This is my bedroom. It’s peaceful and serene, in robin’s egg blue, camel and cream. My bed doesn’t have a headboard (yet…foreshadowing) or a footboard, so I decided to make a bench for the end of my bed.
This is my cat, Georgia. I love her dearly, but she is a jerk sometimes.
I considered buying a bench and upholstering it, but I was taken with the idea of making a piece of furniture from scratch. It was probably from watching all that Parks and Recreation while I houndstoothed. Ron Swanson is a persuasive gentleman. Also, I would like all your bacon and eggs, please and thank you. Anyway, a bench seemed within my limited woodworking abilities. I used this tutorial from ana-white.com and modified the dimensions to make the bench 4′ long. If you have any desire to build things, I can’t recommend Ana White’s site highly enough. She makes me think I can build anything, which may prove to be a problem.
After building and staining the bench in Polyshades Honey, it was time to upholster. The reasonable plan would have been to cover it in foam and fabric, sit on the bench and call it a day. But no. I had to have tufting. I mapped out my pattern on the foam – I wanted many tufts, like a fool – and cut divots into the foam with a serrated kitchen knife. I also sliced all the way down to the bottom of the foam once per divot. This let me mark the pattern on the top of the bench. I put the foam on the bench and stuck a Sharpie through each divot to mark the spot on the MDF, then drilled holes at each mark. Once every spot was done, I spray glued the foam to the bench, added batting to the top of the foam, and my fabric on top of the batting. I didn’t secure the edge of the fabric or sew it, since I wasn’t sure how much slack the tufting would take.
In addition to my foolhardy tufting plan, I wanted upholstered buttons. Learn from me, my friends. You can buy this little kit from the crafting store and think “Oooh, I can make buttons to match whatever I want!” and this will seem exciting and like an exceptionally good idea, but let me tell you: you can make buttons to match whatever you want, but by the time you’re making the 33rd of these, you may wish you’d never started the whole thing. But you’ve already made 32 of these devils, and the foam is already divoted, so you might as well keep going. Then you realize your cat has been stealing your meticulously upholstered buttons and playing with them in the other room. That’s when you enter the swearing phase of the project.
Happily(ish), I only had to remake 1 or 2 buttons that had been deupholstered by Georgia’s enthusiasm for all things small and rolly. Like most cats, she seems to think that anything I’m working on is being done for her amusement, and she loved the tufting game even more than the button-making game. I found tufting to be easiest with the bench up on a couple of older end tables that let me work on both the top and bottom. I threaded a disturbingly large needle with upholstery-weight thread, went up through the bottom of the bench (through the holes drilled and divots cut), through the fabric and a button, back down, then, pulling the thread as tight as possible, staple-gunned both ends of the thread to the underside of the bench. Of course, that’s a simplified process that doesn’t take into account (1) retrieving unguarded buttons from cat, (2) retrieving buttons purloined while threading was happening, or (3) rethreading after cat had attacked the dangling ends underneath the bench before they could be stapled. For a detailed tufting tutorial (Really? Have I not scared you off this yet?), Little Green Notebook has a great one.
With the tufting finally done, I folded the edges of the fabric under, making sure each side was even with the others, and secured the fabric to the bench sides with upholstery tacks.
- Get a good staple gun – one that will shoot the staples all the way into the MDF. If you have a pneumatic one, even better, and I want to be your friend and borrow it.
- If you do want to cover your own buttons, use two scraps of 2x4s or something similarly hard and easy to handle – one to set the form on and one to press the button down with. Your thumbs and nails will thank you.
- Tufting is infinitely easier with two people – one to hold the button in place and one to do the stapling.
- If you have a cat, lock her or yourself in a separate room while you work.