How to become an expert upholsterer

Yesterday’s furniture, often discarded and mouldering, may be today’s bargain. Much Victorian furniture is now at a premium: Edwardian is less so, but becoming increasingly sought alter.

A chaise longue is an example of a piece of furniture which can be restored to gain a new lease of life; it may also prove to be a valuable investment once restoration is carried out.

The techniques described to re-upholster this item are valid for similar pieces, though some adjustments may have to be made, dependent on the type of construction and finish.

Old furniture filling, usually consists of horsehair.

This is expensive and now often fairly difficult to obtain. Modern fillings usually consist of foam-rubber latex and reconstituted polyether on a base of rubber webbing and hessian.

Button backing is a technique which generally requires a fair degree of skill and practice to achieve a successful result. The technique evolved for button-backing this unit is less complicated and should be within the capabilities of most.

It should be noted that when re-upholstering old furniture it may first be necessary to carry out repairs to the frame and, perhaps, to restore damaged woodwork. Often older furniture, may have been patched up or imperfectly repaired at some earlier point.

The answer is to start from scratch: remove and discard the old upholstery and restore, as closely as possible, to the original.

Tools required:

• Ripping chisel

• Upholsterer’s mallet

• Upholsterer’s needle (long, straight)

• Sharp knife

• Felt-tipped pen.


• Nylon tufting twine

• webbing

• 50mm rubber and jute webbing

• 340-gramme hessian

• 50mm reconstituted polyether

• 25mm latex pin-core foam block

• finishing fabric

• 100mm calico strip

• Buttons, suitable braid

• Tacks: 13mm, 16mm.

Stripping the unit

Start at the bottom

Place the sofa upside down on a pair of trestles. Remove the bottom cover, using a ripping chisel and mallet. Place the blade of the chisel against the side of the head of the tack in the direction of the grain, with the chisel pointed slightly downwards.

Give the chisel a sharp blow with the mallet to drive the blade under the tack head to knock it clear. Work in the direction of the wood grain to avoid splitting the timber. Once the bottom cover is removed, the webbing will be exposed.

Where the top cover of the seat is tacked off under the rail, these tacks should next be removed. Where the top cover is tacked to the rebate on the timber side rails, as in this case, the next stage is to remove the old webbing.

Removing webbing tacks The webbing tacks are removed by again using the chisel under the head of the tack. Knock all the tacks clear but do not bother to remove the webbing from the old springs.


Remove the outside cover of the headrest. This is usually sewn down each side, tacked along the bottom under the rail and back-tacked at the top. The tacks holding the headrest cover will be ex-posed and can be levered out.

Seat cover removal

Next, remove the seat cover. This is always removed after the headrest cover, because the cover is tacked on top of it. To facilitate removal of the seat cover, place the sofa on its back, covering the floor to avoid damaging the polished wood.

Remove all the tacks along the front edge, including the tacks holding the various canvasses, which are exposed as the seat cover is loosened. Then remove any tacks holding laid cord that has been used to lash the springs in place.

Proceed all round the sofa in this manner, repositioning the sofa as needed for access. The webbings, springs and stuffing of the seat should drop out in one piece on completion.

Carry out a similar operation on the inside back canvasses and webbings. When all has been removed check the frame for any odd tacks that may have been missed.


At this stage examine the frame for any loose joints and repair, regluing or remaking as necessary.

10. November 2011 by admin
Categories: Featured, Handyman Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How to become an expert upholsterer


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