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this sofa will be the death of me…


I don’t know about you, but I always start projects with great optimism and enthusiasm.  And most of the time things go smoothly.

This is not one of those times.

Stripping the upholstery was pretty easy, because three of us worked on it in turns…



And painting the frame?  No problem.

I added a layer of batting to the back, so it would soften the foam a bit…



And I used the pieces of fabric that were removed from the sofa as templates for the new fabric pieces.

That back piece was huge!  I happened to have an antique hemp mattress cover (that would’ve been stuffed with hay or feathers, depending on how affluent the owners were) that was long enough once opened up.


We pinned all of the pieces in place and cut them out.  I cut the back piece much larger than the fabric template, because of the tufting, but cut the rest to size.


And I used my new magnetic bowl that a sweet reader sent me for Christmas.

Life changing.

No more spilling my pins!  And, as a little bonus, the bowl also sticks to my metal stool.


I spread the large piece of fabric over the back, making sure it was centered from left to right, top to bottom.


Everything up to this point went exactly as planned and expected.  Smooth sailing.

And then I started the tufting…

Enter black clouds and ominous music.

I’ve tufted before and it was time consuming, but it didn’t take every ounce of my patience and make me break out in a sweat.  It didn’t take me over an hour to make six tufts.  SIX!


I was about ready to throw in the towel after two tufts, but knew I just needed to figure things out.  It was tufted before and it can be tufted again.

Oh yes, it will be tufted again.  

I just could not get that stupid needle through all of the stinking batting under the foam!  It’s like 6″ of batting and foam and the needle just would not go through.  And the harder I pushed, the more the fabric on the back side would give.  I pulled until my hands turned red.  I used pliers.  I actually sat on the floor, pulling on the needle with the pliers with my feet pushing the sofa away from me.  I tried cutting holes through the batting to make way for the needle, but it was too thick to get scissors through.

I kept wandering to our supply closet, hoping I would find something that would help.

I finally figured it out.  First of all, I wore gloves, so I could grip the needle and push/pull it through better.  Second, I drilled a hole in a small board, so I could press on it as I pulled the needle through.  The pressure from the board prevented the back from giving so much.  (I’ll have to show a picture of it, because it’s a little hard to explain.)

I actually let out a cackle when it worked and I was able to do one tuft in about 2 minutes instead of 10.  Kriste looked over her should at me.  Eyebrows raised.

Of course, this all seems totally ridiculous when I see people on YouTube whipping their needles through a sofa as they’re tufting, but they must have some strength that I just am not in possession of.  Either that, or I’m missing some crucial step or tool that would make sofa tufting a total dream.  (If you know of that, please don’t let me go on with my board with the hole in it!)


Now that I have my system figured out, I am planning to pace myself and do 10-12 tufts each day.  Maybe I’ll get in a groove and be able to do more, but I feel like that’s all I can handle in one day.  And retain my sanity.  (I was cackling at the sofa after just four tufts…)

If I do suddenly go silent on my blog and social media and I’m found on the floor of my studio with a tufting needle in my gloved hand…

…the sofa should be the first suspect.

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  1. Colleen says:

    Do NOT use any sort of drill or dremel tool!!! You will make a mess! The batting will wind around the tool and … Don’t go there. Is the sofa up on upholstery horses? If not, you may want to do that. Then, lay the sofa on it’s back, on the horses and sit on your little stool and methodically, one by one, wearing gloves or using a piece of skid proof backing, pull the threaded needle through. One hand behind the sofa where you want it to come through. If you look at the back of the sofa you should be able to see the holes where the buttons came through before. And, as someone has suggested you really need to use upholstery cotton with the button twine to hold it tightly on the back. This is a very time consuming project! It takes a long time for upholsterers to learn their trade and perfect their technique. Good luck! :)

  2. It’ going to look beautiful, just like everything else you do! Would you sell it to me when you’re done?? Have a great day!

  3. Chris says:

    For what it’s worth,your tufting is perfect!!

  4. LOL Marian, this is written so humorously! Good luck on the rest of the tufts.

  5. Eileen says:

    Hang in there! It will be beautiful…..someday! Ps. Better you than me! Lol

  6. Alicia says:

    Marian, please explain to me…what does a cackle sound like?

  7. Fatim says:

    I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the end!

  8. Oh Marian, I know exactly how you feel but, I’m sure is going to be worth it! Like my husband would say… hang in there and don’t let go! :-)

  9. Katherine says:

    I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time! I can relate! You must have some serious self-control to be able to keep from working on that tufting until you’re bleeding and drooling! Lol

  10. This is such a hilarious post! And we all can identify with it!

    There is no substitute for experience, thanks for letting us know what works. You will live to tell the tale.

  11. Riley says:

    Hi Marian,

    When I’ve tufted I’ve used a very long and big needle (I think it’s embroidery). I’d say mine is 5 inches long. It has really helped me get through some serious foam. I bought mine at Hancock fabrics, but I imagine Joann’s carries it too.

    Hope you can find your groove!

  12. Kate Burris says:

    Some of my favorite finished pieces caused me the most in-process frustration…it might be a rule ! I’m sure it will be lovely.

  13. Good luck! You will have super human strength fingers at the end, but it will look fabulous… Every tuft will remind you of it!

  14. Hahaha! You go girl!


  15. Colette at Vie de Joie Designs says:

    My kids are looking at me funny as i laugh out loud reading this post!! Many times have I myself emitted a cackle at some project piece that resists my LOVING intentions to make it pretty again! I so love how you put it! Keep it up, sister! Your determination will win the day (or at least the tufting war with that sofa!?)

  16. Ramona Thompson says:

    Oh, yes! I actually CACKLED when I read this! Thanks for the laugh.

  17. Denise says:

    I hate to even mention this, but I use a cadaver needle. It is curved and very strong. Maybe you can find one on the Internet. I work in health care and perform Medicolegal Death Investigations and a friend who works as a mortician actually gave me some. You asked for a suggestion so that is mine. Sorry if it isn’t what you expected to hear…welcome to my world.

  18. Why are these projects ever as easy as they are when we read about them online or on our friend’s blogs? I often feel like that with my painting so I think I’ll wait a good long time before I try a tufted sofa!

  19. Hang on in there – you’re doing great!

  20. Susie says:

    Hey Marian, this might be a stupid question but are you using a tufting needle with the tabs on the top for your fingers to push it through? If it makes you feel better, I can already see this sofa finished and it is going to be beautiful.

  21. I watching your posts….because to be honest I have avoided tufted furniture…looks so scary!!
    But you give me encouragement, you always seems to do a great job on everything . I can see me on the floor pushing with my feet and legs too!! Only difference is, I am about 20 yrs older than you….whew!! I am “pulling” for you to win this battle!! Love you MMS.

  22. Yvonne says:

    I can relate. I save tufted headboards that were similar nightmares. But I saw a blog post recently where she had punched holes through the foam and drilled holes through the wood, then inserted a small metal pipe through both layers. Then no pushing of needles was required – simply tilt the furniture slightly and the needle slides through the pipe. Genius.

  23. Teresa Beckham says:

    What kind of needle are you using? I’ve been doing upholstery for about 2 years (after about 150 hours in classes) and what you really need a LARGE needle. Something like this – Or this – And upholstery twine – that is very strong to use with the needles and buttons. I hope this helps and GOOD LUCK!! I know how hard and frustrating it is to do tufting!

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