Lesson 2: Tools for Upholstery Work 1

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Dear reader we are about to consider the basic tools used for making the beautiful upholstery work that you see around. In this section we shall look at measuring, layout and cutting tools. I shall discuss these tools in details.

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At the end of the lesson you will be able to:
  • identify measuring, layout and cutting tools
  • describe the uses of these tools

Measurement and layout tools

In contrast to many arts or trades, upholstery requires only a few fundamental tools and equipments. If one acquire these tools and learn how to use them upholstery projects will be easier to complete and produce good results.

Tape measure

The tape measure (fig 2.1 a&b), which is one of the basic tools used in upholstery, is usually used to make measurements in upholstery design and construction. The measuring tape can either be a steel type or the cloth type. The cloth tapes as compared to the steel tapes are more flexible and easier to bend around curves and sharp corners. However it has the tendency to stretch after long use hence introducing error in measurements made with it. These possess a limitation to the use of the cloth tape. The Stanley tool which is an improvement on both the steel and the cloth tapes is a non metallic tape which has the durability of a metal tape and the flexibility of a cloth tape i.e. it is flexible and also do not get permanently stretched with time.

Sitting room set by courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Other measuring devices

A straight yardstick is used when a layout is being made on a piece of fabric. It serves as a straight edge and also as a measuring device. A dustless white chalk, which is also called the Tailor’s chalk, is used together with the yardstick for making layout. The tailor’s chalk is usually sharpened to the shape of a wedge is specifically used for marking out cutting lines on fabrics and patterns as well as other marking task.

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Why will you purchase the cloth tape for doing measurement instead of the steel tape?

Doing measurement with the tape measure

To do measurement with the tape measure as indicated in fig 2.2 select one end of the cloth you wish to measure as a reference point check to make sure that the selected end is straight place the beginning point of the tape at the selected reference point Pull it to the mark required and mark the point with a tailors chalk

Upholstery cutting tools

Upholsterer’s usually use several tools for cutting examples of such tools are shears and knife.


The shear (Fig 2.3a) is used to cut different fabrics. It is used for cutting very strong heavy and coarse fabrics. The nature of wide variety of fabrics used for upholstering requires an upholster to purchase a heavy duty shears with length of about 240mm and a cutting edge of about 175mm which can be used to cut webbing, burlap, rubberised hair pads and heavy covering materials. The cutting edge of the shear is it sharpened edge which actually does the cutting shears with bent handles are easier to use on a cutting table since it will prevent lifting up of the fabric to high off the table which can result in a crooked cut. To enhance the performance of the shear it should always be kept sharp.


A knife (Fig 2.3b) with a sharp blade is used for cutting away excess material after a fabric or webbing has been attached to the frame. Most upholstery also uses a retractable utility knife for this purpose.

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a. Why would you prefer to purchase a heavy-duty shears for your upholstered Work?

b. Why is it very important to keep cutting tools well sharpened?

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In this section I have looked at measuring and layout tools. I have also explained how measurement is done with the measuring tape and the tailor’s chalk. Finally I discussed cutting tools like the shear and the knife for upholsters.