Tufted Headboard DIY

Hi all!

So I said a long time ago that I would take that gaudy headboard I purchased and reupholster it to something more simple… and I finally did! I was really hoping I could reveal it in my new bedroom in my new apartment, but alas, I am holding off on an apartment for a while. SO I am so excited to show you what I finally accomplished!

This was my first reupholstery job, and boy, did I take on a handful. I read so many blogs saying how easy tufting would be, but it proved to be a lot harder than I thought. I’ll supply step by step directions for anyone else willing to take on the task! But first, my inspiration:


Deciding on all white with a white border was not as easy as these pictures made it seem. I kept going back and forth between cream and white. I was afraid that matching any other white to my headboard fabric would be difficult (like matching the frame paint or even my bedding). But these looked so classy and chic I went with it anyway!


I will leave out the unnecessary parts of this tutorial, such as spray painting the frame & removing the existing fabric, simply because I believe most people who use this tutorial will not be working with an existing headboard. The directions are as follows.

Tools Needed:

Wood of Headboard (if you weren’t lucky like me and had a headboard already purchased, I’ve seen many blogs use pegboard and cut it to the shape and size they need, then reupholster the pegboard)

Fabric (I used white drapery lining, as it was inexpensive and had a sheen to it that seemed like it would be easier to maintain if I spilled something.)

Measuring Tape

2-3″ thick foam

batting (optional)

quilting needles

embroidery thread (or the thickest thread you can find)

buttons & button caps

spray adhesive


staple gun & staples

Step One: Cutting and Applying the Foam

Luckily, my foam was already cut to the shape I wanted. I did want to air it out (it smelled musty from the antique shop) and reapply it, because it was falling off in some parts. I took the foam off of the cardboard it was mounted to. I opted to redo the tuft placement and amount of tufts, because making 52 like the original had was a seriously overwhelming thought to me. First, I drew out on a piece of paper how many tufts I wanted it to have. The less, the easier. I used the drawing template to decide how much space I needed between each button and between each row. I did about 8″ between each button, and about 9″ between each row. Measure twice! Then mark where you want to cut the wholes on the foam with a sharpie. The larger the wholes, the more space the buttons have to sit in, and the easier it is to find the needle through the fabric and foam! My wholes were 1.5″ wide.

After I mapped the holes, I took a regular sharp kitchen knife and sawed around the x to make a circle. It was easier to cut through when I smashed the foam together to make it thin. I actually used the leftover “rods” of foam and put them in the old holes, so that there would be less gapping once the fabric was applied.


Step Two: Cutting the Wood Back of the Headboard

I realized after taking the headboard apart that the original only used cardboard to hold the foam to the wood frame. The cardboard was falling apart, and though I tried to use it again, the cardboard seemed to rip more and more. This was my FIRST fail with this headboard. So, we luckily had an old piece of bead board around that we cut down and applied the foam to. I used a handsaw to cut it to the size of the existing cardboard (making sure it was big enough to hold the foam and the frame).

To get the holes of the wood back to align with the foam holes, you first need to take your ALREADY CUT foam and place it on the wood where you want it to go. If you have a frame like I did, then applying the foam and leaving enough room on the wood to screw the frame into is very important. After you have placed the foam on the wood back, you should use your sharpie to draw an x on the wood inside of each of your precut tuft holes. These x’s mark where you will drill a large enough hole for your button thread to go through. After you have marked the x’s and drilled the holes, spray the entire piece of wood thoroughly with the spray adhesive. Then, quickly place your foam in the position you designated when you drew the holes. It is important to check and make sure you can see the drilled holes in the wood when you look in the foam tuft holes.

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Step Three: Making the Buttons

This is both the easiest and the most painful step. I used this tutorial, but it is as easy as cutting about 2″ wide circles of the fabric you chose for the headboard and then placing the fabric inside of the “button contraption” (obviously I made up names for some of the tools needed, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you go to the fabric store and pick up plain METAL buttons and backs, because the package should come with the plastic “button contraption.”) Gather the ends of the fabric circle in the contraption so there are no edges hanging out, then put the metal back on top of the fabric. Push really hard, and voila! You have a button in your fabric! Pop that baby out, and do 17 more. 😦

Old buttons that were at first super easy to use, but when I had to switch to wood instead of the cardboard back, proved to be REALLY FREAKING DIFFICULT.

Step Four: Applying the Fabric

I use the word applying, because I learned from my SECOND FAIL that you should NOT staple your fabric before tufting. TUFT FIRST, STAPLE LAST. Getting the buttons to sink into your fabric is a lot easier because your fabric isn’t pulled so taught.

Lay the fabric on top of the foam, and begin in the middle. Get a long piece of thread and run it through the needle and the button hole, then knot it a couple times until you have a decent size mound of a knot. With your hand, find the hole in the foam, and then poke the thread through the fabric and push it into the hole until the head of your needle meets the hole of the wood back. Yes, this is how I did every button. No, I do not know of an easier way (and if there is, I’m debating whether or not you should even tell me because this took FOREVER to do.) Sometimes the hole in the wood was super easy to find, and I could just thread the button right through it. Other times, not so much.

Step Five: Keeping the Buttons in Place

Make sure that once you finally get the thread through to the backside of the headboard, you pull realllllly tight. The deeper the button, the more professional it looks. I realized after I had finished some tufts that I had not pulled tight enough. As you are pulling really tight, take your staple gun and put a staple over the thread into the wood. Then, change the direction of the thread, continuing to pull the thread tight, and staple again. Do this repeatedly until you are almost out of thread, then tie a big knot again at the end of the thread so that the knot will get caught on the staple before it decides to unravel. No, I am not crazy! I saw many many tufting DIYers do it this way. So far, none of my buttons have come out.

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Step Six: Staple the Fabric

Once all the button tufts have been secured, set your headboard up on its feet. For this step, you may need two sets of hands! I started at the bottom, and pulled the fabric tight and then stapled into the wood on the back. Repeatedly. Then, I moved to the top and worked my way down both sides, having my extra set of hands hold the headboard steady and make sure the fabric was pulled tight with no creases while I stapled on the backside.

Step Seven (Optional): Drill in the Frame

If you don’t have a frame, then congrats! You’re done! If you do, then placed your headboard on top of two workman’s legs, and then place the frame in its place on top of the headboard. Use a drill and long screws to screw the frame into position. This was so easy!


Here is my final product. I am proud of it as my first upholstery job, but I did learn a lot and think I could do a lot neater job next time.  I photoshopped some bedding onto my headboard to see what it could look like once it had a mattress and box spring in front of it. Not too shabby, but a little shabby chic!



UPDATE: My bed in my apartment with my all white monogrammed bedding & blue accents

I’m still debating whether I want to repaint the frame gold or silver. How pretty does this look in silver? I want to get all white bedding with a light blue quilt or matelasse and some pretty pillows.


Have you made your own headboard? Done some tufting? Show me!




3 thoughts on “Tufted Headboard DIY

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