Blog, Sewing for Beginners

How to Learn Upholstery Sewing

By Jessica Strohlson

A lot of people don’t realize that sewing is often a part of upholstery. However, although there is a significant amount of upholstery occupied by other processes such as pulling fabric and stapling, there is often the incorporation of sewing.

Having the skills to sew and repair furniture on your own is an excellent skill and will save you money on having to hire somebody to do it for you in the case that you need a job completed.

Even if you’ve sewn with a machine before, you’ll still have a bit of learning to do if you’re looking to get into upholstery.

What is upholstery sewing?

Upholstery sewing is creating new upholstery from raw materials or repairing upholstery on an existing furniture piece. Upholstery sewing is a fun way to create new upholstered furniture or repair an old piece of it. It’s the work that provides seats, cushions, webbing and fabric coverings for existing pieces.

Option 1: Learn From Home

For some, learning from home is their favorite option as they don’t have to travel at all and they can fit their practice within their own schedule. It’s also optimal for those who are unable to leave their homes.

What You’ll Need

Industrial Sewing Machine and Machine Materials

A regular sewing machine is not sufficient for sewing upholstery, as it requires equipment that is able to work with tougher fabrics, such as leather. Most other machines are designed specifically for thinner material, such as cotton. 

Therefore, you’ll want to search for an industrial, heavy duty sewing machine. Additionally, you’ll want to do research and make sure you have all the materials that are necessary for sewing, such as sewing needles.

Fabric

Besides a machine, fabric is one of the most essential materials when it comes to any sort of sewing. It’s important that you have the right type of fabric onhand, which will be unique to the project you’re doing. Therefore, you may want to purchase different types of fabric at once and have them ready.

Fabric comes in a variety of types, colors, sizes, etc. There are a few things to consider when picking out the one that you plan to use. First, look at the durability, as it needs to be able to withstand the sewing machine, as well as not be prone to tear. This may not be an issue for more decorative pieces.

Next, you’ll want to think of the color. For practice, it won’t really matter. However, once you move into real projects, you’ll want to make sure you have the necessary colors for your desired results.

Some of the most common fibers used in fabrics are: cotton, linen, wool, silk, rayon, polyester, nyon, acrylic, and olefin. Overall the specific type of fabric you use, whether it be leather or something else, will depend on your goal. 

Overall, you’ll want to do research into what is your best fit. If you’re still not sure, you can ask an employee at a fabric store.

Straight Pins

Pins are incredibly useful when it comes to most types of sewing, including upholstery. Using pins is an excellent method of holding fabric together or marking fabric when using to match various patterns with one another. 

Marking Tools

Marking tools are essential in this type of work and are used to mark to ensure that you cut fabrics correctly or determine proper placement of certain pieces, such as buttons or zippers.

Fabric Scissors

Purchase a pair of scissors able to cut through tougher material that will be limited to use for upholstery. Using them on other non-sewing related materials may result in a decline in quality. 

Acrylic Ruler

Rulers are excellent for marking straight lines, as well as lines at a 30, 45, or 60 degree angle. 

Other Upholstery Tools

If you’re looking to move past simply sewing in upholstery, consider purchasing other materials, such as:

  • A mallet
  • Pneumatic stapler and staple remover
  • Foam lock spray adhesive
  • Twine
  • Basting Tape
  • Piping Cord

Use Online Resources

When learning upholstery from home, simply playing around with a machine and doing trial and error is simply not enough. Therefore, you’ll likely want to use lots of online resources, such as step-by-step guides and videos. There are also some online courses available, some of which are free, although you’ll often have to pay for a subscription.

Make sure to start at beginner level and build up your skills. Use multiple sources when learning, to make sure that you truly have a grasp on the information prior to diving in, completing projects, and repairing furniture.

Trial and Error

As you learn the basics from the sources you can find online, you’ll want to put in lots of practice to build and develop your skills. It’s important to remember that, while it can be frustrating for one trying to move past novice-level upholstery, failure is basically inevitable, and it will ultimately help you build your skills. 

Option 2: Attend Upholstery Classes

While it is technically possible to teach yourself upholstery sewing, classes are often the superior option if you have the money to take them. Trial and error with regular sewing is much more straightforward than with upholstery, so getting help from an instructor is often much less frustrating.

Here are some of the major benefits of attending upholstery classes that you won’t get working at home:

Access to Professional Tools

This is a major plus for people who are unable to purchase materials for upholstery sewing themselves.

Teaching yourself requires that you purchase all of the necessary materials, which can take a significant toll on your wallet. Many are unable to afford any materials, or are stuck with tools and materials that are low quality, resulting in unattractive results.

However, if you decide to work with professional instructors, the issue is eliminated as you’re often given access to the highest-quality materials available on the market without having to break the bank. While you’ll most likely have to pay for the classes, you won’t have to pay $1,500 or more for an industrial machine of reputable quality.

In addition to a smaller monetary investment, you’ll also be gifted with the knowledge from the best sewers, ensuring that you’ll experience a significant increase in skills. While you could teach yourself, with work as advanced as upholstery sewing, you’ll likely want a seasoned sewer by your side.

Time and Space

Another issue that many have when trying to teach themselves how to sew is not having sufficient space to work or not having the time to set up a space designated for it. Many also find it difficult to set aside the necessary time to develop their sewing kills.

With sewing classes, these issues are eliminated as you’re provided with a designated time and workspace that will keep you motivated and allow you to have fun. Having a positive area to work in is an excellent way to increase your productivity.

Specific Instruction

When you have a specific project you’d like to complete, especially with upholstery, you may find it difficult to find proper directions online for your goal. Therefore, working with an upholsterer with a significant amount of knowledge is an excellent way to get step-by-step instruction that you’re not likely to find in an article or video.

Inspiration and Fun

Besides getting an amazing education working under professionals, it’s also just a fun experience overall working with other like-minded individuals with similar interests, such as upholstery. 

Working with others you respect is a great source of inspiration, motivation, and challenge and you’ll all be able to learn from one another.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, upholstery is a challenging and fulfilling craft, whether you’re looking for a bit of fun or to get to work repairing furniture. Building your skills, whether at home or learning with a professional has lots of benefits that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.

If this is something you’ve been considering and you’re on edge, be reassured that this is a perfectly achievable goal, even if you’ve never sewn before.


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