On the Job
Upholsterers install springs, padding, and fabric on new and used furniture.
Under the reigns of Louis XV and XVI of France in the 1700s, upholstered furniture became widely popular. While chairs, ottomans, and other pieces had been upholstered before, it was during this time that embroidery and luxurious fabrics became prized. In fact, this style (usually called "Rococo") is still popular today.Even though styles change, the work of upholsterers is largely the same. Upholsterers add new padding and fabrics to pieces of furniture. Sometimes they work on new furniture. Other times they replace worn or outdated coverings on old furniture. When working on a used piece of furniture, upholsterers begin by removing the old covering and padding. They inspect the wood frame inside the furniture for defects and loose pieces. If minor repairs, such as gluing or refinishing, are required, upholsterers do the work. More extensive repairs are given to woodworkers.
When the frame is ready, upholsterers tightly stretch and attach webbing strips across the frame. The webbing is used to provide a platform for the springs inside the furniture. Upholsterers then position and attach the springs so they are even and secured to the webbing and frame. The springs are covered with burlap cloth. The cloth is adjusted and cut to form a smooth surface. Upholsters place padding or stuffing made of cotton, foam, or other synthetic fibers over the burlap.
Upholsters also prepare the fabrics used to cover the springs and padding. They stack and measure pieces of fabric. Then they cut the pieces, creating as little waste as possible. They sew some pieces together to create the pillows. Upholsters attach the fabric onto the furniture and make adjustments as needed. After they make the final adjustments, they secure the fabric firmly with glue, tacks, or staples. Upholsterers also attach fringe, buttons, or other decorations as required.
Sometimes upholsterers pick up and deliver the furniture they work on. They also help customers pick new coverings by providing samples of fabrics and pictures of finished pieces.
Some upholsterers work on automotive or airplane interiors. They make, install, or repair seat covers. Other upholsterers specialize in certain parts of furniture, such as arm coverings.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Remove old covering. Use a hammer or tack puller to remove staples, nails, and tacks.
- Check furniture frame for defects.
- Make minor repairs to frame.
- Attach webbing to frame.
- Attach springs to webbing and frame.
- Cover springs with burlap cloth.
- Add padding to form a smooth rounded surface.
- Stack and smooth material for outer covering on cutting table.
- Measure and cut new material.
- Fit and sew fabric pieces together.
- Attach fabric to frame. Make adjustments to ensure a tight, smooth fit.
- Glue, staple, or tack fabric to frame.
- Attach ornaments, fringes, or rivets as necessary.
- Pick up and deliver furniture.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Handle and move objects.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Control machines and processes.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Think creatively.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social interaction with other people. They usually work alone while upholstering furniture. However, they also talk to customers or supervisors, usually in person.
- Are somewhat responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other workers.
- Often work as part of a team.
- Almost always work indoors. However, work places may not have air conditioning or heating.
- Occasionally wear safety or protective attire.
- Are sometimes exposed to loud or distracting sounds and noise levels, such as from sewing machines.
- Work physically near others.
- Must fully complete and be exact in their work in order to meet customer needs.
- Repeat the same physical activities.
- Usually make decisions and set daily tasks and goals in cooperation with other workers, customers, and supervisors.
- Must meet strict weekly deadlines.
- Usually work 40 hours per week. May work longer if self-employed.
- May work weekends if their job requires them to meet with customers.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Repeat the same motions over and over.
- Bend or twist the body.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Be physically active and use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- See objects in very bright or glaring light.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.