Upholstery Class Wrap Up

Last Saturday was a happy day; my upholstery class ended, giving me back my weekends and I brought my chair home completed and comfortable, not perfect, but what is? And that description neatly sums up the class itself, which was frustrating in lots of ways but ultimately satisfying because instructor Robby, pictured above right, was able to guide me to a good result.

I was not Robby’s favorite student; he thought I didn’t listen and/or pay attention and I found his communication skills wanting. I’m a big picture guy, I need to be able to see far enough down the road that I know where I’m going but Robby insisted on riding the brake: “Don’t worry about that YET,” he would scold. “One step at a time, just go one step at a time.”

In the end, I felt a lot of empathy for Robby and a bit of resentment toward the Toronto District School Board, which runs the class without nearly enough resources. There was one sewing machine and three staple guns for 11 students. Madness. And of course, there was only one Robby, so as you’d complete each little step you’d have to wait while he checked in with 10 other people before he could get back to you. Fortunately, as the weeks rolled along, the number of students dwindled but the fact remained that between waiting for equipment and waiting for Robby, there wasn’t a whole lot of upholstering getting done.

Would I recommend the class? Umm, no. I would steer you towards a class like the one I took earlier this year at RE:Style Studio which costs a little more ($300 plus tax for two full days) but offers a lot more personal attention and instruction. I’ve also heard good things about Evelyn Bouma’s Creativity Classes.

And yet I did learn a fair amount as did my upholstering buddies Jay, above right, and Susan, below, to whom I am especially indebted for driving all the way to Etobicoke every Saturday morning and going out of her way to pick me up and drop me off. Thanks Suz!

I met some nice people and got to see each of them finish a project. Below, clockwise from upper left are Tony, Dina and Kathleen with their great looking results. Maybe the problem was my own expectations; Robby did the best he could under the circumstances and I thank him for shepherding me through to a satisfying conclusion. His company is Robby’s Custom Upholstery (1605 Bloor Street West, 416.614.7791) and he certainly knows his stuff.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and provide a bit more detail about the resurrection of my $25 Craigslist cast-off . . .

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Saturday, December 10, 2011 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

14 Comments For This Post

  1. Jay Says:

    I agree with your comments, Chris. Robby definitely knows his stuff. Each Saturday I jumped between feeling excited, nervous, frustrated and guilty. Sometimes I felt like I was taking up TOO much of Robby’s time if I asked questions and tried to take down some notes. The lack of equipment was a joke – the compressor and staplers were Robby’s – so really, the TDSB provided an old industrial sewing machine and an old, poorly laid out high school and that’s about it. Having said that – I’m happy with the ottoman I brought home, the knowledge I did manage to squeeze out of Robby and having met some nice people. For the most part, it was worth the drive from Hamilton on Saturday mornings – but I’m also glad to have the day back. I would love it is Mohawk College re-started their program so I could continue learning somewhere closer. A couple classes covering history, terms, tools, etc. prior to the hands-on would be more appropriate, rather than diving head on into a project.

    Oh ya – thanks for posting some of the other projects – since I missed the last class I’m glad I still get a chance to see some finished results.

  2. Magda Says:

    Hi to all, In spite of everything, Great Job to all. The furniture looks beautiful.

  3. Alison Hodd Says:

    Fun to see the faces of folks who persevered in spite of it all! I have family who live in the area of Robby’s shop and will steer them toward him for their upholstery projects. To me, what you and your classmates accomplished is admirable. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Bea Ziegert Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with me. Since I taught Clothing and Textiles a very long time ago at Ryerson and Cornell and worked in the garment industry for some 25 years, I know how it works with many students all waiting for one instructor.

    I have an industrial single stitch sewing machine for sale. Anyone interested???

    Send me an e-mail.


  5. Kathy Komlos Says:

    Great job on the chairs! Honestly, you all got a huge amount accomplished considering the lack of proper resources and complexity of the jobs. It’s really impressive! My father taught upholstery for 13 years through the TDSB, and it was the same story – he had to take his own equipment and compressor. I myself used to offer a limited number of upholstery classes at my shop in the winter, but maxed it out at 3 students. It’s just too difficult for one person to try to teach a skill like upholstery to a large class.

    Kathy Komlos
    Fine Craft Upholstery

  6. Marlo Says:

    Everyone did such a great job on their projects! They look great.

    Could someone please tell me where I can get some of that white and yellow floral fabric that Kathleen used on her chair? I’d like to use the same fabric for one of my projects.


  7. Chris Says:

    Marlo, I’m quite sure that Kathleen ordered her fabric directly through Robby. You can reach him at his shop at 416.614.7791.

  8. Kathleen Says:

    I bumped into Susan a few weeks ago and here I am to check out your blog. It’s great.

    It may be too late to answer Marlo about the fabric but…it is made by J. Ennis and is called ‘Frederica 502 Lemon’.

    Hope you are doing well. I will check soon!

  9. Jamie Says:

    Were you given a source to buy upholstery supplies (foam, tacks etc) in Toronto? I’ve been searching but don’t know where to look.

  10. Eee Beee Says:

    I had same experience a Evelyn Bouma’s creativity classes.
    There was a clique of women as well. Not worth it.

  11. kangaroo Says:

    Hi there. I am new to Toronto city area. I have recently arrived from Sydney, Australia. I have two questions if anyone can help me please;

    1. where can I find a cheap place to upholster my old chairs and old sofa lounge??????

    2. where can I find cheap rolls of fabric for the upholsterer to do the task for me?????

  12. Elvis Presley Says:

    hi there. Are there any cheap upholstery classes anywhere in Toronto. Can anyone provide a full list and phone numbers??? thankyou

  13. oscar Says:

    Hi everyone, hope you will be able to help me, a few years ago used to buy my upholstery supplies from General upholstery either at Mississauga or etobicoke, I need to get a roll of 5/32 welt, tacking strip, staples and can not get in touch with them their phone its “not assigned” and beside suppliers from Georgian bay and Barrie dont seeany in the west end (Etobocoke or Mississauga) any advice where can i go??


  14. Stephen Says:

    Am looking for such a course in Calgary

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