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.