August 12, 2022 6 min read

When shopping for a new sofa, loveseat, sectional, or recliner, you may not be putting much thought into the upholstery material other than how it feels when you sit in it. However, more thinking goes into the manufacturing and production of upholstered furniture than you may realize.

In this video, our Jeffersontown, Kentucky store manager, Monique, will talk about some of the many details that go into tailoring any upholstered piece. Keep watching to learn how to notice quality levels in your furniture upholstery and find the best quality for your budget.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality
How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

What Goes Into Tailoring Your Furniture

Furniture, much like the clothing you buy, can have drastic differences in the quality of the fabric. While a $10 shirt is cheaper than a $40 shirt, the tailoring, fit, and quality of production on a $40 shirt are likely to be higher.

Furniture upholstery is not premade to fit over the frame; instead, it needs to be sewn on the frame. This is part of the tailoring process in making furniture. There are a few terms for each process that will help you find out what the quality level of each piece is.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Cut And Sewn Upholstery Fabrics

The cut and sewn method is the most commonly used method in good-quality upholstered furniture. This method allows companies to manufacture large quantities of the same furniture collection for a lower cost.

Cut and sewn means that manufacturers produce a stock of furniture with one fabric selection. This process uses pieces cut in bulk and ready to be sewn at the proper manufacturing point. Because they are all the same product, creating each piece takes less time and energy to produce.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality
How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Custom Tailored Upholstery Fabrics

Another option usually available for better and best quality home furnishings is custom-tailored upholstery. The custom method is much more detailed and involved than the cookie-cutter patterns used to mass-produce furniture upholstery.

The process starts when a customer custom orders furniture and chooses an upholstery pattern that appeals to their design style. When the customer orders a custom piece of furniture, that piece is created precisely to their specifications, and the fabric is no different.

Once the order is placed, the manufacturer will cut the custom fabric to the dimensions given for the furniture and begin the upholstery process. Because custom pieces are unique, more time and care are needed to create the perfect sofa, sectional, loveseat, or living room set.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Tailoring Terms You Should Know

Now that we know a bit more about the quality of upholstery tailoring let’s take a moment to learn about a few key terms you should know when discussing the tailoring of a new couch, recliner, or armchair.

Here are some of the most common terms for upholstery tailoring and what part of the furniture upholstery they are referring to.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality
How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality


The first thing most people notice when looking at upholstery details is the welt, or piping as it is sometimes referred to. A welt or piping is a fabric-covered cord that runs along the seams of your furniture upholstery.

While some welts can be decorative, most welts provide extra strength to the fabric and keep it from slipping or tearing at the seams. Welts are usually straight or wavy when seen on the furniture. A wavy welt could be due to craftsmanship, a lack of dacron, or a cord designed to make that welt appearance.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Pattern Matching

The fabric application process is one of the most extensive processes in creating new furniture seating. The type of fabric and the quality of the upholstery process can range significantly in price. Upholstery fabrics are graded based on price.

Think of it in terms of cotton and silk shirts. While cotton is more readily available and will probably last longer, silk is more expensive to produce and requires more attention to detail. The same concept can be said for pattern matching.

Pattern matching is a process where patterns on the furniture upholstery are matched across multiple sides of the furniture. Imagine a flower pattern on a sofa, and then imagine trying to match that pattern around your sofa's front, back, and sides.

More material is used in the making of a pattern-matched piece. Because each pattern has to be matched around the sides of the furniture being made, more material will get thrown away due to the patterns required for matching.

Pattern matching matches the patterns on your furniture, creating a cohesive look while ensuring that your piece looks as intentional as possible. Because this process is time-consuming and uses more material, pattern matching is a sign of craftsmanship and is priced accordingly.

Pattern-matching is usually found only in the best and exceptional levels of quality. If the piece you want to buy is pattern-matched, chances are it is of very high quality. Some companies will even go so far as to pattern-match throw pillows in addition to their furniture.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality
How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Cushion Types

Regarding cushions, the two most common cushion shapes are t-cushions and full-front cushions. A t-cushion has a small section that wraps around the arm, creating a kind of t-shape, while a full front cushion rests flush with the front of the sofa.

T-cushions can only be moved around the furniture if they are double-sided and matching, while most full-front cushions can be placed in whatever order on the seating surface since they will most likely be the same size and shape.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Arm Types

The types of arms on any upholstery seating can drastically affect the look and feel of your piece and the space available. Arms can make the most significant difference in your purchase decision, whether through space needed or your personal design preference.

Larger rolled arms can add up to an entire foot in length, and while they look classy, they might not be suitable for your needs. Track arms might be perfect for your needs if you are working with a smaller living space.

Track arms are thinner than rolled arms and require less real estate in your home. A variation of the track arm is the crescent arm which adds a bit more roundness to the arm. Another smaller option is the sock arm, a rolled arm designed with a more modern, minimalist approach that uses less space.

The last arm type to look for is the Charles of London arm, an English-style arm design and a very old, classic arm style. The Charles of London arm is a bit of a hybrid between the rolled arm and the track arm.

One thing to keep in mind with arm details is that arm details rarely affect the level of quality of the piece you are looking at. When deciding on the arm design, choose the plan that fits your space and the design that matches your preferences.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality
How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

The Bottom Line

The bottom line regarding furniture tailoring is that the more options available to you, the more costly your furniture is likely to be. Custom manufacturing takes time and attention to detail. You can expect to pay more for your investment between that and the material quality.

Take into consideration what you are trying to accomplish and compare that to your budget. The two metrics should help you find a happy middle ground between an affordable starter sofa and solid wood, heirloom quality custom manufactured sofa.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality

Ready To Learn More About Upholstery Furniture Quality?

Remember that custom upholstery will cost more than cut and sewn upholstery but will have greater attention to detail. Keep in mind that furniture with pattern matching will be the best quality.

Don’t forget that arm styles, while aesthetic, is not an indicator of quality and are primarily decorative. Finally, remember that higher quality furniture will be more of an investment but will feature more custom options.

If you have any questions about upholstery for furniture or want to see the upholstery options for yourself, feel free to drop by one of our convenient locations in Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Northern Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

If you want a furniture expert to help you find the home furnishings and upholstery of your dreams, schedule an appointment with one of our furniture experts and have them help you discover which option is suitable for your needs.

How To Rank Upholstery Furniture Quality