Another great guest post from my ultra creative friend Kathryn!
I saw it on Craigslist. Scrolled past it. Scrolled back. Scrolled past. Then scrolled back again. I mean, $15? Tufted Benches aren’t cheap. The only ones I’ve ever found under $100 are really, really short. And low-end. And the fabric options were never suited for my décor. But here was a bench measuring more than 50” long, ample depth, with great structure just begging for a make-over. And the seller was asking a measly $15. I have never, ever done a reupholstery project before, but I figured at that price I didn’t have much to lose
So I got it. Or, should I say, I sent my dear, sweet husband begrudgingly to fetch it (I’m always nervous about buying something on Craigslist, especially if the price seems too good to be true). I made sure he did the sniff test. Old, stained fabric I can work with. I mean, it’s all getting ripped off anyway. But stink? No way. Not happening. Thankfully – this beauty passed!!
First step was ripping out the old fabric. I couldn’t get it off fast enough. I was thrilled to find the foam in pretty decent shape with great structure to it. I pulled it out from the bench and sprayed generously with a Lysol cleaning fabric spray. And then sprayed again. I just had to be sure this thing was 100% germ free since it came from an unknown source.
Here’s the bench with the top fabric ripped off. The foam looks like dinner buns, doesn’t it?
I decided to leave the side fabric on to give extra cushion around the wood frame. You’ll notice at the end how plump and cushy it ended up looking because of this. I should point out, if you are following this tutorial and your foam doesn’t look re-useable, it’s totally fine. Go buy some new foam – just be sure to make holes in it to match where your tufts will be. You can use tufting needs to do this or a drill with a small drill bit. By re-using the foam I was able to skip that step.
My next step was painting the wood. I wanted cheap and fast so I grabbed a $3 can of Rustoleum spray paint, cream color, and let my four-year-old go to town on it. It was cheap, easy, effective, and fast. Let me tell you – this thing was dry and ready to go in an hour. Sweet!
Once dry, I brought the bench back in, put the foam back on top, and added a layer of batting. I bought the smallest size at Walmart and it was more than enough. I took my tufting needles and poked holes through the batting so they’d line up with the foam and the bench. I left two of them in the batting (you can see them in the pic if you look closely) to mark the end and middle spots.
Un-Trimmed batting over the bench. Looks like snow on a mountain, huh?
One of the trickiest parts for me was the buttons. For tufting, you need eyelid buttons. Also known as front buttons. Basically, there needs to be a hook on the back vs. holes in the middle. I found quite a few at Michaels, Joannes, Hobby Lobby, and even Walmart. BUT – None were exactly what I wanted. So I caved and bought the DIY button kit. It was so much harder than I expected. I simply didn’t have the strength to snap the button pieces together. Thankfully, my sweet husband ran upstairs with a hammer just in time to prevent a downpour of unnecessary tears and exclamations of “I quit!” from escalating further. He showed me that one good pop with the hammer was all the force I needed. This bench required 30 buttons so I made 40. Just to be safe. Now I have plenty of extras in case one pops.
If you’re not familiar with DIY button kits, you essentially cut your fabric into circles. Thank goodness they give you a circle to trace because I could never draw a perfect circle – just not in my skillset. You then “sandwich” the fabric circle between a top piece and a bottom piece (thankfully they are labelled for you) and apply pressure using the little blue “pusher” and the clear round “receiver” you can see in the picture below. Or if you’re me, just whack it once with a hammer and it’ll all pop together.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, hang on because next comes the fun part. Time to place the fabric over the bench and tuft those buttons! I choose a gorgeous linen fabric at Hobby Lobby called “Sky”. It’s going to match all the custom bedding for our spare room. When I say I love this fabric, I mean I loooove it!! It’s from Hobby Lobby’s home décor line, so it’s much thicker and sturdier then regular cotton or quilting fabric. For furniture you need something durable. Fabric was the bulk of my project cost since quality linen isn’t cheap. At least I got it on sale ($13 a yard) so I didn’t go too over-budget. Due to the size of my bench, I needed two full yards of it. But I had tons left over so that will cut costs for my next project. Maybe I’ll make pillows next??
Tufting itself is pretty easy. Tufting needles are so long (Mine came in a pack of 6”, 8”, 10”, and 12”) that you just thread them through the button, poke all the way through your layers (fabric + batting + foam + wood) to the bottom, and secure.
The wood base in my bench had all the holds already drilled since I was reupholstering, not making from scratch. Refer back up to the pictures above. If your bench doesn’t have holes pre-drilled for you then you’ll need to make some. Just use a drill with a small drill bit.
Be sure to use nylon thread that’s intended for upholstery. You need strong, durable thread for this and regular thread won’t cut it. Trust me
To secure my thread on the bottom I tried a few methods, but the one that worked best for me was stapling in a zig-zag method and then using my hot glue gun to secure the ends. Pull nice and tight so the buttons really sink down into the bench to give it that plush, cushy look.
The underside of the bench. The rope is from before. I never took it out. Mine is the thinner nylon thread with the million little staples in it.
You’ll notice in the picture I took the base frame off at the end. This way I was able to cute my batting and fabric to size (I trimmed after I tufted since I didn’t know for sure how much excess fabric I would need), staple around and onto the wood frame (you can see the process beginning in the left side of the picture above). I stapled all four sides to the wood using my industrial stapler. I used half a box of staples for this project. Totally worth it – that fabric is secure! To finish, I re-attached the legs using the original screws, flipped it over and voila! The bench is complete.
Sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s soft and plush and comfy and suuper long and lusciously deep and exactly the fabric I wanted. So the big question you’re probably asking me now is, how much did it cost? Here’s my breakdown:
Old Bench: $15 on Craigslist
Batting: $5 at Walmart
Spray Paint $3 at Home Depot
Tufting needles: $4 at Walmart
Nylon Thread: 2 spools for $3 at Joanne Fabrics
Button Kit: $8 at Joanne Fabrics (x2)
Linen Fabric: $13 a yard at Hobby Lobby (x2)
Supplies I already had: glue gun, glue sticks, industrial stapler, staples
There is absolutely no way I could get a bench this size and quality at that price. Especially not the exact fabric to match the bedding. So I would say it was definitely worth it. If you’re looking to make one for even cheaper, though, I recommend the following:
- Buy cheaper fabric. You can get great home décor fabric on clearance for much less. Half my cost was my fabric, so I you already have some onhand you’re looking at just a $21 bench.
- Get a cheaper (or free!) bench. Most people won’t take the time to do a project like this. I probably could have offered my Craigslist seller less for the bench or found one on the side of the road. I’ve seen them cheaper at second hand stores like Goodwill, too. I just needed an extra long one (it will go under a double window) so for me the $15 was worth it.
- Don’t make your own buttons. I spent $16 on the button kit. If you find a bulk pack of buttons you like, you’d probably only spend around $5.
If I were to estimate the time I put into this project (not including picking up supplies), I’d guess around four and a half hours. The buttons took me a while to figure out (use my husband’s hammer tip and save yourself some time!) and thirty tufts is quite a lot. For a bench with less tufts I could easily see this project being completed in under three hours.
I hope this tutorial helped! I would love feedback, and especially to see any benches you reupholster using this tutorial.
About the Author:
Kathryn Bailey is a DIY novice, mother to a crazy little redheaded boy affectionately known as “ginger”, and proud Army wife. When not DIYing, she manages the Air Force Liaison Office for the Army’s Joint Munitions Command. She also owns a portrait studio because, you know, who needs sleep and pictures