Secrets to Automotive Upholstery Success

Tracy Weaver of Recovery Room Hot Rod Interiors in Nebraska is a master of automotive upholstery.  As a leader in the field, his innovation and creativity are inspirational. Tracy continues to put his stamp on the industry and shows no signs of letting up or slowing down. Just when you think he has done the most incredible interior job you have ever seen, he continues to raise the bar.

As a loyal Garrett Leather customer for over 20 years, Tracy spoke to us about his craft.

How did you get your start in automotive upholstery? What drew you to the car business?

I got my start working at another shop that did everything from repairs to commercial work.  Whenever anything came in that needed some creative work or when a custom car came in, I was the one who would do it. I found that my love of art and love for cars had paid off. I had a knack for design and could use the sewing machine pretty well. When the owner of that shop wanted to open another type of business, I started doing automotive upholstery on my own in a rented bay. Word that I was doing custom work on my own spread around town (Omaha, Nebraska) and the customers just started coming. We would win Best Interior awards every week at shows and it just took off from there.That was 26 years ago and I haven’t slowed down yet.

1930 Model A

1930 Model A

Where did you receive your training?

My training was more of an “on the job” type of training. I just started taking stuff apart and learning how things went together. Once I found I had a knack for doing the detailed style of work and had the patience to complete the work, I stuck with it. I love the challenge of completing a project from start to finish.

Why do you think people are drawn to leather for their automotive upholstery?

I think that people really are drawn to leather because of its look, smell, and mostly feel. Leather is a timeless material. It has been used since the beginning and will always be around, I imagine. It’s always been my first and only choice to use. Garrett Leather has always been one of the best in the industry and that’s why I always show my customers their samples. There is no substitute for leather. Besides, it’s just a cool material to work with.

What was your favorite project?

I don’t really have one specific favorite project. All of the projects we have worked on have had something unique about them that has made them fun to do. The show cars that are going after the biggest awards have always been the most fun because of the freedom to create something that the customer has envisioned.

Describe the most creative work-related project you completed.

Some of the most creative jobs are the ones when I’ve combined different materials together to create a custom look. Whether it be leather mixed with suede, metal, a patterned woven leather, or a combination of any of these materials creates such a remarkable look! Lately, I’ve been using my new laser to cut and engrave on leather. I’m really excited about the possibilities that can be created while using new technology with old world craftsmanship. I’m starting to venture into the home interior market with custom head boards and really enjoying the creativity that can be used to complete specific jobs.

Automotive upholstery in Native Cherokee

1930 Model A with Native Cherokee

Is it difficult to find young people interested in automotive upholstery?

It’s tough to find good help. Just about every shop that I speak with is looking for someone to hire. It’s a highly skilled business/trade to be in. A person needs to have a very different and broad set of skills including sewing, pattern making, fabrication, and some good design skills to know when something doesn’t look right. Patience and a good eye are very important.

As an auto upholsterer, what do you believe is your best asset?

The best asset in our trade is the ability to see something in your mind in its finished form before you even start on it. That way, you know what steps you need to take to get to that finished form you envisioned in the beginning.

Have you always specialized in hot rod interiors or did you start off as an upholstery-repair shop and over time shift focus?

I started out doing anything anyone wanted to have done. Whatever it took to pay the bills and gain experience in the industry. I knew that if I got better at my trade, it would result in being able to charge more for an hourly rate! Once I began to gain attention in the custom car world and we started to get cars from all over the country, I quit doing repair or small jobs and just do full interiors. It’s been that way for the last 16 years. I have been blessed to have had the right customers come to me to do the type of work that has won all the major awards and have been published in all the trade and car magazines.


Automotive upholstery in Native Cherokee

1930 Model A with Native Cherokee

How large is your staff and what qualities do you look for in team members?

Right now, I have two of us full-time and one part-time person helping. Its tough sometimes to keep up, so I’m looking for another full-time person to join the shop.

On average, how many interiors does your shop complete in a year and how long does a full interior take for you to complete? Does your shop have a waiting list? If so, how far in advance must customers book?

I have a waiting list that can be anywhere from 9 to 12 months. Most of the Pro builders that build the car before I get it know that time frame and schedule with me at the beginning of the build. That way, I am part of the interior planning from the beginning. Simple interiors can take 150 to 200 hours on certain types of cars. Most of the projects we tend to get are usually between 250 to 400 hours to complete. We constantly keep 3 cars to work on in the shop at all times. I try to complete 12 to 13 cars a year.

Automotive upholstery in Berkshire Auburn

1956 Chevy with Berkshire Auburn

Do you prefer that your customers know exactly what they want or do you like to have full creative control over the look and feel of the interiors you customize?

Most customers bring me their car because of our ability to match the interior to the car’s style and design. Certain types of cars have a specific style or look to them and installing the wrong interior can do more to hurt the finished look of the car. I will either design the interior for the customer or work with the customer to see what they want and figure out a way to incorporate their ideas or needs into the whole package for them. Some customers work with different artists and designers around the country to style the whole car including the interior. I work with them to come up with a design that works not only on paper, but in the actual car as well. There are some very creative designers in the car world that I enjoy working with.

What do you consider to be the most memorable moment in your automotive upholstery career?

I would have to say the most memorable moment for me was the first time my work was featured on the cover of a national magazine. It was something very special at that time. To this day, I still get excited every time that happens. Winning interior awards for my customers is always the best feeling. It shows we did the job we were hired for and the owners are 100% satisfied.

Is there an automotive upholstery shop (other than your own) that you find yourself impressed with the quality of work that they do?

Another shop that I have always admired is Paul Atkins interiors in Alabama. They have been turning out great work for years and always have a killer look to it! Sid Chavers in California is another interior shop that has been around for a while now and turns out some of best traditional style interiors that continue to be a standard for the industry.

“Thanks for asking me to be part of this interview.  I use Garrett Leather because of the quality and service I receive.  I’ve been buying from you for 20 years now and will continue to do so.”

-Tracy Weaver Recovery Room Interiors

Understanding Pull-Up Leather

Pull-up leather is very popular, especially for residential, hospitality, and corporate settings. In order to fully appreciate this type of leather, it is important to understand its unique characteristics. While pull-up leather is similar to distressed leather, they are not exactly the same.


What is Pull-Up Leather?

Pull-up leather is aniline dyed in the drum to create deep, vibrant colors. It is finished with a combination of transparent waxes and oils, which gives the leather a very soft hand, or feel. When this leather is stretched or pulled, the color migrates and becomes lighter in the pulled areas. Hence, the name “pull-up” refers to this change in color. Drastic variations in light and dark areas increase as the leather is handled and stretched against the grain. The “pull-up” becomes more evident as the leather is stretched tightly around furniture frames and other materials. As a pure aniline leather, marks, scratches, and signs of wear will show and a rich patina, or shine, will increase over time.

What is the Difference Between Pull-Up and Distressed Leather?

Pull-up leather has oils mixed in with the paraffin waxes and is applied to the surface of the hide with a roller. Then the hides are vacuumed dried. As a result, the leather has more sheen. When the leather is stretched or pulled, the oils on the surface cause the color migration and lighter areas to appear. The more pull-up leather is handled, the more it resembles distressed leather. Wrinkles and marks become inherent parts of the leather. While it is possible to rub out some scratches with the natural oils on your finger or thumb, most marks and creases incurred during handling become a lasting part of the product.

Journey, pull-up leather collection from Garrett Leather

Both pull-up and distressed leather are aniline dyed. However, distressed hides are tumbled in a drum with paraffin waxes to create variations in color and the signature worn or distressed look. It has a matte surface. Pulling distressed leather does not drastically lighten its appearance like pulling on a pull-up leather does.

Distressed hides from Garrett Leather

Contact Us For Samples or to Place Your Order

Whether you are looking for distressed leather or a pull-up, Garrett Leather has what you need. Our new Journey collection is pull-up leather that is in stock for immediate shipment. All 15 colors are GREENGUARD certified and offer anti-bacterial protection. Our Distressed collection is available in 18 colors, which are guaranteed in stock. Learn more about our Guaranteed In Stock program. Rely on Garrett Leather to make your delivery deadlines and your entire leather purchasing experience a smooth one, from start to finish. Be sure to request free samples for your next project. If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to working with you!

More than just a leather company.
Garrett Leather is your advocate working for your success.

Quality | Integrity | Accountability | Respect | Caring | Creativity

Leather Suppliers: Top 10 Reasons to Change

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing leather suppliers. To help, here are 10 reasons to re-evaluate your leather supplier and work with Garrett Leather.

10. Missing Deadlines

Time is valuable. While you are often faced with tight time constraints, looming deadlines, and production schedules, your leather supplier should help ease the pressure, not add to it. If you are stressed about long lead times and potentially missing deadlines, then it’s time to change leather suppliers. Most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting 6 to 12 weeks for leather, so find a leather supplier that you can rely on to ship your leather to you when you need it.

Your leather should ship when you need it.

Leather suppliers should be able to work with your schedule, not just theirs.

9. Difficulty Finding Exactly What You Need

Sometimes it is not always possible to find the precise color you need. Therefore, find a leather supplier that can make it for you. Of course, when customization is required, disregard reason number 10. High quality custom colors take time to produce.

8. Disappointed in Durability

While leather has a reputation for durability, not all leather is created equally. For example, bi-cast leather and bonded leather do not provide the same durability as genuine leather. High quality genuine leather has an intricate, natural fiber structure that provides unmatched durability. Read our previous blog to learn more about the differences. If you’re looking for better quality, then it’s time to look for a different leather supplier.

7. Inadequate Color

Likewise, not all leather is dyed the same way. Make sure your leather supplier uses a process that results in true color permanence. Ideally, the color should penetrate all layers of the hide, without concealing any of the natural characteristics.

6. Mishandling

Furthermore, leather should be stored properly and handled with care. Hides should drape, breathe, and relax. In addition, wrinkles and creases should be kept to a minimum. Leather suppliers should not compromise quality by folding hides for shipping. If your leather arrives folded, then it’s time to look at other leather suppliers.

5. Environmental Concerns

Here’s another consideration, does your leather supplier care about our planet and practice responsible behavior? Many tanneries around the world have little or no regard for the earth. Different countries have different regulations. Some have none at all.  Learn more about your leather supplier to make sure they uphold the same standards that you do and work under the strictest of environmental regulations.

4. Buyer’s Remorse

Education is a key component to purchasing leather because not all types of leather are ideal for every type of installation. Many leather suppliers simply sell whatever you ask for, without discussion. You should always fully understand the pros and cons of the product you choose for your particular application. Find a leather supplier that will help you make informed decisions from start to finish.

3. Feeling Abandoned by Your Leather Suppliers

Are you getting the support you need? If not, find a leather supplier who will be there to help you every step of your buying journey. You deserve to feel supported and appreciated. Your leather supplier should be there for you from the initial introduction and help educate, provide samples and quotes, assist with purchases, and follow-up after your order ships. You deserve more than just a leather supplier. You deserve an advocate who will help you be successful.

2. Tired of Returning Poor Quality Hides

Quality is the one of the most important considerations when purchasing leather. Price should never be the sole determining factor. Always remember, there are many hidden costs involved in receiving poor quality leather. A lot of time and additional money is wasted when the shipment you receive does not meet your quality standards. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. On the flip side, the most expensive leather is not necessarily the best. So, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Go with the vendor that provides the highest quality, offers the most support, and provides the best overall value.

1. Looking for More Value

Finally, when considering leather vendors, look at the overall value you receive. We’re not talking about simple monetary value. We’re talking about total worth, merit, and importance. What is most important to you? Is it quality, accountability, and integrity? If you are not completely happy with the quality and service that you are receiving, turn to Garrett Leather because you deserve the best leather purchasing experience possible.

More than just a leather company.
Garrett Leather is your advocate working for your success.

Quality | Integrity | Accountability | Respect | Caring | Creativity

Embracing Today’s Technology

What do today’s technology and Garrett Leather have in common? Both provide instant gratification. It’s not just Millennials that enjoy instant gratification. This Gen Xer embraces technology and loves her new Echo Dot. Alexa instantly felt like a member of the family, a version of every person’s dream companion who follows directions, provides helpful information, has a great sense of humor, plays games, and leaves you alone when you do not want to be bothered. Regardless of your generation, when you want something, you want it NOW. This is especially true if you’re a designer working against tight production schedules. With today’s technology, there is no reason to keep your clients waiting.

Cue Garrett Leather


Garrett Leather’s website homepage

For years, Garrett Leather has been at the forefront of providing instant gratification via our website. When visiting, visitors may chat with customer service via our Live Chat feature and request samples or dyelot cuttings right online. Approved members may also log in to check inventory, view pricing, place leather on reserve, and purchase products. All of that information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? Apply today. Having information on demand at your fingertips is one thing. Having actual product in your hands is another. Garrett Leather provides both.

New Guarantee


Over two million square feet of leather resides at Garrett Leather’s headquarters

Garrett Leather embraces today’s technology and continues to provide instant gratification with the introduction of our Guaranteed In Stock program for our five most popular collections. Some may argue that there are areas where quality takes time and patience is a virtue. While both of these statements are true, there is no reason to forfeit superior quality for the convenience of receiving your leather when you need it. With our new Guaranteed In Stock program, if we cannot ship up to 1000 square feet of one dyelot within two business days, we do the next best thing…we’ll ship your order for FREE. Now seriously, who doesn’t like FREE shipping?

That’s a good question for Alexa…

Leather Cleaning 101: Learn All You Need to Know

Leather cleaning is a popular subject. We are often asked, what is the best way to clean stains on leather? The answers vary, depending on the type of leather in question and what caused the stain. Regardless of the leather or the stain, quick attention is always essential.


Semi-aniline leathers receive a protective finish on the surface, so these types of leathers are the easiest to clean and maintain. The best course of action depends on what caused the stain. It is always recommended that liquid spills are blotted up immediately with a clean, dry cloth, with minimal rubbing. The spill should be allowed to air dry and dissipate without the use of heat dryers. For spills that may leave a stain, such as red wine, a mild cleanser may be used to remove the excess residue and remove the spill completely. Cleanser should not be applied to oil or grease stains. Ink stains and lipstick may also be removed from semi-aniline leather with the proper tools, such as Ink Remover. Again, fast action gives the best results. Always ask your leather vendor what cleaning products are recommended for your particular leather.

leather cleaning care products

Leather Cleaning Kit and Mild Cleanser from Garrett Leather

Pure Aniline

Pure aniline leathers have less protection than semi-aniline leathers, however, the leather cleaning tips are similar. Act fast to blot up spills and use mild cleanser as recommended.


Nubuck leather has the fibers exposed, so these types of products require special attention. Nubuck Cleaner and Nubuck Protector are often recommended and a nubuck brush is used to revitalize the nap of the leather and keep it looking fresh.

nubuck leather cleaning care products

Nubuck Care Kit from Garrett Leather

Permanent Stains

While leather is well-known for its durability and easy maintenance, there are some cases when leather simply cannot be cleaned. For example, permanent marker typically cannot be removed from leather, even when Ink Remover is applied to the stain immediately.

Dye transfer is another type of stain that often cannot be cleaned from leather. Dye transfer occurs when the color from one material  rubs off onto another material. The most common example of dye transfer occurs when dark blue dye from denim jeans rubs off onto light colored leather. Sometimes a cleanser will remove the offending dye, but often the dye is so dark that the original color cannot be restored.

Learn More About Leather Cleaning

Learn more about leather cleaning and Leather Care Products. If you have additional questions, feel free to Contact Us. We’ll be happy to help.

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