Natural Upholstery Resources for Makers
Are you a maker looking for ways to incorporate healthy, non-toxic materials to use in your DIY upholstery project? This page is written just for you.
Upholstery Workshops & Events
As of September 1, 2023, we have retired from providing Upholstery Services and Classes. This website will remain active for as long as we can maintain it, and we hope it will continue to be helpful to those wishing to pursue healthy furniture. Check out Upholstery Education & Workshops for resources.
Natural Upholstery Videos & Guides
Watch videos and download free worksheets to help you calculate materials and learn how to use natural materials in your DIY upholstery project. Additional videos are available on the Natural Upholstery YouTube channel.
How to work with Natural Upholstery Materials
If you’re already familiar with upholstery, you’ll learn that using natural latex foam & wool batting in place of urethane foam & polyester batting is an easy transition to make once you’re familiar with the differences. No special expertise is necessary to work with them. More and more upholstery artisans and DIYers are finding them delightful to work with. I personally love ‘that healthy feeling’ of knowing I’m not touching or breathing in unwanted chemicals, not to mention the soft feel of natural wool’s lanolin that’s nice for your skin!
How much does it cost?
The cost of natural, non-toxic materials is higher than conventional materials, so it’s important to be sure your project will fit your budget before you get into the specifics. See this post to see examples of four natural upholstery projects, detailing the cost of materials for each.
Natural Upholstery Materials List
Here are the Natural Upholstery foundation materials you may work with (see details of each below). For the most positive impact on the health of both your family 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
- I recommend certified GOLS Organic.
- Available in several firmnesses: To decide which firmness is right for you, read the post Latex Firmness & Density.
- Standard upholstery specs for foam dimensions do not change when replacing urethane foam with latex foam. One rule to remember if you’re not familiar with making cushions: always cut your foam 1/2″ larger than your finished cushion in each dimension of width & length (not thickness, unless you are using a very soft foam) to assure a snug fit into the cushion cover.
- A note about the weight of latex foam: If you’re making a larger cushion at home (for a bench or window seat), see the video Natural Latex Foam – How Much does it Weigh?
- 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 wool batting (the example uses 84-inch wide batting).
- See the video How to measure your natural latex cushion for wool batting and download the worksheet to help with your calculations.
- See the detailed post About wool batting for natural upholstery.
- A note about batting if you’re not familiar with standard upholstery practices: Whether you’re using dacron polyester or wool batting, the layer serves to soften the edges and provide a fullness and smoothness to your finished cushion. Remember that NO adjustment is necessary to the size of the foam to ‘compensate’ for the batting, because the batting does not add significant bulk, only ‘lofting’.
- 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 a 54+ inch wide ticking fabric as 54-inch upholstery cover fabric for your project (this assumes you are using wool batting in place of polyester batting over the entire upholstered piece).
- Find vendors of Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric here.
Organic Cotton Batting – replaces ‘conventional’ cotton upholstery batting
- NOT for cushion wrap (except in some antique applications). Recommended as a replacement in some inner seat layer applications where ‘conventional’ cotton upholstery batting is used.
- Used mainly as an upholstery foundation layer in ‘tight’ upholstery (upholstery that is attached to the frame).
- A note about cotton upholstery batting if you’re not familiar with standard upholstery practices: this batting is for foundation use (around springs, over arms, etc), and is NOT commonly used as a cushion wrap. Be sure you don’t confuse the lightweight (wool or polyester) cushion-wrap batting with this heavier cotton batting. In most cases you won’t be using this batting for cushions (except in some antique cushions that use marshall springs). 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 sold in most upholstery shops 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 family.
- Find vendors of natural & certified upholstery fabrics here.
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