Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to Re-Upholster Furniture with Deep, Folded Tufts

Ever since I first tried to tuft a piece of furniture the easy way (see: "Simple Tufted Headboard"), I have wanted to know how to properly upholster furniture with deep, diamond-folded tufts.  It took me a couple years, but I finally found a fantastic seamstress and professional upholsterer who shared their secrets with me, and now I will share them with you!

I started with a simple piece, this oval ottoman.  I was working on a project where we needed to find a deep burgundy ottoman, but one couldn't be found so we had to create our own!:


- Pliers
- Flat-head screw-driver
- Scissors
- Stapler
- Hammer
- Permanent marker
- Upholstery needle
- Tweezers


- Upholstery fabric
- Fabric covered-buttons
- Button cord (about 2' for each button)


STEP 1:  Remove the existing covering

All re-upholstery begins with pulling a lot of staples!  Flip your furniture over, and using your flat-head screwdriver and pliers, start pulling out all the staples that are securing the fabric to the frame.

STEP 2: Release the Buttons

Once you have the fabric loosened from the frame, you will need to release the buttons in order to remove the fabric.  You can pull the staples securing the strings if you want to re-use them, or if you're tired of pulling staples and you don't need to re-use the strings, you can just cut them.

STEP 3: Cut New Fabric

Take your fabric and cut a piece of new fabric that's a little bigger:

STEP 4: Stretch and Mark Fabric

 When you remove the fabric, on the underside you will find where the strings are attached.  You will need to mark where these strings are.  I removed the strings one at a time, and stuck a pen through the fabric to make a hole where they were:

Next you will need to stretch the fabric.  A professional upholsterer will have proper tools and equipment to do this that most DIYers will not.  Do the best you can by ironing out the old fabric on top of the new fabric, securing the edges with pins to keep it in place.

Using a permanent marker, mark the position of the holes onto the back-side of your new fabric:

STEP 5:  Attach Strings to New Fabric

Using an upholstery needle, double the string and and pull it through your marks just enough to form a loop.  Pass the ends of the string through the loop and pull to secure the strings:

Repeat until you have strings attached to each of your marks.

STEP 6:  Create the New Tufts

You'll want to make sure that there are decent sized holes (about the size of a quarter) in the foam.  Professional upholsterers have special tools to do this with (especially handy if you have to cut new holes in new foam).  If you are just re-upholstering something, the holes should already be there, but you might want to take a small serrated knife and just clear them out a little:

Thread the strings on the back of your fabric through the corresponding holes in the foam/frame.  This seems like it should be easy, but it can be a little tricky.  I highly suggest enlisting a partner to help you out!  We found it easiest to work from right to left, bottom to top.  One person on the foam side would loop the strings around a pair of tweezers and then pass it through the foam/wood to the person on the other side who would pull it through and hold onto it, so that it wouldn't slip through as the fabric was adjusted on the other side.  You can also loosely tie the strings together on the other side to help with this.

Once all the right strings are pulled through all the right holes, flip the furniture over (top side down), pull the strings as hard as you can (starting from the middle working your way out), and secure them to the wood on the backside:

Pull the cord straight back and staple (use a hammer to make sure the staple is all the way in).

Pull the string back across the first staple, and secure with another staple.

When you finish securing all of the strings, flip the furniture right side up again, and you will see that the diamond folds are naturally beginning to form:

STEP 7: Fold the Tufts

Pinch and tuck the fabric from tuft to tuft to make the folds.  Make sure that you are making all your folds point in the same direction.

STEP 8:  Add the Buttons

I would highly suggest having your buttons covered by a professional upholsterer.  Snap together fabric covered buttons (that you can buy in a kit at any fabric store) are really hard to put together
with heavier upholstery fabric, and if you can get them together, they often come apart once you start to pull on them.  A professional upholsterer will have a proper button press that they use to make really strong buttons that can endure a lot of pull (80lbs).  My upholsterer did mine for 90 cents a piece - money well spent!

Double your button cord (just like you did with the strings on the back of your fabric) and loop it through the base of your button.  Pass the ends through the loop and pull to secure:

Thread the ends of the button cord through a long upholstery needle, and pass the needle through each of the tufts, pulling the cords through to the back-side of the furniture:

Once all of the buttons are threaded through, flip your furniture over (tuft-side down), and once again working from the middle out, pull the cords as hard as you can (try to get the bottom of the button down far enough that it is inside the wood) and secure to the wood with staples:

STEP 9: Fold the Edges

Pinch, and tuck the folds from the tufts on the outside edges. Once you get the folds as smooth as you can, firmly pull the fabric straight down and secure the folded fabric to the frame of the furniture with staples:

 *This particular piece of furniture had an additional foam and fabric band that went around the circumference of the bottom edge, so I could secure the staples along the bottom edge, but if it didn't, I would pull the fabric right around to the bottom and secure the folds with staples on the under-side of the frame.

STEP 10: Trim the Excess Fabric and Finish

With the new fabric now totally secured to the frame, go ahead and trim off the excess:

Finish replacing any other additional pieces and enjoy your new piece of beautifully tufted furniture!

You might also be interested in:

How To Re-Upholster Furntiure With Wood Parts 

How To Re-Upholster A Sofa