At Sailrite, we want to help equip DIYers for any sewing project you want to take on. If you’re interested in learning how to upholster, we have great videos that will walk you through the process of upholstering a variety of furniture pieces step-by-step so you can learn as you go. Before you start your first upholstery project, we recommend stocking up on a few useful tools that will make your job much easier.
There are a lot of specialized upholstery tools that you can invest in later if you want to continue upholstering, but for beginners we recommend a kit of mostly basic sewing supplies with a few specialized tools. We worked with our staff upholstery experts to create this list to help you get started. So here are our top 8 beginner upholstery tools, in no particular order.
8 Beginner Upholstery Tools
1. Sewing Machine: Although upholstery is a lot of pulling and stapling, there is often sewing involved as well. Sew up your own custom piping, new covers for seat cushions and more with a good heavy-duty sewing machine. Upholstery fabric assemblies can get pretty thick and the Ultrafeed LS-1 Sewing Machine will walk over them all without issue. Ultrafeed Sewing Machines also all feature a built-in welting tunnel in the standard foot, so you can sew 1/4” piping without changing the foot.
2. Pneumatic Stapler: An upholstery must-have is a good stapler. Save your hand the workout and use a pneumatic stapler like the EZE TC-08 Staple Gun. This stapler is lightweight, easy to use, and reasonably priced. It comes in two different models, a long nosed and a short nosed version and both work great for upholstery projects. You will need an air compressor, hose and fittings to operate this staple gun as well. Those fittings can be purchased at your local hardware store.
3. Rawhide Upholstery Mallet: This lightweight mallet is great for hammering tack strips into place. It offers the force needed but also has a soft striking face so it won’t damage your fabric.
4. Tack & Staple Remover: This tool is great for beginners because it pulls double duty. Use the end of the tool to pry up and remove staples. Then use the side teeth to pry up and remove tack strips. This tool works best when used in conjunction with pliers. Together you can easily pull staples to remove the old fabric from a piece.
5. Soft Tape Measure: Having a soft tape measure is helpful because it allows you to take accurate measurements around the contours of cushions, armrests and more.
6. Curved & Extra Long Upholstery Hand Needles: The curved needles are used to sew the decking to the chair, slip stitching cushions, and stitching springs to webbing or burlap. The long needles are used to add buttons for tufting and attaching springs to bottom webbing.
7. Straight Pins: Straight pins are so helpful for sewing projects. Use these pins to hold your sewing together or to mark fabric when pattern matching.
8. Fabric Scissors: A great pair of scissors is essential to any fabric project and upholstery is no different. We really like these Gingher Knife Edge Scissors. It can also be helpful to have a rotary cutter, cutting mat and acrylic ruler around as well, especially for making bias piping.
In addition to those tools, you’ll need other materials that can be purchased on a project-by-project basis like fabric and trims. However there are a few materials that get used in most projects that we think would be worth keeping around your workshop.
Materials to Keep on Hand:
- Cardboard Tack Strip (learn how to use this & other tack strips in this post)
- Basting Tape
- Marking Pencils
- Cambric Dust Cover Fabric
- Nylon Thread
- Sewing Machine Needles
- Piping Cord
- #4.5 Zippers
Armed with all the right tools and materials you can take on any upholstery project! Ready to get started upholstering? Check out one of our upholstery posts and learn how to recover an armchair, channel back chair, or a recliner.
Upholsterers, what did you think of this list? What tools would you add or subtract? Share your ideas in the comments.