Module 2

5 Upholstery myths busted

There can be a certain amount of mystery surrounding upholstery… What does it take to be a good upholsterer, what does the job actually entail and are there any simple tricks that will save you time (I’ll tell you that one for free. I’m afraid it’s a no!) Here, I bust some of the myths that I hear the most…

It’s just putting on a new fabric

Is it though? In the very best and rarest of occasions, the least you will have to do is remove the existing fabric. While this is a simple process, it’s still time consuming. It’s not like slipping out of your clothes at night and popping on your PJs – if only! There will be tacks or staples to remove (probably both) and there’s bound to be hundreds of them. More often than not, your project will involve a rebuild. So no, sorry. It’s not just putting on a new fabric.

I’ll have that stripped in no time

I can’t count how many times I’ve said to myself, “that will take me an hour to strip, then I can let the magic begin”. Four hours later and I’m still removing staples and tacks. How tempting is it to leave those in? Very tempting is that answer to that. But don’t. It’s laborious and slightly soul destroying, but after you’ve removed the last, and what feels like the millionth staple, you’re going to thank yourself and your future self will be extremely grateful.

You can give yourself a pat on the back once you finally get the feeling back in your hands and your soul has been restored.

Having a clean and staple/tack free surface to work with, not only will save you time when you get to the good stuff, but almost definitely reduce the issues the you have. If the previous upholsterer has used a staple there, guaranteed you’ll need to put a staple there. And let me tell you, staple on staple or tack on tack doesn’t work. I’ve tried.

Anyone can be an upholsterer

This is a half myth… it’s true that anyone can be an upholsterer BUT it’s not true that everyone will be good at it. There are certain skills and traits you need. And while many of those skills will be transferable from other vocations or careers, upholstery requires a very particular skillset. In particular, you will need…

  • A lot of patience

  • To be good a problem solver

  • Attention to detail

  • A bit of strength

Unless you are limiting yourself to drop in seat pads, you will need to be able to heft a piece of furniture around to either get the tension or to be able to reach just the right place. On its side, on its back, upside down. More often than not, you’ll wish you were ambidextrous. If you are, I envy you.

I just need a staple gun and a pair of scissors

A good staple gun will be a saviour, for sure. But it won’t help you sew and attach a piece of piping, it won’t help you create the perfect tight pleat, it won’t help you make and attach a button and it definitely won’t help manufacture a new seat cushion. The basic tools and equipment list is not vast, but it’s certainly longer than a staple gun and some scissors.

Anyone can be an upholsterer: Part II

We’ve explored the skills you need to be a good upholsterer. But even if you tick the list for patience, problem solving, strength and the rest, to be able to be a true upholsterer, you need to be able to sew and to do a bit of woodwork. Sewing is essential, both by hand and using a machine, whether it’s slip stitching or sewing some piping. In terms of woodwork, we’re not talking about crafting a new chair frame from scratch, but you will need to know how to repair a loose joint or bring out the best in the wood by cleaning, staining and waxing it.