tufting a sofa | fabric covered buttons

Marian ParsonsFurniture Makeovers, Sewing, Tutorials, upholstery

I totally understand that tufting is intimidating.  It’s tedious and it can look really bad if it’s not done well.  And, if you’re tufting from scratch, it involves math.

Geometry at that.

So, if you’ve shied away from tufting, that’s okay.  You are in the company of many, many other good people who would just rather buy a piece of furniture than deal with tufting.

I generally don’t buy tufted pieces for this reason, but this one sort of fell in my lap.  It was a leftover from Lucketts last year and the dealer, my friend Edie, gave it to me for free.

Who can say no to a free Belgian sofa, tufting or no?

After eye-balling it for a few months, I finally mustered the gumption to tear the sofa apart and start putting it back together.


I’m not a tufting rookie, which is probably why I’m not eager to tackle it again.  I actually made a tufted headboard (and wrote a tutorial about it) for my book.

Have I talked you out of this, yet?!

Ha!  It’s not my intention to scare you away, but to let you know what you’re in for.  It’s not hard.  It’s just a pain.  And what makes it a pain is also what is going to make it look really good in the end…

And that is having lots of tufts and lots of padding.  Tufting looks wimpy and “DIYed” when it doesn’t have enough tufts and when there isn’t enough filling behind it.  If you can get those two things right, your tufting will look great and it will be worth the effort in the end.

Lots of tufts means lots of buttons.  That means lots of buttons that you have to cover with matching or coordinating fabric.  You can buy pre-made fabric-covered buttons, but it looks really sharp when the buttons are custom and match the sofa fabric perfectly.


how to make fabric covered buttons

What you’ll need…

  • button cover kit  with mold and pusher (I used 5/8″ for this project)
  • extra “cover” buttons with wire backs
  • scissors
  • fabric
  • pencil
  • small hammer

For this sofa, I need 44 buttons, so I bought one package of buttons that came with the mold & pusher, tools you need to cover the buttons…


…and two “economy packs” of buttons without the tools.  That was a much more economical option, since I needed so many.


The mold is the clear rubber piece you push the button into and the pusher is the blue plastic piece you use to push the back onto the button, pinching the fabric into place in the process.


Usually, on the back of the package or inside, is a template to use for cutting the fabric to the right size.


Cut that template out…


…and trace it onto your fabric…


…and cut the circles out.



Place a fabric circle centered over the opening of the mold (face down) and then put a front piece of the button on top (also face down).  Push both into the mold with the pusher.


If you’re using a thin fabric, you can skip this step, but I was working with a thick hemp/linen, so I needed to trim some of the excess fabric to reduce the bulk.


Here’s how it looks trimmed…


Just make sure you don’t trim too much!

If you’re working with a thin fabric, like a quilting-weight cotton, use two layers of fabric or one layer of interfacing under the fabric, so the metal button doesn’t show through.

Push the fabric into the center of the mold, so it’s tucked into the curve of the button.  Place the back of the button, wire-loop-side-up, into the mold and press into place with the pusher.  With a thicker fabric, you will need to give it some gently taps with a small hammer.  Easy does it, because it’s an aluminum button and a plastic pusher.


So, this is what it looks like when it’s put together in the mold…


Push the button out of the mold and there it is…



Of course, the first one will take you, like, 20 minutes, but then you’ll get faster and more proficient at button covering. You’ll be a pro by number 43.

There will be some of this along the way, though, so order a few extra buttons…


 Only forty-one more to go…


PS – A few of you have asked where I bought the tight-woven burlap fabric.  I haven’t received it in the mail, yet, and I’d like to see it in person before I endorse it.  You know, to make sure it’s not lame.  I’ll share the link if I like it.

tufting a sofa | fabric covered buttons

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