Twenty years ago, when Dan Fuehring came home from work and found his wife Lois had dismantled the couch, his response was, "I should have figured as much."
Lois Fuehring doesn't back away from challenges, and the fact that she had never reupholstered furniture before didn't stop her from trying."I wanted some upholstery work done, but I didn't want to pay the price," she said. So she tried it herself and, without missing a beat, created an attractive new cover for the couch. Then she did it again with two chairs. And again for some relatives who also wanted prettier furniture.
Soon, she was invited to substitute teach a Salt Lake School District continuing education class in upholstery - and she stuck with it after the regular teacher never came back.
Fuehring must be doing something right - her classes are always filled and there are waiting lists, students often take repeat classes to learn new skills and, most recently, Fuehring was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Utah Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education.
She had a mastectomy last May after a breast cancer diagnosis, and her students banded together to bring dinner to her family every night for two weeks.
"You never know how much people care until something like that happens," Fuehring said.
That didn't surprise Pam Stevens-Steffensen, who manages the continuing education program at Hillside Intermediate School.
Stevens-Steffensen points out that Fuehring puts in far more time than she is required to, goes out of her way to make sure students understand what they need to learn, cleans the classroom herself at the end of the quarter and even helps people take their treasures home.
"All of the furniture students bring into the classroom leaves looking like it just came off the showroom floor," Stevens-Steffensen said. "Lois' students think the world of her."
Students Karen Barlow and Jamileh Jameson agree. Barlow took Fuehring's classes because, "I can't afford my own taste," she said, laughing. "I can't afford $4,000 couches. I like spending a few hundred dollars on fabric and doing the work myself."
With Fuehring's help, Jameson said, she is going to go through all the furniture in her house piece by piece to get just the look she wants - at a dramatically reduced cost.
Among other things, Fuehring arranges for discounts on fabric and supplies for her students. Doing the work yourself can mean substantial savings, she said, noting that the going rate for reupholstering a chair with good-quality fabric is about $400 to $500. Her students can do it for well under $200.
She estimates she's probably taught 500 people this skill during her 20 years of teaching.
Fuehring originally had no training as a seamstress - she never studied home economics in the parochial schools she attended in her home state of North Dakota. That still didn't get in the way.
"It's just a God-given talent," she said of her upholstery expertise. "I work quite well with my hands."
She also said she learns quickly from experience - and is convinced everyone can learn to do upholstery, although admittedly some do better than others.
Teaching is fun, she said. "The delight of this is sharing it with others," Fuehring said. "I've watched people so lacking in self-confidence leave (her class) with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Their reward is sitting in the living room and listening to all the compliments."