DIY Tufted Stool Upholstery

Tufted upholstery is one of the most luxurious kinds of soft furnishing I can think of - especially when it's in velvet. Which is why the little mustard velvet dressing table stool with matching pom-pom trim became my favourite thing about the master bedroom I recently decorated for my friend, Julie (not her real name).


18 tufted stool pin

I had wanted to try my hand at tufted upholstery for ages, but could never quite get the hang of it. However, in searching for a stool for Julie's bedroom, I came across a tufted stool on the online classifieds that was advertised free to take away. The basic structure was good, but it needed an update. And in deconstructing the stool, I discovered the secrets of its tufting!

18 tufted stool 1110607

In this case, I was upcycling an old stool, but you can also make a new one from scratch - I have a full tutorial available here: DIY Faux Cowhide Bench


  • Upholstery fabric
  • Trim
  • Heavy-duty staple gun
  • Heavy-duty staple remover
  • Fabric marker
  • Needle & thread
  • Hot glue & gun
  • Screwdrivers
  • Scissors
  • Pliers
  • Hammer


The outer layer of fabric was looking pretty scruffy when I got the stool. So, obviously, that had to be removed.

18 tufted stool 1110608

I started by removing the seat by unscrewing it from the legs.

18 tufted stool 1110610

I flipped the seat upside down and started to remove the staples that were holding the backing fabric in place. Although you can do this with a flathead screwdriver, I've learned from experience that it really is worth investing in a proper staple remover for this job. These are not like office staples, and do not bend and buckle as easily.

18 tufted stool 1110613

With the backing fabric gone, I then started removing the staples holding the upholstery fabric in place.

18 tufted stool 1110614

At this point, the only thing holding the fabric were the covered buttons. However, I soon learned that these were not actually buttons, but rather nails! I pried them out using a flathead screwdriver.

18 tufted stool 1100617

18 tufted stool 1110626

Underneath, the foam padding was in good condition. And that's when I discovered the secret to successful tufting.

Secret to Successful Tufting

The difficulty I've had with tufting in the past is trying to make neat folds in the fabric. However, what I noticed when I deconstructed this stool was that the foam underneath had been scored in the pattern the folds should make.

18 tufted stool 1110633

The cuts created a recess into which the excess fabric could be tucked to give a neat appearance on the surface. It's genius!

I give tips for cutting upholstery foam in the post about my DIY Faux Cowhide Bench.

18 tufted stool 1110634

In this case, because nails were used instead of buttons, circular holes were also cut into the foam to allow the nails to easily attach to the baseboard underneath the foam.


 I laid out the old fabric on top of the new and cut a piece large enough to cover the seat.

18 tufted stool 1110637

Then I pinned the two fabrics together and transferred the pattern of holes for the nails onto the new fabric using a fabric marker, then unpinned the fabrics to separate them again.

18 tufted stool 1110640

Given that the fabric would be tucked and folded during the process of tufting, I needed a more visible way of marking the nailholes. For that, I used tailor's tacks. A tailor's tack is a simple stitch used to mark fabric in a way that is robust enough to allow the fabric to be worked, but which can also be easily removed.

To make a tailor's tack, thread a needle with a thread colour that contrasts with the fabric colour. Double over the thread, but do not tie a knot

Start by making a single stitch. 

18 tufted stool 1110641

You need to be careful not to pull the open end of the thread through the fabric! 

Then stitch back over the original stitch.

18 tufted stool 1110643

Trim the ends of the threads, but leave them long enough that you can tug on them afterwards to remove the stitch.

18 tufted stool 1110644

I continued marking all of the nail positions in this way.

18 tufted stool 1110647

 Now it was time to start reassembling the stool!

I laid the new fabric over the seat, aligning the tailor's tacks over the indents cut into the foam padding.

18 tufted stool 1110649

Starting in the centre and working outwards, I used a heavy duty staple gun to fix the fabric into place, stapling through the tailor's tacks.

18 tufted stool 1110652

As I worked, I tucked the fabric folds into the crevices in the foam. That was the secret to keeping everything looking so neat and perfect!

18 tufted stool 1110653

You can see now why the tailor's tacks are so much better than just a mark on the fabric, which would have gotten lost in the folds.

With a staple holding the fabric in place at each of the nail positions, flip the seat upside down. Cut a square out of each corner of the upholstery fabric to avoid bulkiness when you fold it under the seat. Just make sure you still have enough fabric left to completely cover the corners of the baseboard.

18 tufted stool 1110655

When fixing the fabric underneath the baseboard, start by securing the folds from the tufts.

18 tufted stool 1110658b

With the folds secured, then work your way outwards towards the corners, stapling the flatter parts of the fabric as you go. Don't pull too hard on the fabric as you do as it will cause it to pucker - enough tenstion to take up any slack is all that's required.

18 tufted stool 1110660b

When you get to the corners, start by securing the fabric diagonally across the corner.

18 tufted stool 1110657c

Then pull the fabric up over each side of the corner and staple into place.

18 tufted stool 1110661

18 tufted stool 1110663

Finally smooth out any loose parts of the fabric and secure with a staple.

18 tufted stool 1110667

Now flip the seat right-side-up again. You can now remove all the tailor's tacks by either pulling them out or, if the staples hold them too firmly, just trim the loose threads flush with the fabric.

18 tufted stool 1110669

Next I needed to replace the covered button nails. Ideally I would have bought new ones but, since we were working on a tight budget for Julie's bedroom, I reused the old ones instead.

I cut little discs of fabric just large enough; too large and it just becomes difficult to deal with the tucks underneath, so it pays to spend some time trimming until the size is just right.

18 tufted stool 1110671

Then I removed the old fabric by prying the button top open with a small flathead screwdriver while holding the nail part firmly with a pliers.

18 tufted stool 1110672

These buttons are not really made to be reused, so my prying them open damaged the rims and made it so that the caps would not fit tightly again. So I used some hot glue to hold the fabric in place inside the cap.

18 tufted stool 1110692

I also used some hot glue to hold the nailhead in place.

18 tufted stool 1110689

Then I hammered the button nails back into the premarked positions on the seat. I used a piece of scrap fabric to protect the buttons from the hammer.

18 tufted stool 1110679

18 tufted stool 1110701

Now flip the seat upside down again and replace the backing fabric. If there are any safety labels, it is important to replace those also.

18 tufted stool 1110696

Now the seat could be reattached to the legs again.

18 tufted stool 1110703

Adding Trim

Part of my vision for the stool was to add some of the mustard pom-pom trim I had in my stash. I used a hot glue gun to start attaching it at one end, then worked my way slowly around the edges.

18 tufted stool 1110707

 Don't cut the trim to size until you get to back to the start again. At that point, you can cut the trim a little long and glue the end back in on itself to hide the raw edges.

18 tufted stool 1110710

Finally glue the folded end of the trim over the starting edge.

18 tufted stool 1110717

And that's it! This was genuinely a very simple DIY and I'm in love the end product - quite the transformation from how I found it!

18 tufted stool 1110607

18 tufted stool 1120858

Please do share with me via social media if you give this one a try. I love to see your projects.


Related Posts:

DIY Faux Cowhide Bench

Budget Decor: €125 Master Bedroom

Top Tips for Decorating on a Budget