Friday, July 12, 2013

So you want to learn how to upholster. 9 tips

Let's talk upholstery... how do you upholster something?

I will share with you 9 tips and tricks I have learned along the way.  Hopefully this will give you some new ideas or inspire you to get started.

1. If you are just starting out, I recommend starting slow.  Choose an easy piece like a small footstool or a chair seat. Keep in mind that round is more difficult to keep wrinkle free.

2. The type of fabric you need should be heavy weight.  Think drop cloth and heavier.  The above chair and stool were both covered in a drop cloth. You can see the before and afters here.  Upholstering something in a simple cotton will not last long so choose your fabric wisely.

3. You will also need to pull all the existing staples and old fabric out of the furniture you are working on.  You can use a screw driver, or invest in a tool to remove them.

4. Depending on the age and condition of the piece, you may need to replace foam and batting.  This can be expensive.  I find that using the foam mattress toppers can be cheaper than buying foam from a craft store.  I also find batting regularly at garage sales.  Keep your eyes open for Holiday "snow" that can also be used.  It is clearanced out after Christmas so remember to stock up!

5. A staple gun will work, but not as easily as one attached to a compressor.  I use upholstery tacks or a regular staple gun and have upholstered lots of things this way.

6. Once you master the chair seat or foot stool, choose something a little more complex.  I am not suggesting going for the wing back here, that is advanced and requires lots of sewing and cutting.  Something a little more like this chair would be a good next step.
This chair has a back piece that is easily stapled in through the front of the chair.  It is easier than a back that is put on from the back of the chair.  Also, you will notice this chair has a removable seat just like  the chair above.  There is no cutting around the arms and hiding staples on the bottom.  

7. The more seams, piping, and removable cushions a chair has, the harder it is.

8. You can learn a lot by taking a chair apart.  Pay attention when you do this and you will see how things were put together in the first place.  It shows you the pattern, the cuts around the arms and legs, and most importantly, which part to upholster first.  You can use the old fabric as a template to cut out your new fabric.  If you think you really need it, take pictures of the taking apart process so you remember how to put it back together.

9. Now go out and pick up a chair or grab that one that has been sitting in your basement and get started.  If I can do it, so can you!

I go in depth in this upholstering post here.
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  1. Thanks for the tips. I have done many pieces but I recently received two chairs that are much more complicated. Scary! I have never done anything like this before.

  2. Thanks much for sharing; very informative!