Upholstery has been around since the time of ancient Egypt, and its popularity has only increased since then. Although styles and materials have changed over the years, being an upholsterer continues to be a viable and rewarding profession — and one that requires a little know-how to get started.
What an Upholsterer Does
An upholsterer equips furniture with upholstery, including fabric or leather covers, webbing, padding, and springs. Upholsterers can help create new, custom-made furniture, or renovate used furniture that needs either repaired or restyled (referred to as “reupholstery”). With reupholstery, upholsterers need to be able to examine all aspects of the furniture and identify any weaknesses.
Four different fields make up the upholstery business: Residential upholstery applies to domestic furniture, commercial upholstery offers services to businesses, automobile upholstery concerns the seats and trim inside vehicles, and marine upholstery tackles the seating, cushions, and cabin furniture on boats. Although the work varies with each of these fields, they all offer similar benefits and require similar skills and preparations.
Benefits of Becoming an Upholsterer
Being an upholsterer is a satisfying profession that allows you to carry projects from start to finish and see tangible results. Upholsterers are not stuck in an office all day and have to do little paperwork. Instead, they get to solve problems and perform hands-on work on a daily basis. Upholstery can also be an engaging creative outlet for those who enjoy working with fabrics, interior decor, antiques, or other design elements.
Necessary Skills for Upholstery
If you’re interested in becoming an upholsterer, being able to perform the following tasks will put you one step ahead of the competition:
- Cut and sew various fabrics. These are an upholsterer’s most basic duties, so if you can’t (or can’t learn to) cut and sew, upholstery probably isn’t for you.
- Handle the appropriate tools. Upholstery requires using a number of different tools, from scissors and upholstery needles to upholstery regulators and webbing stretchers.
- Pay attention to detail. Creating functional and stylish furniture requires having an eye for the little things.
- Work efficiently without errors. If you can’t provide a quick turnover, customers will go elsewhere.
- Adhere to health and safety procedures. This is especially important when handling tools that could be dangerous if used inappropriately and when working with furniture that must meet specific building codes.
- Interact with customers effectively. Upholsterers need to listen to and communicate clearly with customers in order to ensure their satisfaction. Customers will not always know which materials will best fit their needs, so upholsterers will have to foresee potential issues with their selections and make recommendations. Having past experience in customer service may be useful.
- Keep up with trends in furniture and fabric styles. Customers may look to you for design advice, and you need to be equipped with the expertise to lead them in the right direction.
How to Get Started as an Upholsterer
Although most upholsterers have at least a high school diploma, no formal educational or licensing requirements exist. Because of this, the process of becoming a professional upholsterer varies largely. However, taking the following steps is an effective way to get started.