Natural Upholstery Resources for Makers
START HERE if you’re looking for healthy, non-toxic materials to use in your DIY upholstery project. 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! Check out the ‘Upholsterer’s Guide to Natural Materials’ which includes a free download that you can fill out to determine how much of each material you need.
How much does it cost?
See this post to see four examples of natural upholstery projects, detailing the cost of materials only.
Natural Upholstery materials list
Here are the Natural Upholstery foundation materials you may work with (see details of each below). I recommend GOLS or GOTS certified Organic:
- 100% Natural Latex Foam (look for custom cut or buy in mattress size and cut yourself)
- Premium Wool Batting (88″ wide by the yard, or quilt batt size)
- Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric (54″ wide and up)
- Organic Cotton Batting (27-88″ wide)
Here are the ‘conventional’ materials they replace:
(see below for a detailed break-out of resources to learn more about each material)
- 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.
- See ‘How to Measure your Cushion for Latex Foam’, and download the worksheet to help with your calculations. 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?
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’.
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).
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.