Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DIY Tufted Headboard

Hey friends!

So I took on my first upholstery job and thought I'd share the process with you. It's not difficult and I've laid out all the steps. If you have any questions in addition to this, don't hesitate to shoot em my way! YOU CAN DO IT!!

First of all, determine the size of your headboard. I have a Queen size bed so my headboard is 5ft wide and about 4ft tall. About half a foot tucks behind the bed with 3.5 feet showing above the mattress.
Once you’ve determined the finished size you want, go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and purchase a piece of 1/2″ MDF, and have them cut it to size for you. I had to buy a piece 5ft by 6ft. They cut it down for me right in the store free of charge and the guy working there was on his lunch break so even drove it to my house in his truck! So gentlemanly right?

You’ll also need:
  • a bowl or small plate (optional);
  • a Sharpie marker;
  • an electric meat carving knife, or hand saw;
  • a tape measure;
  • a yard stick or other long straight edge for marking lines;
  • staple gun and staples;
  • your choice of fabric, large enough to cover the headboard size, plus about 18 inches on each side;
  • 2″ foam, large enough to cover the MDF (this can be pieced together, if necessary..foam is expensive so I went to Target and got 3 foam mattress pads for $10 each);
  • hi-loft polyester batting, enough for at least two layers to cover the MDF;
  • adhesive for the foam (I prefer spray adhesive, although the fumes are quite noxious, so it has to be used outside, or you need to wear a protective mask);
  • buttons…lots and lots of buttons (my headboard required 47 buttons, and I used half ball cover buttons and covered them in the same fabric as the headboard.)
  • one package of thin nylon or polyester upholstery/roman shade cord (can be found in the upholstery section at JoAnn Fabrics or other fabric stores)...you can also use waxed dental floss but I'd use something thicker because it's easier to staple down;
  • a large-eye upholstery or embroidery needle; and
  • an electric drill with 3/8″ drill bit.

Here's a picture of some of the supplies.

I know this might look overwhelming but ignore that crap and believe in yourself!!

To start, you will need to place your MDF on some support where both the top and the bottom can be accessed. Workhorses would be preferable. I used two chairs in my little apartment. 

Here is a picture of the MDF before I propped it up on 2 chairs.

This next step is optional but I recommend it. On the two top corners of the headboard, use a small bowl or plate as a template to round the corners.

Then cut off the corners with either an electric jigsaw or a small handsaw like you see below. Smooth rough edges with sandpaper after the edges are cut. 

Next, remove the MDF from the chairs and place it on top of the 2" foam (or in my case, the 3 layers of foam). Trim down all extra foam so that it aligns with the edges of the MDF. You can see that I had quite a lot of foam to cut off. I used fabric scissors, but regular scissors will work as well. Fabric sissors give you a more efficient cut. I've also heard of people using a meat carving knife.

When I was researching on how to make a headboard myself, a lot of people say that it is at this point that you use your spray adhesive to secure the foam to the MDF. I found this to actually be bothersome because later down the process when you are feeding your thread through the holes you make, I had to lift the foam off of the MDF in order to pull the thread through. You probably wouldn't run into this problem if you use 1 piece of 2" foam, but since I used 3 layers of foam, it was too thick to feed the thread successfully through to the back without lifting up the foam, passing the needle from one hand to the other, and continuing to feed it all the way through. But if you bought a piece of 2" foam, by all means, spray the back of the foam and secure it to the MDF. The spray adhesive dries super fast.

Now it's time to mark where your buttons will go. 

Place MDF back onto chairs with foam now on top of it. Starting from the top of the headboard, place a mark at 8″, 16″, and 24″. Do this in several places so that you can use those marks as guides to draw horizontal lines. Then use your yardstick or straight edge to create horizontal straight lines all the way across the width of the headboard. 
Now that you have your horizontal lines drawn, find the center of the headboard, and place a mark at the center of each horizontal line. Use your tape measure, and beginning from the center marks, place a mark every 8 inches. (Ignore that little group of 4 dots. That was a mistake!)

Now use your straight edge, and place diagonally between the marks you just made at 8″ intervals. This will show you where the buttons need to be placed on the diagonal.

Next, use your drill to drill a hole through the foam and the MDF. Warning!! DO NOT go slowly on this. If you begin to drill slowly, the drill bit will grab the foam and rip it to shreds. You want to place the drill bit on the button mark, press down all the way so that you can feel the MDF, and then at FULL SPEED, drill very quickly through the foam and the MDF. (I didn't take a picture of that because that's pretty self explanatory).

This next step is the one I dread the most, but it’s necessary. Professionals have a nifty little tool they use for this, but since I’m not a professional upholsterer, I have to make do with substitutes.

The goal here is to make holes in the foam for every single button that’s large enough for the button to rest at the bottom of the hole. Make sense? In order to do this, I used a really sharp kitchen knife (which probably wasn't the safest idea, but it worked!) and my fingers to pinch out the extra foam. Cutting out trenches around the holes that you drilled takes a while, but it's an important step because it will give you a deeper tuft. And FYI- the smaller the buttons you use, the deeper they will fit down into the holes, giving you a deeper tuft as well. The buttons I used were a little larger (about the size of a quarter) so I didn't get a super deep tuft.

Now it's time for the batting. I used two layers of hi-loft batting (it’ll say hi-loft on the package). The more layers you use, the deeper the tufting will appear…but of course, the more you use, the more your project will cost, and this stuff ain’t cheap! Simply lay the batting on top of the foam. I let some of the batting flow over the headboard at the top so it could wrap around to the back. That gives the top a little more cushion all the way around. 

Then spread your fabric on top of the batting. Make sure the fabric is centered and there is plenty of extra fabric to flow over all four sides.

To begin the tufting, you’ll start in the center of the headboard, working your way down on the main lines you drew at 8″, 16″, and 24″ (so working vertically threading the buttons through the entire headboard). As you work from one button to the next, be sure that the fabric is not pulled too tight. If you pull it too tight, you’ll lose the look of the deep tufting. Here is a picture of some of the buttons I covered as well as what one looks like connected to the thread (or waxed dental floss). You just follow the instructions on the back of the button package to cover them. 

The thread was connected to the button by tying 3 knots where the back of the button attaches to the thread. 

Continue working across the horizontal lines with the buttons. (So at this point you have your MDF sitting on top of the chairs, your foam, batting and fabric laying on top of it, and the holes on the horizontal lines that you drew have buttons with the thread hanging out the back). And as a tip, I took some blue tape and as I pulled the thread through each hole, I secured it down temporarily with a small piece of tape on the back of the MDF. 

After you finish all of the buttons on the horizontal lines, you’ll start on the diagonals. This is where the magic happens! When you press down on the diagonal, the tufts and folds should pretty much form by themselves. You may want to work with them a bit to create neater and cleaner folds, but you shouldn’t have to do too much.

In the above picture, I've flipped the headboard over to show you the back. The blue tape is the tape I used to secure the thread to the back of the headboard until I was ready to staple the thread down. 

Once ALL holes have buttons threaded through them, it is at this point I recommend you flipping the headboard over onto the ground like I did above. Some people like to lie underneath the headboard in between the 2 chairs and work from there, but I found it hard to put enough pressure on the headboard with the staple gun. So just flip it over carefully like you see in the picture above. 
Starting with the buttons on the horizontal lines, pull the thread pretty hard and staple it down on the back. It's a zigzag stapling process so that the thread is secure and doesn't give. I had to use a hammer to pound the staples even further into the MDF in order to make sure the thread wouldn't move. After the horizontal buttons are secured down with staples, do the diagonal buttons. 

Then finally, secure the edges of the fabric and batting around the edges of the headboard by pulling it to the back and staple gunning it down. Cut off any extra fabric and batting since you won't need it on the back. Below, you can see that I propped up the headboard to show you what it looks like finished on the back. This picture was taken before cleaning up the edges by cutting away the extra batting and fabric that you don't need.

And you're finished! 

I didn't mount my headboard on the wall since my walls are plaster, so I bought 2 pieces of wood and using a drill and screws, attached them to the bottom/back part of the headboard. It fit nicely behind my bed and didn't need to be attached to the wall because the mattress came up high enough to keep the headboard pressed firmly against the wall. 

This last step is optional but I decided to also run duck tape over the stapled down thread just to double ensure that the thread doesn't move. The staples should work fine, but I thought why not!

The back is so purty. I know.

...and BOOM. Why spend $2,000 on a Queen size headboard when you can DIY for $200?

Please feel free to email me with any questions at saintrooster@gmail.com!! Enjoy your masterpiece. :)