Today we’ll take just a bit of the tough out of tufting so your upholstery project doesn’t take the stuffing out of you. We’ll explore what tufting is, the most common types, and we’ll set you up with a selection of DIY tips and tools to get you on your way to taking your reupholstery project to the next level — all in about a 5-minute read. Let’s dig in.
Classic before it was cool and cool before it was classic, tufting is the OG of sofa style. Back in the day, 19th-century furniture had a fundamental problem. The fillings had a habit of shifting and sliding out of place making sofas ridiculously uncomfortable. The solution — both obvious and ingenious — was to add some form of cross-stitching and fasteners that could pass through the filling and better hold it in place. Using a variety of methods and patterns we’ll cover in a moment, tufting separates and secures sections of a piece of furniture into smaller, more contained sections — tufts.
Fillings have improved by leaps and bounds, but anyone who’s ever sat on a well-loved sofa knows fillings still have a way of, let’s say, personalizing themselves to the tushies that came before. Tufting solves that problem — and then some. Each time — every time — you sit on a well-tufted sofa, the stuffing is held in the same place. So every contented sigh is the same.
And the tufted furniture of old has gone from tired to timeless and trendy, elevating any space to positively Sinatra or Don Draper levels. Clean and classy. While the tufting itself helps upholstery fabric last longer because it doesn’t have room to give and stretch out of shape.
So, the word salad of terms from earlier. What are those about?
Tufting can be done in a variety of ways. There’s not a huge difference between the utility of each. They all hold filling in place. They all tighten and contain fabric in a way that makes it more consistently comfortable for use after use. And all can extend the life of whatever fabric you choose for your upholstery.
But you do have tufting options. It comes down to two considerations: substance and style.
The only substantive difference in the most commonly used tufting methods is whether to go with button or blind tufting. These methods don’t have a lot to do with the style of the piece but they can have a huge impact on the longevity and maintenance of your couch.
Buttons are just what the name implies. The anchor points of the tufting are secured not just with stitching but also with a button. The traditional chesterfield sofa is a great example of this. BIind tufting secures whatever pattern you choose with knots rather than buttons. This gives a more modern, minimalist look and is usually not as tight as traditional button tufting.
If your sofa is a high-traffic piece that will experience a regular cycle of critters or kiddos, you’ll likely want to stick with blind tufting or be prepared to become really good at replacing buttons.
Beyond the type of fastening you’ll use for your tufting project, your choice is a style one. What pattern would you like to define the look and the vibe of your piece?
Are you after that classy, traditional, sometimes formal look? Diamond is just what the name implies. You’ll be turning your sofa into a field of diamond-shaped tufts. This pattern is easily the most popular and has been the tufting go-to dating back to its Victorian roots.
Bring on the mid-century modern look that also says, “It’s cool, though. You can snuggle up and chill here.” Biscuit creates a grid pattern of squares on your couch like a pan of homemade biscuits. Biscuit tufting with blind stitching is a great choice for high-use, stylish spaces.
Not as in changing the channel. Although, kind of actually. Channel tufting flips the tufting script and goes vertical. Rather than punctuating a piece with anchors that frame out diamonds or biscuit shapes, channel tufting is secured in long vertical lines. This creates vertical tufted panels raising the visual height of the piece and creating a decidedly modern vibe (velvet anyone?).
At KOVI, we love all things DIY. It’s a huge part of the fun for style and upholstery nerds like us — and maybe you. There are DIY hacks for nearly every level of upholsterer from frugal and creative amateur to full-on pro. That’s true for tufting. Mostly. Full disclosure, tufting will absolutely boost the vibe of your sofa and whatever space it calls home. But as a DIY project, it is a commitment. To get you on your way, here’s a brief curated set of how-to guides:
For a quick and easy sofa facelift, focus on just tightening up the look and feel of the back cushions with this step-by-step guide from Mod Home Ec Teacher. It’s blind tufting made simple.
Needless to say, there are no-needles options — even for button tufting. Check out this no-sew video how-to from Pneumatic Addict. The link takes you right to where the upholstery fun begins. Now, she’s working on a bench but the same technique is easily applied to your sofa project as well. Just be sure to measure out the frame gaps when you strip your piece down so you can hit the mark to secure your tufts later.
One more easy DIY tufting walk-through, this one covers channel tufting. We’ve leaned on the advice of Neil from FaceLift Interiors before, today he’ll walk you through a simple way to make your channel-backed sofa project look clean and like it’s been done by a pro by breaking it down into the individual panels — or flutes — first.
Tuft like a pro
If you’re dreaming of diamonds, get started with this intro to diamond tufting from The Funky Little Chair. Yes, it’s an intro walking you through the nitty-gritty of diamond tufting on a sample board. But this is how you get your diamond tufting skills dialed in so you’re ready to tackle your sofa without wrecking it in the process.
Or if grid tufting is more your groove, this tutorial is crazy helpful! Not only will you learn how to grid tuft like a boss, but you’ll also learn how to take whatever used or discarded sofa frame you choose and build your own sofa. For fraction of the cost of a new one.
Maybe you’ve really caught the upholstery and furniture customization bug and you’re ready to go deep. Then it’s time to check back in with Kevin at Broadway Upholstery School. His sofa reupholstery video series will take you through the entire reupholstery process including professional level tufting.
Here are a couple of last quick tips. If you’re reupholstering a previously untufted sofa, factor in more fabric than you’re pulling off the sofa. How much more will vary depending on your expertise and what kind of tufting you’re dreaming up.
This brings us to the final DIY tip. DIY means Do It Yourself not do it alone. We’re here to help you dream, plan, measure, and order. That’s our jam. In addition to offering 25,000+ upholstery fabric options, we’re also here with custom sofa offerings just in case reading today’s tufting teaser sold you on tufting AND on the reality that it’s a bit more than you want to take on.
We can help make your tufting dreams come true. That’s what we do. We’re really looking forward to hearing from you. Get started today.