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The Hardest Button to Button: A DIY Tufted Storage Ottoman.

During my recent music room makeover, I found myself looking for ways to incorporate some extra seating. My sights settled on an old cedar-lined storage chest, which was the right height for seating but didn't present the most inviting surface. I considered simply upholstering it, but one day while listening to The White Stripes' song "The Hardest Button to Button," I thought, why just wrap the lid in fabric when I could do something WAY more complicated? Wouldn't that be FUN??
And so, the plan for the diamond-tufted storage ottoman was born.
Time: 2 Days Cost: $50 Difficulty: Moderate
I started by removing the lid and all the hardware, then drew out my grid with a sharpie. I drilled tiny pilot holes at the intersections where the buttons would go.
Then I cut a piece of 3" foam to the size of the lid. I used the sharpie to re-draw the same grid on the foam, then used a drill with a 1" paddle bit to drill out the holes for the buttons. I used a super-sharp paring knife to taper the edges of each hole, which made it easier to work with the stiff vinyl I was planning to use.
The whole thing got covered with 2 layers of batting. I used a scissors to cut out the extra batting over the button holes.
This next part was the part I screwed up. Repeatedly. You have to do some careful calculations to figure out how to re-draw your grid on your fabric, including allowances for where the fabric will get pulled down into the holes. I'm can't tell you how I did it, because I did it wrong so many times that I don't really remember how I finally arrived at the right numbers. (Although here's a blog post about the whole experience, if you'd like to try to draw your own conclusions: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2015/02/the-hardest-button-to-button/).
Anyway, once you've got your math done correctly, draw your new grid on the back of your fabric.
And here's where I kinda went off the beaten path. Instead of actually threading buttons all the way through and messing around with all that crap, I used screws with washers (and those tiny pilot holes I drilled earlier) to pull the fabric down into the foam.
I started with the hole closest to the middle and worked my way out to the edges. Along the way, I used the flat handle of a butter knife to force the fabric into those perfect diamond-shaped folds.
After securing all the edges with staples, it was time to put the buttons back in "button tufting." I used fabric glue to attach the buttons to the tops of the screws.
After that, I just had to reattach the lid and hardware to the chest, and take a bunch of pretty pictures. I think even a trained upholsterer would have to look pretty close to discover that I short-cutted the whole button-tufting process.
For the whole story and a lot more details about this process, check out this blog post: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2015/02/the-hardest-button-to-button/. And let me know if you decide to try this one yourself!

To see more: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2015/02/the-hardest-button-to-button/

  • J. Testman
    J. Testman Brooklyn, NY


  • Venditelli

    You did a great job...thanks for the step by step. It looks so professional!

  • Lynn
    Lynn Bakersfield, CA

    That is beautiful. And so inviting to sit on!

    But...Am I the only one that "cheats" when making grids for tufting or smocking? I use a piece of pegboard for my grid. This allows me to skip most of the measuring & marking. But then again, I can't

  • Paula
    Paula Woodside, NY

    Looks perfect!

  • Dawn Sullivan


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