Posted by David Ira Youngdahl, Master Upholsterer on March 24, 2015
You are permitted to use chart, but not to re-post online ©2015 David Youngdahl
Retrieve and print an 8.5"x11" paper copy, via link at the end of paragraph 2
This chart is a distillation of what I had learned after two decades as an upholsterer. I have used it for a third decade and it has helped.
Typically, when a Designer is involved, the fabric is expensive. It's not unusual for an upholsterer to walk around the cutting table for an hour before they make their first cut when the fabric costs one or two hundred dollars a yard. Under their breath, they're cussing the Designer for, "poor taste" and/or "ignorance regarding the upholstery trade". This chart demystifies the process of measuring and cutting an upholstery project efficiently and lessens the likelihood of violating Ephesians 4:29
You can get your copy of the chart in PDF format here: FREE PDF
First let's define the fields. Most of this will be obvious. "Vert. Repeat" is for the Vertical Repeat of the fabric. Likewise Hor. Repeat is where you write the Horizontal repeat. This presupposes that you have decided which way you want to run the fabric and so our NEXT POST will be about the decision to run the fabric "up the roll" or to "railroad" it. Essentially, this is a question of what looks better, what will last longer or what has been specified by the Designer / Client. When using this chart, I always decide whether the fabric will be up & down or side to side first; then the Vert. Repeat will be what is vertical ON THE FINISHED PIECE. (ergo: not necessarily on the roll)
The column labeled "#" shows the total number of that piece you need to cut. (in hoc casu:1 back but 2 arms). The "part" column specifies which part of the chart we are measuring...
ST= Seat (if there is a cushion, this is the small piece under the front of the cushion. Some upholsterers call it the lip. If there is no cushion, this piece is larger and covers the whole seat)
FB= Front Band (This is a decorative or simple band that holds the seat against the frame at the top of the frame (the bottom front of the seat). Modern upholstered furniture often dispenses with this part but there are advantages to having a front band if the design requirements allow for one. More on that another time.)
IA= Inside Arm
AP= Arm Panel (the panel is often made of heavy chipboard, upholstered off of the piece and applied with finish nails, through the fabric, to cover the rest of the work on the arm. That will be a lesson or two on it's own)
IW= Inside Wing (if there is no wing, I usually strike this field out with a slash / through the IW)
IB= Inside Back
OW= Outside Wing
OA= Outside Arm (sometimes the Outside wing and outside arm are cut as one L )
OB= Outside Back
ZP= Zipper (so I don't forget to include it in the estimate and the layout. I usually do not match this, however)
BX= Cushion Boxing (if there is no cushion there is no boxing)
SC= Seat Cushion
BC= Back Cushion
SK/ = Skirt in the "/space" provided, I write the anticipated finished length of the skirt. around the line in the space to the right of SK/, I enter the width of the finished skirt pieces, 24 at the front, 20 on each side (at each end of the dash) and 21 at the back)
AC= Arm Covers (I no longer just give these away!)
TP= Matching Throw Pillow ( charge for these also, please)
We will come back to the bottom part of the chart later. For the time being we will skip the three lines below the heavier black line. They are used to determine the amount you should allow for layout and cutting and how much you should allow for bias welt. If the Designer / Client does not care to pay for bias welt then they need to find another uphosterer. Bias welt makes a difference. It copes better with subtle curves.
BACK IN THE TOP ROW: W x H mean Width and Height for the rough cut you will need to have when you upholster. This is what you need to lay out on the chart; the rough-cut sizes. I generally allow 1½" on each side. 2" feels like too much to me. Your hands will dictate how much overhang you want to have to grip when you are working. Make a decision and stick to it. THEN when you measure, do not start at "0". Start instead at 3" (for me personally) so if the seat finishes at 24" I start at 3" and find that the rough cut must be at least 27". Capish?
The blank column can be used various ways and is not important at this time. Sometimes I use it to tally how many parts I have cut. The "vmp" column is what this post is all about. VMP stands for "Vertical Match Point". It can be ANY "easy to find" spot on the fabric; usually it is the pinpoint center of the pattern that you want to locate on the center of the inside back of the chair. (same for a sofa, but for the rest of this series, I am using a wingchair)
At the top right I put the client's name and the piece I am diagramming. "Smith/Wing" is adequate. The graph paper below represents 9" squares.
I have chosen 9" squares because 27", 36" and 54" are all divisible by 9". In this example, the fabric is effectively 59" wide... so half a width is 29½" and the repeat happens to be 14¾" THEREFORE... 59 ÷ 6 squares means that each square represents a a little over 9¾".
That's close enough for what we are doing. USUALLY the layout will be a bit "loose" with a little more between each piece than the minimum that I need. I get more exact with chalk on the fabric before I actually cut. Schoolhouse chalk breaks easily but it can be blown out with a air nozzle. I have tried them all and school chalk is best. You can sharpen it with your scissors.
Upholstery fabric on this side of the Atlantic generally has 54 usable inches across the roll. Half of that is 27". This is an important number and when parts (like inside arms) are rough cut at 27" then the two arms usually line up side by side. This will be the case in our example and in our example, we will NOT be railroading the fabric. There is a short video explaining why we did not railroad in a future post. Railroading does not always save fabric, by the way. It is primarily helpful if a sofa has a long low back. It does not usually help if the rough cut of the inside back and outside back together measure more that 54".
You should have listened in Trigonometry!
NOW for the bottom left of the page.
The last two lines are for calculating how much is needed for bias welt. Upholstery Suppliers sell rulers that are 72" long. This is because it is two yards and because the diagonal cut across a 54" wide fabric is about 72". They tried to tell you this in Trigonometry! As in "a 2 + b2 = c2". This image would be better if the red part was a right Isosceles, where A and B were both 54" and C was at a 45° angle.
54x54= 2916. 2916+2916=5832 √5832 = 76.3675 You don't really need to know this to be an upholsterer. As an upholsterer, it is good enough if you have a 72" ruler on your table. (Is my ADD showing?!)
OK... back to the matter at hand... Somewhere on the margin, usually to the left of the chart, I list all of the welt pieces needed for the job at hand. 88" around the bottom; 27" across the top of the FB; 48" for each OA (list 48 twice of list 96") 80" for the outside back (up across and down) and 12" for the seam between the IW and IA. Enter the total of 315" over the words "inches welt". I generally use 5/32" welt cord and cut my bias strips about 1¾” wide. That takes up a good 2" on the straight grain of the cut strip (the bias of the bias strip is a straight grain) SO this chair needs 315 ÷ 72 = 5 (rounded up from 4.375) 5x2= 10 + 54 = 64 ÷ 36 = about 1¾ yards allotted for bias welt.
The line I have skipped is the "# cuts" row. This is useful when you need to quickly give a Designer the extra yardage needed for a fabric according to the repeat of that fabric. For instance, the chair in our example has 3 main cuts all the way across the roll (you will see this once it is laid out in the next lesson) The total number of inches needed for the job = 29+5+14.75+33+31= 113" (about 3⅛ yds) in 3 cuts x (14.75x.75) = 33" (about 1 extra yard) AND I need 1¾ yd for the bias welt for a total of 5⅞ yards for this job. (you will see that I get out with a bit less... but you need to be sensible when you order fabric. Even at $100 a yard, your labor, sweating over how to get the job out of short yardage, is more valuable than the extra bit of fabric. "I am your Father, Luke! Use the Chart!"