(The above pic in an ‘in process’ one – the tufts weren’t smoothed yet nor were the buttons on but I had to give it a trial run and whoa, doesn’t it look gooood even half done?!)
Oh man, I can’t wait to share this tutorial with you guys. Let me preface this whole project tutorial with this though – it might seem super overwhelming and intimidating. The thought of making a tufted headboard from scratch seemed really far-fetched for me even. When you look at your inspiration pictures and then you take a gander at some tutorials, it can get to be too much and the idea can easily seem like one for the go-getter DIYers who have every tool imaginable. But, let me shove this into your brain - you can do this. Anyone can do this. Take it step by step and don’t think about the final product until you’re almost done. Yes, this is something you can do with a whole day’s time. But it’s also something that you can do over a period of a couple of weeks, like us, by doing a step per day and then all of a sudden, you’ve built yourself a headboard that you didn’t even think you could. Easy does it.
First, find your inspiration. Figure out what you want. Pinterest is a great place to start. I started a pin board for our master bedroom, the room where this headboard is going, so all my headboard dreams are tucked away there.
After I pinned inspiration pictures, I then hunted down tutorials on how to get what I wanted. This tutorial by Kristi at Addicted 2 Decorating on how to diamond tuft is, by far, the best I could find. Even though her tutorial is for an ottoman, you use the same steps as you would a headboard. Her pictures and instructions are so thorough and, when you have no clue how to build a headboard from scratch like me, detailed instructions are so appreciated. I’ll be linking back to her a few times during the tutorial just because it’s so great.
So, armed with inspiration and instructions, we got started. (Note: This post is all about the tufted back of our headboard. We’re in the process of adding arms to each side of the back and then retrofitting it to our current bed but those will each be detailed in separate posts. You can whip up a headboard just like the one I’m about to write about and call it done in the end, sans arms and retrofitting, because it can definitely hold it’s own.)
As with any project, first we figured out what we needed to get ‘er done; you know, the supplies. From start to finish, all we used were a slab of foam, a piece of plywood, a few pieces of wood boards, a sharpie pen, scissors, a drill (a screwdriver would work too; it’d just be a little more work), fabric, batting, screws, washers, upholstery buttons, glue, staples, and a staple gun. It’s a good amount of stuff but I bet you have half of it at home and the other half is easily (and cheaply) attainable.
Let’s break down those supplies a tad though first.
Plywood. We bought ours from Lowe’s and guess what? They cut it for free (Home Depot does too!) Yep. That means you don’t need a saw of any sort. Go in, grab a piece of 1/2 plywood, give them your measurements, and let them cut it. We got ours cut 61 5/8” by 32”. Our bed is a queen-size and a standard queen-sized bed is 60” wide but since we’re retrofitting the headboard to our existing bed frame, which is a tad wider than the mattress, we added a few inches. When you’re measuring, make sure you account for the size of your bed frame instead of the size of your mattress. Or instead of using plywood, you could scour your local thrift stores and/or resale sites to find a simple queen headboard that you could easily reupholster. I saw this one advertised at a local thrift store here last week:
My Aunt had this three-inch thick eggshell mattress topper laying around that she wasn’t using so she let us have it to use for this project, saving us a good chunk of the project cost. If you don’t have an Aunt with a spare piece of foam, Home Depot sells this multi-purpose foam pad that’s a lot more affordable than the foam you’ll find at fabric stores. However, it’s only 24” wide (or tall if we’re talking headboards) so if you want something taller, you might need two (and then you’ll have a bunch leftover for another project).
Wood Supports. For added stability and to make your edges look a little beefier, you’ll want to frame out the back of your plywood with a few pieces of 1 x 4. So, you’ll need to get four pieces cut (remember to get them cut at the store) that can be screwed along the perimeter of the back edges like Sarah at Sarah M. Dorsey Designs did to the back of her DIY headboard here. Once again, we lucked out because some good friends of ours were tossing some wood out that we salvaged for the supports on the back of ours (thank you Alford’s!)
Fabric. Kristi (Addicted 2 Decorating) recommends using a woven fabric so that it doesn’t twist while you’re screwing in your tufts. I agree that using a woven fabric would probably keeping the twisting to a minimum, but I couldn’t find a woven fabric in my under $10/yard budget. I did find this linen blend fabric on sale at JoAnn fabrics though that was exactly the color we were going for and it worked great! I used about three yards of it for the back of the headboard. We did toy with using a jewel green fabric that I have in my stash but, after hanging it on the wall behind our bed for a day to see if it jived, we decided we really just wanted a neutral that would work with any color decor we went with in the future. Maybe we’ll use the green to make the girls’ a headboard someday. :) To soften the linen fabric up a tad, I tossed it in the wash quick with a little bit of detergent and some fabric softener and it came out just right.
Batting. In my opinion, batting is optional. It does give a little bit more fluff, smooths everything out (if need be), and helps protect the fabric from ripping when it’s pulled over the corners. But, if you sand down the corners to make them less pointed, that would help the fabric stay intact. For our headboard, I did use batting though I’m not sure if I will next time. I bought this full-sized package of batting (with a coupon) to use for this and a couple of other upholstering projects we have on our to-do list.
We used these size 30 cover buttons for this project (purchased at JoAnn’s with a 50% coupon) and they are 3/4” in diameter, the perfect size to fit right over the…
Screws and Washers.
Instead of going the typical threaded button route, we used screws and washers to get our tufts, using Kristi’s genius tutorial. For our headboard we needed 30 #8 screws and the same amount of #10 washers. If you’re going with larger buttons, you’ll just have to make sure you use larger washers; small enough that they won’t peep out from under your buttons but large enough that they’ll allow the button to slide down into your tuft and sit upon them.
Drill or Screwdriver. If you’re going to have any tool on hand, I’d say a drill should be it. We have the older model of this one* and it’s been our trusty go-to tool for going on ten years. You can use a screwdriver to get those tufts if you don’t have a drill though, but it will definitely be a little more time-consuming.
Glue. Gorilla Glue*, Liquid Nails* (we used this on our ottoman buttons), E6000* – any of those would work to glue the buttons onto the screws and washers. Hot glue would work, though if you accidentally get it anywhere that you don’t want it, it’s difficult to remove so I’d say stay away from it. I actually used Aleene’s OK To Wash-It glue* because I had it laying around and it’s stuck good so far. We’ll see what time says though. In addition to glue for the buttons, you’ll also want some to attach the foam to the plywood while you work. A spray adhesive like this one I’ve used in the past would work well (or Elmer’s if you’re lazy like me).
Staple Gun and Staples. To attach the fabric to the back of your headboard you’ll need to use a staple gun. We have and used this one* along with 5/16 staples.
Onto the process…
First, I cut the foam to the size of the plywood. I wanted the eggshell side of my foam to be against the plywood and the smooth side closest to the fabric but to cut the foam, it was easiest to slice it with the smooth side up. So, lining up one corner and making sure both sides out from that corner were in near perfect alignment…
I traced around the other two edges with a sharpie.
I also marked which was was up on the foam and on the plywood just in case the plywood wasn’t cut into an exact rectangle. It probably wouldn’t matter too much if things got flipped though.
Then I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut out the foam along the sharpied line. A serrated knife or an electric knife would also work to cut out the foam.
Next, I marked out where the buttons would go by just measuring and placing +’s over each spot.
The marking was easy. Figuring out how spaced I wanted the buttons was the hardest thing about this whole headboard. Seriously, it took me three days of naptime brainstorming to get to the end decision. I blame it all on the fact that I couldn’t think with this lack of pregnant energy for the life of me and maybe, just maybe, I was overthinking it all to begin with.
It wasn’t just the measuring that was hard, it was deciding on the amount of buttons I needed to achieve the look I was going for. I didn’t want a ton of buttons like this headboard from Target:
But I didn’t want too few like this one from West Elm:
Both of those headboards are beautiful but just not what I had in mind for our tufted beaut.
The tufting pattern I had in my head was a series of equilateral triangles at the points of which would be the buttons. I wanted the distance from each button to be the same – across and diagonally. That meant I had to go back to middle school to figure out the height of the triangle in order to figure out how much space would be between rows. I know, too much thinking. Told ya. In the end, I came up with a design where each button is 7.5” apart horizontally and each row of buttons is 7” apart (it measured a little under 7” but I rounded up for simplicities sake.) That meant that, on our queen-sized board, I had two rows with seven buttons across and two rows with eight. It was helpful to use a piece of rectangular paper cut to scale to figure this all out before I started marking up the foam. After the plan was made on paper, it was time to hit up the foam. To mark out the buttons, I started at the top of the foam and marked the first row 7.5” from the top - I made a small mark 7.5” down on each side of the foam and then, using a tape measure as a straight edge, connected my two dots to give me that entire row. Then I found the center of the foam (the entire width or 61 5/8 divided by 2), marked that, and that gave me the halfway point between the two middle buttons on the first row. Once I got those marked out, I just made marks every 7.5” each way and then measured out the second line the same way except that the buttons this time were staggered so that the middle mark I made was where a button would go. I hope that makes a whole lot of sense to you all! It might be more helpful to draw out a grid on your foam – the columns and rows – and then place your button marks on the intersecting lines.
Once I was done marking out the buttons, I put the whole slab up on the bed to quell the fear that I had too few or too many buttons. Color me a paranoid perfectionist, I guess.
Next up was cutting out holes in the foam where each button would go to help them sink down into the foam with the fabric, giving that deep-tufted look. To do this I just stabbed the points of a small pair of scissors into the foam and cut out a square that was about an inch wide on each side; just wide enough for my 3/4” buttons to slide right in.
At this point, the foam was ready. Before it could be attached to the plywood though, we needed to frame out the back of the plywood with those pieces of 1 x 4. Since we are retrofitting our headboard to our current bed frame, ours looks a little different on the back than if you’re just going to attach your headboard to the wall behind your bed. You could also make this headboard to attach to a metal bed frame as well by the addition of some wood legs that extend from the bottom of the headboard down to the frame itself. Cover those legs with fabric before you attach and call it good. I’ll have a retrofitting tutorial up here hopefully in the next few weeks.
If you’re going to attach yours to the wall, frame it out like this…
…where the red rectangles represent the 1 x 4’s. Just screw them in with some 1” – 1 1/4” screws; three or four in each board should do. Then you can either buy a french cleat (this one* has great reviews on amazon.com) or make one to get it up on the wall securely.
Once framed, it was time to glue the foam to the plywood. Gluing it to the plywood ensured that it didn’t move around while I laid the fabric on top or started on the tufting. If you have the energy, the best way to do this would be to carry the foam and plywood outside and use some spray adhesive to get a good stick between the two. I was at this stage of the headboard game when Anthony was at work one day though, so there was no carrying all this outside for mwah. Instead, I went down Lazy Lane by swirling and then spreading with my fingers some Elmer’s glue I had lodged in the desk five feet away. I let the glue dry and it worked like a charm…and amazingly, I didn’t get any on our duvet cover. (In case you’re wondering, I did this in our bedroom because anywhere else in the house is deemed unsafe from toddler hands and potential destruction.)
The next thing I did was cut shallow slits in the foam between each button. I read about this trick on Little Green Notebook. It’s a great idea, the point being that the fabric in between each button will just sink right down into the slit, making nice folds.
But I realized after that, since I was going to be placing batting over the foam it really wasn’t necessary and really, a waste of time. If you’re going the no-batting route though, I’d definitely make those slits!
It was time now to get this thing covered, starting with the batting. I laid my entire roll of batting over the top of the foam and cut it so that it would be able to be wrapped around a few inches and stapled on the back. Then I just used my finger to poke holes in it over each button hole.
And now, the fabric. To make sure I only used what I needed and so that I didn’t run out, I started at one end and corner of the headboard, placing the first tuft so that there was just enough fabric left on the outside edge to be wrapped around and stapled.
Down the first row I went, pairing a screw and washer and sinking it into each hole with the drill.
I didn’t drill pilot holes (holes made with a drill bit slightly smaller than the width of the threaded screw) into the plywood first and I kind of wished that I would have. Since the tufts are so deep, you really can’t tell if one screw is a smidge higher or lower than it’s next door neighbor but some of them are a tad off (I mean, we’re talking like 1/8 of an inch). Having a pre-drilled hole to place the tip of the screw in would’ve been helpful to keep everything nice and straight.
The key with using a linen fabric like I did is not drilling too much. Drill until the screw isn’t super tight up against the foam and plywood; there should be enough space to easily stick your fingernail between the fabric and washer. The tighter you screw into the plywood, the more likely your fabric is to twist, which you definitely don’t want.
Before I sunk each screw/washer, I pulled the fabric I needed for the tuft I was on from the loose fabric in the direction I was working; not from the button I had just planted. Thank you again Kristi for the tip! However, I was so concerned with not pulling fabric from the previous drilled button that I didn’t stop to make sure the fabric between buttons was smooth before I started on another screw. So, a few of the spans between buttons is a little looser than I would have liked. You live and learn, I guess. Thankfully, I could tuck a good amount of excess fabric into the folds at the end but still, I made the mental note for next time.
Also before I sunk each screw/washer, I poked all of the fabric that would go into that tuft into the hole for it so that the screw wasn’t pulling fabric in while it was going in; all it was doing was securing what was already there. In the picture below, all of the holes have screws in them except for the one on the bottom right. The fabric is just sitting in that hole, waiting to be screwed in.
Once I had the top row done, I skipped a row and worked on the row with the tufts directly in line with the row I had just finished. Then I went back and did the row in between and the bottom row.
Kristi really does the best job explaining the whole screwing and tufting process so I highly recommend heading over to her post for all the details on this part.
After all of the screws were in but before we stapled the fabric onto the back, I cut off all of the edges of the foam to get a diagonal edge vs. a sharp corner. This helps get a more rounded corner without having to really pull the fabric super tight. Since I was using batting, I wasn’t concerned about cutting that edge so it was perfectly smooth so I just grabbed a scissors and went snipping away on each edge.
Now it all comes together by stapling the fabric to the back! Can I just send you over to Kristi for detailed instructions one more time? Her pictures are just so good.
The key is to make sure you’re keeping an eye on the weave of the fabric while you’re pulling the fabric to the back; making sure it’s all continuous before you staple. There should be a fold going from each screw around to the back of the headboard. The weave of the fabric on each side of the fold should meet and continue along the same line. Here’s what the top of our headboard looks like stapled:The bottom and sides should look the same; a straight lines of folds leading from screw to the back.
Here’s what the back of our headboard looked like after all of the fabric was stapled:
And this is after I trimmed off all the extra fabric, which I saved to make the buttons with:
Then I did the test run because my middle name is Impatient.
So far, so good. (That green trellis fabric I laid on the bed is going to be made into faux roman shades and will be perched over each window with the existing white curtains flanking the sides. I’ll probably whip up a pillow cover or two with it as well just to tie everything together. The other pillows are also getting new fabric and the nightstands are going white down the road.)
We’re almost done with this tutorial! Hang in there!
Onto the folds. Basically, you want one, clean fold leading from button to button, not a jumble of them. To get that one fold, all you have to do is make it by tucking all the fabric into one fold like so:
Can you see the difference in this before and after?
I feel like my fabric wrinkled a tad during the time between screwing in the tufts to making the folds (there were a couple of days in between those two steps) so I’d recommend fixing those folds right after you screw the tufts in. I’ll probably end up going over the whole headboard with a quick ironing once we’re completely done to see if I can smooth those wrinkles out.
Now, the buttons! Like I said above, I used the excess fabric I trimmed off after stapling to cover my buttons. The button kit has great instructions on how to cover the buttons but basically you just use the included template to cut out as many circles as you’ll need for as many buttons as you’ll need to make.
Then you use the included tool to stack the fabric, button top, and back to easily get those professional looking buttons. Since you’ll be gluing your buttons on, you’ll use the plain backs vs. the shank backs. My only problem here (the same problem I had with our ottoman buttons the second time around) was that my fabric was too thick to get the backs pressed on with the tool. So, while the fabric and button top are stacked like they should be in the tool, I placed a dab of glue onto the back of the button top and used a screwdriver to press on the back. I pressed one end of the back and then, while holding my finger on that end, I used the screwdriver to press the opposite end until the back clicked on and then just worked my way around the rest of the back.
To glue the buttons to the screws, I put a dab of glue on the backs of all of the buttons and one-by-one, stuck each down into a tuft and onto a screw.
And that’s it! Onto making the arms, preferably before this baby gets here which means we better hop to that considering we might have mere hours left! If you’re calling it done at this point in the headboard game, attach it with a cleat to the wall or add some legs and get it screwed onto your existing frame and then take advantage of the comfort that will follow. My back and head cannot wait to rest upon the pillowy goodness.
. . .
Stay tuned for tutorials on the arms and retrofitting…and a possible baby announcement!
*Some of the products links in this post are affiliate links. All of these things are products we purchased with our own cash but that we’ll get a small commission on if you purchase via my links. Thank you for supporting us!