Ask an Upholsterer

Do you have an upholstery question, need help, advice or professional support on an upholstery project. With 42 years of furniture upholstery experience, I may be able to help. My name is Joe Gramm, owner and upholsterer at Cape Cod Upholstery Shop. Submit your upholstery questions at the bottom of the page and I will try to answer them from a professional upholsterer’s perspective. Please allow a day or two for my reply.

To help me answer your questions, please include a link to photos of your upholstery project. Use a service like Dropbox or Google+  and include the link with your question.

3,855 thoughts on “Ask an Upholsterer

  1. I found a beautiful cane backed chair with arms which is probably is a dining chair at the curb. We got rain and the fabric was soaked and gross. I took everything off to the bare wood. I purchased 2 inch thick foam and outdoor fabric. Do I need to use batting? Also is spray adhesive the best to adhere the foam to wood or do I need another type of glue?

    This is my first attempt at upholstery.

  2. I have 2 recliners with broken seat(s) edgewires that stabilize the zip zag springs. They are installed with 3 prong clips.I have new 15″ vinyl coated edgewire pieces.There are 2 edgewires per seat.If I go this route need to purchase clips and do I really need Osborne 445-3 tool or can I use pliers for the few clips needed. Should I remove the old wires (with bolt cutters) or leave in place?
    Should I leave on or remove all broken wires and tie off using Ruby Italian jute spring twing or use the polyester twing which is stronger/longer lasting?.Easier to do and doesn’t require special Tool? Thank you Ben

    • Hi Ben,

      You can use the polyester spring twine. Keep it simple. Just be sure the twines are tight so the springs stay in place. You can tie the twines off to the frame with #14 webbing tacks. You should be able to get the tacks at a hardware store, Home Depot, etc.

  3. Hi. I have recently started working at an upholstery shop. I have 25 years+ of sewing experience with industrial machines, but no professional upholstery experience. (The upholstery shop owners know this, by the way !)

    One thing I have noticed the shop doing, that drives me nuts, is that the fabric for piping is NOT cut on the bias. Some of it is cut on the straight of grain, and some is cut on the sort of bias, but never the true bias. I know for some applications this does not matter. Recently I had to apply double piping to dining room chairs, including the two head chairs with armrests with piping on the arms. I had a very hard time getting the piping to lay as flat as it should, and to go smoothly around corners. I have made mild inquiries about “Bias ?” but the owners do not seem to understand what I am hinting at. They were not trained upholsterers, and bought the business from a couple of old school types.

    Can you tell me what the (professional) deal is with regards to upholstery piping made on the true bias ? Other sewer says this does not matter, according to the previous shop she worked in. I see results that could be…better ?

    • I can’t speak for the industry. In my shop, I always cut the welting on the bias, except under certain circumstances. I find vinyl does not need to be cut on the bias. With fabric though, bias cut welting lays flatter and goes around curves much easier than welting not cut on the bias. This applies to cushion welt as well as double welt. Generally speaking, welting cut on the bias makes for a better looking, higher quality job.

      I do something a bit different though. I cut the ends of bias cut welt straight or square. I don’t like the look of a bias seam where the welt joins together. A straight or square cut end disappears better.

      I did work in a shop for a while where the owner insisted to match the welting cord to the cushion when it came to stripes. This would mean not cutting the welt on the bias. But even with stripes, I think bias cut looks best because it adds contrast to the cushion.

      I’m in agreement with you. Welting should be cut on the bias, with a few exceptions.

  4. Hi Joe,
    I have made a 72″ x 24″ piped, boxed cushion cover for a client using their material, which was a loosely woven, indoor/outdoor. To stabilize fraying I had to serge the edges.
    I noticed some puckering after piping the top and bottom plates.
    After assembling the cover and inserting the foam the puckering is significant.
    I experimented with needles from #16 to #20 with size 69 thread. I went with the size 20 in a Chandler industrial walking foot machine.
    Although I am wont to blame the fabric, I wonder if my choice of thread and needle might be the problem?
    Is the puckering avoidable? (I seem to have this problem particularly with Sunbrella)
    Would you redo the cover hoping for a better result?
    If necessary, how would you address a situation like this with a client?
    I appreciate your continued advice and expertise. Thanks so much!

    • Some Sunbrella is very difficult to sew no matter what you do. I find the toughest Sunbrella to sew is Sunbrella Canvas from the Elements line. It stretches in every direction and tends to pucker.

      One key to sewing Sunbrella is to use the largest stitch possible. I generally use a #69 bonded polyester thread. Try a bigger stitch and see if that helps. Make sure your thread tension is set right. And if your sewing Sunbrella canvas, just expect some puckers no matter what you do.

  5. When I took apart an antique settee the smaller, seatback springs were not tied diagonally. Can I skip the diagonal ties as i put it back together?

  6. Hi Joe,
    I’m stucked. Can not figure out how to make this smooth. Fabric is not stretchy. The frame is not wood too I don’t know what it is made of. When I shoot staple, sometimes it bends the staples and sometimes it will go in fine. I can pull staples out easily from the frame though. After I sew the case, and fit it on, pull the bottom to staple in the back but as you can see fabric is still wrinkled and I don’t know if my case need to be smaller or should I fill it up with a layer of cotton.
    Need your advice please.

    Thank you very much.

    • Hi Aung, You have a lot of bias action going on with your fabric because of the shape of your frame. And it’s extremely difficult to get the proper stretch out of the fabric when the font and back pieces are sewn together as one piece. Generally when the front piece can be stapled around to the outside back, you can work all those wrinkles out inch by inch. But with the outside back attached it makes it more difficult.

      I think your cover may be a bit to big. The wrinkles on the top indicate that to me. A tighter fit would mean less wrinkles. But again, this is a difficult piece to do in the first place and then combine all the bias stretching action with your fabric, makes for a difficult job. But I think in order to get rid of the wrinkles, your front and back pieces need to be cut so that they go on to the frame as tight as a drum.

      Wish I could offer more help.

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