Upholstery Education, Upside Down

Last week, we looked at the educational concept of “Backwards Design”

This week, I’d like to explore the “flipped classroom.”

If you have a child under 20, you may have seen this approach in action.

The old model says, “lecture at school, homework at home”

The new model says, “lecture at home, homework at school

My sons (16 and 12) are often assigned a video lesson to watch at home, and the next day, content is reviewed, discussed and explored with a teacher.


The arguments for this model are pretty convincing:

With regards independent homework, either you’re successful because you understood the material and it was therefore busy work. Or you were unsuccessful because you DIDN’T understand the material and it was therefore an exercise in futility.

Limited class time  isn’t used reviewing content that is understood – the teacher can adapt and focus on areas of confusion and frustration.

Translation: a flipped classroom is more bang for your buck.

This is a new model partly because it capitalizes on current technology. You need an easy, effective way to deliver content outside of the classroom.

Hello, internet. Hello wifi. Hello smartphones.



This “flipped” model has already found its way into our upholstery shop.

A few years ago, I got to teach my first online class through Craftsy:

Craftsy getting started with upholstery

My teaching partner at the time worried it might be a competing interest – why would students attend a class if they can get the information online for less?

I viewed it as marketing and reach – a way to show more  students who we were and how we taught – and as a resource for students who couldn’t realistically travel to work with us anyway.

I was surprised to see that it became a learning tool for people who actually attended class – often to revisit information covered online.

It was delightful.

Because we weren’t teaching from scratch, trying to cram in way too much new information. We were diving deeper, applying prepackaged content to a real world situation.


Upholstery is NEVER a simple 1-2-3 affair – there are ALWAYS variables. So books and videos aren’t ideal as a stand-alone resource.

But neither is hands-on education  – especially for those who can’t find it locally. 

By covering “standard” in an online form, we were able to explore variation and application  during our limited class time together.

This trend continued last year with the start of our YouTube channel and the Aunt Bea project.


YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine, so it’s an obvious place to connect with those who are trying to learn.

What surprised me was how often we sent links to our St. Paul students.

“You’re ready to start your cushion next week –  there’s a video on YouTube that shows the whole process. If you watch that first, things will make a lot more sense.”


“We’ve done a tack band together before, so why don’t you try to do this one independently? If you need a refresher, watch the video first, and then ask me IF you get stuck.”


I found students sitting AT OUR MACHINES watching videos on how to fold double welt or make a zipper.


It was fantastic because then they weren’t waiting on something they could do independently with just a teeny assist – and I could focus on a student or skill that really required individualized instruction.

Using video to flip the teaching process has enabled us to teach more efficiently and effectively. There is still value in the classroom portion – arguably MORE. One platform does not replace the other – they are tools that can be used in combination.

In our modern world, it is increasingly unlikely that serious upholstery students can get everything they need in person – Luckily, there are new possibilities that we’ve only begun to explore.

The flipped classroom is a model we’ll be focusing on next year in Minneapolis- creating more content to support what is happening inside the workshop. It will also expand our library of tools and information available to remote learners. 

Though it’s a local experiment, we hope it will enable us to better serve students whom we see only occasionally, and that it will be an example to others in our community who are struggling to learn or provide quality education with limited support and resources.

We aren’t sure where this road will lead, but we’d love for you to travel it with us. 

2018 Mentorship  group

And here is where I deliver a HUGE THANK YOU to our first education sponsor: Fabric Supply, Inc. in Minneapolis.

Creating curriculum, programming and online resources requires huge amounts of time – generally for multiple people. We have hit the limit of what we can accomplish alone. All our wonderful plans for next year would simply not be possible without their support – thank you for taking this leap of faith with us.

Exclusive tool & supply sponsor of-3

For more information on the Flipped Classroom Model, here’s an article from Edudemic 

If you’re interested in joining us for hands-on education over the summer, please check out our upcoming workshops at Custom Workroom Technical Center, in Tryon, North Carolina

5 thoughts on “Upholstery Education, Upside Down”

  1. Lorraine Bernstein

    Always a great read. I think your approach to learning upholstery is spot on. Can’t wait to read more.

  2. As some one who has learned from you and has limited local education, I absolutely have both your craftsy course and your Aunt Bea pulled up at all times. I also have books and many private FB groups. I learn from all these platforms regularly. In my local education option, the student teacher ratio is not idea so there is a lot of value in the videos/books. I can review them when my instructor is unavailable. Many other students are shocked that I do that, then later thy ask me where I’ve gotten my education and what are the videos/books I was looking at during class. I say yes to this flipped concept!

    1. thefunkylittlechair

      Elizabeth, you are such a resourceful learner, and I think very representative of where upholstery education is likely going! Question, was it challenging for you in your local class to use video resources that didn’t match your instructor’s methods? One reason we started putting up our own videos was to make sure our newer students weren’t overwhelmed seeing two different theories on how to do everything (as is typically the case if you talk to any two upholsterers 😉 ) Thank you for reading, I hope upholstery life is treating you well! Cynthia

  3. Pingback: Meet our mentorship group – The Funky Little Chair

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