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.

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