Paisley Tufted Bench

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On the same shopping trip that we found the fabric for the accent chair, we also found a very pretty and colorful paisley. Finally! The perfect fabric for the second coffee table frame we bought over the summer! We’ve been wanting more seating space in the spare bedroom, so we decided to make another tufted bench. But this time we wanted to try doing it using traditional tufting techniques and make a deep tuft with 22 buttons.

I was up for a challenge! And well…it was definitely a BIG challenge!  Let’s make this very clear: this type of project was difficult and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart!  (If you do decide to try it, do it with fewer buttons and a smaller surface.) 

Here’s what we needed to make the bench:

  • 2 yards of fabric — we needed extra fabric for the tufting and to make the buttons.
  • 3 inch foam
  • Batting
  • 2 pieces of plywood
  • Coffee table frame
  • Upholstery buttons
  • Paint — for the frame
  • Stain and wood sealer — for the bottom shelf

This is what we needed on hand to finish it:

  • Drill
  • Staple Gun
  • Paint Brushes
  • Saw
  • Router — this isn’t necessary, but it makes a nice edge.  You can also just sand the corners to have a nice finished product.
  • Sand paper
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Twine
  • Upholstery needle
  • Electric Knife (or bread knife)
  • Fabric Glue

Painting the Frame:

  • Very simply, try to always start by painting the frame.  You’ll need several coats, so you do this first.
  • Watch out for drips so that the final product doesn’t look sloppy.

On to the bottom shelf:

  • Measure and cut the bottom shelf (Measure twice and cut once.  I’ve made that mistake before.)
  • Then route all four sides of the board to give it a nice edge.
  • Sand all sides of the board with medium grade sand paper (100 grade). Then sand it again with fine sand paper (220 grade)

  • Next stain the board.  We left the stain on a little longer than usual to make it darker.  (You have to be careful that you don’t let the stain dry on the wood.  I always wipe it off at some point to give it a consistent look throughout.)
  • Finally, put a coat of high gloss varnish on the shelf and leave it to dry. (I sand every coat except the last one with 220 grade sand paper, and add additional coats.  Generally, I like to have at least 3 coats of varnish.)

Making the Cushion:

  • Measure and cut the second piece of plywood to the same size as the top of the frame, and then mark the holes for the buttons. We decided on having 22 buttons on our tufted bench.  (Once again, that’s A LOT of buttons!)  We wanted 9 rows of alternating 2 buttons per row and 3 buttons per row. (2,3,2,3,2,3,2,3,2)
  • To place the buttons, measure the length of the board, and divide the number by 10 (9 rows divides the bench into 10 equal portions.)
  • Next measure the width of the board, and divide the number by 6 (2 buttons plus 3 buttons comes to five, and 5 rows divides the bench into 6 equal portions.)
  • Then mark an X where the buttons will be placed. For example, start at one end of the board.  On the first row, put an X on the second and fourth lines.  On row two, put an X on the first, third and fifth lines.  Continue alternating through all of the rows.
  • Using a 1/2-inch drill bit, drill holes where the X’s are marked.

  • Once the holes were drilled, we need to cut the foam.
  • Place the plywood on top of the foam, and line up one side.
  • Using an electric knife, cut the foam to the same size as the board.
  • While the plywood is still on top of the foam, stick a marker through each of the holes to mark their location on the foam. After taking off the plywood, Alberto went back over the marks with an X to make it easier to see.
  • Now, use the electric knife to cut holes in the foam where the X’s were.

Preparing the fabric!

  • Lay out the fabric face-up on the floor to measure the button placements. Remove a small portion of the fabric and lay aside so that you can cover your buttons. (I actually drew up the plan on a piece of paper to make it easier to keep track of where the buttons should be.  For every line, I wrote the measurement from the end of the fabric beside the line.  That way, I didn’t have to think too much when I started marking the fabric.)
  • Because we are using 3-inch foam, I added 1 1/2-inches to my measurements on the plywood.  I needed extra fabric as some of the fabric will be pulled down into the hole to create the tuft.
  • Using a piece of chalk, measure the placement of the buttons and mark an X. (I used fabric chalk, but you can use anything that is easily removed from the fabric when you’re done.)
  • Finish the upholstery buttons by covering them with the fabric that you set aside earlier.
  • Now all we  need to do is add the batting and start attaching the buttons.

Time for a cocktail!

Because we’ve been working with very bright and tropical fabrics, we felt drawn to something exotic.  We got tequila, mixed it with lime and pomegranate juice and a jalapeno pepper…and voila, a Tropical Inferno!

Adding the buttons (this is the real inferno)!


  • After spraying adhesive to attach the foam to the plywood, place the batting on the floor, and place the plywood and foam on top.
  • Then, cut the batting about 4-inches wider than the plywood so that you can attach it around the foam to the bottom of the wood.
  • On each of the corners, cut out a square to remove some of the excess batting that will collect in the corners. Then, staple the batting to the board.
  • Once everything is together, start attaching the buttons using an upholstering needle and twine.
  • From the back of the board, stick the needle through the hole, foam and batting. Once the needle comes through the batting, puncture the fabric at the corresponding X.  (Start at one end, and work your way forward.)
  • After the needle comes through the fabric, add the button onto the needle and twine, and send the needle back through the fabric, batting, foam and wood.
  • Pull the button into the hole by pulling the twine on the other side. (As you’re pulling the button tight, pay attention to the fabric so that it folds nicely.)
  • Once you have the button in the hole, pull the twine tight and staple the back to hold it in place.
  • Continue doing this for the rest of the buttons.

  • Once all of the buttons are in place, pull the fabric tight on the sides and staple it all around. While working on the sides, I made sure that the folds looked nice.

  • After stapling down the sides, go back through all of the folds, and tuck the excess fabric within the fold.
  • Finally, use a steam iron to set the folds in the bench.

Putting it Together!

I put the shelf in the bottom of the frame, and added the tufted cushion to the top…and we’re done!  I won’t lie. This was a very difficult project for us and it took a great amount of time.  But it looks great in the guest room, and isn’t that all that matters?  Next time I need to convince Alberto to let me do something a little more simple.  But alas, the holidays are coming, and I see many more projects in my future!!


4 Responses to Paisley Tufted Bench

  1. Judy says:

    Love the new bench. Amazing what you can do when you take the time. Keep posting your projects, love seeing them.

  2. the kudzu queen says:

    This is incredible. Delightfully surprising how well that wonderful print gathers so comfortable and tucks into the buttons–and I really love the color you choose to paint the bench–with so many choices you selected with your usual impeccable taste! Well done! (Tropical Inferno? OMG!!)

  3. nashbabe says:

    When I did a headboard of this ilk, I used button and carpet thread, and when I pulled it through to the back side, I looped it around a fairly long nail with a small head (like a finishing nail) and knotted it on the nail. The nail holds it in the hole quite well at least for a headboard. Using twine sounds like a challenge, I’ll bet! :-)

    • ourcraftyhome
      ourcraftyhome says:

      Carpet thread is a great idea! We only had twine around the house, so that’s what we used. We also used an upholstery needle, so the twine was easier to thread through the larger eye. Thanks for the comment!


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