Does anyone know of an instructable about how to sew automotive upholstery? you know the double stitching and all?

I would like to learn how to stitch my own auto interior.  Like a lamborghini quality job. Id love to save 5 to 10 thousand dollars and learn how to do it myself. Id like my interior to look like this one (see photo).

Picture of Does anyone know of an instructable about how to sew automotive upholstery? you know the double stitching and all?
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rickharris5 years ago
These may help:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=upholstering+boat+seats&oq=upholstering&gs_l=youtube.1.4.0l7j0i10j0l2.1768.5614.0.11209.12.9.0.3.3.0.129.974.1j8.9.0...0.0.x3CgMMrXGgU

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=upholstering+car+seats&oq=upholstering+car+seats&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0.39339.39975.0.41471.4.4.0.0.0.0.111.390.3j1.4.0...0.0.wVw5NwIDqqs

https://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&gs_nf=1&cp=22&gs_id=6&xhr=t&q=upholstering+car+seats&pf=p&safe=off&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&oq=upholstering+car+seats&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=853bac6d7e512bb7&biw=1920&bih=898

ChrisF28511 months ago

it may be late but someone else might find this interesting. I started sewing when i discovered leather (random christmas that i had no cash so i had to get creative) and made leather wallets and such for about 4 years before i worked for an upholstery shop. I worked 6 months in a furniture upholstery shop and 1 and 1/2 years in an auto shop before i set out on my own. My first big job about a year after i left the auto shop (did remodeling in the mean time) was a 5000 dollar interior made with almost no patterns. dont let everyone fool you. If you have the passion and the mind for figuring puzzles and mechanics out you can do more than they in their individual life's single point of view could realize. ive been making my living from this trade since that first job. if you are good you will find work easily and can charge premium.

making seats with no patterns is not hard. you draw out your lines. all of them. the way you want it to look with fancy or simple concepts right on the foam. on each line near the center of that line draw a notch. you only need to do the half and center of one seat because everything else is multiples and mirror images. when you have the lines you use a med strength spray glue (loctite at hd or lows makes one) to glue a clear piece of 3 or 4 mill plastic to the foam. dont put the plastic on when spray is wet, let it tack up a bid or it will pull foam away. playing around with position is key, you will just have to mess around.

when you have a concave area the flat plastic wont set down in you cut kerfs close to the drawn lines on the foam

when its convex you make the wrinkles as even as possible.

lay the plastic for each area that is made by your lines so that it goes over the lines.

trace it with a marker that has a spacer of 1/2 inch. i use a marker taped to an awl.
this gives you a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Think: outside the pattern 1/2 inch and the line becomes your stitch line. draw a line at the notch. (when you sew start at the notch and sew to the end, then reverse the two patterns and start sewing 4 or 5 stitches before the area where you already stitched to the other end. when you sew over the first stitches make sure you hit the holes dead on, this will keep it from showing up when you finish and it will lock the line together so it doesnt come apart.

peal off and save then sew all your patterns together and hog ring that joker in.

there is so much more and tips i have figured out, like how to use my staple gun to pin patterns together quick and cut six patters at one time. you can also use an antique sewing machine with a big wheel that will make transporting the material not a problem, the older machines are naturally heavy duty. use thinner foam for the patterns or no foam so you wont have a hard time with the machine (thats the way the old cars and boats are made).

im willing to help you or anyone who wants out with what i know. hit me up. heres my web so you can see what i have done and get in touch. p.s. its not much cause im lazy with my pictures but the red and white boat was what i did after i was six months at the auto upholstery. I had very little instruction so i know if you have what it takes you can do it and make it show ready! www.cafskins.jimdo.com

framistan5 years ago
I have worked as an upholsterer for a while so i know something about it. I got interested in automobile upholstery because my brother had an old junk car he drove that needed new seats. So we took the seats out and tore them apart carefully. We removed all the vinyl STITCH by STITCH. Then we used the old torn pieces as PATTERNS to cut out new pieces. Just trace it out and cut new pieces. We ran into trouble trying to sew them together because we had a cheap sewing machine. So my brother bought a WALKINGFOOT sewing machine. They are not cheap (about $1000.00) but used ones are available. It takes a lot of sewing seats in junk cars before you become proficient. you are not going to sew new upholstery in a LAMBORGHINI with the skill-set of a BEGINNER. You are dreaming, not facing reality. However, you may be able to use what skills you DO HAVE to save up the money to pay a professional to do that job. Meanwhile, offer to fix the seats of neighbors (old junk) cars for cheap prices to help build up enough to pay the pro for the lamborghini job.Eventually... I did'nt stay much into upholstery because it wasn't "my-thing". So i went back into electronics and communications industry (cable TV, Telephone,etc).

Hey I'm also looking to build some interior pieces for my Dad's kit car, a ford -34. However there's little business in the area that I can ask about the work. Though I'm not sure you'll see this.

I've got a bench seat, dash, rood, and door panels to do. He has some original seats, but they desperately need to be replaced. Including the back of the covers with the old rubber bands on canvas - I assume its linen or tough cotton until I've been able to do more research. Where can I find such rubber? My first target is to do the door panels mostly so I can see the designs I want as a whole and this part is more replaceable than doing seat covers with foam over and over.

What is a good machine to sew through the foam and material? I only have a domestic machine, and know I'll need new feet for them. Possibly a teflon foot to avoid slipping. I was considering carving the foam base and having a thinner layer attached to the material to give it that padding and extra shape my dad wants. My dad also has ideas for piping and pinstripes on/in the fabric. I'm considering using top stitches to create some pinstripes. Will this need backing? to protect the stitches and fabric? What thread do you use? I've been thinking I'd need a stronger thread than the usual, to upholster.

ydeardorff (author)  framistan5 years ago
thank you, but there is no interior. Im making one from scratch. So nothing to copy from.
This is a completely one off interior.

But I may take your advice and play with my wife sewing machine to see where it gets me.

Thanks
ydeardorff (author) 5 years ago
Thank you. Those were some good examples.
I suppose i will have to pay for it to be done. The double stitching on the seats in one of the videos looked good until you got close. Then the gapping was way off, and uneven. This will be a show car, on a college students budget. Ive had this car for two years now, and I know the detail work in the interior will make or break its overall quality.
Its too bad the few upholsterers out there wont allow a sort of apprenticeship to allow me to work with them to learn their trade. Hell I'd work for free just to learn the skill.
But there is so much that goes into it, getting that skin tight look with perfect stitching.
Too bad there isnt a series of instructables from a pro, on this.
Hello. I've worked in my dads upholstery shop for 6 years now.
He's been in this business for over 30 years, and before that his father worked there for a living. I know this is a late response, but in case anyone stumbles upon this, maybe I can give my opinion and it'll help them get the bigger picture of it.

As far as I can tell from MY experience, you will not be able to simply learn this on your own very effectively. Not only does it take expensive sewing machines to sew properly through tough material, and sometimes 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch foam, but it takes a lottt of practice and scrap material. That's the hardest part about it, is having someone allow you to use scrap(or find your own) and reupholster old seats.

I was sewing within the 1st month I worked there, and an assistant that had worked there for at least 10 years patted me on the back and said it took him a few years before he was able to hop on a sewing machine, and that he was still learning it. I was in shock. It's like the horror stories I hear of tattoo apprentices never actually touching any tattoo-machines or giving tattoos , instead having to clean and observe for years before theyre given the chance.

The easy part is using the OLD cover you cut off the seat as your pattern, and then tracing, cutting, etc, as already mentioned. But to make something from scratch? I havent really witnessed this in my shop. It's very rare for someone not to have an existing pattern for their seat(did a bear eat it?!). You can use the old covers and make them look very different, so if you had the old covers it'd help a lot, and wouldnt interfere with whatever your new design vision/dream may be when you go to redesign it on the tracing table.

I do not tackle the "high-end" jobs, but the shop does. We did make seats for a Disney Finding Nemo Submarine(heh, heh) which was an amazing surprise. it took at least a month from scratch, it is hard work and headaches. Even for the professionals in the shop, it was stressful and many things can go wrong with each piece of the making a new pattern without having an old one. If you're 1/8 of an inch too big or small on some patterns, you're really going to notice it...once it's all stitched together, and by then it may be too late to do much about it. Except for going back in and investing another day or two to fixing that piece!

You're right about apprenticeship. My only guess as to why you cant find one is because business is really slow for a lot of upholstery shops now. In the 70's the shop had a dozen men just to keep up with all the convertible tops coming in(or so I've been told!) Now, the shop is down to 3 people...Material can be pricey, the process of cutting off an old cover, tracing each piece, cutting, sewing it to foam, then sewing it all together is painfully long and tedious...My guess is that it's just not financially possible to teach many new people this trade. I mean, maybe you can get car seats from a junk yard or something to provide for new apprentices to practice on(at least the fabric and the foam, guess you wouldnt need the frame)...I dunno, I admit I dont know much about the trade, or cars in general.
What I do know is that I love to assist my dad, sew, and fix upholstery problems. I also know that even these professionals cringe when they have to perform some sort of fancy stitching method, even after doing it half their lives.

Oh, and those fancy leather covers you see on steering wheels? I spent 3 hours sewing one one on by hand, literally bleeding and blisters by the end.
"Lamborghini quality" really is a pain, and I personally do not think your labor, or a professionals labor is worth it. These fancy cars are awful to upholstery and do interior work in, they're often overly complicated and it feels like no thought was given to the people who will be doing after-market work on it. But to each their own!

The best advice given is to reupholster seats for friends and neighbors, people in construction that dont care about fancy expensive material, or nice colors. Of course, also do your own seats. Go wild with it, mix and match colors, whatever you want.
Most of all though, dont learn it just to save yourself 5-10k, because you'd be investing way more time and money into doing a noticeably great job on your interior...Pursue it as a lifelong skill that you can cherish, and share with others, and make money off of...Pursing it to save cash on one particular dream interior might not be the best investment of your time

Hey I'm also looking to build some interior pieces for my Dad's kit car, a ford -34. However there's little business in the area that I can ask about the work. Though I'm not sure you'll see this.

I've got a bench seat, dash, rood, and door panels to do. He has some original seats, but they desperately need to be replaced. Including the back of the covers with the old rubber bands on canvas - I assume its linen or tough cotton until I've been able to do more research. Where can I find such rubber? My first target is to do the door panels mostly so I can see the designs I want as a whole and this part is more replaceable than doing seat covers with foam over and over.

What is a good machine to sew through the foam and material? I only have a domestic machine, and know I'll need new feet for them. Possibly a teflon foot to avoid slipping. I was considering carving the foam base and having a thinner layer attached to the material to give it that padding and extra shape my dad wants. My dad also has ideas for piping and pinstripes on/in the fabric. I'm considering using top stitches to create some pinstripes. Will this need backing? to protect the stitches and fabric? What thread do you use? I've been thinking I'd need a stronger thread than the usual, to upholster.

ydeardorff (author)  McNutsack5 years ago
Thank you and that is the idea. I want to learn the trade, but I have no way to do so where I live.
With all of the organic compound curves in my cars interior, it will be a true challenge to complete this in the right way.
If youd like I could shoot you a couple of photos of the interior, and yo ucould maybe direct me with some cut lines for starters?

Thanks again

Ydeardorff,I know you post your question 3 years ago , I sure hope you found a way to accomplish what you were looking for , if not give me a shout .

Tandy Leather also sell a range of books with details of techniques.
ydeardorff (author)  steveastrouk5 years ago
Thank you,
These may help. I am a tactile learner so I may get a better info soak by finding a person to let me under their wing.
In the meantime, what ever I can read, or watch will help. Im a long way from being able to do this, but I like to be prepared.