An upholsterer


Upholsterers provide objects such as furniture, panels, orthopaedic devices, fixtures or vehicle parts with padding or soft covering. They can install, repair or replace the upholstery of objects with materials such as fabrics, leather, suede or cotton. Upholsterers install the webbings and springs necessary to cover the material.

The duties of an upholsterer include, but are not limited to:

  • Preparing sketches and measurements for new designs
  • Working with clients to determine their needs, preferences, and budget requirements
  • Reviewing job orders for accuracy and identifying any potential problems with materials or processes
  • Cutting fabric to specified dimensions using a sewing machine or other tools such as a pounce wheel for creating patterns
  • Making templates for pieces such as cushions or headrests using material such as muslin or canvas
  • Measuring furniture for repair or replacement of upholstery materials, including springs and padding
  • Sewing fabric onto backing materials using sewing machines, staplers, needles, scissors, and measuring tools
  • Installing completed upholstery pieces in vehicles or other furniture such as sofas or chairs
  • Sewing buttons or other fasteners onto fabric to fasten it together or to another material

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to upholsterer:

craft upholsterer
craftswoman upholsterer
seat maker
heritage upholsterer
seat builder
craftsperson upholsterer
soft furnishing maker
craftsman upholsterer
chair maker
commercial upholsterer
mattress maker
mattress builder
chair builder

Working conditions

Upholsterers typically work in small shops or in the homes of their customers. They may work for furniture stores, upholstery shops, or manufacturing plants. Some upholsterers are self-employed.

Most upholsterers work full time, and some work overtime.

Many upholsterers learn their trade through an apprenticeship or on the job. Upholsterers must be able to lift and move heavy furniture and fabrics and to stand for long periods of time. They also must have good eyesight and color vision to match fabrics and to see small details. Upholsterers use a variety of hand tools and power tools, and they must be able to operate sewing machines.

Minimum qualifications

High school diploma is generally required to work as upholsterer. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

Upholsterers typically need a minimum of a high school diploma. Some employers may prefer candidates who have completed an apprenticeship program or a technical school. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and teach students the skills they need to become an upholsterer.

Upholsterers receive on-the-job training from their employers. This training may last for a few weeks or a few months, depending on the complexity of the work and the experience of the upholsterer.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Upholsterer is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Upholsterer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to upholsterer.

furniture upholsterer
mattress maker
mattress making machine operator
frame maker
antique furniture reproducer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of upholsterer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of upholsterer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

furniture shop manager
prosthetic-orthotics technician
printed circuit board designer
clothing process control technician
3D printing technician

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of upholsterer.

  • Upholstery tools: Set of tools used for upholstering furniture, walls and floors such as staple gun, foam cutter, staple remover.
  • Textile materials: Have a good understanding of the properties of different textile materials.
  • Manufacturing of small metal parts: The manufacture of metal cable, plaited bands and other articles of that type, uninsulated or insulated cable not capable of being used as a conductor of electricity, coated or cored wire as well as barbed wire, wire fencing, grill, netting, cloth etc. Manufacture of coated electrodes for electric arc-welding, nails and pins, chain and springs (except watch springs): as well as leaves for springs.
  • Types of spring: Types of metal springs such as leaf, coil, torsion, clock, tension and extension spring.
  • Upholstery fillings: Materials used to fill soft furniture like upholstered chairs or mattresses must have several properties such as resilience, lightness, high-bulk properties. They can be fillings of animal origin such as feathers, of vegetal origin such as cotton wool or of synthetic fibers.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of upholsterer.

  • Sew textile-based articles: Sew different products based on textiles and wearing apparel articles. Combine good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and physical and mental stamina.
  • Provide customized upholstery: Install custom upholstery, according to the customer’s individual requests and preferences.
  • Install spring suspension: Nail down the springs to the wooden frame of a chair or other piece of furniture to be upholstered. In the case of mattresses, check the structure holding the springs for defects and fix the layers of protective fabrics to cover the spring suspension.
  • Sew pieces of fabric: Operate basic or specialised sewing machines whether domestic or industrial ones, sewing pieces of fabric, vinyl or leather in order to manufacture or repair wearing apparels, making sure the threads are selected according to specifications.
  • Perform upholstery repair: Repair/restore damaged upholstery for a wide range of vehicles; use materials such as fabric, leather, plastic or vinyl.
  • Fasten components: Fasten components together according to blueprints and technical plans in order to create subassemblies or finished products.
  • Create patterns for textile products: Create a two-dimensional model used to cut the material for textile products such as tents and bags, or for individual pieces needed for upholstery work.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of upholsterer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Furniture trends: The latest trends and manUfacturers in the furniture industry.
  • Manufacturing of furniture: The manufacture of all types of office, shop, kitchen or other furniture such as chairs, tables, sofas, shelves, benches and more, in various types of material such as wood, glass, metal or plastic.
  • Furniture industry: Companies and activities involved in the design, manufacture, distribution and sale of functional and decorative objects of household equipment.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of upholsterer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Pass on trade techniques: Pass on knowledge and skills, explain and demonstrate the application of equipment and materials and answer questions about trade techniques for the manufacturing of products.
  • Apply restoration techniques: Select and apply appropriate restoration techniques in order to achieve the required restoration goals. This encompasses preventive measures, remedial measures, restoration processes and management processes.
  • Handle delivery of furniture goods: Handle the delivery and assemble the furniture and other goods, according to customer’s needs and preferences.
  • Operate furniture machinery: Operate machines and equipment used for making furniture parts and the assembling of furniture.
  • Clean furniture: Remove dirt, marks and other unwanted material from furniture.
  • Manipulate metal: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of metal.
  • Evaluate restoration procedures: Evaluate the outcome of conservation and restoration procedures. Evaluate the degree of risk, success of treatment or activity and communicate the results.
  • Manipulate wood: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of wood.
  • Artificially age furniture: Use various techniques such as sanding, denting, painting and others to make new furniture look distressed and aged.
  • Fix minor scratches: Fix minor dents and scratches on the surface with touch-up paint or scratch remover.
  • Clean upholstered furniture: Use appropriate cleaning techniques and materials to clean upholstered furniture depending on the type of fabric used in its fabrication: cotton, synthetic, microfibre or leather.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
  • Paint decorative designs: Apply designs in paint, using paint sprayers, paintbrushes or spray cans.
  • Upholster transport equipment’s interior pieces: Upholster seats and other transport equipment interior pieces by using hand and power tools.
  • Estimate restoration costs: Estimate the cost implications of restoring and replacing products or parts.
  • Apply a protective layer: Apply a layer of protective solutions such as permethrine to protect the product from damage such as corrosion, fire or parasites, using a spray gun or paintbrush.
  • Design original furniture: Master and develop industrial aesthetics through ongoing research of new shapes, adapted to the function of the objects the research deals with (domestic objects, urban furnitures, etc.).
  • Advise on furniture style: Provide advice to customers on fashionable styles of furniture and appropriateness of different furniture styles for particular locations, considering the customer’s taste and preferences.
  • Design prototypes: Design prototypes of products or components of products by applying design and engineering principles.
  • Sell furniture: Sell pieces of furniture in accordance to the client’s personal preferences and needs.
  • Repair furniture parts: Repair locks, pegs, braces, frames or other parts of furniture.
  • Decorate furniture: Use techniques such as gilding, silver-plating, framing or engraving to add specific decorations in the material of the furniture.
  • Prepare furniture for application of paint: Set up furniture for standard or custom paint job, protect any parts that should not be painted and prepare painting equipment.

ISCO group and title

7534 – Upholsterers and related workers

  1. Upholsterer – ESCO
  2. Upholsterer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  3. Featured image: By © Traumrune / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Last updated on October 20, 2022

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