Have you ever gone to a store searching for a new product that you really know nothing about? Not a good feeling is it!?
Well shopping for supplies to use in your upholstery project when you’ve never done this before, or have only put new fabrics over the old padding before (a big no-no in my studio) can be just as confusing. If you come from a sewing background you may hear the same terms but when the supplies are for upholstery a quilt batting doesn’t fit the bill and cotton is not what you use for quilting either. So let’s talk about the right supplies for your upholstery project. You know how important it is to use the right tool for the job already…if you don’t you’ll want to read this post: Tools tools and more upholstery tools.
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Cotton, cotton who’s got the cotton?
Upholstery cotton comes as a roll and is typically sold by weight. There is a 100% natural which is an off-white color and has brown flecks which are actually part of the plant. You have probably seen this product when tearing down older antique pieces. Newer furniture is not apt to have cotton at all. In newer furniture you often times see low-density foam used as padding. Foam is another topic which we will hit on a bit later. I like synthetic cotton which looks much the same as the natural except it is pure white and not a natural product but man-made. I like the feel of and working with the synthetic but both are good products. Cotton is used for padding and adding comfort to your upholstered pieces. You may also have seen the straw, horsehair, and other organic fibers when you’ve completed a teardown. Using cotton will give you a great finished product without the need of using the straw and other fibers in your piece. Heck, I have even seen old clothes used for padding in older pieces.
Dacron is a must in my workshop
Another form of padding you will use along with cotton is Dacron. Dacron is the brand name and the product is actually Polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly called polyester. (can you see why it is referred to as Dacron… much like hook and loop tape has become known as Velcro which is also a brand name.) Polyester comes in a few different forms. A loose form such as you would use in pillows is typically sold by the bag and often times by weight. This loose poly is fluffy, white and very soft to touch but when used in a pillow form is very supportive. Another option is a stitched from where the poly is lightly stitched to a fabric called accord. In this case, the poly is very silky feeling yet quite strong, this is commonly used to wrap cushions to give the appearance of a feather cushion. The poly that is most often used as a padding for upholstery is a bonded Dacron. This poly is thermally bonded making it very strong. Again, this comes on a roll and is 54”W and is typically more durable than what you might find in a craft store. The bonded version is used over the other paddings in upholstery and will give your furniture a very smooth finish as your final padding layer before applying your decorative fabric.
Cording, Piping, Welting…. which is the right term?
Let’s chat about welt cord, piping, welting, and cording. All seemingly used interchangeably. Well for this conversation I will refer to our commonly used friend as welt cording…. Is that okay? So there is a fiber flex welt cord which is a paper center surrounded by a net-like material. This is used most commonly in upholstery. The fiber flex is a bit on the stiff side but still flexible. I like the way the fiber flex works when attaching to an upholstered frame. I can bend it where needed but get a nice straight line as well. You can also use the fiber flex for cushions too. The cotton welt cord is a great product for slipcovers and pillows especially if the end product might be washed. When purchasing a cotton welt cord be sure to get the one that is in a net and not the one that is strands wrapped together with no net. This type is commonly called Mop Cord and is not easy to sew with as it squishes (getting really technical here) under the sewing machine. Next is plastic or foam flex welt cord. Foam flex is a moisture resistant product and a perfect option for anything that will be used outdoors or for marine application. When this get’s wet there are no worries and no mildew. You can find each of these welt cords available in a 5/32” which is the most commonly used size in the upholstery world. The fiber-flex and cotton welt cord can also be found in a few other sizes as well. I prefer the 6/32” fiber flex for my upholstery projects but for slipcovers and bedding I use the 5/32” cotton welt cord. I have used the foam flex for outdoor cushions but with some fabrics, I find it persnickety to sew at times… love those technical moments don’t you….hahaha
Well, I hope this has helped to take the mystery out of some of the most common upholstery supplies. In this blog post, I have talked about some of the most common items you will use when upholstering a piece of furniture. All of these supplies are used on a daily basis in my studio. From jute webbing for support, burlap, cotton, and Dacron to pad the furniture and almost every piece has welt cord as a detail. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with these upholstery supplies you may find our online membership helpful in clarifying this, as our video tutorials demonstrate how each of these items is used in the upholstery process. Stay tuned for another blog post where we will discuss more of the items used in the upholstery process.
See you on the inside,