Upholstery Is A Craft

Making cut on chair inside back

Upholstery is a craft or art of padding surfaces to make them more comfortable, pleasing or decorative and functional. It began centuries ago, out of necessity, to make hard seats softer. And it has been changing from the first use of crude methods and materials in the beginning to our use of modern-day materials and techniques.

The comfort, beauty, and usefulness  of many items we enjoy or use everyday has been made possible through some type of upholstery. Just look around you wherever you are. You will be amazed to see padding on so many things we use everyday in our homes, businesses, leisure activities, and on it goes.

Learning to Upholster


Training and on-the-job experience is required to become an upholsterer. But, many people (or do-it-yourselves) can learn to do simple reupholstery projects or repairs. If they learn how to do basics through books, videos, local classes, they should be able to do some of their own projects, and do them well.

Learning to upholster only requires a very few tools as you begin to learn the basics. If you decide to pursue this craft, you may wish to acquire a few more tools as you need them.

In years past a young person would apprentice with another upholsterer for years to become a professional. Furniture factories also taught their workers some of the techniques of upholstery.

Today, some technical schools train upholsterers. There are many other ways to learn how to reupholster your own furniture through community college evening classes, books, videos.

Upholstery is a craft that originated for comfortBrief History of Upholstery

It seems originally upholsters were called upholders because they would hold their fabrics up so the customer could see them. They did not specialize like today. They would make the whole home more comfortable by covering not only the seating pieces and beds but also the walls. They were thought of as home decorators.

Since there were no sewing machines in the beginning, all work was done by hand. Some padding materials were difficult to hold in place, even with stitching in place, before the final cover was  attached.

The sewing machine not only helped the upholsterer but it made it possible for furniture to be made in mass quantities. Modern materials, such as foam, dacron, vinyl and other synthetics, have changed the scene of an upholstery shop.

Types of Upholstery

Traditional Upholstery deals with the many facets of home furnishings and furniture.

Automotive Upholstery relates to padding used in automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, motor homes and related items.

Commercial Upholstery is usually associated with all types of offices, medical facilities, eating establishments, etc.

Marine Upholstery as the name suggests is all about boats and other vehicles used on the water.

Aircraft Upholstery must adhere to very strict FAA guidelines as they upholster or reupholster the interior and seating of airplanes.

Summary of Upholstery

Many people will find great satisfaction in using their creative abilities in upholstering or reupholstering their projects. Most people are able to do simple projects, and do them well.

We have tried to present a few of the facts about the art or craft of upholstery. It has an interesting history. And you may find it very useful in redoing furniture or simple repairs.

3 comments on “Upholstery Is A Craft
  1. Jerry says:

    Interesting article!

  2. Moreblessing says:

    Hi Kristy,I am in the middle of doing a chair and 1/2 I pikecd up at a garage sale. After my second coat on the pillows, I’m afraid I am doing something wrong as the paint seems to soak right into the fabric. At this rate I would need to put 6 to 8 coats on everything.I have followed your instructions implicitly so i am wondering two things: Do I need to go a darker color than original fabric (even though pink chaise lounge lady went lighter) and the second coat did seem to go a little better b/c i really sprayed water until fabric quite saturated. However, it isn’t dry yet so I don’t know if it will just soak in.Also, the material was quite stiff after first coat, is that normal?Questions: Do I need to do very very thin layers of paint? Do I keep doing coat after coat? Do I heavily saturate with water?I would love any encouragement if there is any to give.thank you!

    • Rich says:

      We don’t have any experience painting upholstery fabric. Sorry, but we cannot help you with your painting problems.

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