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The lastest news and blog posts from the National Upholstery Association. 

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  • June 29, 2020 2:10 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)
     

    Written by Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and owner of Monday Wash Furniture.

    ________________________________________________________________

     

    I like stories. Let me tell you a good one.

    A while back, around Christmas time, a gifted upholsterer was working in her shop when a man came in from the cold. A couple of decades previous, this upholsterer had begun her training with a master named AL Goss. She had been a star student, a natural who learned quickly and improvised well on her own. Prior to that, since childhood in fact, she’d been an avid DIYer soaking up sewing, embroidery and crocheting skills from the three generations of women in her family who had come before her. Her all-time favorite gift came from her grandmother when she was just eight years old - her grandmother’s own beautiful blue sewing machine, which immediately took the place of honor in her cozy purple bedroom. As a young mother, raising four children and running her own pre-school, this upholsterer-to-be continued to spend what spare time she had creating beautiful window treatments, quilts, and eventually even cushion covers for her sofa hand-in-hand with her mother. That last project was the one that launched her decision to study upholstery. So, you see, this upholsterer, in her shop on that cold winter’s day in Massachusetts, was a person who held three things particularly dear: family, love of learning, and the creation of beautiful and useful things.

     

    Brushing the snow from his shoulders, the young man approached the upholsterer, who was now a teacher of upholstery herself. He wanted to take a hands-on class. He wanted her to be the one to teach him. The man’s grandfather had been a master upholsterer, but he had passed away before the man had had the chance to learn from him. The man’s grandfather was Al Goss. And so, it came full circle. The man would have the chance to learn from his grandfather… through Kim Chagnon.

    This is a really good story. It is the story of promise for our trade.

     When I video chatted with Kim Chagnon of Kim’s Upholstery a couple of weeks ago, she told me a few other stories, as well: a sweet story of a woman, about to have her first baby, who cried when Kim made ready again the rocker in which the woman’s grandmother had nursed her first child; an inspiring story of a woman and her two daughters who implored Kim, for almost a year, to make them her first hands-on students, leading to significant growth in one daughter’s business refurbishing MCM furniture.

    It was nice to share a laugh with Kim. She has a bright smile and a warm demeanor. I know a good many of you are familiar with her face from the numerous expert tutorials she and her husband Bill have posted on YouTube. I was eager to learn about the remarkable evolution of her business. Beyond the YouTube videos, there is so much more.

    I learned that Kim was still running the pre-school when she signed up to study with Al Goss. She was on a waitlist for his beginning upholstery class for almost a year and, once enrolled, drove 20 miles one evening per week to get there. She pushed to take on challenging projects beyond the scope of an average beginners’ class. Mr. Goss, noting her strong sewing and artistic eye, encouraged this. She would prove to be one of the best students of his career.


    Kim went on to upholster projects for friends and family, which soon led to doing upholstery work for clients with Bill by her side. The volume of work increased rapidly to the point that, one day in 1998, Kim and Bill realized that “something had to give”. They both gave up their day jobs and committed to upholstery full time.

     Around 2010, Kim and Bill were invited to do small project tutorials for the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA). It was immediately clear that viewers wanted to dive deeper. In response, Kim and Bill launched a series of YouTube videos to give DIYers and beginning upholsterers a more in depth understanding of what is involved in the completion of a quality upholstery project. The response was overwhelming. The couple found themselves riding a tidal wave of emails from people seeking advice and guidance. They met the demand by creating several more You Tube Videos (today there are over 300) and also began, in 2012, producing and mailing out instructional DVDs.

     

    It was not long after that Kim agreed to venture into hands-on teaching with the mother and daughter trio mentioned earlier. Kim admitted that she was nervous at the time but, “It went very well,” she said. Recalling the way that the daughter’s business took off afterward, Kim smiled broadly, “I just love to see students excel and propel forward.”

    In response to ever-increasing demand from DIYers and budding upholsterers, Kim and Bill have transitioned to teaching full time. In 2015, they launched the Kim’s Upholstery Online Classes website with just 12 videos. Today there are close to 100. In addition, the website supports a community forum, and weekly live chats during which Kim and Bill answer members’ questions directly. They also host periodic live sessions for a private Facebook group. Members know they can feel confident asking any question at all. “There is no such thing as a bad question,” said Kim. “We all learn from each other.”

    And that’s the way it should be. The vitality of our trade depends on the sharing of knowledge and experience on all levels and from all angles. I am pleased to have the opportunity to write these educator spotlight articles (yes, there will be more to come) because our future lies in the recognition that we never stop learning and that continuing education is crucial.



    Toward that end, Kim, in addition to everything else, hosts annual meet-ups for upholstery enthusiasts and professionals to “allow people of all levels to get together to talk about issues like pricing and how to handle client situations” among other things. Of course, there’s an educational component, too. There have been two meet-ups so far. A third, scheduled for September 17th and 18th in Virginia, is tentatively on hold due to Covid-19.

    I asked Kim if she and Bill have had to make other adjustments due to the pandemic. Kim explained that hands-on workshops originally scheduled for the summer have been postponed until 2021; those scheduled for October and November may still be a possibility. But Kim’s Upholstery remains ready and able to conduct the majority of its business as usual. There’s so much available in the form of on-line video content, and the forums and weekly video chat sessions provide not only upholstery advice and guidance, but also support and personal connection as members cope with conditions during this stressful and unprecedented time.

    If you would like to join me within the Kim’s Upholstery community to share knowledge and strengthen your skills with Kim and Bill, please follow this link to begin your membership. Both monthly and annual membership options are available.


    You can find Kim in the following places.  

    Online classes
    website
    facebook

    Pinterest
    Instagram



    _____________________________________________________________________________

     The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.



  • June 18, 2020 7:32 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Carla Pyle, NUA Board Member and  Natural Upholstery educator & consultant
    ____________________________________________________


    “Now more than ever, we realize that human health and well-being is precious. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the products and technologies we interact with every day can have tremendous impact on our health and safety. Chemical Insights, an Institute of Underwriters Laboratories, combines the best minds, rigorous scientific research and a commitment for thorough and accurate results, to find answers to questions that support safe, healthy working, learning and living environments.”

    - Chemical Insights Mission Statement


    When was the last time a customer engaged you in a lively conversation about the potential health effects of the upholstery materials you use in your work? This is a subject that’s getting more attention, both in upholstery workrooms and in the wider industry.


    The Taskforce

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have some science-backed facts about safe & healthy furniture, all laid out for you to learn and share with your clients? That is one of the goals of the Furniture Flammability and Human Health Taskforce, recently initiated by Chemical Insights https://chemicalinsights.org/.


    Overview

    The Taskforce is part of step five in a five-step process that Chemical Insights (CI) employs for each of its research initiatives:

    1. Involve a wide range of stakeholders in their initiatives, convening all parties with a connection to the topic (summit). Based on the outcome of these discussions, CI sets a research agenda, designs a methodology, selects research partners and establishes an action plan. (eg. manufacturers, users, health care professionals, policymakers). When setting a research agenda, CI considers these factors: Emerging issues in the marketplace, New technologies and unintended risks, Health risks posed, and Lack of regulation or guidance (eg. indoor air quality is not regulated)

    2. CI then conducts the independent research for the selected initiative -all research is objective, independent, transparent and self-funded. Research often spans multiple years and involves partnerships with academic research institutions.

    3. Once the research has been conducted, scientists from CI & partners analyze the data to confirm key findings, evaluate end-user health impact and develop action steps.

    4. CI shares findings with key stakeholders to discuss, and at times debate, the results and impacts of their research. They also publish scientific papers and deliver presentations for the scientific community; develop targeted education, such as webinars, for relevant industry professionals; and share general information with the public, through articles, social media and web-based tools.

    5. Once CI shares their research findings, they work to support the safe commercialization of evolving technologies through the development of best practices, standards, guidelines, health criteria and assessment tools.


    Goals

    The Taskforce’s three key GOALS are to:

    1) Provide a forum for knowledge and suggested actions related to harmonizing efforts on Furniture Flammability and Human Health.

    2) Develop guidance documents on achieving fire-safe/chemical-safefurniture.

    3) Develop “safe choice” educational materials for consumers.

    If I were to distill this down in to a single sentence targeted to upholsterers, it might look something like this:

    The Furniture Flammability and Human Health Taskforce is a collaborative effort that brings industry professionals and stakeholders together to utilize scientific documentation on furniture flammability and human health in order to create consumer-targeted educational resources that upholstery professionals can share with their clients.


    Timeline and Participants

    Taskforce members will participate in a series of online workshops, ending in the development of the guidance and educational materials defined, with an objective of finalizing the materials by the end of 2020.

    The National Upholstery Association (NUA) is represented on the Taskforce by board members Jamie Facciola and Carla Pyle. We are joined on the Taskforce by professionals from a wide ranging group of industries, including furniture manufacturers, designers, architects, furniture retailers, firefighter safety research organizations, academic researchers, chemical industry representatives, and lobbyists.


    The nitty-gritty

    A barrier fabric for upholstery wins the battle of the Burning Chairs! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz9AcajFjUs Watch this amazing short video showing one of the flammability tests conducted as part of the data-gathering phase of this project.

    If you have time, check out the webinar https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9zXJUQGs3LQ&t=8s presented by the Sustainable Furnishings Council https://www.sustainablefurnishings.org/ in March of this year, explaining the entire research and testing process in greater detail.

    Once the Taskforce’s work is complete, I look forward to giving you an update & sharing useful educational resources you can take to your shops to help you engage intelligently on the subject of furniture flammability & health.


    _____________________________________________________________________________

    The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.



  • June 06, 2020 4:17 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Have you ever wondered what it would be like to write a book? How does the process work? How do you get published? Maybe you just want to get to know one of your favorite upholstery or soft furnishings authors? Join us June 9th for a webinar that’s a little different than our usual format. This time we invited four published professionals to join us and share some insight on the process of getting published. Their book topics range from furniture & automotive upholstery to window coverings. It will be an interview style event with time for questions at the end.

     Here's a little bit about our panelists:


    Amanda Brown

    In 2007, Amanda Brown left her day job and started Spruce, a furniture redesign studio in Austin, Texas. Her fresh aesthetic for interiors has garnered acclaim from publications including the New York Times, Metropolitan Home, and Southern Living. She produced her first instructional DVD, Spruce at Home, in 2011, and authored the “Upholstery Basics” column for Design*Sponge, as well as regular articles for  HGTV.com and DIYNetwork.com.

    Amanda's book, Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design (Storey Publishing), was released in October 2013, a labor of love and comprehensive guide for all things upholstery.


    Shelly Miller Leer

    Shelly Miller Leer has been taking apart furniture and rebuilding it for over 20 years. Her familiar voice and easy-to-follow projects have worked their way through the hands of creators from novice to professional. HomeRoom is the studio home to her courses, workshops, and provides an event space for unique hands-on corporate and private events.

    Shelly’s writing and projects have been featured in , curbly.com, apartmenttherapy.com, The Huffington Post, The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Monthly Magazine, houzz.com, Country Living Magazine, BobVila.com and others. In the late 1990's, Shelly designed and created a line of children's furniture and accessories for one of the first online children's furniture websites, PoshTots.com. She co-authored three books for curbly.com; Make It: Mid Century Modern, Make It: Secondhand Chic and Make It: Hardware Store Chic.

     Additional publications :Digital Apprentice: Intro to Sewing & Upholstery & The Little Upholstery Book: A Beginners Guide to Artisan Upholstery

    Fred Mattson

    Fred Mattson began working on car interiors as a teenager in the 1970s by hand-stitching inserts into his own 1969 Oldsmobile and working on the cars of several friends in his neighborhood. Soon after opening a full-time upholstery business in 1980, Fred's auto trimming career expanded to sewing car interiors for many prestigious upholstery shops and restoration specialists in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, metropolitan area. Having earned the nickname Fearless, Fred works his magic on hopeless projects, restoring them to factory condition by fabricating missing parts and reconditioning the potentially hopeless.

    Fred now restores vintage American cars. His clients have won numerous awards and trophies and credit their wins to the high quality and correctness of detail of their interiors and convertible tops. Fred's other titles with CarTech Books include Automotive Upholstery & Interior Restoration and Convertible Top Restoration and Installation.


    Susan Woodcock

    Susan Woodcock owns Home Dec Gal, a home decor sewing resource and workroom. In 2017, Susan and her husband Rodger Walker founded Workroom Tech, a trade school for professional workrooms near their home in Tryon, North Carolina and they produce Custom Workroom Conference, an annual trade show and educational event for workroom professionals.

    Susan is an international speaker and instructor for Bluprint, and The Workroom Channel. Her publishing credits include Singer(R) Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades and Top Treatments, and First Time Window Treatments: An Absolute Beginners Guide. She is a member of the Window Coverings Association of America and the National Upholstery Association.


    To register for the webinar check your email from the National Upholstery Association email dated May 29th for the link.

     Webinars are for NUA members only, not a member join today!



  • May 28, 2020 8:22 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Last week, our very own Jamie Facciola, Secretary of the Board, presented, “Circularity in Furnishings” to the Sustainable Furnishings Council as part of their Sustainability Essentials webinar series. It's a riveting presentation that is bound to make you rethink the furniture cycle and your part in it.

    The event promotion reads, "What we throw away is now the world's most abundant natural resource. Why aren't we using more of it as a production feed stock? Furniture is a durable good - intended to last a long time. Why, then, do we throw so much of it away. Join us for a discussion with Jamie Facciola, an award-winning social entrepreneur whose work on developing local solutions to circular economy challenges has been covered in BBC News, Fast Company and Greenbiz. She will share her most recent project, a photo mini-blog about furniture waste, and inspire us with a discussion. There is much potential in the opportunity to use what we already have, especially as we rebuild our economy in recovery from the COVID-19 crisis."
    Watch the recorded presentation.
    Learn more about the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

    Subscribe to Furniturecycle.




  • May 20, 2020 5:14 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)
       Written by Diane Montgomery

    _____________________________________________________



    Pattern matching is a love hate relationship for me.  I love the final results but it definitely takes more planning and time to correctly place and keep the continuation of a pattern going.  I feel that it is a disservice to both the client and the artist of the pattern to not give it the utmost attention.  If a client has chosen a patterned fabric I imagine it is because they were attracted to the pattern as a whole.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was chopped up?!



    When beginning a project that has pattern matching involved, I focus on what should be centered on the seat cushion (this is for most patterns) or what should be centered along the border/boxing of the seat cushion (this is for geometric, plaid, or checked patterns).  If your existing cushion fits well you can go ahead and cut out your cushion face.  If it doesn’t or if you are altering the padding of the arms and/or inside back, you can cut a large square with the front line of the cushion falling where you will want the final front line to be.  Place your cut cushion face lining up the pattern on the next pattern repeat.  You will then measure 1’’ up from your cut cushion edge.  This will take into account the seam allowance for both your face and border.  Then place the cut border lining up the pattern on the next pattern repeat.  In my example diagram, my nosing is 4’’ deep from the edge of the seat to the sewn seam of the decking.  I measure 4 ½’’ up from the bottom edge of the border to get the top line of my nosing (4’’ depth plus ½’’ border seam allowance).  The cushion and nosing are what everything else will go off of to keep the pattern continuous.

    The two biggest things to pay attention to, are including your seam allowances when measuring and always mark your centers.  I also love making the seat and back cushion continue the pattern.  To do this, I measure the depth of my back cushion (let’s say it is 3’’ deep) and work forward/down from the back of the cut seat cushion.  Place your seat cushion face lining up the pattern on the next pattern repeat.  Measure down 3’’ from the back of the seat cushion.  This will be the bottom line of the back cushion.  Once both cushions are sewn, stuffed, and in place, everything will line up beautifully!!



     

    Pattern matching is definitely a learning process and I am still learning.  I don’t get it perfect every time, but I do feel like it is my duty to try my absolute hardest to keep the continuation of the pattern going throughout the entire piece.  Yes it takes time, yes it takes extra yardage, but I promise it is so worth it and your client will be so pleased with your attention to detail.

     

    _________________________________________________

    Diane Montgomery is the owner and upholsterer of Coventry Lane Upholstery.  She began upholstering at home in 2011, found an apprenticeship opportunity in Columbia, SC in 2012 where she worked until 2015.  At this time she moved outside of Nashville, TN where she opened and operates her shop out of her house.  Her projects include mainly residential furniture for both regular clients and Nashville designers.  Her work can be found on Instagram @coventrylaneupholstery 



     The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.



  • April 22, 2020 11:59 AM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Carla Pyle,NUA Board Member and Natural Upholstery educator & consultant



     

    I want to share a vision for Upholstery’s future, but first I want to acknowledge that things are far from normal right now.

    As I write this, we're under a ‘shelter in place’ directive – staying home due to the Corona virus pandemic. I’ve been so inspired by the support & generosity within the upholstery community - online meetups, conversations on social media, and just people reaching have out have helped many of us through these days of isolation.

    I have noticed, when I step away from the surreal buzz of the news & internet, that the world has slowed down.

    For now.

    People seem to be living more in the moment, and this gives me hope. When I look to my local community, I see neighbors uniting to help each other find on-the-ground solutions to our most pressing challenges, and I’m optimistic that we will recover and emerge stronger if we work on solutions TOGETHER.


     

    Beyond the immediate day-to-day challenges, my thoughts go to the BIGGER PICTURE.

    What changes are in store for the upholstery community and what adjustments will we have to make going forward? Of course none of us has the answer to that, but I'd like to offer some hope and an invitation.

    EARTH DAY

    April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This is a milestone certainly worth celebrating, though the sentiment may feel restrained given the current state of affairs. Looking back, we can acknowledge there have been great advances since 1970 (and more than a few contractions).

    When we consider the broader challenges facing the world – in health, economics and climate change – it’s easy to see that A LOT has to change, and quickly.




    I am heartened to see evidence that this question of transformation is sparking an explosion of innovative thinking in many markets on a global scale. At the same time, I’m perplexed by the scarcity of attention given to the changes needed in the upholstered furniture industry.

    How will the craft of UPHOLSTERY adapt to the unknowns as we emerge from this pandemic?

       How will we eliminate chemicals in our furniture that are compromising the health of so many people in their own homes and work places?

       How can we change economic incentives to benefit the people on the ground doing the work instead of rewarding top-down corporate lobbying interests?

       How do we intelligently handle the waste of resources that is rampant in the current ‘fast furniture’ economy?

    It turns out NATURE offers some answers that address these questions on a deeper level in the context of our current economic system. To illustrate, we need to take a simplistic approach.


    The LINEAR ECONOMY (what we have now)

    Our current economic system is LINEAR, meaning most goods fall into the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ model. The bulk of cheap upholstered furniture provides a perfect example – a $250 sofa gets dumped outside college housing at the end of a school year. We all know that it’s just NOT SUSTAINABLE to throw millions of tons of furniture in landfills every year, essentially treating the environment as a waste reservoir.


     

    So how can we change this to a more sustainable system?

    Linear systems are a product of the industrial age, an age of growth and discovery that began in the 18th century, riding upon a misguided belief that human civilization must somehow conquer nature. Now, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it is obvious that human systems are well-advised to take a cue from nature and to see ourselves as INTEGRAL to the (circular) cycles of nature and the planet.

    As sustainability author Daniel Christian Wahl points out:

    “We are not supposedly ‘objective’ observers outside these systems, trying to manipulate them more effectively; we are always participants (who must) shift our attitude and goal to our appropriate participation in these systems, as subjective, co-creative agents.”

     

    The CIRCULAR ECONOMY (what is it?)

    The circular economy is not a new concept, its roots dating back circa the first Earth Day in 1970. What I like best about the circular economy model is that it seeks to build prosperity long-term. Here’s the best quickie (3 minute) video illustration I’ve found (from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

     ( video)

    The model encourages RE-thinking the current LINEAR (Take-Make-Dispose) economic system – moving away from depleting finite resources & producing toxic waste, and moving toward a CIRCULAR (Repair-Reuse-Renew) economy. It requires separating the biological ‘nutrients’ (derived of living systems) from the technical ‘nutrients’ (from non-living systems).

    This may not represent a quick fix for the challenges we face in the near future (I’d love to hear if there’s one out there). But it’s an excellent starting point.

    I love the INSPIRATION that shines through in this model, the way it frames the future in a POSITIVE way. It includes the tools we need to begin to move toward rethinking the operating system itself, and I believe the best solutions always grow from inspired thinking. The hard part is figuring out WHERE TO BEGIN on this unproven path, and accepting that we have to be in it for the LONG game.

     

    Considering the Circular Economy in the Context of Upholstered Furniture Waste

    The Two Nutrient Cycles:

     

    Circular Economy-nutrient cycles by MBDC

     

    1. Biological nutrients

    (universal example) Food waste is biodegradable. My backyard compost-to-garden system is a great example of this, cycling waste from kitchen > compost > garden > kitchen in a continuous circle. Nothing is wasted.

    (upholstery example) Certified organic cotton batting or jute webbing for upholstery would be considered a biological/agricultural nutrient. I have used both materials as mulch in my garden. I don’t use non-organic cotton materials due to pesticide + other chemical residuals present in the final product.

    2. Technical nutrients

    (universal example) Aluminum is infinitely recyclable and highly durable. Recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminum from the raw ore.

    (upholstery example) Steel springs for upholstery is a perfect example of a technical nutrient. Steel is cheaper to recycle than to make new, and it doesn’t lose any of its inherent physical properties during the recycling process.

    3. What if it’s neither?

    The biggest challenge in effectively addressing upholstery waste seems to be the fact that you just can’t put it into simple black & white terms. What if a material is not biodegradable, nor does it fit the technical cycle requirements (like polyester batting or urethane foam laced with flame retardants)? Herein lies the complication. Bedding waste presents similar challenges. Both industries incorporate many layers of different materials into a single product, some of which do not fit neatly into either category.


     

     


    Breaking it down to the upholstery layers

    In the upholstery trade, reuse of high quality framing & soft layers is a the preferred option. Reuse delays the need to assign those materials to either a biological or a technical cycle for years or decades. The challenge lies in considering the point at which those materials reach the end of their useful life, and how they do or do not fit into the circular model:

    1.    A well-built furniture frame is the foundation that makes reupholstery possible. Wood is part of the biological cycle, and most metals can reintegrated as products in the technical cycle.

    2.    Traditional upholstery uses animal products (wool, horse hair) and plant products (coir fiber, cotton, sphagnum moss). In a circular model, these materials are considered biological nutrients at the end of their useful life, but until channels for effectively composting them are defined within a real-world system, upholsterers have no other choice but to toss them in the trash.

    3.    Modern upholstery most often uses synthetics (polyester, urethane foam, chemical additives) which currently have no value as technical nutrients. They are not biodegradable and certain chemicals like flame retardants, present a danger to health and natural biological systems, so it’s into the trash bin for those materials as well, once they can no longer be re-used.

    4.    Some modern upholstery uses natural fibers that are free of harmful chemicals (natural latex, wool & organic cotton) and ARE biodegradable. But again, the channels must be in place within a working system for the bulk of these materials to effectively return to the earth as biological nutrients at the end of their useful life.


    In Summary

    This radically SIMPLIFIED overview reveals some basic elements which must change if the upholstery industry is to lead the shift to a regenerative furniture economy:

    1.    Composting channels must be established to handle biodegradable materials

    2.    Toxins must be removed from the biological inputs at the manufacturing level

    3.    Synthetics must find channels through which to flow back into the system (or be replaced by biological materials)

    4.    There must be economic incentives that reward the professionals and those they seek to help (customers) on the ground, allowing for prosperity at the community level.

     

    Upholstery is a skilled trade that has defined eras in human history, inspired creativity, and preserved tradition through the ages. It has been answering the need to recycle, reuse and repair our furniture for generations, and will remain as a valuable player in defining the future of furniture in a circular economy.


     

     

    All of this plays into the National Upholstery Association's 2020-2023 Strategic Plan - specifically Goal #7, with objectives to:

        Advocate for legislative policy designating reupholstery as 'green jobs’.

       Promote inclusion of reupholstery within tax incentive programs.

       Support or lead education initiatives for reupholstery as a tool for elimination of waste within the furniture industry.

       Promote reupholstery as an intrinsic component of the circular economy.

     

    As an industry organization, NUA has great potential to make actual changes that will benefit its members and many more. Your voice and your unique perspective are important to the success of this collaborative effort. If you’re inspired to make a difference, please join us, and include ‘Sustainability Initiatives’ in your comments on the application. Thank you!



  • April 07, 2020 1:16 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Nominations are Open for the 2020
    Board of Directors Election!!

     Up to 3 Directors at Large will be elected this year

    Do you have ideas for shaping the future of our professional upholstery industry? Do you know someone with expertise that will help us promote the trade? Nominate yourself or them today!

    The role of the Board is to set strategic direction for the organization, work with members to offer support and guidance on opportunities in educational programming, membership, public affairs, networking, and industry partnerships.

    We’re looking for the following skills:

         Industry experience and expertise

         Accounting and finance

         Marketing

         Public relations

         Event planning/fundraising

         Internet and social media

         Membership development

         Communications

         Desire to be a future Board Executive Officer

    Each Board position comes with a 2 year commitment. Board members are expected to be available for monthly online meetings lasting about 1 to 2 hours. Directors also participate in committee activities and attend regular meetings of their chosen committee.

    If you have ideas about the direction this professional organization should go, now's your chance to make a difference!

    Submit your name or nominations today to:
    info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org

     The election will take place on September 1, 2020.

     Questions? Send them to info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org

  • April 01, 2020 8:11 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)
       Written by Bethany Wheaton

    _____________________________________________________


    Before air conditioning became prevalent in many homes, it was common to cover furniture with slipcovers during the summer. Sofas and chairs upholstered with velvet and heavy tapestry fabric were hot and uncomfortable to sit on, so ‘summer covers’ were made of cotton to protect the furniture. Today, slipcovers are a hot commodity, perhaps fueled by the ‘shabby chic’ design trend of the 1990’s. Designers and homeowners request slipcovers that are family and pet friendly, and easy to clean. With the increase in available slipcover training, fabricators are meeting this demand by  producing tailored, snug fitting covers, not just made of cotton, but performance fabrics and upholstery weight fabric as well. If you are looking for another revenue stream for your upholstery business, offering slipcovers will attract more customers and increase profits.

     

     Slipcovers v. Upholstery 

    Most chairs and sofas are able to be reupholstered, but the same may not be true for slipcovers. Wing back chairs, club chairs, Parsons chairs, and loose back cushion sofas are all good candidates for a slipcover. Pieces with a lot of decorative wood, or oversized rolled arms may be better suited for reupholstery. There is no tear down on a slipcover project, a huge time savings. It is possible to do the bulk of the work, pin fitting the fabric, in the customers home, then sew it in your shop and return to install it. Most chairs and sofas, depending on the number of cushions, can be completed in 1 to 2 days. Very little supplies are needed when fabricating a slipcover. Pins, welt cord, sometimes a zipper, and thread are really the only supplies you’ll use, contributing to the profitability. Slipcovers typically cost less than re upholstery. So offering them at your shop will expand your customer base.

     

    Selling a slipcover

    Some customers know they want a slipcover and will ask you to quote a price on one. Or they may have purchased furniture upholstered in muslin and the original slipcover is trashed and they need a new one. Present the fabric options and price. Easy sale. Other times, a customer may have sticker shock over the price of reupholstering a chair or sofa. If the original upholstery is in good shape, I tell them their piece is a good candidate for a slipcover, which can be less expensive than reupholstery. Many times they will opt for a slipcover to save a few hundred dollars. I explain the difference between upholstery fabric and cotton, present the benefits of performance fabrics like Crypton and Revolution and show them samples. Ninety-five percent of my slipcover business is upholstery weight fabric, averaging $60 per yard. I have an English rolled arm sofa with a white Revolution fabric slipcover, and a Parsons chair slip-covered in an inexpensive cotton/rayon blend from Big Duck Canvas in my showroom so customers can see how tailored and attractive a well made slipcover will look in their home. Presenting the reupholstery price first, then sensing objections over the cost, is a very effective way to sell a slipcover job. Another selling point is that a slipcover can be pin fitted in the home so they don’t have to be without their furniture for a couple of weeks.


    Materials and Methods

    Fabric

    Traditionally, slipcovers were made of cotton so the customer could take it off and wash it when needed. Many fabricators prefer cotton for this reason. After laundering, the slipcover is partially dried and put back on the furniture when it is still damp. This normally eliminates the need for ironing it. Getting it put back on correctly, and struggling with stuffing the cushions can be a challenge which is why I recommend upholstery fabric to my customers. If you’re making a cotton slipcover, the fabric should be cut into 5 yard pieces, washed and dried on the hottest cycle to pre-shrink it. It is reasonable to charge for this service.

    Upholstery fabric makes beautiful slipcovers. I’ve made them with chenilles, textured wovens and velvet. As long as the fabric is not too thick, drapes well and does not have a coating on the back, it should be a suitable fabric for a slipcover. Your customer will get all the benefits of upholstery fabric like durability, and a wide range of style, color and pattern. I recommend professional cleaning, just like they would do for their upholstered furniture. Some of my favorite fabric choices are Fabricuts Emere, a thin, grasscloth like Crypton at $84 per yard, and Ghent, a poly/cotton/linen with a slubby linen look that comes in 35 colors at $60 per yard. I also like Polenta by Stout, a Crypton poly/linen chenille with 2 colors at $47 per yard.

     


    Pin Fitting

    Slipcovers can be made by pin fitting the pieces together to create stitch lines, making a pattern of the chairs components or copying an old slipcover. Pin fitting is pretty straightforward, doesn’t take a lot of time and results in a tight, tailored cover. The fabric is anchored to the chair wrong side out and welt cord is pinned between two pieces to create a seam. Measuring the chair for fabric is similar to measuring for upholstery. I add two inches to each side of the cut for pinning and seam allowance. After making a pattern for the arm panels, I’ll sew those first. Decks can be pinned for mitering or square seams, then sewn to decking fabric.



    Some fabricators use the face fabric for the entire deck. The lower edge can be pinned with welt cord and attached to the frame with velcro once the cover is sewn. It’s easy to mark for skirt placement as well, if the piece gets a skirt.  Some pieces like barrel chairs that are smaller around the bottom than the top, or chairs with large rolled arms may need a zipper. The zipper location is marked at the end of the pinning process and is sewn in before attaching the lower edge cording or skirt pieces. If you can’t get the cover off, you’ll need to add a zipper in one of the OB/OA seams.  After pinning I remove the cover and take it to the machine.


    Sewing the slipcover

         A walking foot sewing machine is a necessity to sew through the multiple layers of a slipcover. At the intersections of seams, it’s not unusual to have 8 layers of fabric. All seams are serged before sewing the next seam for a neat appearance and to prevent fraying. Slipcover seams are sewn in a particular order to get the best result. The many training options available will guide you on sewing order.

     

    Training

    Fortunately there are many options available to upholsterers wanting to learn how to create beautiful slipcovers. Jeanelle Dech’s Fit-Like-A-Glove Slipcover DVD is a top notch instructional tool available from the Workroom Channel for $95. Jeanelle slipcovers a wingback settee with a floral Sunbrella jacquard and presents the order of pinning and order of sewing in a simple and easy to follow manner. You can easily create your first slipcover with this tool in your workroom.

    Kim Chagnon of Kim's Upholstery has three comprehensive slipcover videos available on her membership site. The blue club chair video teaches you expert pattern matching as well as pin fitting and sewing methods. Kim also offers a community forum and weekly live Q & A for members to post pictures and get detailed answers to specific questions.

    Workroom Tech in Tryon, NC offers a 2 day slipcover workshop a few times a year, taught by Emily Pettit. The workshop focuses on a Parsons chair but presents essential techniques you’ll be able to use on many different styles of furniture.

    Many slipcover fabricators are very generous with their time and are willing to teach new skills to those who want to learn. Reach out to someone whose work you admire and ask if they offer one on one training. You’ll learn a new skill and make a friend! Whichever training resource you choose will be a good investment. Beautiful slipcovers are a result of many factors including the order of pinning and sewing, and making cuts at obstacles or areas that don't have tuck in spaces. Good training will shorten the learning curve so you can be selling jobs after a couple of practice slipcovers.

    Slipcovers are a great revenue source for any upholstery shop. It’s a faster process than upholstery and easier on the body. From measuring, cutting, making welt, sewing the cushion, pin fitting, sewing the cover and adding velcro, a single cushion club chair can be completed in one day. The learning curve is relatively short as well. But the best part is putting the finished slipcover on the chair, tugging and pulling, certain it’s going to tear, and then it snaps into place! Tuck in the seams, stand back and marvel at your beautiful creation!

    Bethany Wheaton is the owner of Plymouth Upholstery & Decor in Plymouth Massachusetts.



     The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.


  • March 31, 2020 7:20 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Jamie Facciola, NUA Board Member and furniture waste consultant and blogger.

    __________________________________________________________________

     

    The daunting COVID-19 restrictions of social distancing and shelter-at-home have put immense pressure on businesses across the country. Musicians are playing concerts at home, veterinarians are providing TeleVet mobile appointments, and restaurants are offering modified food and cocktail menus for pick-up or delivery. Not all services, however, require high customer interaction--like reupholstering furniture. This ancient craft tends to be tucked away in basements or busy workrooms.  So how is this behind-the-scenes industry coming to terms with the crisis? By harnessing technology, like everyone else.

    The first ever Upholstery Community Meeting was held on March 25, 2020. Hosted by the National Upholstery Association (NUA), around 40 upholsterers from across the country joined a Zoom video call to discuss how they’re adjusting to this new reality. I just helped a customer measure her furniture over FaceTime. It worked out well!” said Nancy Sargent, owner of Cobani Bleu in Nashville, TN.

    In an industry with a reputation for solitude, some shops are ready to double down on an inherent advantage during this time of unprecedented social distancing. “Let customers know pickup and delivery can be safe. We are open for business!” said Heather Taylor, owner of Custom Textiles in Burlington, CT.  .  Another owner who recently furloughed four employees was relieved that when it was time to return to work, the workroom was large enough for people to keep a safe distance.

    In a somber moment, one upholsterer expressed nervousness about the uncertainty of upcoming projects, especially ones with large hospitality clients who have recently laid off staff. Another area of concern was access to materials. “Without supplies we will all be shut down,” said Rhonda Shanahan, owner of The Whimsical Chair in Castle Rock, CO.

    The conversation segued into a celebration of depression-era furniture, as the group drew pride and inspiration from previous generations of upholsterers who famously made due in times of material shortages. Sprits were lifted again when attendees contemplated the potential for upholstery to pick up should the shift in the economy linger. The upholsterer who was nervous about losing larger clients mentioned a recent uptick from residential customers, who have been spending more time than usual at home. H. Taylor, noting a recent increase in emails from people looking to start new projects, said she felt hopeful.

    Should there be a lull in business, the upholsterers are already planning ahead: “What did my business need before this happened? What can I now carve out time for?” asked Cynthia Bleskachek, a Founding Member of the NUA and owner of The Funky Little Chair in Minneapolis, MN. Working on the business side of the business--tending to a website, editing product photography, and learning new video software—was a common strategy. “It’s time to be extra inventive,” said Claire Wright, owner of Cosecha Textiles in Friday Harbor, WA.

    Imagining a future beyond the weight and worry imposed by the global pandemic resonated deeply. In response to a question about the difficulty of finding sustainable materials, asked by Wright, as she contemplates shifting her business to focus more on sustainable materials, Carla Pyle, a Founding Member of the NUA, and owner of Natural Upholstery in Livingston, MT, unleashed group-wide optimism with her resources, commitment to exploring emerging materials (like mycelium), and her excitement for the circular economy.

    Attendees came looking for support as well as tactics to help them navigate this time of uncertainty. “We’re here for the mental health,” moderator Audrey Lonsway, Vice President of the NUA, said only half-jokingly. According to the NUA’s Instagram post, Upholstery Community Meetings will be held for as long as they are needed.

    “I think in general right now, looking after the health of your relationships (clients, vendors, students, strategic partners),” Bleskachek wrote in the Zoom chat box, “is incredibly important <3.” A sentiment that was echoed by many.

    Upholstery Community Meetings are scheduled for Wednesdays at 1pm EST.  To register visit the our COVID-19 page here.

     


  • March 25, 2020 12:46 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    written by Cynthia Bleskachek, NUA board member at large and owner of The Funky Little Chair

    _________________________________________________________

    In addition to current health concerns, as small businesses and solopreneurs most upholsterers are also feeling the stress of immediate job disruption and probable recession.

    To help you navigate that aspect of Covid-19, we’ve assembled some recommendations and resources:

     

    1. Take a beat. Before any action, take a deep breath. Have you navigated a financial setback before?  Can you have faith in your ability to do so again? Get in a good space and calm any racing thoughts before continuing.
    2. Assess the situation. Okay. NOW take stock of your finances. What are your fixed expenses? What can you reduce or delay? What revenue do you have in the pipeline? What’s your emergency cushion?  This is just an inventory - the most important thing right now is to make informed decisions, and to do that you need to be INFORMED. If you work with a financial advisor, connect with them to get their knowledgeable, objective perspective. 
    3. Review offers from the government that may  allow you to continue working. For example, the federal government and many states have extended the 2019 tax deadline

    Federal:

    https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/payment-deadline-extended-to-july-15-2020

    State:

    https://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies

    1. Explore and test your capital access. IF you should need an infusion of cash, what are your options? The best time to think about this information is before you need it. Thoughtful consideration should be given to what you can do without borrowing, and how borrowing would later affect your business. But you’ll likely feel much better knowing where your safety nets are - and research is free. The U.S. Small Business Administration is always a good resource for discovering what’s out there, and at present they have information dedicated specifically to Covid-19. Another excellent resource is SCORE (this link takes you to the national page where you can find your closest chapter)
    2. Contact the people you regularly work with and rely on, such as your vendors and contractors. The goal is to be as flexible as you can - relationships are part of the long game. Ask for deferrals if needed. It can never hurt to ask what new options and terms might now be available. It’s in everyone’s interest right now to work together towards a positive outcome.
    3. Communicate with your customers - But don’t just send another email like all the ones you are getting. See what your clients might need and how you can fill that need if possible. Maintain the relationships you’ve worked so hard to build - continue to serve them and be part of their trusted team.
    4. Make a plan with your staff. Your employees need to know you’re monitoring the situation, so don’t disappear from their line of sight. Your plan should have an A, B and C. Making tough decisions may be necessary, so plan and share what you can in advance to keep everyone informed.
    5. Connect with your community online. In a time of social distancing we want to be careful not to fully isolate. This is not healthy for any of us. We need connections and since we are all in this together, we will recover and come out of this together. Find online gatherings that are supportive in your local and regional areas as well as across the country/world. Offer support as you can. Work diligently to not incite or increase fear and hysteria. This causes us to shut down and not be creative or to think in a way that will help recovery efforts later. 
    6. Think past the situation we are currently in. Start to create a Restart/Reboot plan. This is a plan that says how you will focus and what you will do when we are able to “turn our business back on.” What might this look like for your company? What changes do you need to make now to prepare for that?
    7. Prioritize self care in all areas. Physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Give yourself the space you need and try to maintain healthy rhythms and habits.

     

    We hope this helps you to focus some of your energy during this uncertain time. Remember, as experienced problem solvers, upholsterers are well qualified to navigate the unexpected, even if we occasionally need a little help to do it! If there are ways we can assist, please reach out by emailing info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org - and remember that these general recommendations are not meant to replace qualified guidance for your specific business.

     

    Thanks to Michele Williams of Scarlet Thread Consulting for assisting us in this action plan. Michele is an educator member of the NUA specializing in Profit First and business coaching for interior designers and workrooms. Watch for Michele on our 2020 webinar schedule and follow her on Facebook and Instagram

     

     

    The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice. The Blog/Website, and resources given, should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state.

     

                 Additional  links that may be of assistance:

     https://www.benefits.gov/help/faq/Coronavirus-resources

    https://www.dol.gov/general/location

    https://www.jfla.org/coronavirus-loans


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