Basic Upholstery Sewing

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Sewing a zippered pillow

Measure existing pillow with a tape measure, between the welts. The first measurement is up and down. Second is side to side. We'll be using 1/2" seams on most articles in our series, so, add 1" to your measurements to get the cut size. Figure the length of the welt cord. It can be 1 1/2-2" wide, it doesn't have to be exact. Cut the welt material on the bias, that is, diagonally. This will prevent "snaking" or twisting by making the welt fabric more flexible.

Notice the fabric we're using is railroaded, that is, the pattern is run up the roll. It doesn't matter much for a pillow or even a chair but if we were covering a sofa, this fabric could run the entire length of the inside back (IB), outside back (OB), or seat without having to be pieced.

Things you will need...... Click an image below:

Cotton welt-cord straight edge ruler Jumbo piping Tailor's chalk
Measuring pillows.

Evaluating the cut of fabric properly with correct tools.

Most upholstery weight fabrics are about 54" wide. We have a 60" wide table by 7' and use a 60" rule. Most fabrics seem to come cut crooked, so use a framer's square to even out the beginning of the material. Mark with chalk and cut out the 2 fabric squares (plates). Put a"T" on the top so you won't get confused when you get to the sewing machine. Mark everything that you cut, (or you'll be sorry) even the backside of the welt.
Cut a bow into fabric.

Line up the corners and add a bow as a marker.

Make sure both plates are the same size by laying them face to face and trim where necessary. Due to the warp and woof properties of fabric they will often pull to one direction or the other even though you may have cut them exactly the same measurements. The plates have to be the same or the corners won't line up. (Do this for all two sided upholstery sewing.)
Add a bow to the fabric (as in above photo). Start with about an 1/2" and taper off to nothing in about 4" or 5". See the scrap above the sissors. The bow makes up for the dip (like rabbit ears) that you would see in the filled pillow if cut straight across . Shape all four corners this way on a pillow that you're going to close by hand but not on the bottom of one that gets a zipper.
Consew industrial sewing machine.

Prepping your sewing machine with the correct threads.

We use an industrial upholstery sewing machine which features a walking foot and reverse. We sell the model Consew 206rb pictured. Just click the picture to see more details. It takes a large prewound bobbins which saves a lot of time. Our upholstery thread. is equivalent to tex 70 nylon or 69 nylon thread and d92 polyester thread. Three basic colors are helpful: black, white, and beaver (a neutral beige). It's good to have a spool of clear thread on hand, especially for top stitching when you don't have the right color. But you don't have to have a matching color most of the time if the job is sewn right.

Walking foot

Adjusting your machine accordingly at home or at work.

Here's picture of a walking foot. This is a zipper foot which I use for most sewing jobs. I've ground the left side of it down a little so I get really close to the welt. (A few seconds on a grinder will do it.) For a HOME MACHINE: use heavier thread than sewing clothes, adjust your machine's tension if necessary and use a long stitch. Use a zipper foot if you are installing welt.

stitching cording.

Assess your welt material and fix inaccuracies before completion.

If your welt material is in more than one piece, join them now with a 1/2" seam and back stitch or sew twice if necessary. We mostly use 5/32" welt cord for most upholstery jobs (Available in cotton, jute, plastic and tissue welt). We stock large jumbo welt 1/2" to 1 1/2" diameter also. Fold the welt fabric around the cord and begin sewing either on the side or bottom of one plate. Never start, end or piece the welt fabric on the top of a pillow or front of a cushion. Use 1/2" seams. The seam (1/2") is the distance from where the needle enters the plate to the ouside of the plate. Get close to the welt, learn to feel for the cord inside with your finger tips. But be carefull, of course, of your fingers when sewing.
making pillows

Isolate the needle and release remaining welt fabric.

Two or three inches before the corners, stop, leaving the needle in the fabric to secure it, and make 3 cuts to help release the welt fabric to easily make the turn. Make one cut directly across from the plate corner and one before that point and one after. Again, stop sewing when your needle has come to the spot directly across from the plate corner, leave the needle in and lift the foot. Slightly crimp the welt as you turn the plate for the next side. (You can make cuts for all upholstery corners or curves)
Butt welt cord.

Finishing the welt: Butting the cord ends and lapping

Finish off sewing the welt by butting the cord ends together and lapping the welt material at least 1/2" to 3/4". We leave no raw edges on any job with the sometimes exception of when we're using vinyl.

Things you will need...... Click an image below:

Kretzer shears thread and bobbins Nylon zipper and slides
sew near welt. Be careful to keep the seam even and close to the welt cord. If you'd like to have a zipper in your project then go now to " How To Install A Zipper In A Pillow"
Layering fabric.

Completing with proper hand sewing and filling your pillows.

How to hand sew your project: place the plate with the welt already sewn, on top of the second plate and line up the corners. Leave just enough space at the bottom to insert the filling. If you installed a zipper start at the corner and back stitch a few stitches. Sew on top of or just to the left of the the previous line of thread. Try sewing a pillow with contrasting thread to test yourself. The thread shouldn't show when you turn the pillow right side out (even with the black thread we used here).

You can fill the pillow with a pre-made form of down, feathers, dacron or kapok or make your own. We make a cover of quilted polyester by stapling the sides and fill with leftover loose polyester from wrapping cushions.
Pillows are a good add-on when your selling an upholstery job if you're in business. See "How To Hand Sew With A Curved Needle" to finish off your pillow. Also See How To Sew Boxed and Welted Cushions. Did we mention we have DVDs that make learning all this much easier?

Consew industrial sewing machine

Toledo Industrial Sewing Machines is a Consew dealer. We sell and service new and used industrial brands of walking foot (including portables), zig-zag and straight stitch machines, including: Adler, Chandler, Consew, Cowboy, Juki and Pfaff. Long arm and double needle models in stock.

Call us toll free, at: 866-362-7397

We stock and sell replacement parts, accessories and attachments for all industrial sewing machines, including needles, bobbins, winders, nylon thread, oil, thread lube, belts, motors, speed reducers, edge binders and folders, edge guides, presser feet, thread snips and commercial scissors.

Our website:


Consew 206RB5 upholstery machine.

Servo motor

Servo motor with wired switch $115

American sewing machine

Parts and Needles. New and Used Industrial Sewing Machines-Best Prices
866-473-9626 * Online Catalog

Juki sewing machine

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Rex sewing machine

REX-607 Portable Walking Foot Industrial Sewing Machine with Reverse $289