Friday, February 17, 2012

The Most Epic DIY Tufted Headboard Journey

 I've been talking about making an upholstered headboard since 2006. I used to lust after the ones in Urban Outfitters catalogs, but was always too cheap to spend $350 + shipping on one of their headboards, which frankly look pretty cheap. If I was going to have a cheap-looking headboard, I would make it myself, dammit!

I've read so many DIY upholstered headboard tutorials that I felt really confident going into this project.  I relied most heavily on Jenny's AMAZING tutorial at Little Green Notebook and Carrie's at Brick City Love. Jenny has a way of making everything look easy. Here is what I learned: while I don't doubt it was pretty easy for her, it was NOT easy for me. 

I want to give the most honest, but helpful tutorial I can, so bear with me because it might be on the long side. I'm going to walk you through the steps I took. At the bottom, however, I'm going to put a full shopping list and the steps I would take if I did it again, so you are welcome to skip ahead.

Day 1: Button Making and Pegboard Prepping

On Saturday, I sat down with several of Dritz's cover button kits and a strip of my Robert Allen linen. I bought enough to have 36 buttons, but I only used 33 buttons. Every tutorial I've ever read has made this seem like a breezy endeavor, but I will tell you right now that making fabric-covered buttons this small with this kit sucked. If you can suggest a better kit, please do.

Basically, you use a circle pattern that's printed on the back of the package to cut out circles of fabric. You then center the circles over the white rubber piece, stick a button top into the center of the fabric, push into the white part and then tuck the fabric into the back of the button. Place the button back over the fabric, and using the blue button, push it down until the back wedges under the button top, thus creating the button.

Ultimately, I had to use a wimpy fingers just couldn't apply enough pressure to get the buttons to stay together. It was agonizing and some of the buttons looked truly horrible, but I didn't care.

 Et voila! A finished button. I do not exaggerate when I say I made buttons from noon to about 9 p.m., taking small breaks so my fingers didn't fall off. This leads me to my first big piece of advice: you can do this alone, but if you can recruit a friend to help you with this, DO IT. Buy them a pizza, I don't care. You just really need a helping hand, and Sean had to work all weekend so I was all by my lonesome and feeling cocky.

 Per Jenny's advice, we used pegboard that we purchased from Home Depot. It was 5 feet across and 3 feet wide...we wanted 4 feet, but couldn't fit it in our little Saturn. You can only fit this in your car if your backseats fold down.

I played around with several button layouts, but settled on five rows of buttons, alternating between seven buttons and six buttons. I separated the buttons by counting seven dots in the pegboard between each horizontally, and four dots vertically. You can always do more or less.

 When I was happy with the layout, I used a white pencil to circle where each button would go. Here is where I must tell you my second piece of advice: If your pegboard is white on one side and "raw" on the other side, for the love of god, put the fabric on top of the white side. This is the single biggest mistake we made; we had the white side as the back and its veneer made stapling impossible.

I laid the pegboard on top of a 5 foot wide piece of 3-inch foam I bought at Joann's with a 40 percent off coupon. I stuck a Sharpie in each of my pre-marked circles so I could see where my buttons will go on the foam. Once that was done, I sprayed the foam with spray adhesive and stuck it to the pegboard (REMEMBER, white side inside, raw side outside).

Using a paring knife, I cut a rough circle around each dot. This is where you'll push the button down, which helps coax the fabric into diamond tufts. If I did it again, I might even cut it more into an "x" shape.

 The whole foam strip will look like this.

I don't have sawhorse legs, but balancing the pieces on two chairs worked just fine. I covered the foam with twin mattress-size hi-loft batting that I trimmed to fit, then placed my linen on top. Another tip: Make absolutely sure the fabric is centered...obviously. Mine was, at the beginning. By the end of the adventure...not so much.

 This is where I admit that I basically wing it when it comes to tying knots. I'm sure there are incredible sailor's knots or some such that I should be using, but here's what I did: I took three strands of upholstery thread and tied them in your basic knot around the button hole. I let the strands fall free from there.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get an amazingly huge upholstery needle...this one was 10 inches long.

 I pushed the fabric into the holes in the foam and, starting from the middle of the first row, I stuck the needle through and then pulled until the thread strands were in the back and I could pull the button taut.

 I stapled the thread to the back, yanking in different directions to keep it taut. That method worked exactly once. It became progressively more and more impossible until I had a pile of bent staples that was truly shameful.


Sean and I convinced ourselves the answer to our prayers would be an electric stapler, which we bought with a gift card from Lowe's. It was not the answer to our prayers. It will be returned.

Another tip: Your fingers will be throbbing and your hand muscles will be so sore from stapling. Split this project over two days, or even three, just to keep yourself from weeping.

Day 2: Tufting and Stapling, Rinse, Repeat

 So, at some point, I had no patience left and decided to go ahead and get all the buttons into place so that when Sean returned, I would be ready to go and he could help with the stapling. I personally wouldn't recommend this, simply because it makes it hard to keep the folds neat and tidy.

 And then this mess happened. Are you kidding me, universe? Luckily, I had some fabric glue on hand and it was surprisingly perfect for sticking the button covers back on.

I was at a low place....I had already threatened once I just give up and throw the whole project in the dumpster in a fit of existentialism. And that's when I remembered Carrie of Brick City Love's tutorial and thought, "Wait a second! She used buttons on the back to secure her tufts!"

So, I picked up a ridiculous package of big white buttons from Michael's and attached each button to two of the three strands, using the third strand to tie a tight knot. I retied the knot several times over until the buttons were firmly in place on the backside. This method does not get tufts as deep as the stapling method, but it totally worked and although it sounds tedious, it took less than an hour to finish the tufts.

 Once the tufts were done, I was ready to finish the edges. The stapler worked much better with the fabric to cover the veneer. I stapled the batting first, pulling as taut as possible, and trimming at the corners where it was a little too fluffy.

After that, I gathered the excess fabric into folds at the top and on the sides...this was easier said than done, honestly, but that was mainly because my fabric had shifted and was no longer perfectly centered. Staple the folds, and in between, pulling tightly as you go.

 It should look like this, but better.

To finish the part of the board where the foam ends, push the staple gun up under the foam and staple the fabric to the pegboard, which is still covered with batting down at the bottom. This really showed me how much easier it was to staple the "raw" wonder Jenny's project looked so easy!

 See? Like that. I then pulled the remaining fabric around the bottom and stapled again.

 Just to show how very ugly this looks from behind.

 Total train wreck from the back.

But look! This is how it ends up!

Pretty good! I will tell you that I look at it and immediately get worked up about the folds that fell out in the button-tying process, so I can't recommend having a second person to help enough.

We haven't even hung it yet, so I don't have those glowing after pictures, but now you have a working knowledge of how to do the damn thing.

So, let's review:

Materials for Queen Headboard
  • 2 yards of fabric
  • 5/8 size buttons with button cover kit (I bought 36 buttons at Joann's)
  • A 10-inch upholstery needle
  • Heavy-duty staple gun and staples
  • Large two-hole buttons (optional for tufting)
  • Hi-Loft Batting
  • Upholstery thread
  • Spray adhesive
  • Fabric glue (just in case!!)
  • 5-foot-wide foam, 3-inches thick from Joann's
  • 5-foot-wide, 3-foot (or 4-foot) tall pegboard (we bought at Home Depot). You can also use plywood and drill the holes yourself.
  • Flush mounts to hang the headboard
  1. Cut a strip of fabric to make buttons and make fabric-covered buttons.
  2. Lay out buttons on the pegboard and circle where you'd like them to go with a sharpie or pencil.
  3. Place the pegboard on top of foam and mark the holes with a Sharpie.
  4. Attach the foam to the board with spray adhesive.
  5. Carve circles out where the buttons will go in the foam with a paring knife. 
  6. Place batting over the pegboard and foam, trimming as necessary. Leave enough to wrap around the sides.
  7. Place fabric over the batting.
  8. Tie 3-4 strands of upholstery thread, all of equal length, around the back of a button. Thread the loose ends through upholstery needle.
  9. Starting in the middle of the first row, push the fabric into the foam hole and arrange the folds to form a diamond shape. Stick the needle through the hole, ensuring the button sinks into the foam and the thread comes out on the back side. 
  10. Pulling the thread taut, either staple it down and yank in different directions, stapling as you go OR attach to another button and tie in a tight knot. Repeat process, arranging folds as you move down the rows.
  11. Once all the buttons are secured, gather the fabric at the top and sides into folds that meet the outermost buttons and staple to secure on the back. This helps make sure the fabric stays neat.
  12. Pull batting tight and staple all around the headboard. Repeat with fabric, stapling under the foam, then wrapping under the bottom of the pegboard.
  13. If using flush mounts, attach one side of each flush mount (use 2-3) on the back of the headboard and the other side on the wall so they'll fit together like puzzle pieces. Make sure your mattress slides into the nook formed by fabric stapled under the foam.
YAY! It's over!


Rachel King said...

YAY! Your commentary is hilarious and on-point (again, I could never do this) and the results are incredible. Bravo!!

Melissa Baumgart said...

I am so happy to see your post. I am in the middle of the same project and it is a pain in the you-know-what! Staples and pegboard DO NOT work. It's a mess and I only have two tufts in, one of which doesn't even really count.
I am going to try the buttons, or perhaps washers that I saw on another blog.
Thanks for the inspiration to keep going!
you can check out my process or lack there of on my blog

Jaryn Crowdus said...

I LOVE the fact that you were so honest about your project. I find these DIY crafts on pinterest and they make them look so easy but in all honesty, they are far from easy and don't work.
Your project is beautiful and my hat is off to you!

Amber said...

Thank you so much, Jaryn. I always go into every DIY thinking I'm going to be the master of the universe. They usually work out, but it's usually tougher than it sounded!

Sherri Drum said...

Hi there, where did you find your fabric? I am searching for extrawide gray linen fabric to make my headboard. I'd like to make a 60" tall and wide tufted headboard, can not find the fabric...
Frustrated in Cali

Amber said...

Hi Sherri! My fabric is Robert Allen linen from Calico Corners.