Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tufted Stool: The Tutorial

OK, so yesterday I showed you the finished results of turning an old lampshade into a tufted stool.  Today I'm going to show you how I did it!

First up: making the base of the stool.  I wrapped the lampshade in fabric, and used a glue gun to hold everything in place by applying a bead of glue along the inside edge of the shade and then folding the fabric over to secure it down.  When I had worked my way around the entire lampshade, I folded under the edge of the fabric and glued it down too!

NOTE: looking for a suitable lamp shade?  Check out second hand stores!  I see large and over-sized lampshades in there all the time.

Then I decided which end of the lampshade was going to be the "top" of the stool.  Believe it or not, one end of the lampshade is about 2'' narrower than the the other end!  (I completely didn't realize this at first)  I grabbed a piece of plywood that I had leftover from another project and traced around the top end of the stool and cut it out with my jig saw.  Be sure to use eye and ear protection!  

I sketched out where I wanted my tufts to go on top with a pen, and then used my drill to make holes where I made my marks.  The final holes measured 3/8'' (but that's just the biggest drill bit that I had).  I used a smaller drill bit to make pilot holes first because sometimes if you skip right to the big bit it will "walk" around on you and not drill where you want it to!

I used 2'' foam and trimmed it to fit the plywood using a a super sharp exact-o knife.  It was kind of slow going with the knife, but it worked OK.  I've heard that an electric carving knife works well for trimming foam, but seeing as I've never cooked anything that would even remotely require a carving knife, I just don't have one!  I used a couple quick squirts with my glue gun to anchor the foam to the plywood to keep it from sliding around, and then used my knife again to take the edge of the top side of the foam.  Sometimes when you tuft things, the hard edges of the foam are still visible even after the fabric is pulled tight.

OK, so I believe that if you're going to go through the trouble of tufting something, you better make those tufts absolutely fantastic!  To get nice deep tufts, use an old curtain rod to carve out a hole in each place where you're going to do a tuft.  This will make it a lot easier to push the buttons down and get deep tufts later on.

To make your tufts, thread your upholstery needle with some embroidery thread (doubled over).  Staple down the loose end of your embroidery thread on the backside of the plywood.  I used a heavy duty stapler, but I also helped things along with a small hammer to make sure that the staples were really in there (because the plywood is, well, really hard and sometimes the staples needed a little push).

Lay your fabric down over the foam, and then thread the needle through one of your pre-made holes.  Thread a button or bead over your needle, and then poke it back down the same hole.  Start in the middle and work your way out.

Use your hand to help push the button down into the hole and pull tight to make your "tuft".  If you tighten the button down by just pulling on the thread, you could snap it (which would be so sad!).  Staple the end of your embroidery thread again to secure everything down, annnnnd you're done!  Do this each place where you want a tuft.

I used beads for tufting in this project, but you can use fabric covered buttons too.  Just make sure that your long upholstery needles can fit through the button/bead holes!  I had a moment of panic when the longest needle wouldn't fit through the beads, but the small needle worked just fine instead.  Phew!

Once you've got all of your tufts in place, flip it over and staple your fabric down to the plywood.  Make sure the fabric is TIGHT.  Because I didn't have a helper, I actually kind of sat/kneeled on the plywood to squish the foam down and pull the fabric tight.  Trim off the excess fabric.

I have plans to add a small lip of wood to the underside of the tufted top so that it doesn't slide off the lampshade base when I move it around.  I suppose that you could always glue it to keep it from moving around too.  But for right now, it will just sit nicely in place!  

So what do you think?  Tufting is easier than it just takes a little patience!  Be sure to check out part one of this post for more pretty pictures :)  Here are some other tutorials just in case you want some additional ideas and how-to directions.
-  Centsational Girl's tufted headboard
-  Addicted2Decorating's tufted headboard
-  Little Green Notebook's tufted headboard


  1. Yep, totally in love with this! You look pretty hardcore in those safety goggles too, a true DIY-er.

  2. Came over to check out your post after you left comment on my huge lamps. And I have to say that I'm amazed. What a great idea, but I don't think it would work for my lamp shades. They are too tall. Like I said, LOL...gigantors ;)