23 August 2013

How To Do Buttonless Tufting On Couch Cushions

 Knot knot.

Who's there? 

A whole bunch of knotted tufts!

Sorry, that opening was lame. 
But you know what's not lame? My newly tufted couch cushions.

Now, this couch is not my dream couch. I would love something different. In fact I frequently haunt couch sales online just looking for the perfect sofa at the perfect price. But until the day comes that I find the right sofa AND actually have the money for it, the changes I've made to my current one make it a lot easier to live with. 

It began it's life looking like this:

Re-covering the cushions to get rid of the microfiber and making new back cushions to get rid of the ridiculous amount of pillows made this couch look a billion times better. 

But the problem with the new back cushions was that they had to be fluffed all.the.freaking.time to keep them from looking like this-

After getting leaned on and half-sat on they'd get smushed and saggy and just look like a wreck. I was having to fluff them multiple times per day to keep their shape right. 

So I decided to tuft them so that they'd hold their shape and always look good. I didn't want buttons though, so I searched around for a good tutorial on buttonless tufting since I've never done it before, but I came up empty-handed. So, I made up my own way, and I'm really happy with how it came out! 

Here's what I did:

I used this embroidery thread that matched my couch fabric really well-

I unwound the length of both my arms stretched out to the sides- three times. It took a lot of thread to make each tuft because of the knots. 

After cutting the super long piece of thread I found the center and folded it in half

I threaded the looped end through my largest upholstery needle 

and then pulled the needle to the center of the strands of thread so that my thread was now 4 strands thick. This part alone takes up a big chunk of all that thread since it ends up being a quarter as long as it was in the beginning. 

I tied the end in a knot by wrapping the four strands 6 times around my finger and then kind of rolling it off so that all the loops wrapped around each other and then pulled tight. It's really hard to explain it right but I think this is the common way to tie the end of thread when hand sewing so anyone who's done that should know what I'm talking about. 

Unlike with most sewing though, the knot was going to be seen- it's what is front and center in each of the tufts. And each knot came out looking something like this-

Loopy, uneven...more of a snarl than a knot. Kinda like what happens in my hair if I don't use leave-in conditioner. 

So to make it pretty I threaded a normal sized needle with the same embroidery thread (only 1 strand of it this time) and sewed all over the knot to pull everything nice and tight and get it into the shape of a ball. 

I can't believe I didn't get a picture of one of the knots when it was totally finished and looking good, but I didn't. Just imagine a tight ball of thread tying the four strands of embroidery thread together on the upholstery needle. 

So that's what I did to get my thread ready for each tuft; to get the fabric ready I first fluffed the crap out of the cushions. I made sure all the stuffing inside was distributed around as evenly as possible and the cushion was laying flat. 

Then I measured and marked the spots for each of the tufts using a disappearing ink fabric pen. 

For the two larger cushions I did two rows of five tufts and for the shorter cushion I did two rows of four. Now in hindsight something I'd do differently with my measuring would be to move the bottom row up a little more. When I plotted everything out on the front of the cushion I made the bottom row of tufts the same distance from the bottom of the pillow as I made the top row of tufts from the top of the pillow. I didn't think about the fact that once the pillow was standing back up like normal the bottom of it was going to get pushed down a little from the weight of the pillow so the bottom tufts were no longer going to look like they were spaced the same as the top ones. Make sense? You can see what I'm talking about in this photo-

If I were madly in love with this couch and wanting to keep it forever I'd probably cut all the thread and  re-tuft it just to make everything look more evenly spaced. But since this is just the solution to keep me happy with it for a while longer I don't have the motivation to do all that. Just keep that tip in mind if you try this with your couch cushions, especially if they are really soft and floppy like mine {a firmer cushion probably wouldn't have this problem}. 

But anyways, once I had all spots marked for the tufts it was time to start tufting. 
I started at the front of the cushion so that it would get the pretty knot. I pushed the embroidery needle through the dot I'd made with the pen and pulled it out through the back of the cushion till all the thread was through and the knot was sitting tight against the front of the cushion. Then I put the needle back through the back of the cushion about a quarter inch from the spot where I'd first pulled it through and brought it out the front of the cushion right by the knot and pulled tight so it made the tuft.

Then I put the needle into the fabric on the opposite side of the knot so that the thread would cross over it and pulled the needle back through the back of the cushion and pulled tight again.

I adjusted the tension on the thread until I liked the depth of the tuft from the front, then I cut the thread right at the needle so I still had a long strand hanging in the back to knot. 

Knotting the thread in back was a little tricky since it was attached to the cushion and I didn't have as much room when winding it around my finger and then pulling it tight to make the knot. But luckily these knots didn't need to be as good-looking as the ones in front. I didn't make these cushions reversible because it was super hard to bring the needle out in just the right spot in the back, so the spacing of the tufts on the back of the cushions is not right at all.  So while I didn't want the knots back there to look like absolute crap, I didn't spend as much time making them pretty as I did with the front ones. I still sewed them though to make them look decent and also to make them strong since it was so hard to tie them. {A few of them were so difficult I ended up just having to wad up the thread and then sew them up extra good to even make the knot.} 

Here's a photo of that sewing process- this one is from early on, and with the first few that I did I used regular thread to tighten the knots on the back of the cushion because I was worried about running out of the good thread. But once I started seeing that I wasn't blowing through the spools of embroidery thread too quickly (I'd bought two of them) I switched over to using that thread to sew these knots too.

Also with the knots in back I did a couple stitches into the cushion fabric too to attach the knot directly to it just to help keep things really strong. 

And that was it. 

Here is a finished tuft.

And a half-finished cushion. 

You can really see the difference the tufting made when you look at a tufted and untufted cushion side by side. 

In addition to how much better the cushions look with tufting, I'm also really surprised at how much more comfortable they are. They felt amazing to lean up against before the tufting if they'd been freshly fluffed and were the right shape (like leaning up against a giant body pillow) but once they started to get saggy it was hard to get comfortable against them. Now when we sit down they are always comfortable and I like the feeling of the firmer cushion. 

You can see I mixed up the pillows a little bit on the couch. I put away one of the dark brown zebra print pillows and brought out a lighter one in a larger print that I've had for a while. (It's from Pillows by Dezign.) I like how it looks better without every pillow being an identical pair. 

Another before of the cushions:

And after:

Overall I'm pretty happy with how the cushions came out. It's hard to get home-made cushions looking perfect since, well, they aren't. But doing this on a store bought couch cushion would look amazing. I'm definitely thrilled with this tufting technique. I'm sure I'll be using it again at some point! 

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Weekend Bloggy Reading


  1. You did one amazing job! The difference is unbelievable! You found a truly great new "art". "Claim it yours!!!!

  2. You, my darling, are a freaking genius!! My mom's couch has saggy back cushions and I am totally doing this to them! :)

    PS I read your blog all the time but am too lazy to comment every time! I suck! :)

    Your place looks amazing!

    1. Thank you Kari!! Oh and don't worry, I do the same thing! I read on my phone a lot and it is a pain to comment from there! :)

  3. Great job, Brooke! I've been thinking about tufting my sectional cushions as well. Thanks for the steps! :)

  4. Hahaha! I actually love your opening line Brooke! Love the new look, it's an ingenius way of making something you have work!!! Great job dear!

  5. Holy improvement batman! Great difference from where you started to where it is now.

  6. It looks great, definitely more definition with the buttons :)

  7. What a great improvement to the couch

  8. Great job with the tufting!!

  9. What I great idea! I never would have thought of tufting any other way besides with buttons but this looks great!
    I'm a new follower. Can't wait to see more!

  10. You are freaking awesome!

  11. This tutorial is so terrific. We own the same couch and bought it as a "temporary" fix. However, we still have to be able to display it and I am soooooo over the microfiber! I have been planning to recover it this summer. I could not believe my luck when the first search result I found was doing an "L" shaped couch . I especially couldn't believe my luck when I opened the link and it was THE SAME COUCH!!! I love you for doing this before me! lol :) Truly awesome post, pictures, and couch.

    1. Thank you sooo much Rebecca!! I'm so glad it's going to be helpful to you!! I am with you- I don't love this couch at all but in the microfiber I got to where I couldn't stand it! So now it's so much easier to wait till I can get the kind of couch I really want, with this one looking so much better. The new fabric makes a huge difference!! Best of luck with yours and I'm so glad this tutorial is going to help!! :D

  12. Thank you sooooo much!! I just made a Papasan Chair cushion, using a heavy weight sheet for the back and piecing together upholstery material, for the front. The material came from two of three brand new, rose patterned, chair cushions that someone had thrown away in our "cardboard only" dumpster, at work. The Papasan cushion came out great, except that I need to tuft it and had no idea how to. Your ingenious "knotting" technique will work wonderfully and I can't wait to finish my cushion, which currently sports a "DO NOT SIT ON THIS!" tag, in anticipation of me learning how to tuft! I can't thank you enough!

    1. Oh I am so glad!!! What a great find with the material! Your chair cushion sounds amazing and I'm so happy that this tutorial will be helpful! Thank you for telling me!! :D

  13. Oh thank god! I have the same exact couch! I frickin HATE it more then ife itself. My 1.5 yr old constantly throws the pilows around and you can never be comfortable leaning back because the pillows overlap and the zippers are so sharp they cut my sons back. The bottom cushions constantly push forward....this is just a nightmare. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. lol I felt the same way about this couch before I redid it! I'm so glad this is helpful!!