You know, I’ve been worried about this blog post for several weeks now. Because — and here’s the cool part — this project is THE LAST PROJECT in The Boom Boom Room. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) So I needed the project to turn out well, which on its own was cause for concern, because it’s something I’ve never attempted before and has a reputation for being unfriendly to beginners. But my real concern was the actual blog post. Because after nearly 7 months of Boom Boom Room blog posts inspired by rock song titles, I had no. idea. what song I could possibly use for a post about tufting an ottoman.
I was really stretching my imagination to find a rock and roll song that might, just maybe, if I could take some serious liberties with the English language, might actually sound like it had something to do with upholstery. Let me repeat that: I needed to find a rock song about upholstery.
It would be easier to find Waldo in a candy cane factory.
I’m talking real stretches of the imagination here, guys. I mean, I even went so far as to Google “rock songs about boobs.” Because I didn’t technically tuft an ottoman — I tufted a storage chest that can now be used as an ottoman. And chest = boobs in other contexts. (I’ll pause while you all collectively groan.) I know, I know, all right? It’s bad. And then I’d have to marshall all my powers of creative BS to convince you that conceptually, perhaps on another plane of existence, a tufted ottoman is somehow related to boobs.
Although, now that I think of it, if you look at it a certain way…
Never mind. Let’s just all be glad that I didn’t have to go there. And as punishment for even considering the idea, the phrase “rock songs about boobs” is now in my search history, and I’m so excited to see how it affects which ads I get to see on the internet now.
As it happens, the answer to my dilemma was staring me in the face all along. Or rather, punching me in the ears. A couple of weeks ago, as I was gluing vinyl onto the piano bench, I caught myself singing along to a song that comes up frequently on the station that I listen to all the time. I was literally sitting there, wondering about how I was going to pull off my first attempt at button-tufting and find a rock song about upholstery, when I realized I’d just sung the phrase, “the hardest button to button” about 8 times in a row.
Jack White, it feels kinda weird saying this to you, but you’re a godsend.
But it gets even better. Before I typed “Jack White is a godsend,” I decided to do a little more googling, just to make sure I wasn’t writing something I’d really regret, because Jack White has a reputation for being eccentric, and with celebrities, you know…you never know. But this is what I found in his Wikipedia bio, and I am not making this up:
After completing his apprenticeship, he started a one-man business of his own, Third Man Upholstery. The slogan of his business was “Your Furniture’s Not Dead”…
Upholstery! Which actually answers a lot of questions. Most importantly, it answers the question “So what is the hardest button to button?” Because, dude, the lyrics to that song are pretty weird. But it all makes sense now. With his background in furniture, he was obviously talking about BUTTON TUFTING. Which, as I now know from experience, is the hardest thing you can do with buttons.
And so, with one of life’s greatest mysteries settled, I was ready to start the final Boom Boom Room project: making over an old storage chest into a comfortable-looking seating alternative. Here’s what I was starting with:
Chris’s grandfather built this chest. It provides the music room with some much-needed concealed storage, it’s lined with cedar, and it has some cool brass details that I really dig.
However, the music room also needs more seating, and a hard wooden chest doesn’t exactly scream “Park here for a few hours and jam!” The top of the chest was full of dents and scratches.
And since the chest isn’t exactly heirloom-quality — just cheap plywood, stained dark — Chris gave me the go-ahead to use the lid for tufting practice. I relied heavily on this book to get started:
— specifically, this chapter:
— and also this tufting shortcut from Little Green Notebook. The DIY tufting technique you are about to read is a combination of these two tutorials, which I’ve made my own with the addition of a few extra steps (translation: mistakes) and a healthy dose of self-doubt. Because that’s how I do.
I started by detaching the lid from the chest and arranging the buttons in a pleasing pattern, to determine how many rows I would need.
Then I got out a calculator, a straightedge, and a sharpie to draw my grid.
Then I marked the intersections where buttons would go…
And drilled tiny pilot holes at those intersections.
The tiny pilot holes are the first deviation from standard tufting practices. Normally you’d drill larger holes all the way through the piece, so you can run the button thread through. But we’re planning on a shortcut, so pilot holes are the way to go.
Then I used the lid to trace out the 3-inch foam. I did a terrible job of cutting it out, as you can see, but whatever. This is supposed to be my tufting practice, so consider this a learning experience: next time I will not rely on poorly-trained gerbils to cut upholstery foam.
I re-drew my grid and marked for buttons on the foam once it was cut out. The book recommends a 1 1/2″ hole saw to cut out the button holes, but I couldn’t find our 1 1/2″ hole saw, so I used a 1″ paddle bit. It was the closest thing I could find. It worked…okay, I guess.
Then I covered the foam with two layers of batting, and used a scissors to cut holes on top of the holes.
Then it was time for more math. This was by far the most difficult part of the whole project. I followed the steps in the book to measure the width and height of the diamonds, including allowances for going down into the holes. I did all the calculations to figure out how much fabric I needed, and I came up with an exorbitant number: 3.5 yards of 54″ fabric. A 60″x90″ inch chunk of fabric to cover a 21″x31″ piece of wood. And I was like, “That’s WAY TOO MUCH fabric. There is NO WAY I need that much fabric.”
So I did the calculations again, this time with a sketch to help me visualize the plan. And I came up with the same numbers. And I was like, “No. That is WAY TOO MUCH fabric. And I don’t want to run out and buy more fabric, because I only bought 1.5 yards of fabric, because that seemed like a totally reasonable estimate. And I really don’t want to have to break out the sewing machine for this project, which I would totally have to do in order to make a 60″x90″ piece.”
So I walked away. I ate lunch. I watched a movie. I looked at my crappy sketch and I looked at my numbers, because there had to be a mistake in there somewhere, right? Because I didn’t want to do all that extra work. But I couldn’t figure out where the mistake was. So I ate dinner. I lugged my sewing machine and its accoutrements from a 3rd-floor closet down to the big table in the dining room. And I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics at 7pm, to buy 2 more yards of fabric, and the whole time I was thinking, “This is just WAY TOO MUCH FABRIC.”
And I brought it home, and I laid this fabric for a 21″x31″ project out on the dining room table, and it covered the whole table which seats 10 people comfortably. And I was like, “NO.” And I went back to my calculations one more time.
And I came up with 40″x54″. Which sounded so reasonable, I didn’t even bother to double check. I drew my grid on my original 1.5-yard piece of fabric, cursed the fact that I was going to have to make yet another trip out to the suburbs to return my totally unnecessary purchase, and went to bed.
The next morning, I started with this:
…which miraculously still looked totally reasonable. So I began the process of using screws and washers to pull the fabric into the holes, instead of buttons (shortcut, remember?). Unfortunately, I discovered that my 1″ paddle-bit holes were not going to be anywhere near large enough to accommodate large amounts of heavy vinyl. So I took the batting off, used a paring knife to taper the edges of the holes in the foam, put the batting back, and tried again.
Cutting away the excess material gave me the room I needed to get the screws into the pilot holes I had drilled earlier.
After that, it went pretty quick.
I used the flat handle of a butter knife as I went to help get the folds nice and crisp. It was actually pretty easy, probably because removing the extra foam after I measured for fabric meant that the fabric was just a little bit looser than it could have been. But it’s not so loose that it looks bad.
Creating the folds around the edges was pretty much the same process, with the added complication of a stapler. But again, it went pretty well. And then I just used fabric glue to attach the buttons and cover the screws. You can’t even tell I cheated!
After that, it was a simple matter of re-attaching the newly-tufted lid to the chest and taking some pretty pictures.
And now, there’s just one more blog post to write about The Boom Boom Room: the big reveal!
And luckily for you, I already know which song I’m going to use for the title.