Book Report! Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design

Hello, friends! I hope that you’re all well! In the past I’ve mentioned that I’m now doing upholstery for a furniture designer in Brooklyn, and it seems like many of you makers have an interest in upholstery. So, I’ve decided to share more about that here on the blog, beginning with a review of a book I’ve recommended to everyone who’s told me they want to learn about upholstery!

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When I first started at the workshop, I felt like I was really in over my head. The techniques were all so new to me, and my boss was away quite a bit and often had me work independently. I took tons and tons of notes every time she demonstrated a technique, but I still felt a little panicked when I needed to work through a project on my own. So I looked around online and ordered Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design (Amazon affiliate link or Indiebound) after seeing it positively reviewed. Long story short, I love this book!

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The book is written by Amanda Brown, who runs Spruce Upholstery in Austin, TX (their Instagram account is a fun one: @spruceathome). Her style is so fresh and fun, and it makes the book really inspiring.

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I appreciate that she spends time talking about how she designs a space, starting with an empty room and adding furniture to it. We’re in the process of redoing and replacing some old hand-me-down furniture, so it’s helpful to get a professional’s opinion on how to balance statement pieces with quieter ones (this is a struggle for me!).

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The book walks you through five projects: a Louis chair, a slipper chair, a wingback chair, a three-seater sofa, and a cocktail ottoman. There are tons and tons and TONS of photos, so you can comfortably follow every step yourself. Plus, Amanda shares lots of inspiration images for each style to help get you thinking outside the box with your fabric choices… I loved these images!

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Another clever feature is the color-coded chart pictured below. This shows you where in the book to find instructions for different upholstery features, so you can mix and match them to suit your own needs. Super helpful! Before I had this book I frequently tried to google information when I was stuck, but I didn’t have the proper terminology to find what I needed to know and even when I did, the info didn’t seem to exist online. So this solved that problem most of the time.

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The book is really thorough– it covers everything from calculating how much fabric you’ll need to sewing matching throw pillows. Webbing, foam, tufting, welting… you name it, it’s in there! Many of these techniques I’ve never learned at the shop (since we specialize in midcentury modern furniture, there are some techniques that we just don’t use), so I was excited to see them demonstrated in the book.

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Personally, I think that upholstery is a craft that’s helpful to learn in person, but if you can’t take a class, this book is a great resource for you. It’s also just a nice book to help you think about your furniture in new ways. January always gives me a big ol’ dose of cabin fever, so every year around this time I start looking for ways to jazz up my apartment. If you have to be stuck inside, your home should be as, well, homey as possible!

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If you’re interested in more upholstery-related posts, then I have good news! I picked up a chair on Craigslist last week, and I’ll be documenting my makeover on the blog. If you aren’t interested in upholstery, I’m really sorry, and I may actually have some sewing content soon! I’ve felt so scattered lately that it’s been hard to focus on sewing, but just yesterday I started cutting out a coat, so maybe I’ll have a garment to show you someday soon! πŸ™‚

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40 responses

  1. I want to buy the book, but the Amazon affiliate link does not work. I tried it twice. I’ll wait until you fix it to buy the book. Great, inspiring post. Thank you.

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    • Oh, how fun! Upholstered headboards really add a lot to a bedroom. I love how they look and wish I had room for a headboard (my bed sits between two windows and I can’t fit a headboard between them).

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  2. Thanks so much for the book reco! I need to get this. I did my first upholstery project last year with my husband. He did the engineering and I did the sewing. Honestly, we couldn’t have done it one without the other! It isn’t perfect, we wish we’d picked a different fabric, but we sure are proud of the accomplishment. And It gave me a great excuse to buy a walking foot! Unlike garment sewing this really is one area where I think it’s always cheaper to DIY it. Can’t wait to see what you do and hear your tips and tricks!

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  3. I so empathize with you feeling scattered right now, I feel like I’m flailing around a bit too … but hopefully things will settle down soon!
    Even though I’m not planning to do any upholstery, you never know, and I think seeing the construction of pretty much anything is fascinating (especially if it involves sewing), so bring it on! Personally, I’m just a little jealous that you have a day job which involves making stuff, creative problem solving, and fabricβ€”reading a little more about it sounds way fun.

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    • The only downside of a more creative day job is that I don’t have any energy or drive to sew when I get home! I’ve used up all my problem-solving skills at work and there’s nothing left when I get home. But maybe as the job gets easier I’ll want more challenges in my hobbies. Right now it’s still tricky deciding what to do!

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  4. I’m very excited to see upholstery related content! This book is awesome and so helpful. I would like to report that everyone who works at Spruce is as lovely as you’d hope. I took a two day class there once and enjoyed myself so much, all while learning more than I’d even hoped! Super excited to see what you work on. Thanks in advance for sharing!

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  5. Great review! I have been dying to recover a pair of wingbacks my mom and dad gave me when they downsized, but I haven’t found the time. One day… Until then, I’ll have to look into this book!

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  6. I want a spring loaded tufting needle! I didn’t know it had a name! It was just the gadget I was not allowed to borrow.
    This is going to be great fun. I have so many upholstery fabric links on my ‘puter, it’s my dreamy late night web crawl. Bring it on!

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  7. Yes!! I love home decor stuff and reupholstery is something I have dabbled in. I did a sort of glider/rocker mid century chair but my little bedroom chair is in desperate need. It is more complicated and has kept me from diving in…maybe this will be my kick in the pants!

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  8. yes to upholstery! I have dabbled in it, and usually had some good success. like recovering dining room chairs or what is called a bedroom chair? do you get to learn all the names for the different types of furniture? (I think bedroom chair is regular upholstered chair, slightly lower – think ladies in 40’s movies elegantly putting on their slippers whilst wearing their gorgeous dressing gowns.) anyway I have a yearning to recover a chair in my family room – I need to get that book and give it a try. Chairs with arms seem more difficult somehow. Good luck and I look forward to the posts.

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    • I had to check out a library book called “Chairs” because my boss would say, “Can you work on the slipper chair?” and I would think, “…?” So I’m learning more about different types of chairs, although since we specialize in midcentury modern, I don’t know much about chairs from other eras. But now I’m thinking I need a glamorous bedroom chair, as well as a dressing gown and a pair of silk mules! πŸ˜€ I think you do, too! πŸ˜€

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  9. Curious? Yes!
    You underestimate your readers, basically if it involves sewing, we’re in.

    Funny story. My brother was out with friends, flying a RC airplane. He may or may not have hit the only thing he could hit…. the windsock! Hahaha. He was so embarrassed, asking me to stitch that back together.

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  10. About 15 years ago, I wanted to do something other than be a nurse. I love finding furniture by the side of the road and making it mine, so I took an upholstery class. I loved doing it, I think it made me a better sewer in some respects, redid all kinds of stuff, had a small business on the side (Aloha Upholstery) and then realized that it was hard on my physical body and people didn’t want to pay me what I thought I was worth. I still use some of those beautiful pieces I recovered. Nothing like a good piece of furniture with GOOD STRONG BONES! I love your review of the book, I think I’m gonna have to check it out. It is fun to create great furniture. Hey, do you live by Workroom Social? I’m coming to class there in March and I would love to take you for coffee or something. You have given me great inspiration, especially my Belladone Dress that I wore in Paris twice and left in Guetthary to make room for all the fabric I bought on a surf trip! Go figure πŸ™‚

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    • It really is tough physical work… I’m always sore when I head home! And you’re right- people don’t ever want to pay a fair wage for something like upholstery. There’s a weird tilted view of how much skilled labor is worth and it’s hard to overcome that.

      I don’t live very close to Workroom Social but I work near there (unfortunately my commute is 1.5 hours each way, yuck!). Keep me posted on your plans- would be so fun to meet you!

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  11. Cant wait to read about the chair makeover. I’ve also dabbled in upholstery (covered an ottoman, some table chairs, headboard), but I really don’t know what I’m doing, so I can’t wait to see what you share. I’ve had chairs and couches that needed a makeover, but I always thought I’d be getting in way over my head. I’ll be following along and maybe I can rescue a chair one day too!

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  12. Hi Ginger,
    I have been almost desperately searching for instructional books on how to upholstery a wing back chair with not great results to the point where I was considering taking it to an upholsterer.
    Can’t wait to get my hands on this book and yes I will share a progress file with you as you have inspired me to ‘have a go’ as we say in Australia.
    Thank you,Alison

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  13. I very much admire your new career in upholstery! I am not sure if I could take on such intimidating work- thanks for the book recommendation. If I every decide to give furniture re-covering a whirl- I will make sure to get this book!

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  14. This is super interesting and I’m looking forward to the series on your reupholstery project. Kudos to you for the craigslist find and the new creative career path!

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  15. This post is so timely for me – I have a small sewing business where I teach and make decorative items, and then I was developing a new dressmaking business when out of the blue I’ve been offered a part time sewing job at an upholsterers – where they will also teach me upholstery skills. I’m tempted… but it’s thrown me…but is it too good an opportunity to turn away. Any words of wisdom??

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