Have You Ever Taken an Upholstery Class?

WMA89February 23, 2014

I have been wanting to learn upholstery for a long time, as I'm always finding amazing pieces of furniture that I pass up due to the expense of reupholstery. I love what My3dogs does with her finds, and I see that there are other people on the board who are attempting their hands at it as well.

Is it worth taking an upholstery class, do you think--or can on-line tutorials teach you the basics? I ask because there is a 6 week class being offered through my town's continuing ed department. I'm a little concerned, however, because they will only let you bring a small ottoman or chair seat (upholstered to frame). You are asked to bring sharp scissors, a mallet, regular pliers, and a flat head screwdriver. You can also purchase the tools at class. I've taken other adult ed classes where I got frustrated at the ultra-basic level instruction of the class--where a lot of time was used up looking at pictures of the instructor's work or listening to their stories. Sorry if that sounds negative, but I am at a very busy stage of life and have to be careful of my time commitments. I've always been pretty good at teaching myself DIY stuff, but upholstery does kind of scare me.

So, can you share how you learned upholstery? Thanks!

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Suuuuuuure! Get my glue gun/glue sticks, and away I go ! It's not the 'conventional way' and the chairs are mainly used in bedrooms. To look at them you would't have a clue they were not professionally done, so I've been told! It's still quite challenging to get the size of the pieces right, but a braiding is used(glued)to cover raw edges rather than sewing/making welting. ;)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 3:34PM
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I took one in St Pete FL and the class was great. Everyone worked at their own pace and sometimes you did have to wait on your time with the instructor since she would work with each person individually. As she was doing something she would announce the technique so those interested could stop what they were doing and watch.

I had the option of going to observe a class before registering.

Unless you find someone that has taken a class from that instructor it may be hard to determine if it will be a waste of your time.

You could also try calling a local upholsterer and ask for private lessons. Then you may be able to get exactly what you are looking for on your own schedule and in a lot less time. There are also a lot of really detailed youtube videos.
Good Luck.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 3:42PM
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When I decided to try upholstery in May of 2012, I couldn't find a class in Maine to save my life. So, it was blogs and You Tube videos, and when I took something apart, I'd take photos of how it was done. Many of my chairs are old and had horsehair seats, which I replaced with foam, or if the springs were great, I left them.

The right tools are a must, and I just now Googled 'right tools for upholstery' and came up with this blog linked below.

The thrill you'll get from taking an old or inexpensive piece and doing it the way you want, with your fabric and stain or paint is something you'll enjoy. I'm about to post pics of my CL $25 brass and glass coffee table turned ottoman!

Here is a link that might be useful: 10 essential tools needed for upholstery

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Thanks so much, My3dogs, pattycakes and mellyc. Based on what you've shared, I think I'm going to skip the class and just study on my own. If that doesn't work, I'll look around for another class.

my3dogs, I can't believe you've only been upholstering since May 2012. You have amazing talent! Can't wait to see the table base/ottoman reveal. Thanks also for the list of tools.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:39PM
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There were no classes available in my area. I studied books from the library & online videos & blogs. The only book I bought was Singer Upholstery Basics (good pictures & instructions).

It took a couple years for me to get brave enough to actually start!
Seeing other posts about upholstery projects helped encourage me to jump in : )

As m3d says, taking photos as you go is essential. Save the old pieces of fabric as a pattern guideline. What I found is that when I removed the fabric, I could see how it was attached and what supplies (like cardboard strips or metal tack strips) I needed. Each piece "taught me" something new.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 5:56PM
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I did it exactly the way my3dogs did. No class. There are good videos at DIYupholstery.com, the link is below, and I also bought some of my essential tools from this source. I also took photos of my first pieces, as I took them apart, because I found that once the chair, sofa or ottoman is naked, it wasnâÂÂt that easy to remember some of the basic steps I took to get it that way. And I agree with laurie, save all your pieces, they can be used as patterns for the new project.

For my arthritic hands, my best purchase was a pneumatic staple gun - itâÂÂs wonderful!

Good luck, itâÂÂs actually easier than youâÂÂd think, and so rewarding when itâÂÂs done! WarehouseFabrics.com also has some helpful upholstery yardage guides to follow when estimating how much fabric youâÂÂll need to do a new project. Have fun!

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Upholstery Supply

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 6:13PM
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Thanks, everyone. I'm going to start studying and purchasing the tools. You've all inspired me!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:19PM
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I'm just diving in on an inexpensive chair ... looking at YouTube and some other web sites.

I would add a staple remover to the list of essential tools ... it's amazing how many staples you find.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:38PM
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I would call the Continuing Ed office and see if you can get a little more info on the class, leave a message for the instructor. 6 weeks is a long time to work on a dining room chair! My class was a 6 week, 3 hour class. I enjoyed seeing the various projects/chairs in the room; they all have such different anatomy. Because it was Continuing ED, I had to bring the chair each week. To your question, U tube offers so much info and I have read about a new upholstery book called Spruce by Amanda Brown. 3 dogs is right about the need to take lots of pictures as you go. Once it's apart, it is hard to remember how to reassemble the chair.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:07AM
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I really liked my upholstery class, and ended up enrolling again for multiple semesters. It is more like a shop than a structured class - people at all levels working on different things at their own pace. The instructor is very helpful showing how the fabric needs to be cut just so, pulled just so, etc. I had done some simple things before, but in retrospect I really had no clue. I like having access to all kinds of obscure tools - buying them all would be pricey.

Excellent advice to start with something small and simple. The point is to get comfortable with the tools. It is fun to make welt/cording and buttons, etc and see how it all comes together. You do not want to work endlessly (and badly) on a complicated piece and get frustrated. It's like waffles: you may well throw the first one out. And unless you are a seamstress, avoid zippers!! A bench or ottoman, the older the better, ideally with springs inside, maybe with tufting, buttons, gimp or nailhead trim, would be perfect. You would learn a lot!

I vote yes.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:43PM
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Read the thread more carefully. So this class you are considering perhaps is not actually held in a dedicated upholstery shop space? That would change my answer.

At my class I like using tools and machines I wouldn't have access to otherwise : the spiked stretchers for webbing, the button maker, the air sucking thingie to compress cushions, etc etc. Meeting at the town hall to pull staples and glue cording wouldn't thrill me so much.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:59PM
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I really enjoyed my upholstery classes. The convenience of having the right equipment, large work areas and being able to leave our projects at the school made it worth while for me.

Probably the most important for me is that I had a scheduled amount of time to work on my projects every week. Otherwise, they might still be sitting in my garage!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Thanks, all. To clarify: the class is held at a local high school, not an upholstery shop. It is limited to 7 students.
I would need to bring my project to class every week. The class is 2.5 hours for 6 weeks. Is 15 hours of instruction excessive to complete one small ottoman of upholstered chair seat? Thanks again for all your feedback--I'm leaning towards trying it on my own.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 6:55AM
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Elraes Miller

My upholstery started years ago when first married and little money for furniture. Found a chair in an alley behind a furniture store. Just jumped in and paid attention to how all was put together as I disassembled it. It was like working on a puzzle for me. This was also when there were large warehouses of fabric for next to nothing in price. Actually sold the chair not long after and was hooked.

A good class will give you some basics to start from, but not sure how much info with such a simple project. There are so many resources now to share tips and tricks. I agree in taking the chance in using the online instructions. Even if the first project isn't perfect, the learning involved will move you quickly for being skilled.

Taking all apart is the hard part, my personal feeling. And it is boring.

Something not mentioned much for upholstery fabrics is a walking foot for sewing. I couldn't do without it and has lasted for over 30 years. It walks the fabric through and adjusts itself to the thickness or layers. Keeps your stitches in line and at the right pull. I also use a leather sewing machine needle on really heavy fabrics or multiple layers.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 7:02AM
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