Traditional diamond pattern deep tufting

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Deep tufting has a rich, highly decorative look that is created by pulling fabric through inches of padding. As the fabric is pulled, pleats branch out from the button on all four sides. The depth of the tuft depends on the thickness of the underlying padding.

In this article, the two-line tufting method is shown, which uses the grain of the fabric to determine the button placement. It is vital that the fabric and buttons stay on-grain for the final outcome to be pleasing. This article shows how to plan the diamond pattern that is appropriate for your project, prepare the foam and the base, determine the amount of fabric needed, pull the buttons, and finish and dress the project.

To find the dimensions of the diamond pattern for your project, measure the outside length and width (For this project we will be using an ottoman with a 42-inch by 31-inch area). Determine the outside border for all four sides (4 inches). Subtract the border measurement from the overall length and width (42-8 = 34; 31-8 = 23). The new field to tuft is 34 inches by 23 inches.

Traditional diamond patterns are taller than they are wide, and generally have a diamond pattern at the exact center of the project—not a button. You will need to do a little math to find a pattern that is proportionate to your project.

For this project, 23 inches is not enough room to have three diamonds, and 34 inches is not wide enough for five diamonds. Therefore, the pattern falls into two diamonds high by four diamonds wide, with each diamond measuring 11.5 inches high by 8.5 inches wide.

This field is divided into the 11.5-inch by 8.5-inch rectangles and then each rectangle is divided into diamonds by finding the center of the rectangles and drawing in the diamond lines.Photo 1

The next step is to prepare the base and the foam for tufting. Generally, a furniture frame is used, but deep tufting can also be done on a solid wood base, such as a headboard. This project uses an ottoman frame that will need to have the open hole closed. To do this, stretch webbing across the frame in a woven pattern, stretching each piece tight and securing it to the frame with staples. Pull and staple all webbing pieces in one direction first, then start the weaving process with the perpendicular rows. Next, stretch and staple a layer of burlap over the taut webbing. This will ensure that foam will not fall through the frame and disrupt the look of the deep tufting.Photo 2Photo 3

Prepping the foam is quick, yet necessary. Begin by drawing the diamond tufting pattern on the foam. The foam will be cut 1 inch larger, all the way around, than the frame, so when you transfer the pattern, be sure to add that additional 1 inch to the border area. Once the foam is patterned, use a drill with a foam-hole cutter to drill out the hole where the diamonds intersect.Photo 4

Place the drilled foam onto the prepared base and mark the hole pattern for later reference. You can do this by marking through the drilled hole directly onto the burlap with a marker.Photo 5

Do not secure the foam to the base.

As in all upholstery projects, the foam needs to be covered with a layer of batting. To do this, tear off a piece of batting that is large enough to wrap the entire project plus enough to wrap to the back for stapling, but do not staple the batting down. Place the batting over the project and gently tear an opening in the batting at each foam hole. Remember, nothing but fabric goes into the hole when you pull the button. By slightly tucking the edge of the batting around the opening of the hole, the batting will stay in place.Photo 6

The last step of preparation for a deep tufted piece is to determine the amount of fabric needed. When measuring, choose the row, both horizontal and vertical, with the most holes. Start with the 3-inch mark on a soft tape measure and follow up the side of the foam and into the bottom of the first hole, back out and into the bottom of the next hole, until the entire row is complete.

Add an additional 3 inches on the outside.Photo 7

The additional 3 inches on each side is to ensure you have enough fabric to staple to the back. Cut fabric to this measurement, then fold in half, along the grain of the fabric and lightly crease with an iron. Fold in half again, on grain, perpendicular to the first fold and crease. This will give you the two necessary lines to begin tufting.Photo 8

You are now ready to start pulling fabric. Line up the two creased lines with the pattern, making sure the intersection of the lines is in the center of the project. For this project, there is not a button at the exact middle, so the difference is split. The first button is the only button that takes an additional step with the fabric. To get the correct amount of fabric for the first button, gather the fabric around your index finger.Photo 9

This takes an even amount of fabric from all four sides and ensures the rest of the pattern is set. Poke your fabric-covered finger into the hole.

To pull a button, thread the button with a 20-inch length of button twine; then thread the double twine through the eye of a mattress needle. Poke the needle straight down into the foam hole, aiming for the mark on the burlap, and pull the needle through the webbing and burlap to the back.Photo 10

Buttons are not pulled tight from the back, but pushed deep from the front and tied off on the back to hold the tension. Use a slipknot with a small piece of scrap burlap to keep the knot from slipping back into the hole.Photo 11Photo 12

Pull the slip knot tight but do not overhand knot it until all buttons are pulled and you are happy with the depths.

To pull the rest of the buttons for the first row, follow the grain of the fabric and the pressed line with your finger, pulling the fabric taut. Push the fabric into the next hole, making sure all the ease (extra fabric needed to fill the hole) comes from the outside.Photo 13

Pull and tie off that button. Complete the entire row before moving onto the next row.

To find the grain line for the second row, follow the grain of the fabric in the center of two buttons down and across, and connect the two for the correct button placement. Be sure all spaces between buttons are pulled to the same tension.

In photo 14, the grain line is pointed out.Photo 14Once all rows of buttons are pulled and tied off, recheck the depths of each button and then tie each one off with an overhand knot to secure in place.Photo 15

To finish the sides of the project, cut the batting straight up from the outside to one of the holes. Open up a channel in the foam by cutting straight into the hole. Do not cut the last 1 inch in depth of the foam.Photo 16

Do this for all outside buttons. At each channel, pull the fabric into the channel at the same tension as the rest of the project. Staple the fabric in place as high up on the wood as you can.Photo 17

Once all channels are stapled, relieve the fabric by cutting a straight line, from the outside, up to the staple. This will allow the fabric to fold into itself for a finished channel. Pull each center channel fabric to the back and staple. Fold each side of the channel fabric under, meeting at the staple, and staple in place to complete each outside channel.Photo 18

For the corners, fold one side of the fabric under the other side, making sure the “break” of the corner is even with the other channels. Staple in place.Photo 19

To complete the final dressing of the pleats, use an upholstery regulator to manipulate the fabric into even folds, all facing the same way.Photo 20

The goal of the dressing is to have an “X” pattern coming out from the exact center of each button.

Cover the bottom of the project with a layer of Cambric to hide the ties and finish the project. If you followed the grain of the fabric when pulling the buttons, all pleats will lay smoothly on the bias, the diamonds will be proportionate to the project, and the buttons will be pulled to the same depth. These are all signs of a well-done deep tufted piece.

For free online seminars on deep tufting and other upholstery topics, check out webinars from Rowley.

Laurie Medford, Rowley Company
Expert Services, Business Development Manager.


Comments are the opinion of individual posters and do not reflect the views of Upholstery Journal or Industrial Fabrics Association International.

  • fifty seven
    fifty seven

    fabric and buttons stay on-grain?

    In the text you state " It is vital that the fabric and buttons stay on-grain for the final outcome to be pleasing" I'm not sure that I understand this, as the buttons have been purposely set off grain. Other than that an interesting article

  • Upholstery Workshop
    Upholstery Workshop

    Deep buttoning

    I found this very useful. Having been an upholsterer for about 30 years I find it great to read articles from people in the same line. Maybe it's not the way I would undertake the task, buts its been very useful. Thanks

  • Michael @ Advantage

    Make a Beginning

    This is actually very helpful. If you have no idea where to start discovering the process can be expensive and heartbreaking. This is a great suggestive article and gives the readers room to try, learn and develop their own techniques after they get the hang of it!

  • deanna d
    deanna d

    Thanks gio

    I'm no pro. But that's what I thinking I would try. Just marking the fabric instead. And use a pin to mark the foam or marker. Seemed logical and easier to me. The rest was informative and appreciated.

  • jimbob

    diamond tufting

    aldo Your not fair. What works for you doesn't always work for others. Marking fabric is a pain..I just tufted a Turkish Chair and didn't put a mark on it...Oh I've been upholstering for 50 did my Dad and 8 guys he had for over 40 years each..

  • Tino Flores
    Tino Flores


    Thanks for saving a lost art. It was so good to see a clean tuft being done. Hard to find such talent these days.

  • Kathleen


    Am new at uhpolstery business. Have been asked to do the tufting but didn't know how. thought article was informative. But if there is an easier way I am intreseted.


    K & M Creations 

  • giorgio aldo
    giorgio aldo

    diamond hand tufting

    oh my gosh, where have all the masters gone. what ever happened to marking the fabric on the back. just put your finger in the fabric. this is what is killing the true craftsman in this business. i would be asham to write such an article. can't stop laughing am going to print on show everyone what NOT to do thanks george

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