Advanced Upholstery Workshop: Are you ready? How to tell, and what to bring.

As you hopefully know by now, we offer hands-on upholstery education.

Most of our classes are open workshop style, meaning you bring in a project of your choosing, and we coach you through it.


Some of our classes are labelled, “Advanced” and people wonder what level they should be in. Am I advanced enough????

If you’re brand new, we’re going to steer you into a Weekend Warriors Workshop. After that? It’s mostly about your goals.

Our Weekend Warriors Workshops are 12 hours. Quick and (hopefully!) fun. This is where we like our new folks to start. Primarily, that’s to make sure you like it. It’s a small taster investment. But really? If weekends work best for you, and you want to focus on simpler projects? Take as many as you like, that’s quite fine!

(weekend student photos courtesy of instructors Lindsay Orwig and Amy Otteson)

Advanced workshops are the appropriate place to explore intermediate/advanced projects and techniques. If you want to try your first attached cushion, we’re happy to help – but 12 hours is usually just enough time to get yourself into trouble.

We want to get you INTO trouble . . . AND back out!


So how do you know if you’re ready for an advanced workshop? Let’s have a little quiz:

  • Do you know what you’re getting into? Upholstery is not for everyone. It’s physical, messy, and mentally tiring. Make sure you’ve tried a few things!
  • Are you prepared to do prep work? Most of our advanced students do tear back at home, and possibly other steps, to prep. That’s because they know what they’re getting into and when possible, they want to skip ahead to where they’ll need help.
  • Are you prepared to finish on your own? Most of our advanced students have at least some basic tools at home. Doing all your work hours in the shop gets expensive when you want to do more than slip seats and side chairs. If you want to try the tough stuff, I’d strongly suggest that you invest in some basic tools. If you don’t want to invest in some basic tools, then I’d strongly recommend that you stick to simple projects.
  • Are you interested in achieving better results and really understanding the process? If it’s your first few projects, you’re doing this for fun, or you’re upholstering your own stuff, enjoy the process, and don’t get bogged down in the never-ending minutia. If, however, you are interested in achieving very quality results, you want your work to hold up to scrutiny, you’re planning ahead for a long line of projects . . . we’re going to slow you down, and 12 hours is not an awesome place to do that.
  • Are you curious about pursuing upholstery professionally? Making a living at upholstery is no small undertaking. It’s a long, messy road, and we have lots of people wandering around on it. One thing I’ll tell you for sure: You’re talking about way more than a weekend or two. Our advanced groups include full time professionals, part time professionals, people who sell on consignment, people who sell online, people who do custom projects, people who work by contract arrangement through other shops, and plenty of people who have tried plenty of things that did or didn’t work. Seriously: the networking is arguably more valuable than the education (but can I still come?)

This year, we’ve added one 3 day open weekend in St. Paul,  as an experiment – we’re hoping to attract the same mix of folks who attend our weekly advanced workshops, but who perhaps can’t make the trip every week. 

Tuesday evening Advanced Group, from left to right: Angela W-Q, Gina Y, Kara G, and Susie V

We’re also offering a 3 day open workshop in Tryon, North Carolina for folks who can’t make it to St. Paul – Come see me at Workroom Tech in March!!!


I think there are pros and cons to doing a long format. So if you’re thinking about attending any of our advanced events, the next question is:

What should you bring???

For most of us, hands-on education is an occasional treat, a way to supplement the self-teaching you’re likely already doing, and I’m a proponent of acknowledging the value in many different learning methods:

Sometimes, a quality book is just the ticket (Singer Upholstery Basics Plus by Steve Cone has a section on attached cushion ottomans that changed my life. Wish I would have found it earlier!)

Video is a repeatable, up-close option, and most of us are visual learners. I almost always teach hands on – Craftsy was my first real chance to teach by demonstration. It instantly made me realize how valuable watching can be – JUST SHOW ME, ALREADY!!!!

(Click here to check out my Craftsy class at 50% off )

And trial-and-error is unavoidable – You can have all the classes and tips in the world, but often, the secret ingredient is old fashioned practice with a large dose of struggling.

Still, some  things really ARE best learned hands-on with a teacher. Here are a few recommendations:


I hear this again and again from students and professionals – and I say it myself.  I’d done a fair amount of springs and padding on my own, using books and common sense to achieve what I thought were pretty decent results. But the first time I tied springs under the guidance of an experienced mentor, a huge lightbulb went on. Honestly, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. 

Tackling springs hands-on with an instructor provides kinesthetic feedback, and the ability to discuss and explain all the objectives. It far better prepares you for the variety of spring systems and problems you’re likely to encounter. 


UGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH I don’t even want to write this because you don’t want to learn channeling, just trust me. It’s not fun. It’s like a challenging math exam followed by a wrestling match.

(Unless you’re a client reading this, in which case, channeling is lovely, and I really enjoyed your project!!)

(psssst, students: channeling is not lovely)

Okay, obviously I’m being melodramatic, but let me be frank: Channeling is really tough. It’s multiple layers of tedious and time consuming work.

And the WORST thing you can do is pack up halfway through.

There are certain skills that I prefer to teach in smaller stretches – sometimes, walking away is the most cleansing thing we can do. But channeling? The longer you can stay in that mental space, the better. It’s tough enough without having to sort out all your pieces and remember where you left off.

NOW: let me qualify this by saying, do NOT show up with channeling until you’re comfortable with the general skills of sewing, measuring, and tensioning/stapling. If you’re new to the industrial machine and trying to wrestle a bunch of channels, someone is almost certainly getting punched in the face, and I’m not interested in being that someone.

We want the shop to be a happy, punch free zone 🙂

But if you’ve tackled a number of projects, and you’re comfortable with the basics, channeling is a GREAT thing to learn in an advanced 3 day format.

(This same logic applies to attached cushions, recliners and skirts. Best to get a running start and stay in the game!) 


Our student storage spaces are 40″x40″x40″ –  big enough for most chairs.

I know you really, really, really want to bring in that chaise lounge or love seat, or weird, random headboard/porch swing/fainting couch/settee,  but alas, in our very shared space, we simply cannot accommodate the storage.

Which is one of the reasons we added a longer weekend option!!!!

Listen, if you want to come in for three days, and knock out an oversized piece, more power to you – just remember, on Sunday afternoon, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. They’re bigger – and they’re more hours. If you aren’t prepared to do tear back in advance and possibly final steps at home? Skip the jumbo project.


Do you have a friend or sibling or client pestering you to take on a project that isn’t QUITE in your comfort zone? Cool – bring it on in. We’re happy to be your safety net 🙂

Just send a photo ahead so we can make sure we’re the right people to help you. Have your people call my people. We’ll chat.


This option gets sorely overlooked. Most people come in really, really focused on exploring a new technique.

If you want my two cents, I actually think the most valuable learning usually occurs  when students are working on something they’ve explored before.

With some familiarity, you have more headspace to focus on refinement, efficiency, achieving professional results. The first time we encounter a new skill, it’s usually kind of a crash course.

To that end, you MIGHT want to bring in a really typical upholstery project. That’s why we picked up Aunt Bea, actually – she’s so “standard” that we could incorporate all kinds of general-yet-valuable skills.  Don’t overlook this option. It’s a good one.

Now that you have some project ideas, maybe we should discuss a few things to NOT bring. . .

  • Traditional (stitched hair/tacks etc.) I pride myself on being a solid, modern residential instructor. When it comes to traditional, I know enough, to know that I don’t know enough. If you are passionate about traditional upholstery,  I am not the teacher you’re looking for.
  • Something that requires massive frame repair. That moldy, naked, falling-apart frame that you fished out of a creek? It needs more than an upholstery class. We are equipped to handle minor wood repairs and touch-up. Some projects require a full-on wood shop, which we are not.
  • Your Chesterfield sofa that needs to be stripped all the way to the frame. Or any other 500 level, forever project. Shop time is magical, it’s gone before you know what happened. Restoring a sofa usually takes me about a month, and I’m considerably faster than our average student.  IF you bring a larger project, it should be a simple project. IF you bring a complex project, it should be a small project 🙂

Okay everyone!!!! I hope this gives you some ideas and guidance – we’d LOVE to see you in 2018 for any of our classes <3 <3 <3 So if you’re unsure what project to bring, or which class to sign up for, just reach out and we’ll be happy to help! 

Cynthia 🙂


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