Lesson 1: Overview of Upholstery Work

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In this first section of the course, I shall look at what upholstery furniture is all about. I shall also look at the types and the benefit the world at large gain from the upholstery industry.

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At the end of this section you will be able to:
  • define upholstery work
  • state and explain the types of upholstery work
  • appreciate upholstery work as another method of furniture design.

Upholstery work

In some years back the craft upholstery was used to describe the making of carpets, curtains, wall hangings, mattresses and the covering of furniture with fabrics etc. However, with the upsurge of specialization during the industrial revolution, which now dominates the industrial world, the word upholstery is limited to the manufacture and repair of stuffed furniture. The making of curtains and wall hangings has now become a specialized area for interior decorators whilst the production of mattress has also become another specialized area.

Unlike small scale furniture firms for which the whole process of stuffing a chair could be done by one person, in large industries were mass production is practiced the process of upholstering is broken down into different stages such that one person rarely complete the whole task of making the furniture piece. The process of making an upholstered furniture piece can be broken into: frame construction installation of webbing and springs installing padding installing muslin and final covering making of cushions channelling and tufting

Teak Tree,image provided by courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

As mentioned above the construction of the upholstery furniture start with the construction of the frame. This may be broken down into the cutting of the parts, gluing or assembling of the parts using appropriate joints, and possible carvings and designing of some parts. After the frame has been constructed the webbing and springs are installed and the burlap tacked in place. The process of fixing the edge rolls as well as the stuffing material are usually done by the same upholsters who install the webbing. The installation of the final covering is performed by a person who is skilful in this operation. A specialist called a cutter does the planning of the layout of the various pieces of fabric for the covering. This area is very important since if not efficiently done can drastically increase the material cost of the furniture piece. Women usually do the sewing of cushion cases. Various methods are used in the stuffing of the cushions. These different methods add different quality and cost to the furniture produced.

The installation of the cambric material to serve as a dust cover on the bottom of the furniture piece is the last operation. Because it is a very simple operation the apprenticesor beginners in the trade usually perform it.


Basic upholstery types

Now that you have a fair knowledge of what an upholstered furniture piece is I will move a step further to look at the basic types and some of the benefit one can derive from this growing industry.

Sections of wood,Image provided by courtesy of flickr-www flick.com

Basically upholstery furniture is of three (3) types Padded construction, which has no springs in it: i.e. springs are not added to it during stuffing. In this case the stuffing material can be cotton, kapok, foam rubber, sisal matting, foam plastic, dacron polyester, cocoanut fibre etc. A combination of padded and spring: This is the type for which the seat is constructed with springs and the back with padded material. Over stuffed construction. This furniture piece is entirely covered with upholstering material. In some instances the feet and the arms are left uncovered. The seat and the back are constructed with springs, which increase it comfortability when used.

The upholstery industry has the following advantages: it serve as a source of employment it makes use of off-cut from the sawmill industry hence helping to reduce wood wastage. It make use of wood that has less aesthetic value for the non-exposed parts it add more comfort to furniture piece it also makes a furniture look much more beautiful because it skilfully combines many materials and parts.

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Visit an upholstery shop in your area and outline the major steps that the upholsterers go through before producing the final work.

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In this section, I have looked at:
  • what upholstery furniture is
  • the major steps involved in the manufacture of a simple upholstery sofa
  • the types of upholstery work
  • the benefits derived from the upholstery industry

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1.What is an upholstered furniture

2.What are the main steps involved in the construction of a simple sofa 3.How different is the over stuffed constructed upholstery furniture from the other types.