An upholsterer is a person who measures, cuts, sews and fits cloth or leather coverings for furniture such as sofas and chairs. Upholsterers may also apply padding and coverings to bed frames, automobiles or boats. All upholsterers create upholstery for new furniture as well as reupholster old furniture that still has usable frames.
Most furniture has a wooden frame. The seating area of sofas and chairs often has a coiled spring construction covered by a thin layer of loosely woven fabric called webbing. Padded foam seat cushions covered with upholstery material fit on top of the webbing material. The back and sides of chairs and sofas are usually padded and covered in upholstery fabric. An upholsterer fastens upholstery fabric to the underside of the sofa or chair with staples, screws or tacks.
An upholsterer must understand how to measure, cut and sew heavyweight, durable materials, as these are the fabric types most often used for creating upholstery. Upholsterers usually start as an apprentice for an experienced upholster and work on smaller projects until they develop more experience. Upholsterers may work for a furniture manufacturer or have their own business mainly reupholstering household furniture.
Rather than throwing out old sofas and chairs into landfills, many people prefer to have their furniture reupholstered by a professional upholsterer. Upholsters can advise clients if sofas or chairs have strong frames that are worth reupholstering. They can replace the webbing and padding materials as well as the fabric, plus create extra sofa cushions if this is desired by the client.
Some upholsterers also sew draperies and other soft furnishings. Clients may choose upholstery and drapery that coordinate to give their rooms a whole new look. Upholsterers can guide clients in how to best clean and maintain their new drapes and or furniture coverings. An upholsterer may first visit a client's home to give a free estimate on the reupholstering task as well as show the client fabric swatches.
Although most of an upholsterer's early training is on the job as an apprentice, he or she should begin learning the basic stitching and covering techniques as soon as possible. To help in being considered for an upholstery apprentice job, it’s a good idea for aspiring upholsterers to take photographs of their completed reupholstering projects that show skill in stitching. These photos can serve as a beginner upholsterer's portfolio.