What is upholstery?

Taken from the Concise Oxford Dictionary the word upholstery means to cover furniture using textiles padding and springs.

However, over the years the word has evolved to more literally mean covering virtually anything. Hence if you had a cover manufactured for your braai or car or boat it could also fall into the general term of upholstery even though these things are not actually furniture.

The upholstery profession has thus become a term given to highly skilled people who can virtually recover or upholster anything. When upholstering furniture properly it is necessary to have these skills if you expect the finished product to be commercially acceptable in any way and these skills can take years to perfect.

We, at Tomio Craft, have people who possess these skills. It is certainly not possible for someone with no skills or experience to take a lounge suite, or anything else for that matter, and properly recover it successfully after reading a book on the subject. First of all such a person needs to be an expert on an industrial sewing machine and this alone can take years. They also need to be able to make templates and cut out patterns from textiles and fabrics accurately almost with the precision of a watch maker. Anything less than this and the cover they have made will either be too tight or not tight enough and will not fit correctly or look right.

When working with patterns they need to be aware of the fact that the fabric pattern must always run in the same direction no matter whether they are working on the back of the chair, the arm rest or a cushion. While this may sound obvious it is amazing how many people claiming to have years of experience in upholstery cannot grasp this simple concept and cannot even see anything wrong when they have finished a job with the textile pattern running every which way. This is what separates a person who knows upholstery and what they are doing from a person who just throws covers over furniture.

The next thing to consider is the actual covering. What textiles and fabrics are you going to be using? Or will you use real leather, thin Italian leather or thick leather like buffalo hide, or will it be textile or even artificial and thus synthetic leather or leather look alike. There are hundreds of textiles and fabrics suitable for upholstery but all have differing characteristics and need to be treated in a different way when using them. Likewise when working in the leather the same thing is applicable. There are so many different types of leather.

As can be seen, upholstery is not a simple thing that can be undertaken by the layman and it is strongly recommended that you seek the assistance of a professional upholsterer if you are looking for a commercially acceptable end product.

We at Tomio Craft stand by our products and workmanship so as to ensure 100% satisfied customers. We understand that your possessions are precious and try to take the same care of them as you would do yourself.

How to upholster

Tips for textile upholstery or upholstery fabrics:

  1. Cheapest is not always best when selecting a textile suitable for upholstery. In order to get the correct appearance fabric must be stretched over the frame. Some fabrics fray when stretched over the frame and are thus totally unsuitable for upholstery. Any fabric selected for upholstery must therefore not only be suitable but durable as there will be excessive wear over time. Make sure you select a good quality textile with a tight weave for long lasting durability.
  2. When cutting out the fabric use templates to get an accurate cut.
  3. If the textile has a pattern you will need to ensure the pattern runs only in one direction or the re-upholstered furniture will look totally wrong. Even the colour can change quite dramatically if the textile does not all run in the same direction. The untrained eye will find it quite difficult trying to fathom out why the colour is not the same all over when the fabric has been positioned in the wrong way.
  4. Before starting the upholstery you will need to ensure all the old staples have been removed from the frame. This is both labour intensive and a time consuming task. If not done properly this can cause problems when you start to upholster and even damage to your staple gun when one staple is driven in on top of another existing staple using a powerful compressed air machine. Your gun will not take kindly to such punishment for very long and good staple guns are not cheap to come by. In some cases it may even be necessary to take parts of the frame apart in order to upholster it properly.
  5. Frames need to be thoroughly checked for damage first and repaired before the recovering process starts.
  6. If any foam rubber needs to be replaced it will need to be the same density foam as the original unless the customer has requested otherwise. Changing the foam density will seriously alter the final result and thus the appearance of your new upholstery.
  7. Make sure you replace all webbing and springs. Top webbing for your back is identified by two coloured lines while the bottom webbing that you sit on, needs to be stronger and is identified by three coloured lines. This is a very important part to upholstery.
  8. Use easy curve where applicable to ensure a neat finish around curved areas.
  9. Check if there is any piping to be replaced which needs to also be covered with matching upholstery fabrics.
  10. Make sure you buy the right zips for pillow cushions and that they match the colour of the textile being used before starting the upholstery work.
  11. Before starting make sure you have all the right tools and equipment. You will need a good compressor, a nail gun, staple gun, hammer, pliers, screw drivers, industrial sewing machine, glue guns, spray guns, large scissors, cutting tables, tape measures, electric drill, electric saw, electric screw driver, sharp cutting knives, button maker, and an over-locker are just some of the basics you will need.
  12. You will also need a variety of materials such as cardboard for making templates, wood for repairing any broken frame work, piping cord, easy curve, webbing, springs, foam rubber, Dacron, fibre balls for cushions, staples, nails, and glue. If you are upholstering padded head boards for example, and king size head boards, you will need to buy timber. There can be many ideas for head boards depending on the style required but the timber can range from a solid piece of wood to just a wooden frame.
  13. Timber will also need to be held in stock for any repairs to other furniture frames. Many manufacturers use chip board these days. The only trouble with chip board is that it chips. When removing staples from chip board it often gets unavoidably damaged to the extent that it may well need to be replaced.
  14. Always be aware of the fact that you are actually doing furniture renovation. Upholstery can also be another name for furniture renovation. Furniture renovation is not just a term reserved for people specialising in the renovation of antiques. What the customer is expecting back from you is furniture that is as good as the day it was brand new.

Attention to detail is essential and when finished the furniture must be aesthetically pleasing to look at or you have failed.