Log in


The latest news and blog posts from the National Upholstery Association.  All members can read and comment on blog posts.

Industry Partners and Educator members are invited to guest blog for the NUA twice a year. Contact us if you're interested. 

  • April 07, 2020 5:16 AM | Michelle Minner

    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


         Public relations

         Event planning/fundraising

         Internet and social media

         Membership development


         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:

     The election will take place on September 1, 2020.

     Questions? Send them to

  • April 01, 2020 12:11 PM | Michelle Minner
       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


    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.



    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 11:20 AM | Michelle Minner

    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 4:46 AM | Michelle Minner

    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



    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 - 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:

  • March 06, 2020 6:29 AM | Anonymous

    Join us on March 10th at 1pm ET for this month’s Webinar

     Once Upon A Hide: Everything You Always Wanted to know about Leather but were afraid to ask

    presented by 

    Crest Leather usa

    Lucio esposito, carla bluitt & ashley blume

    written by Nancy Sargent owner of Cobani Bleu The Art of Sitting Soft

    By the way, do you have an idea for a Webinar? Is there something you’d really like to learn? Or maybe you have something to share?

    Email the NUA at


    Did you ever wish, once upon a time, to work with leather? I sure have! It’s a little intimidating though, having never worked with it before. Leather just seems different. It’s expensive. How do you calculate what you need?  The sewing, what thread and needles do I use. Staples, ah, what if I mess up! Are you feeling the same way? 

    Take a deep breath!  Our NUA Industry Partner, Crest Leather USA is here to assuage all our concerns. Lucio Esposito, Carla Bluitt and Ashley Blume will share with us all the distinct and pleasurable attributes of working with hides.

    A native of Argentina, Lucio Esposito, grew up in the family tannery. He has extensive knowledge of both raw materials and the tanning process. Working with the flagship tannery in Italy, he provides strategic direction and vision for the company. Lucio launched Crest Leather USA in 2014. 

    Carla Bluitt is the Business Development Manager for Crest Leather. With her wealth of marketing and business acumen, she works with furniture manufacturers, workrooms and upholstery shops to ensure they are all equipped for success. Carla loves networking and educating industry partners and upholstery professionals.

    Ashley Blume is an integral member of the Crest Leather team as their Inside Sales Manager. In seeking out new upholstery partners, she is the go-to person to get your account set up, send out your swatch library and ensure it is up to date. She loves to explore innovative ways to reach customers while promoting the Crest brand. 

    This passionate and enthusiastic team is here to teach us everything we always wanted to know about leather but were afraid to ask. For instance:

    • Do you know how to calculate how much leather you need for a project? 
    • What about natural defects?
    • Why do some hides stretch?
    • Is there such a thing as performance leather?
    • What do the terms aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented mean?
    • What’s the difference between Brazilian vs. European Raw Material?
    • What is bonded leather? 
    • What should you be asking your leather supplier?

    If this isn’t enough, rumor has it that Crest will be giving away a couple of hides to webinar attendees! I mean seriously, how amazing is that!

    Are you ready to begin your once upon a time leather project? Be sure to sign up for this webinar and get ready to create a beautiful project. Adding leather to your repertoire will take your business to a whole new dimension. As an NUA Industry Partner, Crest Leather is here to support all your leather aspirations.  

    The National Upholstery Association is so grateful for the support of our industry partners, such as Crest Leather. Our industry partners encourage and support us and truly make the upholstery profession a better place to be. 

    Members, to sign up for the webinar check your email dated February 25, 2020, for the link.

    *Webinars are only available to NUA members. Not a member yet? Sign up here.

    We look forward to seeing you at the webinar and don’t forget to bring all your leather questions!

  • February 24, 2020 4:11 PM | Michelle Minner

    A Bold Vision for the Future of Upholstery is Here 


    Ashburn, VA, February 24, 2020-The National Upholstery Association (NUA) will present its first strategic plan on March 12, 2020 at 1:00 pm EST in a webinar hosted by NUA President, Rachel Fletcher. Ready to grow the American upholstery labor market, the plan lays out a roadmap to rebuild a skills training infrastructure. The NUA looks to form strong partnerships and collaborations within and beyond the industry to realize this growth. Emboldening the trade as a positive force for people and the planet completes the plan’s vision. This event is free and open to all. A live Q&A session will be available to attendees. 

    “With the NUA as a platform and the strong support we’ve received from the industry, we are ready to rebuild all that has been lost,” Fletcher said. “It is going to take some time, but we see a very bright future ahead.”  

    The 2020-2023 NUA Strategic Plan provides a high-level snapshot of the NUA organization, as well as an in-depth look at the seven areas targeted for growth, which are the heart of the strategy. Topics range from building a resource of performance standards for the industry, to supporting national and regional networking events, to aligning with sustainability initiatives at scale. The plan will be of interest to upholstery professionals and students, educators, industry partners and champions, and other stakeholders who support growing a thriving domestic upholstery industry that supports artists, entrepreneurs, green jobs, material reuse, and small businesses. 

    Founded in mid-2019 to inspire a rebirth of the upholstery profession, the NUA is already over 180 members strong. The NUA’s mission is to work together with the greater upholstery community to support and advance the field of professional upholstery. Membership is open to all categories of the upholstery craft: professionals, students, educators, and suppliers.

    Contact: Michelle Minner, NUA Public Relations,

    Related links:

    Register for the Webinar Here

    2020-2023 NUA Strategic Plan

  • February 20, 2020 6:49 AM | Anonymous

    written by Nancy Sargent, NUA volunteer and owner of Cobani Bleu The Art of Sitting Soft


    This month we spotlight NUA members John and JoAnn Greco of J&J Custom Designs and their unique upholstery program for at-risk youth. 

    Designing An Upholstery Program For At-Risk Youth

    Three years ago, John and JoAnn Greco delivered a birthday cake to Safe Harbor Academy, on behalf of her women’s circle at church. They had no idea how this delivery would impact their lives, but the first clue was being met at the door by a golden doodle. Their love runs deep for their two golden retrievers, Bella and Zoe but not so much for the volume of shedding that comes with owning two goldens. They have often said, maybe the next dog will be a doodle. Now being greeted by a golden doodle seemed to be a sign for sure.

    The Grecos live a good life in Jacksonville, FL. Wanting a way to give back for their blessed life, they had been searching for just the right opportunity to help others. A must for this venture was something they could do together.

    In addition to meeting a golden doodle, John and JoAnn also met Robbie and Doug Smith, ordained pastors, who run Safe Harbor Academy. Thirty-six years ago, Robbie and Doug were also living a good life. In fact, Doug had just sold a successful business and he and Robbie were about to embark on a round the world voyage in their yacht. Before they could set sail, a friend who was a judge, stepped in and asked them to take a couple of boys for the weekend, so these boys wouldn’t have to go to a juvenile detention facility.

    This was this start of a new life for Robbie and Doug.  It was also the start of Safe Harbor Academy, a non-profit, maritime-based boarding school for at-risk boys aged 14-17. Utilizing maritime principles as well as a disciplined structure, the boys live on donated boats within the Safe Harbor marina. In addition to continuing their high school education, (the Academy is an accredited school), the boys are responsible for much of the maintenance of their own boat. They not only learn seamanship and maritime skills, but also welding, mechanics and wood working skills. They cook their own meals and are responsible for the upkeep of the marina property. The boats are all donated and can be in pretty rough shape. As they fix up the boat they live in, they learn many skills.

    Here is where John and JoAnn enter the story. Upon meeting Robbie and Doug, touring the facility and hearing the history of Safe Harbor, they knew they had found something special. A place they could make a difference. On the tour John and JoAnn were shown a dilapidated trailer that had once housed the marine upholstery shop. Their first task was to rehabilitate the trailer and get the upholstery program going again. As with most of the assets of Safe Harbor, all the equipment was donated and may not have been in the best shape. Having sat idle in the salty Florida air, the machines were rusty, crusty and old. John and JoAnn took a leap of faith and plunged into this project. They knew it is the right place to put their talent and efforts even though they had limited upholstery experience.

    JoAnn is an experienced and passionate sewer. Her accounting background lends itself well to details. John, with a career in the IT industry is more visionary. At one time John and JoAnn were certified foster parents. Although foster parenting never worked out for them, the intense training they went through for the certification has played very well with their current work at Safe Harbor. Together they make a great team. Upholstery was very much a skill and trade they wanted to undertake. JoAnn, with the help of a friend, had upholstered a chair and was bitten by the upholstery bug. When they walked into Safe Harbor that day 3 years ago, everything just fell into place.

    They found Kim’s Upholstery and began following her online classes. They supplemented online education with as many hands-on classes as possible including those from Kim and Cynthia Bleskachek of The Funky Little Chair. They network with both upholstery and marine industry partners. This past summer they built a workroom addition to their home and have invested in the right tools. As they grow the upholstery program at Safe Harbor, they are also building their own business, J&J Custom Designs specializing in both residential and marine upholstery.

    When JoAnn began to formulate a program, she knew to start at the most basic step. Every student starts with learning to thread a needle and sew a button. When boys come into the upholstery program, they are given the privilege of first working on projects for their own boat, projects in which they take immense pride. As is a common occurrence in upholstery, every project is different and nothing is more true than the upholstery program at Safe Harbor. Attendance in upholstery class fluctuates for many reasons, often without notice. John and JoAnn see this as an opportunity to work with the boys on a one-to-one basis, putting that foster parent training to good use. Knowing how to listen goes a long way in developing trust, something that these boys are not accustomed to. So much so that John and JoAnn are considered an integral part of the Safe Harbor staff.

    An early first need was to see if any of the sewing machines could be resuscitated. Through a fabric store in Fernandina Beach, JoAnn connected with a retired gentleman named Tony Baker. His wife, a quilter, loves Singer Featherweight sewing machines. So Tony mastered how to keep them running. With these skills he was able to get a few of the Safe Harbor machines working. Now mind you, some of these donated machines pre-dated World War I, verified by the fact that they had no reverse. This collection of machines includes several Singers and TacSews, one just for making sails, a Thompson mini walking foot. All have clutch motors and are noisy beasts. They have also pretty much lived beyond their life expectancy, maybe even several times over. Safe Harbor is very much in need of a new machine or maybe one that is not pushing the century mark. One plan for a new sewing machine is to auction off a pair of newly upholstered chairs done in the theme of the Jacksonville Jaguars Football team. It’s hopeful that money generated from the sale of these two chairs could get that new sewing machine.

    In addition to working on their own boats, the boys work on many other projects throughout Safe Harbor. One particular area of pride is the Grand Salon located in a donated 121’ power yacht. This yacht is often used for fundraising efforts and the boys’ work takes center stage offering the public a view to the boys’ skills and workmanship.  Another recent project was recovering all the seats in their classroom with marine vinyl donated by Fabric Supply Inc. in Minneapolis, MN, an NUA Industry Partner. (Thank you FSI for your generous donation!) The Greco’s industry connections and resourcefulness is key for meeting the needs of the program. In addition to Fabric Supply Inc., Stratta Glass and O’Sea have both donated glass, the plastic fabric that is used for windows in marine applications. The Grecos have also contributed hand tools for which there is a continual need, as the salty air corrodes the metal after just a few years. There is no budget for foam or Dacron or any supplies really. Cushion inserts are reused after cleaning and a good drying in the hot Florida sun. Besides a sewing machine, good lighting is a high priority. Having no budget for supplies forces the students to be resourceful with what they have, and in the end they are very proud of their work.

    Many of the boys in the Safe Harbor program are diagnosed with ADHD. They are not allowed any drugs for managing their condition. Instead the boys are kept busy with classwork, and learning how to live a marine based life. There is no screen time at Safe Harbor. For fun they race sailboats. They study hard and work hard. Life at Safe Harbor is strict and disciplined, but also full of fresh air, time at sea and a nurturing environment. The boys are encouraged to follow their passions. One young man wants to be a chef, so he was able to take on an apprenticeship at a local restaurant. For another young man, upon leaving Safe Harbor told Miss JoAnn, ‘When I get home, I’m going to get my grandma’s sewing machine out and keep doing this.‘ There is interest by several students to pursue upholstery as a career. Having the opportunity to positively impact the lives of these young men and maybe fostering the next generation of upholsterers is the reason why John and Joann are so passionate and dedicated to this program.

    What’s next for the program? John and JoAnn would love to work towards creating a certificate program possibly in conjunction with the Marine Fabricators Association. A program that could establish some standards, so that when the program is completed, a student has not only a certificate of his accomplishments but also a certification of his upholstery skills that may be useful in obtaining work or an apprenticeship upon leaving Safe Harbor.

    Safe Harbor has a 90% success rate, meaning that upon completing the program, a young man leaves with his high school diploma and a plan. A plan for the next phase of his life, which might include joining the military or getting a job. Graduation is a time to celebrate, and John and JoAnn celebrate every one of these young men, even those that don’t come into the upholstery program, because they are all family. You know the family that sometimes makes you want to ring their neck, but you probably just hug them instead.

    If you are interested in learning more about Safe Harbor, their website has a good history of the program. You could watch the Safe Harbor movie produced by Hallmark, released in 2009, starring Treat Williams and Nancy Travis, which tells the story of Safe Harbor’s early days. (It’s streaming on Amazon Prime.) Or contact John and JoAnn, they’d love to tell you all about their program.

  • February 07, 2020 6:24 AM | Anonymous

    Join us on February 11th at 1pm ET for this month’s Webinar

     Understanding Performance Fabrics

    Lindsey Josepayt, United Fabrics
    & Marcia Blake, Sunbrella

    written by Nancy Sargent owner of Cobani Bleu The Art of Sitting Soft

    By the way, do you have an idea for a Webinar? Is there something you’d really like to learn? Or maybe you have something to share?

    Email the NUA at


    It seems that every client I talk to these days wants an indestructible cleanable fabric! You know, a fabric that can withstand everyday life, whether that is life with a toddler or a Super Bowl party kind of life! I love nothing more than to provide my clients with real solutions to whatever kind of chaos hits their upholstery.

    That is why I’m so excited about this month’s webinar, Understanding Performance Fabrics, presented by United Fabrics who have partnered with Sunbrella to bring you this virtual tour of the performance fabric world. We’ll get all the deets about how this unparalleled fabric is manufactured. Why this fabric is ideal for both indoor and outdoor applications. Then for bonus points, the best maintenance practices. I love this last bit, because I always want to provide added benefit to my clients by helping them understand how to maintain their newly upholstered furniture.

    Leading us on this tour is Lindsey Josepayt, Director of Design and Marketing at United Fabrics and Marcia Blake, Merchandising Manager at Sunbrella.

    Lindsey has been with United Fabrics for over ten years. Prior to joining United Fabrics, she worked with Sunbury Textile Mills and Waverly. She earned a BFA in Textiles from Southeast Missouri State University and a Master of Science in Textile Design from Philadelphia University.

    Marcia is an ASID member and has served on the board of directors for the ColorMarketing Group and the International Casual Furniture Association. She has three accredited ASID CEU presentations on sustainable performance fabrics in the luxury and lifestyle design, mindfulness and design using color theory to create healthful lifestyle settings.

    You know that Sunbrella has been a leading innovator in performance fabrics for over 60 years. Although Sunbrella is perfect for any outdoor setting, its not just an outdoor fabric. There are so many gorgeous textiles, it’s hard to believe they are also water, stain, weather, mold & mildew resistant, easy to clean and abrasion resistant! Whew! That’s a lot, but that’s not all… they are also soft and comfortable! Perfect for any home inside or out, but also used in marine, hospitality, healthcare and commercial applications.

    What’s not to love about these gorgeous AND hardworking textiles. How about this?

    United Fabrics is providing a coupon code.

    Who doesn’t love a good discount? Be sure to tune into the webinar for the coupon code and details.

    The National Upholstery Association is so appreciative of the support United Fabrics provides to the upholstery community. Thanks United Fabrics!

    Members, to sign up for the webinar check your email dated January 28, 2020, for the link.

    *Webinars are only available to NUA members. Not a member yet? Sign up here.

    We look forward to seeing you at the webinar and don’t forget to bring all your performance fabrics questions!

  • January 29, 2020 11:12 AM | Michelle Minner

    It's very common as an upholsterer to hear from our clients that there is something very strange going on inside their furniture.   Even upholsterers that have been working in the field for years stumble onto something they haven't seen before.  To help with that question we thought we'd put a reference list together to serve as a resource and help you identify just what's inside your furniture. 

    for a downloadable version click the link below.

    traditional materials reference guide.pdf

    A special thank you to Kim Buckminster of  Buckminster Upholstery for providing the photographs.

    Photographs are the property of Buckminster Upholstery.


    For another article on the topic of Traditional Upholstery Materials click here.

  • January 21, 2020 5:00 AM | Michelle Minner

    Written by Leslie Howard

    How often do you show a customer a traditionally upholstered antique chair as you tear it down and discover dried seaweed, moss, coir, or horsehair and get this reaction — “Eeeeeewwwww”? I get that from time to time because I specialize in antiques and vintage chairs. I don’t know exactly what they are expecting inside an heirloom antique chair, but not this!

    However, there’s no real ick factor here. These are natural, durable materials that have stood the test of time for generations! They don’t decompose; they don’t crumble and harden like foam does. They can frequently be conserved and reused! 

    These photos are from an old petite French chair; you can see that the stitched burlap, horsehair, and cotton fillings, which have been cut away from the coiled springs, have aged but are not even dirty! Someone took wonderful care of this chair while it was in use.

    I like to explain to clients about these fillings, and that I’d even like to put coir and horsehair back into their pieces When they hear about the benefits, they tend to agree. Not all upholsterers are trained in traditional methods like I have been, and many customers are satisfied with substituting pre-fabricated edge roll and a slab of foam for their formerly coir-stuffed, linen twine-stitched burlap foundation topped with muslin and curled, sanitized horsehair. Foam is cheaper, quicker, and great for many pieces, particularly mid-century and contemporary furniture. For antiques, however, traditional upholstery methods tend to be more appropriate, both for looks and how they feel.

    I find that clients are interested in these time-tested, museum approved, natural stuffings, and almost always opt for this more artisanal approach to building up their furniture, especially for a treasured family heirloom that they intend to keep and use for a long time. Even if they can’t see the result of artisanal methods underneath their fabrics, they know their piece has been lovingly restored on the inside to serve them for a few more generations!

    Photo credit: Leslie Howard

    Leslie Howard owns City Girl Arts Fine Upholstery & Vintage Furniture in
    St. Petersburg, Florida. She is a boutique upholsterer who loves to marry vintage seating pieces and bold, modern fabrics. Check out her work at

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software