Picture framing, gilding, decorative finishes and upholstery

Traditional upholstery for beginners with Richard Ricardo

Ref: SLW09656


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About this course

Upholster your own chair with a drop-in seat. Learn how to fix webbing, make the seat stuffing, cover it in calico and add fabric covering.

Course Description

This course covers the basic methods of traditional upholstery, working on small chairs or stools with a drop-in seat, or pin-stuffed seat and without springs. The tutor will demonstrate all processes and give invaluable insights into the trade.

The tutor's demonstration on the first morning will show how to tackle upholstering the drop in seat of a stool. He will then offer guidance with each step of the process while working on your own chair. This includes:

Webbing: How to measure, stretch and fix webbing using the web stretcher, tacks and hammer.

Stuffing: Types of Hessian used; the amount of stuffing materials needed and the use of twine; attention to fullness and shape before final tacking down with the calico cover.

Your seat will be covered with calico and finished with fabric. If time allows, you may be able to begin a second seat. At the end of the day, the tutor will discuss the different types of fabric and needlework suitable for loose seats.

If you are considering attending the tutor's five-day 'further techniques' course in the future, you could bring your intended project (either a stuff-over chair or stool are appropriate) to discuss any necessary pre-course preparation, but on the beginners' course it is only possible to work on small drop-in or pin stuffed seats.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Please bring one or two items to work on: a chair/stool with loose drop-in or pin-stuffed seat, one large or two small; or a corner chair or small stool, provided there are no springs. It is essential to bring the whole chair. You should make sure that the frame of the piece you wish to upholster is not broken, as only minor repairs can be undertaken during the course such as re-gluing joints. Please note that chairs with upholstery over the edges of the seat cannot be attempted on this course – but are suitable for the five-day course.
  • A dust sheet
  • An apron
  • A large pair of sharp scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Top cover upholstery material (the tutor will also have a selection for purchase)
  • An old leather glove to protect your hand when stitching
  • Tools if possessed (magnetic or pin hammer, pincers, pliers, tack lifter, ripping chisel – all clearly marked with your name). Upholstery tools are also provided by the College for students' use.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Bare wood foot-stool frames (approximately 12" x 15" x 10") can be purchased from the College Shop (approximate cost £20) if you have nothing suitable on which to work. If you require one, please email bookingsoffice@westdean.org.uk at least four weeks before the course.
  • Many materials (other than top cover upholstery fabric) can be purchased from the tutor and the College Shop.


Richard Ricardo

Richard Ricardo has an international reputation for fine art antique upholstery. His passion for furniture was born during childhood visits to aristocratic relatives in the stately homes of Yorkshire. After an eight-year apprenticeship in fine art upholstery with a prestigious London firm, he set up his own business, Richard Ricardo Upholstery, in 1985.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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