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How Is Tufting Done?

Tufting is a sewing technique that uses a pattern created with a thread. It is achieved by passing the thread through the fabric to create small depressions, usually in linear designs. Buttons or decorative items are usually attached at the lowest part of the depression. Quality tufting is done by craftspeople with extensive training (either from formal schooling or through apprenticeships) and years of upholstering experience. When done correctly, tufting adds an air of elegance to upholstered furniture. The sewn tufting technique is the most commonly used method for upholstered furniture. Overall designs, which are typically variously sized diamond patterns, have a button featured in the tufted depression. The tufted pattern is usually based on the proportions and size of the furniture piece.

Top-Stitched Tufting

The top-stitched tufting method requires cutting into the foam filling. Patterned seams, usually various types of diamond patterns, are sewn into the fabric and then the fabric is attached to the item. The result is a tight, finished look. This is the least used method of tufting due to the amount of labor involved. It was used prior to the 1980s, when the most common types of stuffing materials were loose fibers, including plant and animal hairs.

Folded Tufting

The folded tufting method requires the craftsman to partially drill the design into the foam backing. Once the entire design is imprinted, the upholstery fabric is inserted into the individual cuts. A button is usually incorporated into the design, creating depressions in the fabric. Wood backing is sometimes used in this tufting technique. Bed headboards typically use backing of solid wood with holes that have been drilled at measured intervals. Foam is placed over the wood backing and the folded technique is done with the cover. Heavy cording, with buttons attached to the ends, is then drawn through the holes and extended to the wooden back. The cording is drawn through the back of the wood, where the cords are secured with small bunches of batting or foam. These prevent the tufts from pulling out from the front fabric.

Pulled Tufting

The pulled tufting technique creates a drape-type covering usually seen on informal designs, such as Country French styling. Loose-fitting slipcovers frequently feature the pulled tufting technique. Pulled tufting requires the draping of the fabric, which has been cut oversized, over the item. It is then gathered up to create individual tuffs. Buttons are also used in this technique at the point of each gather. This tufting technique is frequently seen on large throw pillows.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.