I was trying to do it all on my own.

It is rewarding in the my time is my own. If I need to take time off to help my wife or my children, I can. I have no office politics to deal with. I can treat the clients as I would want to be treated. I feel good about my relationships with my clients. I can frankly tell a client when I'm not able or am not willing to do the job as they want it. I can spend time building relationships with clients. Some of our clients become like good friends. When I'm talking with a client, I can talk about whatever I want to.

All in all, especially in this tough job market, I am thankful to have a relatively secure job. Upholstery is a respectable occupation, one that I can be proud of. I don't have to hang my head in shame, or do things that go against my conscience.  I am truly blessed in doing what I do.

Mistakes and Defining Moments

If you have been in business for any amount of time, You will make mistakes, lots of mistakes, and I have. I look back at some of the mistakes I made in these articles and how they became defining moments in my practice and way of doing business.

Touchy Velvet: How Not To Deal With A Client

One of my earliest memories was that of my dad telling about when he was in the dairy business and was leasing a 1000 acre ranch from an Italian person.  According to my dad, this Italian would come around on to the property regularly and stick his nose into everything my dad was doing. This Italian also add a domineering angry personality. My Dad tried to treat him nice for a long time but then he had had enough. So dad just jumped all over the Italian and really told him off in a big way. Dad said that following this time the Italian always was a nice person. As my Dad told the story, he never again had a problem with this guy. So, (according to my dad’s mindset) the moral of this story is that with some people you need to tell them off to make them start acting better.
Now, jump forward a bunch of years, I have been working for a few years in my Dad’s upholstery shop.In his shop my brother, my sister,  my dad and I  each had our part of the job that we did. my dad would cut the fabric, my sister would sew the fabric together, and I would staple the sewn fabric onto the frame. In my dad's shop he had many many rolls of fabric.  there were various upholstery fabric sales people who would stop by his shop and show him samples of discontinued and upholstery fabric seconds. He would buy them at a very cheap price so that he could sell them to his clients 
I was still a very young adult and I hated dealing with conflict. I had never had any training about how to deal with difficult clients. my dad was my only example and he had a hot temper and would often overpower people who wanted to argue with him 
During this time we had  recovered a sofa in a very finicky cotton or cotton blend velvet, which bruised very badly with any type of rubbing or handling.(That  velvet was probably a  fabrics second that Dad had purchased cheaply to sell  to his customers.) in recovering any piece of furniture there is a lot of stress and pressure and pulling that is put on the fabric. for this particular piece of velvet, it showed every place that any type of stress or pressure was put on it in the form of bruise marks. as much as I would try to be careful it kept leaving bruise marks. by the time it had been cut, folded, wrestled around in the sewing, and pull and stretched to get it on the sofa, it looked like it had been beat up, it had bruise marks all over it. Back then I was very naive about what customers would accept and what I should expect of a fabric. In addition, I was very timid and my dad made all the decisions. When the sofa was finished I delivered it, got paid and came back home. within a short time, whether it was hours or days I don't remember, the client called us up and was very unhappy with the fabric. 
My dad sent me out to deal with the client without any advice or any training. the only example that came to me about dealing with difficult people was my dad's story of how he dealt with the Italian man while he had a dairy.
Not finished: here is where I write the description of what happened.....  
 Although this incident happened over 40 years ago, the memory still Remains with me. I doubt that I will ever forget it. Even to this day, whenever I get a velvet, and Especially a cotton type velvet, I do a knuckle rub test on it to see if it is going to mark up as soon as I get the Velvet. 
Article Types: 

Terminology and Abbreviations

Upholstery Terminology and Abbreviations

Special Terminology

Pull Down (also called a "Stretcher Cloth"): A strip of cloth sewed to the bottom of the inside arms and inside back in areas that don't show.

Deck: the area under the seat cushions

Arc springs: zig zag springs that are in the seats and backs most modern sofas and chairs.

Tack strips: strips of cardboard or metal that have tacks embedded.

Fabric Cutting Direction

  • Railroad the fabric: this means that you are cutting from the side of the fabric. The top of the fabric is across the other side of the fabric.

  • Up the roll: the top of the fabric is up the roll. You cut all the fabric pieces with the top pointed up towards the roll of fabric.


Use these abbreviations to mark the back of the fabric pieces after they are cut.

IA  Inside Arm

OA  Outside Arm

AF  Arm Face

IB   Inside Backrest

OB  Outside Back 

IW   Inside Wing

OW  Outside Wing

FDK  Front Deck

FB    Front Band

TB    Top Band

CUSH  Cushion top and bottom

Box   Cushion Boxing

Zip   Cushion Zipper

Cush W  Cushion Welt

The Skills of an Upholsterer

In theory, to cover a piece of furniture with new fabric all the you need to do is to take the old cover off and to put the new cover on. Simple, right? Not Quite. Many of the seeming simple .... of upholstery can only be done after years of training and practice. For example, to apply the fabrics that takes some very precise hand movements and application of a specific amount of tension at just the right angles. A master upholster can combine all those precise hand movements at just the right angle with seeming ease. Someone watching the upholsterer would think that it is simple, anyone should be able to do it.

Applying Fabric

And experience professional upholsterer must be able to take a flat fabric of almost any stiffness or softness, both pliable and not and apply it to almost any shape in an elegant and beautify appearance - OR - the upholsterer must know when to tell the client, "no, that is not possible, or no, I won't do that, But, here is what I can do......  If you think there's not much to that, then take a piece of butcher paper and wrap it neatly (with no wrinkles) around a basketball. Show that to me when you are finished. 

Upholsterer Types

 The Ways That Upholsterers Do Their Jobs

by Stephen Winters for WR115

     Some of the biggest misunderstandings may develop between an upholsterer and a client when there is a mismatch between the type of upholsterer and the type of client. Each client has their own set up expectations, preferences, things they consider important, quality awareness, and cost preference. Similarly, each upholsterer has his own set up skill levels, preferences, supplies, tools, experience, integrity, quality awareness and prices. As long as there is not trickery or deception involved, there is a good match up when a client and an upholsterer both are "on the same page". For instance, some clients consider all upholsterer "the same". This client has no awareness of the variations of quality or experience. So, this client just looks for the "cheapest price". She should find a worker who specializes in working cheap. This would be a good match up. Similarly, a client who is aware of differences in quality and experience and who is expecting top quality should find a skilled craftsman who is quite experienced and focuses on quality work. This would also be a good match up. However, there would not be a good match up if either of the aforementioned clients went to the other type of upholsterer. Although this article (below) is kind of a spoof (fun) writing, it carries a lot of weight. Make sure that your expections of both quality and price line up with the upholsterer.

Since my immersion into the trade in 1966, I have come to realize that there are many different skill levels in the upholstery trade. I have been through many skill levels myself, and I have known other upholsterers at different levels. Those who are just beginning into the trade have very limited skills; to attract clients some of these often use such gimmicks as: having the “cheapest prices”, using flattery or smooth talk, “doing it fast”, or claiming to be “the best.” Those who use these tactics may never advance to higher skill levels. But those who are truly learning the trade avoid these tactics as they learn better skills. In order to become a true craftsman it takes a lot of hard work, diligence, experience, admitting and fixing countless mistakes, asking advice, experimenting with different methods, and constantly looking for better ways to achieve higher levels of quality. The true craftsman doesn’t need any gimmicks to get customers; his workmanship and reputation speak for themselves.

      Like any profession, there are types of upholsterers at many different skill levels. There is a good match-up between upholsterers and clients when the right type of upholsterer does work for the corresponding right type of client. Those who work cheaply are best suited to those clients who, unconcerned about quality, want a cheap price. The fast upholsterers are good matches for those clients who want it “NOW!” The average upholsterer is good for most average clients with average expectations. The Perfectionist finds his niche in doing work for people who want to think that they are getting “the very best.” The harder-to-find craftsmen is a good match for those who value their furniture, and who truly appreciate his fastidious attention to the fine details of putting out a true work of art. Those who claim to be “the best” seldom are; those who are the best don’t need to say it.

     Those who value this profession will keep learning and persevere through the many difficult times. They will continue to improve their skills as stay in the trade through many years. Those who charge a realistic price for the level of quality that they produce, and deal straightforwardly and honestly with their customers will gain a following of loyal client that will keep them in business for many years.

Note: See the links below and in the left side menu for descriptive paragraphs about each type of upholsterer.

Agreeable Ager

"Yes, Maam, I can to exactly what you want!" says Ager as he smiles. He is so agreeable and has such a pleasant personality that you don't even bother to check his credentials or the quality of his work. You assume that because he speaks so well and seems to listen to what you want that he must be a qualified professional. However, the quality of his workmanship can vary quite a bit.

Here are a couple things to remember. Always check the quality of his work. Look at a job that he is doing, or look at pictures of his work.

Secondly, if you have any special instructions that you tell him, make sure he writes it on his Work Order or Contract. Remember, if it is not in writing, it didn't happen (legally speaking). If you told him something specific, rememer, he has many other jobs on his mind. Don't expect him to remember it unless it is in writing.

Average Avery

Average-Avery is a fairly likeable fellow. Having successfully been in the upholstery business for a number of years, he does a pretty good job, and most of his repeat clients are reasonably happy with his work. He has learned from experience that it doesn’t pay to do sloppy work, but he is not interested in doing, or even learning about, high quality work. There’s not much unique about him; he’s just about average. Average-Avery does an OK job for an OK price.

Cheap Charlie

Cheap Charlie, “the cheapest upholsterer in town,” gives no thought about quality because he believes that most people are looking for the lowest price. He takes pride in giving people “real bargains.” As an example, unconcerned about how long something will last, he continuously searches for the lowest priced materials that he can find, and he uses the quickest and simplest methods of doing the work. Without checking, he just assumes that the frame, the springs, and everything else under the cover is ok, If he does find anything wrong with the frame, springs, or padding, he'll do a quick patch that will hold up long enough for him to get paid. He'll leave most of the old cover on the sofa, adds a layer of padding when necessary and puts the new cover right over the old cover. He uses the cheapest of threads and spaces his staples much further apart while attaching the fabric to the frame. He’ll change the style of the furniture to make it easier to do. He keeps his word; he’s the cheapest! And you shouldn't complain about what you get. You got what you paid for, the cheapest job.

Craftsman Craig

Craftsman Craig is a rare find, but those who do find him remain immensely loyal. He truly loves people and sees each of his clients as unique human beings, each having their own individual set of needs, desires, and wishes. He treats each customer as he would like to be treated, with great dignity and respect, dealing honestly and truthfully with them. He carefully listens to what they say, and he writes out complete and detailed estimates or work orders, (which he follows meticulously when he does the work.) He clearly explains each charge to the clients, and openly answers any questions that they may have. He never says how honest he is, but he is very careful to live it out.

Having had many years of successful experience he is very confident in his abilities. Since he realizes that he isn’t perfect, he is continually striving to improve the quality of his work. Taking the extra time to do the careful planning, watching for mistakes as he works, and his meticulous attention to details are key to doing his very high level of craftsmanship. He doesn’t give any thought to whether he’s the best; he just tries to do his best. He has the highest level of quality and is perhaps the highest priced of all the upholsterers; those who value their furniture and truly appreciate quality craftsmanship are more than willing to pay it. “You get what you pay for.”

Craftsmen versus Workers

What is the difference between a Production Worker and a Craftsman.



 Production Worker


 Definition  one that works especially at manual or industrial labor or with a particular material <a factory worker>(Webster)

 one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts (Webster)

a professional whose work is consistently of high quality, a creator of great skill in the manual arts(WorldNet search)

 Focus  This may be a low paid entry job. He may not be able to get any other work, or It may just be a temporary job until he finds something better. He just wants his paycheck.  This is often his life's work. He has spent many years learning and developing his skill and his craft. He is highly skilled and takes joy in producing high quality work.
 Training  A production worker only has to learn his part of the job, and to do it in the way that he was taught, using the materials supplied to him.

 A craftsman has to learn all parts of every part of the job. He also has learned why work is done a certain way. He is always striving to improve the quality of his work.

 Client Relations  He rarely, if ever, sees the client.  He often works directly with the client, is able to help determine best materials and proceedures to meet client's needs.

 Uses specific materials that are supplied by management.

 Has to have a working knowledge about a wide variety of materials. S/He has determine best materials for each job. Orders materials from suppliers

He has to be able to hunt down unusual materials, or when the original or specified materials are not available, to find alternate materials

Often times the original materials may not be available any more, so the craftsman has to be able to find substitute materials, or even remanufacture the original materials himself.



 A craftsman is often working with furniture that was designed and manufactured 20, 50, or well over 100 years ago.
 Financial  Gets paid a set salary for his work. Gets paid whether job turns out right or not.  Pays for all materials, has accounts with all suppliers. Is financially responsible for every job. If the job is done wrong, repair comes out of his pockets.

 Because s/he does the same work over and over again, s/he can become very fast in that area.


 Planning  No need for much planning ahead, just do what is set before him/her each day.  Plans work schedule, does cutting layout jor job. 
Quality Control  

He knows that his name and his reputation goes out with each piece. He uses the finest materials. He carefully examines each piece as he does it. He readily fixes his mistakes as soon as he finds them.  

 Keeping Interested in His Work  Since the worker often does the same thing over and over day after day, he can easily become bored and lose interest in what he is doing. Consequently quality can suffer greatly  Because of his wide range of skills, the craftsman tackles a wide range of projects. He is constantly honing and improving his skills and his knowledge of his trade. He confidently tackles the toughest of projects.
 Reputation  He is anonymous, nobody outside the factory knows who has done his work  



































Fast Freddie

Fast Freddie may be the hardest worker of all the different upholsterers; while using his speed to get things done quickly he tries to do what he thinks is a reasonable job. Although he is not as sloppy as Cheap Charlie or Smooth-Talking Sam, his focus is not high quality work; he gets things done fast. Many customers think his work “looks good” and never notice that he took a few “shortcuts,” such as, leaving some of the old cover on or “making a few minor changes.” He thrives on trying to meet tight deadlines.

When he talks to the customers, he doesn’t spend much time with them. He subtly hurries them into making a quick decision. He promises quick delivery times and rushes like crazy to meet his often self imposed tight schedule. Most of the time he succeeds; he’s fast!

Perfectionist Pete

Perfectionist Pete is proud of, what he thinks are, his “superior abilities.” He has been doing upholstery for many years and perhaps learned his trade from a craftsman. Since he views himself as the “expert,” he is not open to receiving criticism or advice from his customers or other upholsterers; (although he is quick to point out "flaws" in other upholsterers' work) consequently, long ago he stopped learning to improve his skill level. While he does an above average job, he has an inflated perception of his skills. Thinking that his work is “nearly perfect,” he doesn’t see many of his mistakes and imperfections. Having relied upon his workmanship to gain a following, he never bothered to learn many sales or communication skills; he is often ill tempered and irritable. Many people put up with his abrupt and often rude attitude because his higher level of workmanship is harder to find.

Smooth-Talking Sam

Smooth-Talking Sam is proud of his sales ability; using the “bait and switch” method, he can easily get his foot in the door “to give a free estimate.” He can make a sale most of the time. If he gives the client anything in writing, it may only be a “receipt” scribbled on a scrap of paper or, if he wishes to further impress a client, the indecipherable receipt will be on “his letterhead.” His wide smile and flattering words help to mask his pushy and manipulative ways. Once in the home, he’ll find that “the sofa needs extra work he didn’t know about.” Mainly interested in making money, he claims to use only the highest grade materials and the finest workmanship while using the very cheapest materials he can find. When he finally delivers the hastily slapped together sofa, he sweet-talks and flatters the customer to mask his inferior materials and his shoddy workmanship. He gives the upholstery trade a bad name.

Upholstery Methods and Materials

Over the years many different types of methods and materials have been used in the upholstery trade. In recent years a certain method and a particular set of materials has been labeled as "Traditional."

Through the years new materials, tools, and supplies have been made available by the upholstery supply companies, which the older types of supplies and materials have passed away. With the new materials, new methods have been developed that are better suited to the new tools and supplies. For instance, the arrival and improvements of the air staples have changed the way that a large percentage of upholsterers apply the fabrics to the furniture frames.  In like manner, the invention of the sewing machine, and its improvement over time, has greatly altered the way that upholstery covers are constructed.

Quality Versus Methods

With any type of materials there are usually higher and and lower quality of materials and methods.