18 July 2012

Tutorial: Tufting An Ottoman

 I have to start this by saying that this process could have been wayyy easier for my husband and I with just one simple extra step {that I'll show you in a minute} that we didn't find out about until it was too late. 

But let me back up first to when we were turning this coffee table into an ottoman. That's when we started the tufting process. Before we upholstered the table we planned out the pattern for the buttons:

and drilled all the holes: 
You can read about those steps in more detail in the post I linked to above.

...then we proceeded to add the foam, batting and finally the fabric. 
That's where we missed the critical step to prep for tufting. 

When we were adding the foam, what we should have done is put holes in it where all our tufts were going to be, like this:

It would have been as simple as laying the foam down on top of the table and pushing a pen or thin marker up through the bottom of the table through the drilled holes to mark the same points on the foam, and then cutting out those spots from the foam. 

Getting deep tufts would have taken way less arm work from me and our buttons wouldn't have so much tension against them. But like I said, we found out about this after we already had the whole ottoman upholstered and looking like this:

So it was way too late. I was not going to risk ruining my gorgeous West Elm fabric by pulling it all off the table.  Our mistake was unfortunate, but it wasn't the end of the world. It just meant that it definitely took the two of us working together to get the tufts as deep as they are. 

We turned the table on it's side so that each of us could work on either side of it, me on the top and Rob on the bottom. ahem.

I covered all the buttons (28 of them) with left over fabric scraps from when we'd upholstered the table. 

Back when we'd upholstered the dining room bench I'd bought a pack of small decorator's needles from Joann Fabrics to do the tufting with. So for the ottoman I used the largest needle in the pack. 

Using nylon upholstery thread, I unwound two arm-lengths, cut it, and then folded that piece in half. I threaded the needle with it, starting at the folded end of the thread and then pulled it through until those two strands were folded completely in half, giving me 4 strands of thread in my needle. 

I didn't get a picture this time, so this pic is from when we did the bench. But you can see how thick the thread looks. Having all 4 strands of thread helps make sure it won't snap with the tension of holding the button on really tight. 

Then since Rob was working on the underside of the table, he started the tufting process by pushing the threaded needle up through one of the holes in the bottom of the table. I pulled the needle the rest of the way through the fabric from the top side of the ottoman. I pulled enough thread out with it so that I could thread the button onto my needle-

 and then tie 3 or 4 tight knots before cutting the needle off the thread. 

{These last couple pictures were obviously from when we did the bench...knowing I had these already to explain the process with made me lazy when it came to taking pics of the ottoman tufting!}

I left the "tail" of extra thread hanging from the button and just wrapped it around the underside of the button and tucked it in so it wouldn't show.

When I was ready on my end, Rob pulled the strands of thread that were hanging from his side of the table and at the same time I pushed on the button (with all the foam it took most of my strength) to get a deep tuft. Then I kept pressure on the button while Rob kept pulling the thread tight in different directions and stapling it down, finishing it off with a knot. 

The first tuft: 

About half way done:

Here's how the underside looked at the halfway point:
 (we waited till the end to cut all those long strands of extra thread)

And finished!

Thank heavens for a husband who's good at math so all those squares got spaced perfectly. If I'd plotted them all out this thing would have ended up looking like shiz. 

The crazy amount of tension on these buttons has already caused a button top to pop off when I plopped one of the twins down on it the other day. Having holes in the foam would have prevented that. 
But luckily it's nothing a little Gorilla Glue can't handle. And the fabric should loosen up a little over time so there won't always be quite so much pressure on the buttons. 
But I gotta say, I love how tight it is. 

Here it is with it's pretty accessories, which I'll share all the details on later. 


Again if you missed the other posts about this project, you can see how we upholstered it here, how I stained and distressed the legs here, and just more photos and my declaration of undying love here

Tip Junkie handmade projects


  1. Thanks for this awesome tutorial! It turned out sooo cute!


  2. I'm going to be using this tutorial sooner than later! I was wondering if you could give more info on how to cover the buttons?

    1. Yes! I purposely left out how I did the buttons because they were a freaking pain!! I bought a bunch of button cover kits from Joann Fabrics, and they come with the button tops, backs, a guide to trace the circle for your fabric (it's just a circle printed on the package), and two rubber things to help you push the fabric onto the button top, and then the top onto the bottom piece. It looked like it would be super easy, but the problem was I could not get the two pieces to snap together. Maybe if I'd been using really thin fabric, but with upholstery fabric it was too thick for me to be able to squeeze the button top onto the button bottom piece and have them snap together like they're suppose to. Even my husband couldn't do it. He had to stack everything together on top of a block of wood, set another block of wood on top and then bang on it with a hammer to get the two pieces to go together.
      I really suggest saving yourself the frustration and getting an I-top! Or just buy one button cover kit and see if you're able to do it first and then if not, get yourself an I-Top. It's what I used when I covered the buttons for my bench, and the only reason I didn't use it for this was because I'd run out of I-Top buttons and didn't want to wait to order more. (That's the downside- you gotta get your buttons from them too. I tried using the buttons I'd bought from Joann's in my I-Top and they wouldn't work.) I won mine so I'm not sure what they cost, but here's a link to one on the companies' website: http://www.imaginisce.com/sewing-and-quilting/productdetail.aspx?id=1525

      Maybe someone else has a better way to cover buttons too; I'm not sure. I just know I totally hated the kit, but the I-Top was super fast and easy. Hope that helps! I'm excited to see what you do!

    2. Thanks so much for your thorough answer! It does indeed sound like a pain in the the tuft! I will let you know if I have any luck xo

    3. I've used the JoAnn button covers but it does take a little work to get them snapped together, I agree.

      One thought is if you have a local upholstery store that sells supplies such as fabrics, foam, not a fabric store but a dedicated upholstery store then they often time have large commercial button makers bolted down and customers are welcome to use them. They sell all the buttons and backs in various sizes too. I know we have one here and it's a family owned business and it sells 1,000s of fabrics (designer included) and supplies from nail tacks to glue to buttons and more!!

    4. Beautiful job by the way on the tuffed ottoman. I attempted this with my sister's coffee table and we had a heck of a time using a staple gun. I think the wood for the table was not pine or a soft wood. It was like a pressed wood and so we will have to used an electric stapler or air gun.

    5. Most upholstery shops have button makers and will be happy to make your buttons with your fabrics for a small fee. I've gotten them for 50 cents per button. It only takes them a few minutes. Their parts are much better quality than the kits from Joann's, which are really meant for garments and not upholstery.

    6. Next time I will definitely do that!! Thanks for the tip!

  3. Pure gorgeousness! You are truly talented! I'm not sure I would be patient enough to do this myself though.

    xo Mary Jo

  4. This is fantastic! I haven't tried tufting yet! Thanks for stopping to comment on our blog. Keep in touch!

  5. Wow- that is really a professional job! I LOVE how you styled it too!!

  6. You really did a beautiful job. The tufting really makes a difference.

  7. Great job, Brooke! You are so talented in DIY! Is there anything you can't do?


  8. Anonymous19 July, 2012

    I LOVE the tufting - if you had holes in the foam they would be very deep and you would lose the pattern of the fabric so I actually really like the effect of the tauter tufts. Awesome job xx

    Anna (My Design Ethos)

    1. That's true! I hadn't thought of that- I feel better about missing that step then! Thanks!! :)

  9. Wow! I love this! The fabric is amazing of course, but those tufts so take it to the next level. And it looks completely professional. All I can say is wow.

  10. Great job! I love the fabric and your tutorial is spot on. It looks fabulous!

  11. Looks great! I recently did this myself, but I must say it doesn't look as good as yours :)

  12. Great tutorial. I'm in love with this fabric - I used it to make an upholstered bench for my kitchen a few months back and am planning to use some of the leftover to re-seat a cane chair. It's the perfect mix of modern and classic!

  13. Thanks for this tutorial! I'm going to tackle a coffee table-turned-ottoman next month, and this will definitely come in handy! Yours looks fabulous.

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  15. It looks amazing and I have an old banged up coffee table from ReStore that would be perfect for this. I am curious though how you made sure that the depth for each tuft was the same? I'm such a perfectionist I don't think I could stand for some to be pulled tighter than others :-)

    1. Jessica I'm sorry I'm just now replying to this! It got buried in my comment feed and I just came across it. So I totally get what you mean about the tufts- I was worried about the same thing. I couldn't think of a good way to make them all the same depth though, so I just pushed as hard as I could on each one and hoped they'd all end up about the same, which they did. They definitely aren't perfect though, so I wouldn't want anyone sticking a ruler into them to measure. :) But they look pretty uniform so I'm completely happy with them. Again sorry it took me so long to respond!

  16. Wow!!! You did a great job. It makes me feel confident to do my own!!! more...