How it all began
Upholstery Girl is an unintended continuation of a legacy. Squirrel's Hobby Shop in Frisco, TX was born in the 1950's and was owned and operated by my grandparents, Ray and Minnie Sterling. It started with a before and after pair of chairs in the window of an insurance company on downtown Main Street. The shop made the theater curtains in the original Frisco High School, pew cushions in various churches and draperies in too many homes to count. They retired around the time I was born and I grew up knowing that all the furniture in my grandparents home, they had built or reupholstered with their own hands. I grew up, went to school, moved away, had my own children and became a full-time mother of three. 20 years later, I found myself divorced and a single mother and moved from NY back home to Texas. My grandmother who was 99 at the time asked me how I intended to support the kids and still be a mother now that I had to go back to work full-time. I told her I would probably start an upholstery shop here in TX but it would take a while because I had to save up for an industrial upholstery sewing machine. She sent me over to my uncle's who had fully restored the machine she had used all those years ago and so "Upholstery Girl" was born. I never started out wanting to be an upholsterer, I just wanted to be a mom but my grandmother found a way for me to do both just like she had done many years ago. I am truly grateful for her wisdom, her faith in me, and the talent that she passed along.
Meet Minnie Sterling and See Some of Her Works that Shaped Us
These tools were among boxes of tools that were given to us by our Grandmother Minnie Sterling
Minnie's Hand Spit Tacks
We pulled these hand-spit tacks from the chair below that Minnie upholstered for my Uncle Jamie & Aunt Judy (Liesl's parents) when they bought their first home in 1965. I cried the whole time while removing the fabrics and tacks.
This chair was the childhood chair of Minnie's Daughter-in-law, Judy Sterling and sat in her bedroom. Minnie reupholstered it for her in 1966 when she and her husband Jamie moved in to their new home in Dallas. The fabric matched the drapery and bedspread that was also made my Minnie.
A Few Small Details
Most of the chair was sewn on the old industrial Singer sewing machine that Upholstery Girl began with. She also did a lot of hand blind-stitching on the outside back and around the front border. We noticed her impeccable attention to detail in her straight lines, tight seams and crisp folds.
What We Uncovered
Once we removed the old fabric shown above we had to build the chair back up from the frame. We replaced all the deteriorated sub-layers and replaced with new. The original foam had turned to sand and was an orange dusty mess.
The Finished Chair
Here is the completed chair which went back home to Uncle Jamie & Aunt Judy's bedroom. Legend has it that their dog "Holly" sought refuge from her busy day under this chair.
The Newly Upholstered Chair
Here is a finished chair of our grandmother's we upholstered for my Brother Bryan. We added the buttons per my brother's request. The fabric is a taupe/grey tweed with a light brown thread running through. He wanted to stay true to the frame and keep a true Mid-Century vibe.
The Chair As It Came To Us
This upholstery was a wool/cotton blend and was very itchy. Shown here would the third time that we know of that it was upholstered. We believe it was originally an avocado green when purchased & quickly changed to a blue with purple threads that ran through it. It always sat in our Aunt Nancy's bedroom.
Original hand blind-stitching used to close the outside back. Stitches are made using a curved needle. Once complete the stitch is completely hidden.
The tacks were used to secure the fabrics in places that were unseen such as underneath the piece. Tacks were loaded into your mouth and "spit" on to a magnetic hammer.
Her later works:
Once she retired she became known for her beautiful baby dresses that usually started with some sort of drawing or doodle on a scrap of paper. She once said all her good ideas came at night.
One of the Many
This is one of the many beautiful hand-smocked and appliqued baby dresses she was later so well known for. When she passed away everyone brought their dresses and used them as a casket blanket. I would guess she made hundreds.
Our path to Sherman
In 2009, I first began in 1/3 of a two-car garage taking in pieces one at a time for friends and family, buying my tools as I completed and got paid at the end of each job. In 2012, we moved to Van Alstyne where I worked out of a small area in the eat-in kitchen on the tiled floor. I needed more space for larger pieces so I moved my work space to the living room and took in several sofas. That's when I hired my cousin Liesl to sew all the cushions so I could upholster faster and spend less time at the sewing machine. But we quickly outgrew working inside the main house with the kids running in and out and having to keep everything super tidy. We then moved out to the small one room pool house in the backyard which was better but not as large as the living room. I was still having to store completed projects in the house among all the teenager chaos so I decided to rent an old building named Antique Blade in downtown Van Alstyne. We added a much-needed fabric sample collection, which was a huge hit with our clients but caused us to quickly bust at the seams in the old building. We decided to partner with an antique dealer and rent half of the Summit Mercantile Building around the corner, which again was a great move and we steadily gained a huge following all over the Dallas area. Our next move was into an old car wash next to the local Post Office where we gained high visibility and word kept spreading. That's when we decided we needed a much bigger area for fabric samples and books so in 2018 we decided to move a little farther north to the Downtown Sherman area and landed an amazing old building. We soon had to hire three full-time employees, an upholstery deconstructer, a fabric consultant, and a second upholsterer, which caused our work space to shrink considerably. In 2020, we moved into our current location, where we expanded our fabric showroom, tripled our workroom space, and gained much needed office space and storage.