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How we do upholstery step by step

We use basic and advanced upholstery techniques in our upholstery shop located in Los Angeles, CA.

At upholstery and reupholstery Los Angeles we apply basic and advanced skills for many upholstery projects: including stripping furniture, attaching webbing, tying knots, hand stitching, making piping and cushion inners, measuring up and making a cutting plan.

Here we explain with absolute confidence.

Stripping furniture

The object of the stripping process is to remove all existing upholstery so that you are left with the bare wooden frame. Unless of course, you only want to re-cover the piece, as you might with modern foam filled furniture, in which case you’ll stop stripping once the top cover is off. There is no right or wrong way to do this: as long as we avoid damaging the show wood and the frame.


Webbing is the foundation of all traditional upholstery. Not only does it form a firm elastic base for springs, stuffing and all the upholstery that goes on top, but it also pulls the wood frame together so that it becomes a strong, weight-bearing structure.  The process of applying webbing to the seat base is the same, irrespective of the size, shape or style of furniture we are upholstering. For us as a general rule, seats without springs are webbed on top of the frame and seats with springs are webbed underneath.

Tying seat springs

The function of springs in upholstery is not to pad, but to return a seat; arm or back to its original position once the sitter has stood up. Seat springs have weight to support and need to be held in position securely within the upholstery so they don’t move around and, over time, break free. Seta springs are tied using lay cord so that they ac in unison, like a mattress, and stay in position during the upholstery process as getting them to work together.  Tying seat springs is carried out once they have been stitched in place on top of seat webbing.


Surprisingly we just use two knots for upholstery. The first is the clove hitch, which is used for tying springs, and the other is a slipknot, which is used just about everywhere else, most notably when tying buttons.


The padding in traditional upholstery is supplied by a stuffing of one or more fibrous materials. Most people think that all old furniture is full of horsehair, and it’s true that horsehair was a popular stuffing in furniture, mattresses and other upholstery manufactured during the Victorian times (1837-1901) and earlier.  All upholstery, except for the thinnest of upholstered pads, requires two separate stuffing. The first should constitute 80% of the overall padding and second a smoothing over layer to cover up lumps and bumps on the surface of the first layer usually caused by through-stuffing ties and fine like.

Applying fabric

We have thousand samples of good quality upholstery fabrics. When covering a seat pad whit hessian, calico or top fabric, the best way to ensure that the resulting pad is to cut out the covering along the line of the weave and keep the weave straight as we apply it. One thing important to do in our upholstery shop is to apply cotton wadding before applying the top fabric. We always put a layer of cotton wadding. This fleecy cotton usually is easy to break apart with your hands and as a consequence. It sticks to everything including your clothes and the back of the fabric. The solution is to wrap a very thin layer of synthetic fleece over the top of it first. This tip adds nothing to the upholstery but allows us to move the fabric into the right position without disturbing the cotton wadding.

Applying top fabric

The two most important things to think about when applying top fabric are to make sure the front faces outwards (not so easy with some patterns) and that the pattern is the right way up. The rule for patterns and plain fabrics with a nap to them, for example velvet is to make sure that it’s positioned so that it runs down from top to bottom on the back and arms and continues in the same direction back to front on the seat.

Stitching an edge roll

As a general rule any stuffing that is more substantial than a thin pin-cushion pad will need to have the outward-facing edges reinforced to keep then firm and shapely. In traditional upholstery this firming is achieved by sewing rows of stitches in such a way that the stuffing within the pad is pulled tight up to the edge of the covering hessian.

The process is referred to as stitching an edge roll and consists of one or more rows of bind stitches followed by a final row of open stitches. The stitches are referred to as a “blind” because the twine stays within the stuffing.

Hand stitching

The majority of stitching is done using a spring needle and flax twine to stitch the bottoms of springs to webbing their tops to hessian, or to stitch is used to hold the hessian covering light to the cane on front edge springs and uses the same stich as whipping.

Making single and double piping

Single piping is most often used for cushions, scrolls and finishing edges, while double piping can be used to finish off edges as an alternative to decorative braid or gimp. To make piping we need fabric, piping cord and sewing machine with a zipper foot.

Choosing fabric

Reupholstery is a creative process. The wooden frame of a chair dictates much about the shape and size of the end result, but ultimately it is up to the upholsterer whether to fashion a deep lumbar support, button the back and inside arms, or use piping or decorative cord for the scrolls. Probably the most significant choice to make is that of the top fabric, and it’s an important choice. Most often, this is a matter of personal taste, but a brave choice, rather than a safe one, is likely to produce more noteworthy result. This generalization is particularly true of the more flamboyant styles of furniture. It’s very common to see a Victorian chesterfield’s ageless, classical elegance extinguished by green or dusky pink draylon, or radically shaped Art Deco piece from the Jazz age drowned in a floral slip (loose) cover. If you care enough about a piece of furniture to put in the time and effort to reupholster it, put an equal amount of effort and imagination into choosing the right fabric to finish it in.


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