When a Someone Else Does Part of the Work

Theoretically I would have no problem in finishing a job that someone else has started, but there are some things that need to be considered. Many times people think that it will cost less if the job is partly done. Sometimes that might be the case (if the job has been properly done all the way through AND if the pieces of the job have been kept neatly together so I can just step in and finishe the work. However , it often times doesn't work that way. When I take on a job to complete it, the entire job (even that which has been partly done) must meet my quality standards. If not,sometimes that might mean that I will need to take it apart and redo whatever is below par.

Does it cost less if the client does part of the job?

Occasionally some clients, who are on tight budgets, think that they can somehow help in the upholstery process to cut down the cost of upholstery.

Upholstery is a very specialized and skilled trade. While some of the upholstery basics can be learned in a relatively short time, it takes years of practices and learning to become proficient at the upholstery trade. Every step of the upholstery process has to be done precisely because each following step builds upon the previous steps. If one step is done incorrectly, it affects or slows down the rest of the job.

In Theory?

Theoretically I would have no problem when a client provides some of the supplies or does some of the work. However, most clients don’t have the skills, knowledge, or sources to provide appropriate supplies or do quality work. And they usually don’t know how to do part of the work in a way that doesn’t cost me extra time and work. In the past I have deducted part of the cost of structural repairs and let the client help with that. But when the frame came back into my shop I had to make alterations and corrections to their work. For example, upholstered furniture frames are built in such a way to have appropriate openings and slots for fabric to pull through. When a client repairs the frame they have blocked off those slots so there was no place to pull the fabric through. So I had to redo their work so I could pull the fabric through. So I’m a little cautious.

My Past Experience

From time to time I have let a client help in part of the process to try to save them some money. However, typically, saving them some money has usually cost me extra time and money. Let me give a couple of examples. 

A Wing Chair - The Client Repair the Frame

One lady brought in a wing chair for me to recover. However, the frame was quite wobbly. Frame repairs (disassembly, cleaning, regluing, clamping, adding blocks) can sometimes add a sizeable cost to the upholstery project. From time to time I've sent out the frames to a furniture repair shop for repairs. But some repairs I do myself. I don't mind if someone else does the frame work. So, after I learned that the client's husband was "handy" with woodworking, I agreed to let him repair the chair frame (after I removed the cover, padding, and springs.) When the client brought the chair frame back to us, the frame was much more solid than before. However, in bracing the frame, the client's husband had blocked the fabric pull-through openings. This means I will have to go through extra work of either altering his repairs, OR doing more hand work in hand-sewing the fabric in places where I normally staple the fabric in place. In other words, trying to save her money has cost me probably as much money as I saved her.

A Cushion Repair - The Client Took the Cushion Apart

In another example a client brought in some cushions for me to repair. She just wanted all the welting fabric replaced, but leave the rest of the old fabric in place. To accomplish this meant having to carefully take all the seams apart, remove all the thread from the seams, iron the old fabric flat, trim all the boxing fabric to the right width, and resew the cushion. However, on this particular job the welting fabric was part of boxing fabric. To take apart this type of cushion includes having to trim the boxing down to normal size after the cushion has been taken apart. Because the client was having tight money problems, I decided to let her take the old cushions apart. I showed her how to rip loose the fabrics without damaging the fabric. The client did take the cushions apart, but the old fabric had numberous cuts in it, where her hands (holding the razor blade) must have accentally slipped and caused damage. The result is that before continue to repair the cushions,  I had to go through much of the old cover and patch numerous holes in the fabric. Here, again, trying to save the client money cost me probably as much money as I saved her.

A Client Helping With The Work Is Not Cost Efficient For The Upholsterer

 In order for a client to be of any real help to the upholsterer, the client must be instructed, and trained, to do the jobs in a way that flows with the upholsterer's work process. To have the client do the work correctly, the upholsterer must either be there to watch over the process, or the upholsterer must write out step by step instructions (If the client would even read it.) Without this necessary training, the client's efforts will often be more hindering than helpful. AND if the upholsterer agrees to train the client how to do the job properly, the upholsterer will loose more time (and money) than just doing it himself.

So this is why upholsterer's are reluctant to let clients help in the process.

But, I'll finish with this. If a client is sufficiently knowledgeable and used to working with his hands, and if it won't interfer our work process or with us doing a quality job, we are open to letting a client do what he/she can do.

Also read: Can a Client Supply Some of the Supplies?