Natural Upholstery Resources for those Hiring an Upholstery Professional
Are you looking for help communicating with an upholstery professional or workroom to incorporate healthy, non-toxic materials into your upholstery or design project? This page is written specifically for you.
Awareness is increasing around healthy upholstery options, but there are still a few professionals who are reluctant to use natural latex foam & wool batting in place of the ‘conventional’ urethane foam & polyester batting. The good news is it’s an easy transition to make once the similarities and differences are clarified. No special expertise is necessary to work with them. I personally love ‘that healthy feeling’ of knowing I’m not touching or breathing in unwanted chemicals, both for myself as I work with them, and for my upholstery customers.
What if my upholsterer or workroom tells me to order the materials myself?
Based on standard upholstery dimensions, most upholstery workrooms will be able to specify a list of ‘conventional’ materials they will need to reupholster each piece of your furniture. Since natural upholstery materials are not yet readily available through conventional upholstery supply houses, it is a time-consuming task for professional workrooms to determine what materials to look for, size specifications for each, and how much to buy for your project.
It’s important to note that ‘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 calculations can be complicated and time-consuming for a workroom that is accustomed to specifying materials manufactured for the upholstery industry. This is one of the biggest barriers to the willingness of many workrooms to accommodate client requests for these materials. You can use the resources below to figure out how much of each material to purchase and bring to your upholsterer, or you can hire me to do this for you through my consulting services.
Natural Upholstery Videos & Guides
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.
If you need help with calculating how much of each material to purchase, or have questions specific to a project that are not answered in the videos & guides, I am happy to assist – just follow the instructions here to get personalized help.
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 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 your choice of certified Oeko-Tex or GOLS Organic (request vendor’s current certificates).
- Available in several firmnesses: Learn about Latex Firmness & Density.
- The same standard upholstery foam dimensions apply for latex foam as for urethane foam. Your upholstery pro or workroom should be able to give you a list of standard foam sizes that they would specify for your job. If you are ordering custom cut latex, the ‘standard’ specs can be used to order the same sizes & firmnesses of latex.
- A note about the weight of latex foam: If you’re having a larger cushion made (for a bench or window seat), be aware that latex foam is heavier than the urethane foam used in most upholstery. For more info, see the video Natural Latex Foam – How Much does it Weigh?
- Find vendors of Natural Latex Foam here.
Premium Wool Batting – replaces polyester batting
- The use of Premium Wool Batting is optional, but recommended as a replacement anywhere polyester batting is used in upholstery.
- You or your upholstery pro will have to convert the standard polyester batting dimensions (usually 30″ wide on a roll) to wool batting dimensions, which may come 84″ wide on a roll, or as a mattress-sized batt.
- Also, see the video How to measure your natural latex cushion for wool batting and download the worksheet to help with your calculations.
- There is no gluing necessary with wool batting. If you use the product with the thin spun backing, it can be secured with hand stitching or stapling. 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.
- For a complete wool overview, 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 fabric 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 of ticking fabric is only necessary where wool batting comes in contact with the outer upholstery 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. This is your choice to make – both work equally well.
- 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 ‘conventional’ cotton upholstery batting is used.
- Used mainly as an upholstery foundation layer in tight upholstery.
- A note about cotton upholstery batting if you’re not 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 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 are almost universally treated with chemicals to make them stain and UV resistant. The fabrics most upholsterers have available for their clients to purchase likely falls into this category.
- Since upholstery is a highly labor-intensive craft, most upholsterers depend on fabric sales to meet their bottom line. If you bring your own materials or fabric, expect a markup for ‘COM’ (customer’s own material).
- Some upholsterers will not even consider using COM because of the unpredictable quality of discount fabrics that many people opt to purchase on their own.
- Find vendors of natural & certified upholstery fabrics here.