Fabric and Upholstery: Finding a Good Upholsterer and Bringing Your Own Fabric.

Often I get asked questions about finding an upholstery shop.

Selling across Canada and the USA, I could not possibly know all the upholsterers out there, but I do know how to find a good one.

I am slowly compiling a list of upholsterers who don't mind working if you bring your own upholstery fabric. This is called C.O.M. If you know of an upholsterer who should be on the list, please email me. 

It is possible to find a good, reasonably priced upholsterer that will allow you to bring your own less expensive fabric which you will hopefully buy from me :-)

Upholstery is good for the environment.

And we all need to be thinking about that. Not only are you saving landfill, but every new piece of furniture you bring into your house carries a bunch of new toxins which gas off.


Here are tips to take the mystery out of getting your furniture upholstered.

How much upholstery fabric do i need?

For an average modern 3 seater with 6 loose cushions you need about 15 yards give or take 3 yards depending on some style details.

How much should I pay for fabric?

A good quality upholstery fabric is a minimum regular price $30 per yard, but they can easily be more than triple that. So for that 3 seater sofa a minimum of $500.

Is my sofa worth it?

Older furniture was made better. So if you have a good, 20 year old sofa and you still like it, it is probably worth the investment of new fabric and upholstery. To replace new with same quality will be over $5000. You can even make alterations to the design, such as reshaping cushions and arms, and changing hem styles.

Do not even think about redoing a sofa from Leon's or Wayfair.

And while we are at it, before you buy a new sofa from a cheap store, you are better off to buy a used Barrymore for $350 at an estate sale and recover it. It will last forever. Any new sofa under $2000 is made from stapled together 2 x 2 softwood and will wear out in a couple of years.

How much should I pay for the labour? 

Honestly, $1000 with slight differences for regions is a very good price for a decent quality modern full sized sofa if you are just recovering. Antiques are more. It takes one day for an upholsterer and the stitcher to do your sofa. They need to pay for their shop and their tools and all those supplies. Not to mention the accountant and the Government. 

But if you phone around you will be shocked at the variations in pricing on upholstery. Some shops will charge $5000 and others $600. Some upholsterers may feel that all your springs need to be replaced and another may say the springs just need retying. 

Upholstery is a bit like car repair. It's mysterious and there are some bad players out there who charge shocking prices for not much work. But there are also many fine and honest craftsmen.

You want to find an upholsterer who does quality work and respect that the upholsterer needs to earn a decent wage, as a highly skilled technician. 

Storefront real estate will also greatly affect the cost. Fancy Main Street upholsterers are going to charge more. If you are on a budget find someone on a back street or who works at home with good references.

Can I bring my own fabric to my upholsterer?

Some are okay with this and some are not. If you buy their fabric, they charge 100% markup. Most upholsterers who work off main street won't mind if you bring fabric at all. Ask around. Interior Designers usually have a good contact. 

My upholsterer refuses to give me a firm quote. Is this right?

No. Your sofa is not a mystery to an experienced upholsterer. They can examine your sofa and give you a fairly firm labour/supplies quote. 

I am on a tight budget. Is it negotiable?

Yes totally. Here are some tips.

-Ask around for a good low cost upholsterer, especially to people in the trade and at local fabric stores.

-Do more than one piece of furniture for a bulk deal.

-Buy your own fabric.

-Bring your furniture in yourself. 

-Be clear that you don't want any serviceable elements replaced.

-Pick a slow time of year, like after the New Year or summer.

-Ask the upholsterer to make suggestions to bring the cost down. Here are some ideas:

-Don't replace seat foam or stuffing in the back cushions.

-Topstitch instead of piping (which is nicer and more modern anyway).

-Simplify details as much as possible. i.e. One big seat cushion will save on the sewing and is very current.

-For skirted styles do not use a stapled on box pleat skirt. (it is old fashioned anyhow).


How do I find an upholsterer that does good work?

Reviews and personal recommendations of course.

Examine their work. Make sure they have some display pieces to look at and have a close look at the details. Is everything straight and symmetric? No visible staples? No blobs of glue hanging off? Do the seat and back feel lumpy? Is it comfortable?

So that is it, that is all I know and if you have any suggestions I would love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for the list of upholsterers who accept your fabric, I will start posting that in a few days. Toronto first of course.







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