Next Up

Upholstery 101: A Beginner's Look at the Trade

Whether you're hoping to have an old chair or sofa reupholstered or simply considering new pillows to dress up your space, learn the ins and outs of upholstery with insider terms and tricks.
1 / 17

Tools of the Trade

Upholstery projects require special tools specific to the trade. At first glance, these tools may appear generic; however, each has features pertinent to the upholstery process. The small hammer is made especially for upholstery tacks, complete with magnetized tips to hold the tacks in place until each is tapped securely into a frame. What appears to be a pair of everyday scissors is actually referred to as "upholstery shears," which are designed specifically for cutting thick fabric without quickly dulling the sharp edges. Upholstery mallets are made with special care so as not to damage textiles; one has felt on its head's edges while the other has a head completely covered with nylon.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 17


When an old chair or sofa has lost its firmness, it's usually the result of worn webbing, straps of burlap which are firmly fastened to the frame to hold cushions in place. In order to give an old piece of furniture new, sturdy support, the old straps must be removed and the new ones must be cut to size, then installed basket-weave style. Replacing straps can add minimal to moderate cost to an upholstery job due mostly to the labor involved.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 17


Much of the upholstery process, particularly slipcover and bedding fabrication, involves pinning. This time-consuming task involves holding seems together temporarily to create perfect lines until stitching begins. Based on the size of the thread and the thickness of the fabric, various types of pins and hooks may be needed. Some are perfectly straight, allowing fabric to be tacked straight-on into a piece of furniture. Others have slight or drastic curves which allow the hooks or pins to loop completely through foam and/or batting.

More photos after this Ad

4 / 17

Diamond Tufting

One of the most expensive upholstery styles is diamond tufting, a traditional technique popular with Victorian and Hollywood glamour-style interiors. A diamond tufted headboard or sofa back can cost up to double the amount of solid upholstery due to the meticulous skill involved. The diamond tufting process includes: holes being drilled into the backrest; batting added with holes cut to expose the holes drilled into the backrest; fabric cut to size and folded; and strips of fabric attached along the back which are pulled tight to create the tuft. To conceal the pulled fabric, buttons are added into the holes and tied through the backrest.

More photos after this Ad