Natural Upholstery Resources for Upholstery Professionals
Are you an upholstery professional looking to specify natural latex foam & wool batting in place of ’standard’ urethane foam & polyester batting in a client’s project? This page is written specifically for you.
As professionals, we’re hearing from an increasing demographic of clients looking for the peace of mind that comes with using healthy, non-toxic materials that are free of harmful chemicals and that leave a lighter footprint on the environment.
More and more upholstery professionals are finding natural materials “surprisingly easy to work with”. Once your workroom becomes familiar with some basic differences from conventional materials, you’ll find that no special expertise is necessary to work with them.
Making the Conversion from Conventional to Natural:
Since natural upholstery materials are not yet readily available through conventional upholstery supply houses, I am all-too-familiar with the fact that it is a time-consuming task for professionals and workrooms to determine what materials to look for, size specifications for each, and how much to buy for your client’s project.
‘Conventional’ to ‘Natural’ is not a straight conversion in terms of dimensions of available materials. For instance, natural latex foam and wool batting are manufactured for the bedding industry, so converting and mapping out those calculations can be complicated. I understand why this is one of the biggest barriers to the willingness of many workrooms to accommodate client requests for these materials. I hope the resources below will be helpful to workrooms purchasing materials for the client.
Natural Upholstery Videos & Guides
You can watch videos on the Natural Upholstery YouTube channel to help you get familiar with the materials and how they are used. Some of the videos include links to free downloadable worksheets & guides for calculating how much to purchase for your project.
How much does it cost?
The cost of natural, non-toxic materials is higher than conventional materials, so it’s important to be sure the project will fit your client’s budget before you get too far into the specifics. See this post to see examples of four natural upholstery projects, detailing the cost of materials and (optional) consulting for each.
Natural Upholstery Materials List
Here are the Natural Upholstery foundation materials you may work with (see details of each below this list). For the most positive impact on human health and the environment, I recommend GOLS or GOTS certified Organic:
- 100% Natural Latex Foam (choose custom cut or buy in mattress size and cut yourself)
- Premium Wool Batting (84-88″ wide by the yard, or quilt batt size)
- Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric (54″ wide and up)
- Organic Cotton Batting (27-88″ wide)
- See note on upholstery fabrics at bottom of page
Where to buy Natural Upholstery Materials
Since 2019, I have turned my focus to upholstery education, and am no longer selling the materials. Check out this page for recommended vendors of natural upholstery materials.
List of equivalent ‘conventional’ materials:
- Natural latex foam – replaces urethane foam
- Wool batting – replaces polyester batting
- Organic cotton ticking fabric – replaces conventional (non-organic) cotton ticking fabric
- Organic cotton batting – replaces conventional (non-organic) cotton upholstery batting
Working with natural upholstery materials – a brief synopsis:
100% Natural Dunlop Latex Foam – replaces urethane foam
- Made from the sap of the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis.
- Available in certified Oeko-Tex or GOLS Organic (request current certificates from your chosen supplier).
- Available in several firmnesses: Learn about Latex Firmness & Density.
- The same standard upholstery foam dimensions apply for latex foam as for urethane foam. As a professional, you’ll no-doubt have your own method of measuring, but if you need a reference, see ‘How to Measure your Cushion for Latex Foam’, and download the worksheet to help with your calculations.
- Latex foam is heavier than urethane foam. See the video Natural Latex Foam – How Much does it Weigh?
- If you’re looking to invest in a non-toxic water-based upholstery glue system, I have had good luck with Simalfa (#309 is the non-flame-retardant product I use in my shop). The smallest amount they sell is 5 gallons, and the recommended stainless steel spray gun is a hefty investment, but well worth the investment if you’re in the market for a long-term solution for a health-friendly glue). YouTube Simalfa demo video
- Find vendors of Natural Latex Foam here.
Premium Wool Batting – replaces polyester batting
- Optional, but recommended as a replacement anywhere polyester batting is used in upholstery.
- See the video How to cut & book wrap a latex foam cushion with wool batting to learn an economical method of cutting & wrapping an 84-inch wide wool batting.
- See the video How to measure your natural latex cushion for wool batting and download the worksheet if you need a reference for making yardage calculations.
- If you purchase the 84″ wide wool batting with the thin spun backing, you can secure the batting with hand-stitching or staples. If you use a wool without backing, you may find that using a lightweight fabric wrap such as cotton gauze or cheese cloth will ease handling.
- See the post About wool batting for natural upholstery.
- Find vendors of Wool Batting here.
Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric – replaces ‘conventional’ cotton ticking fabric
- Similar in function to down-proof ticking in conventional upholstery.
- Ticking is required to prevent the ‘barbed’ wool fibers from migrating through a woven upholstery cover fabric (it’s not necessary with leather, non-wovens or fabrics with a coating on the back).
- Use only where wool batting comes in contact with cover fabric. See ‘What is ticking fabric and why do I need it?‘
- There are two application options for cushions: (1) sew as separate cushion cover or (2) cut as a second layer along with cover fabric and treat both layers as one during construction. If you are constructing a separate cushion cover, it is recommended that the cover be slightly larger (about 1/2″ in each dimension) than the outer cushion cover, to allow the inner cushion to fill out the cushion and into the corners.
- In general, the recommendation is to purchase the same amount of ticking fabric as upholstery cover fabric for your project. This assumes you are using wool batting in place of polyester batting over the entire upholstered piece, and that your ticking fabric & cover fabric are the same width (usually 54″).
- Find vendors of Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric here.
Organic Cotton Batting – replaces ‘conventional’ cotton upholstery batting
- Recommended as a replacement anywhere non-organic cotton batting is used in upholstery.
- Used mainly as an upholstery foundation layer in tight upholstery.
- A note about cotton upholstery batting (though it’s assumed that as a professional you are familiar with standard upholstery practices) – be sure you don’t confuse the lightweight (wool or polyester) batting with this heavier cotton batting. In most cases you won’t be using this batting for cushions (except in some antique applications). It is most often used in the base layers to create a dense padding, and to shape seats or backs around coil springs.
- Find vendors of Organic Cotton Batting here.
Note on Upholstery Fabrics
- High performance upholstery fabrics available wholesale to workrooms and design centers are almost universally treated with chemicals to make them stain and UV resistant.
- There are an increasing number of fabric vendors who sell certified fabrics that ensure they are not toxic to your clients.
- Find vendors of natural & certified upholstery fabrics here. Note: I am adding to this list as I find more fabric vendors, so if you know of any that you don’t see on the list, I would be grateful if you let me know – Thank you!