What is Involved in Upholstery Sewing?

If you are interested in upholstery sewing but have no actual experience with it yet, it may seem intimidating at first. This is not surprising. Successfully sewing upholstery and producing a finished product that is functional and aesthetically pleasing can be quite a challenge—definitely beyond the capabilities of a novice. What follows should help you get started in learning what is involved in upholstery sewing.

Materials for Upholstery Sewing

No matter how much you may know about ordinary sewing, upholstery sewing is quite different and will require a new set of tools and techniques. For one thing, upholstery uses thicker fabric, often in combination with foam. The increased thickness and density of upholstery fabric requires specialized tools—in particular, thicker and heavier needles to more easily penetrate the fabric, and thicker and heavier thread to hold it together. You can buy specialized needles and thread that are designed for this exact purpose.

Many upholstery projects involve the use of upholstery foam, which can range from 1/4 inch to 4 inches. Generally foam is used for projects such as seat cushions or pillows.

If you plan to attach your upholstery to a wooden frame or existing piece of furniture, you will need specialized materials to do this. Upholstery tacks are a great way to upholster a wooden item. You can also use them for purely decorative purposes on any project.


Aesthetics are an important aspect of upholstery sewing because upholstered items are generally used around the house in some sort of decorative manner.

Planning out the aesthetics of an upholstery sewing project in advance is a great idea. This includes small-scale planning, such as color coordination, as well as fabric and thread selection. You may have to match texture, not just color.

However, you must also consider wider-scale aesthetic choices, such as how a finished project will fit in with other things in the room where it will finally end up.

Equipment for Upholstery Sewing

While you can hand-sew an upholstery project, many people use a sewing machine. For the reasons mentioned previously, you cannot use an ordinary sewing machine to sew upholstery. It will not be powerful enough, the needle will be too small, and the thread it uses will also be too small. Industrial sewing machines will serve the purposes of anyone wanting to sew upholstery.