Book Review: The Upholstery Bible

December 18, 2020

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When I was training, the selection of upholstery books on offer were boring, to say the least. Rudimentary, uninspiring (and mainly written by men); they were functional, technical and it stopped there. So, when I was recently sent The Upholstery Bible by Cherry Dobson to review, I could tell as soon as I saw it, this was going to be an improvement!

The Upholstery Bible - Front cover

Don’t get me wrong, a book that promises to give you ‘step-by-step techniques for professional results’ is going to have to deliver. There has to be an element of a manual about it, but what I like especially is the way that Dobson breaks up the technical stuff with a more inspiring approach.

The book is aimed at upholsterers of all abilities and there’s a great variety of instructions and projects, which are all extremely detailed. Dobson describes the book as a complete course in upholstering furniture, including ‘tooling up’, selecting stuffings and outer textiles, techniques and cutting plans. There’s a focus on traditional methods, but a healthy dose of really nice modern workarounds, which I liked.

The Upholstery Bible - Materials page

Beginner’s guide to upholstery

If you’re starting out, I’d say this would be a brilliant resource to have. Pages are punctuated with little ‘Upholsterer’s Tips’, which Dobson describes as coming “from many years’ experience of tackling the knotty problems that frequently occur in upholstery.” Tell me about it! It’s a tall order to try solving all of those niggles you’ll experience, but this book comes close and offers plenty of answers to the most common gotchas.

“This book offers plenty of answers to the most common upholstery gotchas.”

The Upholstery Bible - Trimmings page

I think the thing is, that when you’re embarking on an upholstery course, or perhaps teaching yourself, there are some basics that need refreshing along the way. You’re never going to master e.g. springing or stitching an edge straight off, so it helps to have something you can keep referring back to. If you’re training, this is a book you’d want on your shelf.

There are lots of images throughout the book and I’m impressed with how inspiring they are. All too often books like this can be let down by awful photography or frankly horrendous fabric choices, but on the whole, I’d say this is styled beautifully. I also like the design. The technical stuff is punctuated by images and illustrations and there’s a good variety of layouts. You don’t feel like it’s page after page of repetitive information.

Fab tips for choosing a fabric

I particularly like the section on choosing a fabric. This is a topic that always got overlooked in the stuffier books I was referring to before. Dobson herself says, “nothing has a greater effect on the look of upholstered furniture than the fabric. It is the most visible indicator of both fashion and quality.” I couldn’t agree more! To me, it’s the make or break between a piece that delights versus one that disappoints. She covers form and fibre, fabric families and then goes on to talk about trimmings too. The swatches she’s chosen are modern and relevant.

The Upholstery Bible - How to choose an upholstery fabric page

Overall, I’d say this is a very valid and useful guide. It sure beats those humdrum handbooks I can remember from the past. If I was starting out again this is exactly the kind of resource I’d like to have had at my fingertips. Have you read it? I would love to know what you think. Drop me a comment below or get in touch directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com.

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