What sewing machine do I need for upholstery?

A sewing machine is probably the most important piece of equipment you’ll purchase as an upholsterer. It’s a major investment and one that should be carefully considered – while larger shops may have a variety of machines, many upholsterers do with just one, perhaps for the length of a career. You want to choose the machine that’s best suited to you, your preferences and your workload.

You’re going to be friends for a long time.

So what do you need?

First of all, let me say that you can get a lot done on a residential machine. The main trouble is that they are slow, and you’re extremely limited on fabric options – 4 layers of velvet or vinyl aren’t going under that foot. . . and even if they do, you’d better clear the calendar, because you’ll be sewing that cushion for decades.

But if upholstery is a hobby, your home machine might be just fine.

Once things get more regular or serious, it’s probably time to level up. A proper machine is going to pay for itself in the blink of an eye by making your job infinitely more efficient.

But before you scoop up any old machine, THINK.

In no particular order, here are a few factors to consider:

Sewing machines

An industrial machine requires dedicated space.

DEDICATED SPACE: Can you find room for an industrial machine? A standard machine table is 48″x20″ plus space to move around it. Some upholsterers set their machines up with extended tables for maneuvering large projects. Some upholsters have their machine on wheels so it can be moved out of the way. But make no mistake: an upholstery grade sewing machine is a beast. They are not meant to pack up between jobs. That being said, you’ll find it a treat to just sit down and sew without setting up. If you absolutely can’t swing the space, or you anticipate mobile work, you might want to research a portable option instead, such as a Sailrite.

MOTOR: You’re going to want a machine that can sew fast, even if it takes some getting used to. Speed will be your friend (someday). Most industrial machines have a simple clutch motor. They can be rather gnarly, difficult to control, especially when you’re new. If it’s just you, it might be fine – you’ll get accustomed. But if you want something that’s more user friendly, a servo motor will give you the ability to adjust the speed of your machine. We added one this spring and it’s been really nice for newer students, or anyone tackling a tricky step.  As an added perk, it’s completely silent, unlike the jet-engine-ready-for-take-off of a clutch motor.

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Consew 226 (we call this one Thelma)

NEW OR REFURBED:  A new machine is probably easier to find if you want  something immediately. Personally, if I can buy second hand, I usually do, and sewing machines are no exception. There’s a wonderful secondary market for upholstery machines, which makes sense – every retiring upholsterer owned a machine, probably a good one, and well-loved. Every machine has it’s own quirks and personality. I like the idea of one with some history, a loving home, perhaps a service record. Talk to any  upholsterer about their machine and they can tell you what it does well, what makes it crabby, what they’ve had to wrestle with on a regular basis. That background is quite helpful, as is the knowledge that this machine has been cared for.

Which brings me to a point about older machines: If you aren’t sure what you’re looking at, try to stay off Craig’s list and go find a trusted source. In the Minneapolis area, my favorite go-to’s are T.J. Elias in Minneapolis and the Professional Upholstery Association of Minnesota.

T.J. Elias is THE PLACE for all things industrial sewing machines – they have answers to questions you haven’t even formulated. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, let them play matchmaker. They carry new and refurbed machines along with all the service and accessories you need to go with them.

The PUAM is a great networking source, as professional groups always are – lots of experienced people who are happy to share thoughts on different machines, and who might just know where to find one that hasn’t yet hit the market.

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WALKING FOOT: Not to sound biased, but YES. This is a minor mechanical miracle that works to pull all that fabric forward with each cycle of the foot, particularly the thicker multiple layers of fabric you’re hoping to shove through it for upholstery.  I was going to try and explain it, but then I found a page that does it way better than I could anyway. Enjoy! Toledo Industrial Sewing Machines: Walking Foot Sewing Machines Overview.

The exception here may be if you do a lot of home dec sewing – custom pillows, slipcovers, etc. A walking foot does not tend to fare as well on lighter fabrics, alas! When it comes to sewing machines, you just can’t win ’em all (but this might be a good reason to hang onto your residential machine, even if you DO dive into the wonderful world of upholstery!)

REVERSE: Like the walking foot, this is a no brainer for me. It is possible to get by without, but boy, consider carefully if you’re willing to. We constantly backstitch to lock our seams – I simply can’t imagine a workday without a reverse. We have no room for freeloaders –  If a machine wants to live under my roof, it’s going to follow my rules: Thou shalt backstitch.

BOBBIN: This may be getting picky here, but again – you’re entering into a long term relationship, so let’s get picky. Many upholstery machines feature a bottom loading bobbin that has to be inserted underneath the table.  I find it a little fussy. I have a strong preference for bobbins that load from the top where you see what’s going on. This is especially true because our machines are used by many people in the course of a week – including some with very little sewing experience. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep things user friendly.

We have two industrial machines, both Consew 226 models (named Thelma and Louise because if you hit the gas, they’ll drive you off a cliff) In addition to a top loading bobbin, I like that they take prewound bobbins.

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We use almost exclusively nylon 69 upholstery weight thread from Fabric Supply in Minneapolis – along with spools, we’re able to get prewound bobbins in a small variety of colors. Call me lazy if you like, but the hassle it saves not to constantly wind bobbins is worth every penny. In addition, I find the tension of a prewound bobbin is more consistent, so the machines tend to stay happy and so do we.

Some upholsters prefer machines like the Juki 1508 that have larger bobbins (the 226 takes a G, but the 1508 uses an M) In case nobody has told you, stopping to replace bobbins is annoying. And if you sew large projects, you go through them FAST. A larger bobbin is something worth considering in your forever machine. (Fabric supply also carries prewound bobbins in size M, woo hoo!)

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TYPICAL WORKLOAD: My Consews are a solid choice for upholstery – vinyl, leather, velvet, mohair? No problem! But try to slide some polished cotton or drapery weight toile in there, and Louise is going to spit in your face. Even with the ability to adjust foot pressure and stitch length, she just can’t pull it through. Or she WILL pull it through, then she’ll chew it up and spit it out.

I don’t much care, because I try to stick with decidedly upholstery weight fabrics. I’m far more likely to have 4 layers of vinyl than 2 layers of cotton under the foot. She’s a good machine FOR ME.

The point is, there are no perfect machines: There are machines that are perfect for certain people. Consider carefully what you do MOST OF THE TIME because there’s no magic machine that’s ideal for everything.

If you’re an upholsterer or in a related field, drop a machine recommendation in the comments! We’d love to know what’s working for you.

This week on YouTube, we’re diving in on the nosing for our chair – if you want to see a Consew 226 in action, hop on over: Reupholster Aunt Bea: Part 3, Deck and Nosing A

If you want to come sew on Thelma or Louise, we’d love to see you in a class! Browse our schedule and register online.

The most common make/model numbers I hear from happy, experienced upholsterers are Consew 226, Consew 206 and Juki 1508. But truly: There are loads of options out there. Consew and Juki are good brands to explore, along with Chandler, Brother and Singer. Happy hunting!

What makes a “good” upholstery fabric?

This week on YouTube,  we’ll get our first look at fabric for Aunt Bea, so it seems like a good time to discuss the tricky business of fabric selection.

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There are a lot of important considerations, whether you’re having something done, or doing something yourself. Obviously, there are design considerations: color, pattern, scale. What does it LOOK like? How does it FEEL?

That’s the super fun part 🙂

Pinterest it up! Express yourself! Make your house a home! How funky is your funky little chair?

But when it comes to fabric for upholstery, there are other factors that should be weighed.  Lots of sunlight? Cats? Kids? OCD tendencies with a tufted couch and a long single seat cushion? There are so many things to consider before you casually slap fabric on your furniture. 

The truth is, there’s no “perfect” fabric  – it depends upon the client, the project, the great big picture. That’s why many professionals want you to order fabric through their shop – sorting through all the relevant information is a bit of an art, one that takes knowledge and practical experience. Sometimes, upholstered pieces are purely decorative, but in most cases, they are functional parts of our home, and using an appropriate fabric ensures a good outcome, and long term satisfaction.

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But today, because we are teaching, I don’t want to talk about good fabrics:

I want to talk about FABRICS THAT ARE GOOD TO WORK WITH.

This is a little trickier, but upholsterers know what I mean. In order to get fabric onto a frame, we have to put it through some pretty serious paces.

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Some fabrics are cooperative. And some are a walking nightmare.

I’ve taught a lot of students, and I tell you what –  fabric selection can make or break you. The best fabrics will let you pull, hammer, steam, restitch and make happy little mistakes. A fabric that cheerily accepts every whim and torture makes the job a whole lot more enjoyable.

Obviously, if you’re a pro, you need to develop skills for wrangling a wide variety of textiles. But when you’re starting out, I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with stacking the deck in your favor. Time enough later to expand your vocabulary of upholstery related cuss words.

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So what fabrics are good to work with? It’s probably easier to talk about what isn’t Here’s a short, incomplete list of fabrics that are particularly challenging and why:

  1. Anything really thin (drapery weight, polished cottons, lighter linens etc.) Imperfections in your padding will be evident, fabric may tear if you pull too hard, and you may not be able to use a hammer on it, so no metal tack strips, no pli-grip. Usually, these fabrics don’t particularly love hand sewing either, so, you know . . . good luck.

  2. Anything really heavy. Sometimes people think heavier is automatically better, but super thick fabrics can be a nightmare when you get to corners where lots of layers land together, or where you have to sew through 4-5 layers on a cushion. Padding and trimming need to be meticulous.

  3. Vinyl/leather. There are definitely different rules for dealing with these materials – but most importantly when you’re learning, sewing perforates vinyl and leather, which means you have almost no ability to rework a seam. Sewing is a one shot deal.

  4. Velvet. I might be biased here, because I still hate working with velvet. It takes a whole slew of tricks off the table. You can’t fold it, or it will mar, which is a bummer because you also can’t steam it (at least not aggressively) Even if you don’t fold it, it’s hard not to rumple fabric as you work it onto furniture. You also can’t regulate it, because you’ll push the fibers right out of the weave, and any hammering has to be extremely delicate, which somewhat defeats the point of hammering. It has a mind of its own at the sewing machine, and will wander all over the neighborhood if you aren’t paying close attention. In conclusion: velvet is evil.

  5. Patterns that need to be matched. Centering isn’t such a big deal – even on a solid, we talk about marking centers and staying straight. But throw in a giant plaid or floral and you might as well punch yourself in the face right now. The problem, really, is that you need to understand the big picture from the outset – in a loose cushioned chair, for example, your last piece (cushion) is matched to your first piece (nosing). You can’t really isolate each step. When people are tackling their first project, they’re already taking in so much new information. Pattern matching is slathered right on top of 1,000 other things. It’s really fun for  the already overwhelmed (not.)

Again, over time, you want to develop confidence with a variety of fabrics. But get your sea legs first.

So what makes a good, cooperative upholstery fabric? Let’s discuss generalities and then I’ll show you a few of my favorites.

  1. Something that isn’t too strict about being perfectly straight – I like a random pattern or texture, and there are so many fun options! I tease my advanced students that they should use floral tapestry on everything (which of course they don’t) There’s a reason you see it in so many antique shops – it hides a multitude of sins through a combination of being busy, cooperative, and fairly random. Not into floral tapestry? No worries, there are lots of contemporary options that will deliver a satisfying upholstery experience.

  2. Just the right weight. How’s that for specific? See earlier comment about super light and super heavy fabrics. Not too thick, not too thin – just right, Baby Bear.

  3. Movement, not stretch. Again, tricky – a fabric that’s too stiff is hard to shape, but something that’s too loose won’t stay snug. An ideal fabric has just enough movement to cooperate. A good example might be a properly backed, tightly woven chenille or Greenhouse’s new Crypton Home line

  4. Something that can tolerate a variety of treatments, like steam, hammering, hand sewing, etc.  – Personally, I’m a big fan of polyester. It’s a great combination of easy to work with and easy to live with.

  5. Something that won’t unravel. Rework is a given when you’re learning upholstery – a fabric that falls apart will be the cause of MUCH frustration.

The fabric we selected for Aunt Bea is a polyester blend from Greenhouse Fabrics in North Carolina. It has a lovely hand, a bit of flexibility with a knit backing for stability. It’s a solid, so no pattern to match, but it has a little texture that we thought would read well in pictures and videos (and also be a bit more forgiving, since we’re not replacing all the padding.) At just $38.90/yard, we felt it was a good value for students who want to treat themselves to a first quality fabric without breaking the bank. Check out all the colors online:  A4367 Aqua

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What other Greenhouse fabrics should you check out?

Greenhouse carries plenty of cooperative options that are attractive, durable, cleanable and forgiving. Here are a few of my personal quick pick recommendations:


B6762 Bay Greenhouse Fabrics

I’ve often said, if I could only carry one fabric (heaven forbid!!!!) this would be it. I’ve used this polyester chenille so many times in so many colors and I’m always impressed with it’s general awesomeness. The polyester is durable and easy to care for. It has nice movement, with just the right weight, a flexible weave, and an upholstery-appropriate backing – it’s like butter.  It comes in loads of colors and has a delicious, varied appearance that manages to look amazing on everything. What else could you want? It’s a great all-around fabric that retails for $58.90/yard

I used A2921 Avocado in my Craftsy Class, “Getting Started with Upholstery” and  98599 Poppy on a client’s truly fabulous Pearsall sofa. I’m currently putting 98611 Sky on Rose, our gorgeous Victorian sofa that’s all curves, va-va-voom!


B7814 Driftwood Greenhouse Fabrics

Animal prints are so big right now, and why not? They’re loads of fun! Some are easier to work with than others, but I’m quite enamored of this random cheetah pattern in Greenhouse’s new Revolution line – it’s bleach cleanable!!!! It also has a nice weight and backing, and because it’s random, there’s a little more room for minor imperfection. That’s a lot of happy for $48.90/yard!

One of our weekend instructors, Lindsay Orwig from A Chick and a Chair recently posted a client bench in this fabric: could it be ANY cuter???? What a fabulous update!!


Seriously, tapestry is fun and easy to work with! If you’re not into florals, check out one of their botanical or novelty options. I think the leaf tapestries are lovely, such as 10379 Black on this student cushion project from last year,  but I’m also pretty enamored of this map pattern <3 A8176 Jewel ($48.90/yard)


A4272 Midnight Greenhouse Fabrics

Okay, you know how I feel about velvets, but if you MUST . . . a velvet like this, with a little texture and a low pile may give you the flavor you’re craving without making you homicidal. When Angela, one of our advanced students,  put in on her little love seat last year, I was really impressed with the amount of life it had – very rich.  Photos hardly do it justice; this one should be seen in person! Nicely done, Angela!

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The truth is, some fabrics are great to work with, and some fabrics are terrible. Most fabrics fall somewhere in the middle, with their own quirks, perks and challenges. The best way to know for sure what will work for you and your project is to talk with an experienced upholsterer, designer, or fabric rep. And sometimes, you just learn through your own experience, – the very best teacher of all!

Now I’d really like to know, if you’ve worked with a variety of fabrics: What makes your top 5 list for, “Good Upholstery Fabrics?” Feel free to comment here or on Facebook, we’re curious to hear what you think! 

And remember, we’re cutting up fabric this week on YouTube, so go check it out!

REUPHOLSTER AUNT BEA: PART 2 

Huge thanks to Greenhouse Fabrics for providing fabric for our Aunt Bea series! You can always browse their beautiful fabrics online at www.greenhousefabrics.com or find a showroom in your area. If you’re in the St. Paul area, you’re always welcome to browse through samples at The Funky Little Chair! 

Say hello to my little friend: we call him Mr. Staple Lifter.

I grew up in an upholstery shop. My mom worked from home, and while I didn’t take a particular interest until my 20’s, I DID take a certain amount of knowledge for granted.

I knew what a button press was and how to use it by the second grade.

I could identify cardboard tack strip, double welt, and coil springs – and I learned the hard way not to go barefoot through the shop.

I certainly knew how to tear back furniture. We all did – it was how we earned allowance. So I knew (much to my chagrin) what a staple lifter looked like.

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Fast forward to adulthood.

As a new professional, I began to take a serious interest in our industry. I listened to conversations about the changing market, the apathetic and uninformed consumer, the loss of degree programs, the widening gap between those leaving and those entering our trade.

At one point, I had the honor of speaking at a PUAM anniversary event. My presentation topic?

“The Future of Upholstery”

Late one night, in preparation, I dove down a very scary rabbit hole.

I googled, “How to reupholster a chair”

I won’t lie: I was shocked. The posts were . . . appalling.

This was during the height of shows like, “Trading Spaces” and I think there was a general slant towards making everything fast and easy. And friends: upholstery ain’t.

I saw people covering over the old fabric, stapling in visible locations, or skipping the staples and just tucking and gluing whole projects together. I saw zero discussion of quality products or fabrics, foundation work or frame repair.

And almost without exception, I saw people taking fabric off with the most dangerous and inefficient of DIY makeshifts: Screwdrivers, butterknives, CROCHET HOOKS.

Now this fairly blew my mind. Many articles were from computer savvy DIYers, but others  were from well-known and widely read publications. I thought, “Didn’t anyone have even a 5 minute conversation with an actual upholsterer??? Why aren’t they using appropriate tools??”

I don’t want to call anyone onto the carpet: If you want to glue flannel to a coffee table in the privacy of your own home, you go, girl: I support that.

But I didn’t google, “Upcycle” or “Recover”

I googled “Reupholster” and “Upholster”

And as I told the PUAM that fine spring morning, “If we don’t get out there and represent ourselves, then these are the resources that will speak on our behalf”

So what was going on??

I’m a DIY warrior, so I put on my DIY hat: If I wanted to tackle my own upholstery project, and I didn’t have an upholsterer mom, where would I go? Hmmmmmmm.

Hands-on education at the time was really hard to find, particularly if you wanted to do more than a quick slip seat or cushion.

Obviously, younger people were going to the internet.   Unfortunately, the pages with good information were WAY down in google searches, and tended to look a tad, ahem . . . dated. So the information was there, but people don’t usually trust (or see) page 3 on a google search – especially if there’s something that seems convincing on page 1. It would be tough to sort through the hits for good resources.

Hmmmmm, where else would I look?

Probably the fabric store or the hardware store.

EEEEEEEEEEK. Sorry, ladies and gentleman. We seem to fall somewhere in between. If you have an upholstery supply store in your area, that extremely fortunate! But the big box stores that dabble in upholstery . . . Pretty slim pickings.

Nowhere oh nowhere could you find a staple gun appropriate for furniture, a high quality foam for your sofa, or a safe and effective tool for removing staples.

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There were lots of “cute” looking tools and supplies – webbing that would be good for the centerpieces at your rustic wedding, manual staple guns that could cheerily half drive a staple into plywood while simultaneously giving you carpal tunnel, that kind of thing. But almost nothing that I’d use as a pro.

The tools for removing fabric were usually cheaply made, and designed more for tacks (broader/flatter tips) which is fine when you’re knocking out tacks, but pretty frustrating if you’re lifting out staples. And a screwdriver? Oh my friends, I don’t think I could get through a single chair. I’d certainly come away bloodied and bitter.

Okay, what about the library? I learn EVERYTHING from the library!

When last I looked, they had a handful of antiquated books that taught traditional upholstery. The content was great, but not helpful if you can’t source traditional materials. And I can tell you as a professional in Minnesota: Uhhhhh. . . you can’t. Not even through our wholesale suppliers. If you’re looking for good quality natural cotton, curled hair, or a wide variety of tacks . . . prepare to be disappointed. We’re a modern market.

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So what is a determined learner to do????? Where do you look when every logical avenue turns up lemons???

In the best cases, I think upholsterers were simply too overwhelmed or unaware to meet this changing market effectively. They were running businesses.  In the very worst cases, upholsterers were hostile, making fun of hobbyists for not knowing “the right way” to do things.

I don’t like that. It sits very wrong with me to criticize anyone who’s trying to learn, especially when education is difficult to find.

We needed to get in the game. If we wanted people to learn, we had to make resources available. If they couldn’t finds us, we needed to figure out why.

Hence this blog. Hence The Funky Little Chair. Hence Reupholster Aunt Bea.

So here are a few assurances from me to you as we dive in:

Ask questions – I promise not to be an ass. I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about upholstery. I think good education happens when people feel comfortable opening up – and I wouldn’t dream of shutting the conversation down by being a jerk.  Our industry needs good upholsterers, and informed consumers. If you’re trying to learn, I’m happy to help.  IMG_5674

Since my, “Future of Upholstery” presentation, I’ve been ecstatic to see professionals around the world taking to the internet, representing on social media, writing thoughtful, informative blogs, opening their shops and this craft to an appreciative market of students and consumers. Bravo!!! Well done, upholsterers <3 I’m proud to call myself one among you.

Over the course of this video project, I’ll be sharing lots of tips on quality tools and materials. But this week, we’re just looking at tear-back, so let me introduce the first upholstery tool (I think) you should own:

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This is a C.S.Osborne Staple Lifter. Even if you only plan to do your kitchen chairs, this tool is going to save you a world of time and frustration. C.S. Osborne makes all kinds of wonderful, professional quality hand upholstery tools. They have similar tools for lifting tacks, and one for knocking out staples, chisel style. The point is this: There are tools specifically designed for tearing back furniture, and they make the job a lot easier.

If you know what it’s called, this tool is easy to find online, or through a local upholsterer/upholstery supplier. If you’re  near St. Paul, I always try to keep a few in stock for the occasional DIY warrior who shows up with hands full of bandaids and a heart full of rage. “What were you using to take apart? Hmmmm, let me show you a tool that might work better . . . “

This week on YouTube, we’ll show you how to use this clever little tool (if you haven’t used it before!) and give you lots of other tips for taking apart – there’s more to it than you might think.

Now:

LET’S REUPHOLSTER AUNT BEA!

 

Introducing Aunt Bea

We tackled a big, new challenge this summer!

I get lots of inquiries about video content, from folks who can’t physically get to our classes, and even from folks who do. It’s a deliciously convenient and visual medium – I get that. Unfortunately, I knew almost nothing about creating or posting video content, and nobody was showing up to say, “HEY!!! Want to make an online class???!!!”

Okay that’s not entirely true – I was SUPER lucky a couple years ago to get just such a call from Craftsy about opening their upholstery category. It was a ridiculous fun. If you want to see what a professionally produced video course looks like,  HERE’S A LINK TO CHECK IT OUT.  If you want to see what two boneheads with an iPhone can accomplish in 4 months, read on.

So there’s a lovely little, “Getting Started” course on Craftsy, and I think it’s a pretty great (if I do say so myself!) But so many of you are itching to tackle more challenging projects.

In the spring we started noodling the possibility of making a little something on our own. Could we do it? Would it suck? Would it destroy the hard drive on my laptop??? (Answers: yes, maybe, probably)

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I think the universe liked the idea, because a couple of fun things intersected to urge the idea along.

  1. My teenager showed me how to create a YouTube channel. Woo hoo!
  2. Amy Otteson showed up in our Tuesday group. She happens to be a retired art teacher with a lot of experience in iMovie and YouTube. And she’s quite interested in upholstery education . . . Hey Amy… hey Amy… hey Amy . . . .
  3. The Professional Upholstery Association of Minnesota, excited about new opportunities for education in our area, was looking for ways to support our efforts (I love you guys)
  4. I stumbled across a chair at the thrift store. We call her Aunt Bea.

Okay, let me tell you about Aunt Bea. I spotted her in the back room at our local Savers. Some of you are suckers for fancy old antiques and some of you like high design. Personally, I like sturdy and comfy. The kind of chair you can love to death. The kind that’s good for reading books and drinking coffee. I don’t usually get sucked into adopting orphans (or not anymore. My attic is full)  I don’t have room or time or resources for all of the furniture being abandoned, so sad, so sad! Instead, I focus my energy on encouraging folks to reupholster instead of replace. I teach, so more people can adopt pieces. And I gently but firmly decline most offers of donated furniture.

BUT OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH little gems like Aunt Bea, they get me – nobody was looking so I went into the back room and poked around. Small. Coil Sprung. Good brand. And UGLY FABRIC. Nobody was going to adopt this homely diamond in the rough!!!!!!!! NOBODY!!!!!!!!!!! But HEY!!!!!! Maybe if I had a REASON to drag it away. . . . LIKE A VIDEO TUTORIAL!!!!!!

Yes, yes, YES!!!!!! In addition all her other fabulousness, Aunt Bea was actually quite SIMPLE. Quite STANDARD. A GREAT candidate for showing skills and techniques. There was a lot we could cover on this little chair that people could take away to projects of their own.

WELL. I guess I’d better buy it, then. HEY!!! HEEEEYYYY!!!!!!! CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE MY FIVE DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!! (You heard right. Five. Dollars)

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A few interesting notes:

  • I was pretty convinced that Aunt Bea would fit into the front seat of my Elantra. WRONG. But me and the Savers guy sure tried.
  • When I came back with a friend to collect Aunt Bea, they had her by the dumpster for collection. Apparently, the employee who said I could pick up in a couple days was new and confused. 12 hours later and Aunt Bea would have been a memory, not a YouTube star.
  • The name Aunt Bea came from a Facebook survey on The Funky Little Chair. We often name our more involved projects, because it’s nice to have a reference instead of saying, “The chair, the chair, the chair.” It also gives us a hashtag, making it easier for people to search and find later!! There were so many different ideas, it was fun to read! But when I read Aunt Bea, it felt just right: Old fashioned, comfortable, practical. . . . perfect. (I can’t find that post!!!! Are you the person who named her???? Please message me so I can credit your awesomeness!!)

We had a chair. Now, we needed a plan.

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  •  I talked to Amy Otteson: Could she, would she, help over the summer???? There was so much to learn!!! TEACH ME, OH WISE ONE!!!!! Can you believe she said YES?????? What a sucker. . .  I mean, what a WONDERFUL person!!!!!!  I thought this project would take us about 4 weeks. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Sigh, It’s been 3 months. We’re still working on it. We haven’t edited the cushion segments and we haven’t even started the outside of the frame. I know Amy knew I was completely unrealistic. But to her credit, she didn’t squelch my enthusiasm. She just kept helping. Hopefully, we can keep ahead of our posting schedule to make this a weekly segment. Wish us luck!!!!!!!
  • Then I talked to the PUAM. This was our summer project, would they provide a modest sponsorship? This organization is filled with supportive friends and mentors, but I didn’t know if a YouTube project would interest them – they’re pretty old school, one of the reasons I love them. But I explained that YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world, and a frequent first stop for people interested in learning about upholstery. The PUAM is deeply invested in the future of our profession. In the past, they’ve been a resource for folks coming out of degree programs, or other traditional upholstery avenues. Now, however, we don’t have those avenues. I hypothesized  that most of our future professionals would begin as hobbyists – what other choice do they have?? YouTube would be the ideal platform for connecting with those hobbyists – at a much earlier point in their journey – so that when/if they become serious about upholstery, they might have some networking and support. I’ll definitely talk more about this organization later.
  • Next, I approached the owner of Fabric Supply in Minneapolis, my preferred wholesaler. What about them? Any interest? One of the challenges for hobbyists, especially when they want to start doing client work, is knowing how/where/why to source good quality materials. Here’s a hint: you don’t go to a big box fabric or craft store. I wasn’t comfortable asking for sponsorship and was fully prepared to get shot done. But they said yes! Enthusiastically!!! SCORE!!!! I look forward to sharing detailed info on our tools and supplies throughout the course of this project.
  • Lastly, I approached Greenhouse Fabrics, because I wanted to use a first quality textile. When you’re starting out, it makes sense to hunt out a bargain. But quality fabrics come with technical information and customer support that’s really important if you want to be a professional resource for your clients. My fabulous rep, Heidi, agreed to hook us up with fabric for Aunt Bea, woo hoo!!!! Watch for more information on the fabric we selected and why.

So we were officially ready to roll!!!!!!!

Let me tell you what you can expect:

  • A 12ish part YouTube tutorial released in weekly segments.
  • Content that’s geared towards the DIY market, but hopefully with an eye on professional resources and techniques. That means I’ll be using and talking about professional quality tools and materials, but anything that could be simplified WAS simplified. We eliminated the skirt and changed the cushion styles, for example (you’ll see)
  • Weekly blog posts that support whatever we’re covering. Perhaps a resource guide, or an educational supplement. Occasionally an op ed or a fun history tidbit.

What you MUSN’T expect:

  • A video resource covering everything you ever wanted to learn about upholstery. That would be crazy. I feel like part of being a good educator is deciding how much to throw on a student in a single serving. Yeah, there’s a lot more we could have said and shown and done. There’s ALWAYS more. That’s what makes upholstery awesome. But if you try and cover everything at once, you probably aren’t teaching – you’re overwhelming, and possibly showing off. So hopefully we provided lots of valuable tidbits and a good general overview. I hope you’re inspired to keep learning!
  • Beyond new cushion inserts, you mustn’t expect foundation work. I know, I know, I KNOW!!!!!!! It IS an important part of what we do. But see above note. And here’s the thing with spring and foundation work – it’s challenging and time consuming. When folks in my Craftsy class ask about springs, I tell them that if we HAD dug into the foundation, we would have run out of time for the fabric, Seriously. We could make a 12 part tutorial on JUST the foundation, no problem. And remember, this is targeted towards the DIY market, and I think looking at the fabric covering is an okay place to start. I love teaching springs and padding in person. Come see me for a class!!! Hopefully someday we’ll get video out there for these important topics, but Cynthia’s time is, tragically, finite, and I need to get back to work now.

Our goals:

  • Supplement our live classes with video content. When I teach in person, I try to let students DO. That’s what they are there for, after all! But when I was in Denver with Craftsy, I remembered how nice it is to teach by demonstration. We really do learn a lot by watching.
  • Reach a wider market via YouTube, encourage aspiring hobbyists to connect with quality educational resources. Be approachable.
  • Learn as much as possible about iMovie, YouTube and everything that comes with it. Good luck to us, yay!!!
  • Make it our own – there’s no sense pretending we had a big production budget and all the right equipment. We didn’t, and that’s okay.  So we had a little fun with it and tried to be ourselves. I think that’s usually a good plan anyway – let folks know what you’re about. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I hope this gives you a sense of who we are and how we teach. If you like it, I hope you stick around or visit! But if you’re looking for a serious, structured, traditional upholstery education, I’m probably not your huckleberry – and I hope you find someone who is <3

So much more to say, but I think  let’s leave it here for now. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I hope you learn. I hope you share. Next week, we’ll dive into Aunt Bea. Today, let’s talk about why I scooped her up in the first place. If there’s one thing that makes my little treasure hunting heart beat faster, it’s coil springs.

Wondering how to assess the situation for yourself? You’re in luck! Because now we have mad video skills ANDS access to cool vintage pieces! Hop over to YouTube to get some vintage shopping 411 – and remember to subscribe for all the fun to come!

Thrift shopping 101: Is this vintage sofa worth reupholstering?