The seven most impossible upholstery tasks

November 6, 2020

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Very rarely does an upholstery project come my way that I have to turn away. Usually, if someone brings me a piece of furniture, whatever state it’s in, I can see its future potential. And I’m flexible enough to work around even the strangest requests. But, every so often, there are things that are simply impossible or not worth the bother. Here are the enquiries that strike fear into the hearts of every upholsterer…

1) “Can you fix a broken spring?”

In theory, yes, but in practice, this is a nightmare! Someone recently contacted me about a snuggle chair. They loved its look but said it was too springy and uncomfortable to sit on. Now, the problem with this is that fixing a fundamental part of the seat’s construction is a huge task. To get access to a seat’s components, you have to strip back the outside fabrics and stuffings, the inside back and inside arms to even get in there in the first place. See, it’s not that simple and it’s costly as it takes time and precision to put the fabrics and stuffings back meticulously. However, it’s worth it if you love your chair and love the current fabric.

“Tackling one aspect of a chair in isolation is very rarely as straightforward as it sounds.”

I’m the first to recommend a full overhaul of the insides if we’re doing an entire re-upholstery project and taking things back to scratch. But, tackling one aspect of a chair in isolation is very rarely as straightforward as it sounds.

Broken springs

2) “Can you re-upholster my sofa at home?”

I get a few requests to upholster in situ. Maybe the prospect of transporting a hefty piece of furniture down to my workshop is too much trouble, or a customer wants to avoid the disruption of moving things around. I do understand, but at the same time, it’s just not practical for me to do this.

For a start, my workshop is set up to meet all the health and safety regulations. Plus, I have all my tools and kit to hand, such as a cutting table, tacks compressor etc. Re-upholstery is a seriously messy business. I’m much better equipped to tackle any issues in my space with everything I need to get the job done around me.

Reupholstery project in the workshop

3) “Will you make me some loose covers?”

In short, the answer is no. I hate loose covers and these days we honestly don’t need them. For me, it’s like putting a lovely chair or sofa in a baggy jumper. The whole benefit of loose covers is that you can take them off and wash them, but they always lose their shape over time. Fabrics are so technical these days that you actually don’t need the fallback of throwing something in a washing machine. Stain-resistance is key when choosing a new fabric. So forget the loose covers, just go for fixed and find yourself a great, robust fabric for around the same price.

Loose covers reupholstery project

4) “Will you re-upholster my Ligne Roset Togo?”

There’s a particular name that has the potential to bring every upholsterer out in a cold sweat: Ligne Roset Togo. Being honest, it’s a nightmare! This chair may be the last word in relaxed seating, but it’s virtually impossible to recover. Or at least it’s as expensive as buying new. Whilst I always try to preserve the life of a classic piece of furniture, this one, in particular, is not worth the bother. The labour costs alone are through the roof and if you could see the complexity it involves, you’d understand why.

Ligne Roset Togo

5) “My chair has woodworm. Help!”

If any piece has active woodworm, however much you love it, I’d advise you to run a mile. Whilst woodworm can be treated, there is always a risk it could become active again – especially in the joints. Even when woodworm has been previously active, there is usually a weakness that remains forever. I’m a big believer that even the most unpromising, bashed up furniture should get a second shot and be fixed. But if it has woodworm? I’d honestly leave it well alone.

Old armchair in need of reupholstering

Red reupholstered armchair

6) “Could you create a bench seat for me?”

Well, yes, I’d love to. But this is arguably the most underestimated process an upholsterer can do. I guess it looks easy – how hard could it be to create one simple, straight cushion? BUT, people always seem to think it will be inexpensive and I’m afraid to tell you it’s not. There’s the cost of foam and fabric of course, and then a wooden frame. The accuracy has to be spot on too. If you’re a single millimetre out with your measurements, the whole thing will end up a disaster. So, by all means, plan a fabulous bench seat for your kitchen or outdoor space, but don’t bank on it being a cheaper alternative to standard seating.

7) “My sofa only needs new fabric, everything else is fine.”

When I hear a customer say they ‘only need new fabric’, alarm bells ring for me. Your chair or sofa may look perfectly sound on the outside, but you’d be surprised at what lies beneath. Until you start stripping back a piece, you never quite know what’s going on inside. Sometimes it’s just the fabric that’s holding the whole thing together. It’s very rare that a piece doesn’t need some kind of repair, or even just better quality foam, stuffing, seats or padding.

I always provide an estimate rather than a fixed quote for exactly that reason and I’d never give something back without giving it a full ‘service’, if you like. What you end up with though is a fully refurbished piece of furniture that has a whole new lease of life.

Reupholstered armchair

Have you got a (hopefully not impossible) project in mind? Drop me a line for an initial, no-obligation quote, by filling in the online contact form. Alternatively, you can email me directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com or call me on 07764 182 783.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Brilliant- this needs to be ‘ A guide to Re-upholstery ‘ for potential clients … I haven’t yet braved the world of having clients – yet get asked many of these questions as people know I’ve been on a short course ..
    “I just need the worn through tear on the (fixed seat ) cover redoing with contrasting fabric – rest of its fine “‍♀️

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading my blog..I think I could write a book on the questions I get asked, that start with a “just”

      Reply
  2. Your honesty is so refreshing and I now understand it all from your point a view. If I see a second hand piece that needs work I can use the knowledge to buy or not to buy. Thankyou.

    Reply
    • Thank you reading…yes i like to debunk the myths for sure!

      Reply
  3. Great truths….especially the loose cover debate…not open for debate with me.
    Clients think its a cheap option to buying a new chair / sofa that become worn or grubby. One lady was shocked when I gave her a cost for a sofa and 2 armchairs….. the 35 mts of fabric of her cchoice @ £40 floored her !! Totally agree.

    Reply
    • Cheap and re-upholstery should never be in the same sentence..you get what you pay for.

      Reply
  4. Brilliant piece!

    Reply
    • Thank you

      Reply
  5. Excellent blog, really informative and very useful for an upcoming project!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for reading and giving me your feedback, makes it all worthwhile.
      Thanks again

      Reply
  6. Brilliant read . I did laugh when I read it as I sew and upholster and the number of requests I’ve had for me to “just” run a garment up or “Just” cover a footstool is unbelievable . It’s a skill and its time consuming and I always worry before cutting someones fabric. I don’t do it for anyone – only for myself. I am more relaxed about doing projects when the only person I have to please is myself .

    Reply
  7. Thank you for bringing cost into perspective. For a beginner like me that is my main fear.

    Reply
    • Yes I think it’s the word “just” that fills me with dread.

      Thanks you for reading me blog, much appreciated

      Reply
  8. I really enjoyed your blog with good tips thanks.
    The ladies library chair which featured with you on tv, well I have an identical one. I loved the result which you did, so I’m going to re-do mine. So thankyou & I’m delighted I’ve discovered you.

    Reply
  9. I wish I had read your comments on loose covers before I started making some tartan ones for my wing backed chairs! I am about to finish the second one but it has taken a while and as I was doing it I thought how much easier and tidier it would have been to just reupholster (if I knew how to do that!). I am quite happy with the result though.

    Reply
    • I’m sure you’ve done an amazing job, but I doubt you’ll do them again

      Reply
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    Reply
    • Thank so much for taking the time to read my blog and send me a comment. So appreciated x

      Reply

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