Round things that make me smile: baby thighs, ice scream scoops, rolling hills, tufted cushions. Creating undulating curves across a flat surface is a wonderful way to add dimensional interest to a plain cushion. For our tufting projects, we prefer the home décor tools from Dritz® to make the job easier and provide the most professional finish. We have a full tutorial to take you through the three most common options: stitch tufting, button tufting, and bolster tufting. This pretty patchwork cushion provides a bit of tufting inspiration to make you smile.
We originally used a Layer Cake in the Little Ruby collection by Bonnie & Camille for a happy, summery blend of fresh florals. A patchwork surface is always an interesting one for tufting because the intersecting lines of the pieces give you a perfect grid for your stitching points. Little Ruby is no longer readily available, but we took a spin through the huge Layer Cake selection at Fat Quarter Shop and spotted a few new collections that would be great choices for this vibrant design. Click on a swatch below for more detail.
Tufting is a hand-stitching technique that has been around for centuries. Originally developed to keep natural fillers in a mattress or cushion, such as hay and feathers, from shifting during use. Today, tufting is much more likely to be added simply as embellishment. Although it does still have that added benefit of securing multiple layers.
Because you’re working with quite a bit of thickness and need to pull firmly to produce the best results, tufting is a technique for which you really, really need to use the right tools. As mentioned above, we use Dritz® products because they are high quality, designed specifically for each task, and easy to find in store or online. To get started, you need a good selection of upholstery needles in various lengths, waxed thread, and cover button kits. With these tools in hand, you’ll be ready to tackle most any tufting task!
How much tufting to add is up to you. For our 18” couch cushion, we wanted a lot of puffiness to echo our patchwork pattern as well as to provide a soft surface to lean against. There are nine, evenly spaced button tufts across the square.
As you’ll see in our tufting tutorial, button tufting is traditionally done with covered buttons in fabric that matches the base fabric. However, you could also use a contrasting color or texture to really call attention to each indentation. This would be particularly striking against a solid color fabric.
Our tufted couch cushion finishes at approximately 18” x 18” x 4½" deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful since all seams are ¼”
Fabric and Other Supplies
As mentioned above, our pretty patchwork design used the Little Ruby collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda Fabrics. We used a Layer Cake, selecting 24 different 10" x 10" squares from which to cut all our pieces and prepare the covered buttons. We evaluated a number of options to create a cohesive color palette with a pleasing mix of motifs. We refer to these fabrics throughout the instructions below. For more about the best ways to mix and match designer fabric, take a look at our informative tutorial.
- ONE Layer Cake pre-cut bundle, from which you’ll use 24 of the 42 10” x 10” squares. The illustrations shown below in our Getting Started section give you the positioning we chose for our cuts.
NOTE: All the cut sizes are listed below. From these you could figure yardage requirements should you choose not to use a Layer Cake bundle.
- ONE approximately 18” x 18” x 4” piece of foam; we used a 22” x 22” x 4” piece of Nu-Foam by Fairfield, cutting it down to size
NOTE: Another option is to use a thinner foam and more batting.
- 1 yard of 45"+ high loft polyester batting
- ONE 6” Dritz Upholstery Needle for tufting
- ONE spool of Dritz Waxed Thread for tufting
- EIGHTEEN ¾” Dritz Cover Button Kits
- ⅛ yard or scrap of lightweight fusible interfacing for the covered buttons
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
Below is an illustration showing how our cuts laid out. The top and the bottom of the cushion have the same configuration, but with different fabrics. Each of the four sides is made up of four different squares. As you move through the steps, use these handy drawings to keep track of what goes where.
It can help to number or letter your cuts to keep track of everything. We like Alphabitties specialty labeling tools by It's Sew Emma and available through Fat Quarter Shop.
From the Bonnie & Camille Little Ruby collection for Moda Fabrics, we used the following:
- Little Lady in Red: Cut TWO at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide
- Little Bows in Cream: Cut TWO at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide
- Little Swoon in Aqua: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and TWO at 5” x 5” square
- Little Bows in Green: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and TWO at 5” high x 3½” wide
- Little Lady in Aqua: Cut TWO at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Daisy in Cream: Cut TWO at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Bows in Red: Cut ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide and ONE at 5” x 5”
- Little Daisy in Aqua: Cut TWO at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Swoon in Coral: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” x 5”
- Little Quirky in Cream: Cut ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide and TWO at 5” x 5”
- Little Swoon in Green: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Lady in Coral: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Tulip in Coral: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide
- Little Rosie in Cream: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Lady in Green: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” high x 3½” wide
- Little Bows in Aqua: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide
- Little Daisy in Red: Cut ONE at 5” high x 6½” wide and ONE at 5” x 5”
- Little Rosie in Green: Cut TWO at 5” x 5”
- Little Quirky in Red: Cut ONE at 5” x 5”
- Little Bliss Dot in Green: Cut TWO at 5” x 5”
- Little Quirky in Aqua: Cut ONE at 5” x 5”
- Little Tulip in Cream: Cut TWO at 5” x 5”
- Little Rosie in Aqua: Cut ONE at 5” x 5”
- For the covered buttons: Little Bows in Coral, using the template provided on the back of the Dritz Cover Button Kits, cut EIGHTEEN 1½” diameter circles.
- If necessary, cut down the foam to 18” x 18”.
- From the high-loft batting cut TWO 18” x 45” rectangles.
NOTE: Remember, if your foam is thinner than 4”, you’ll need additional batting rectangles.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut EIGHTEEN ¾” squares.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the top/bottom squares
NOTE: Remember, all seam allowances are figured at the traditional ¼" quilting seam allowance.
- Following our diagrams above (or your own design), lay out the cut pieces to form the eight rows that will make up the top and bottom panels as well as the four rows that will make up the sides. Having all the pieces in groups will help you keep track of everything in an orderly fashion.
- Working in order, either top to bottom or bottom to top, place the first two pieces of the first row right sides together along their inner edges. Pin in place.
- Stitch together, using a ¼" seam allowance.
- Press the seam allowance towards the darker fabric.
- Add the next piece to the sewn unit, again aligning the inner edges. With right sides together, pin this new piece in place. Stitch together. Press the seam allowance towards the darker fabric.
- Continue in the same manner to assemble the remaining rows: four rows that make up the top panel, four rows that make up the bottom panel, and the four rows that make up the side panels.
- Set aside the finished side rows. Re-organize the top and bottom panel rows in order.
- Re-press all the seam allowances if necessary and, again working in order from top to bottom or bottom to top, pin each row right sides together along the inner edges.
- Stitch each row with a ¼” seam allowance.
- The seams of the rows are already offset due to the patchwork design, so there isn’t the standard worry about which direction to press the seam allowances to achieve perfect intersections (perfect points). Press towards the darker fabrics and keep your ¼” seam allowances straight and consistent. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- When the top and bottom panels are complete, re-press again from the front and back so your panels are as flat as possible.
- Here are our top and bottom panels and all four sides, pieced together and ready to become a box.
NOTE: If you are brand new to patchwork, we have a five-part Quilting Basics Series you can review.
Attach the top and bottom panels to the sides
- Find the four side panels. Pin them together rights sides together end to end to form a ring.
- Stitch the four sides together, using a ¼” seam allowance. Press the seam allowances toward the darker fabric.
- Mark the center seam of each side panel at both the top and bottom.
- Find the top panel and fold it in half one direction to find and mark the center points along two sides.
- Then, fold in half in the opposite direction to find and mark the center points along the remaining two sides of the square.
- Turn the side ring wrong side out.
- Place the ring right sides together with the top panel, aligning the center pin points along one side.
- Pin in place from the aligned center points out to either end of this first side of the top panel. Stop ¼” in from the edge at each corner.
- Stitch this first seam, starting ¼” in from the first corner. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch across the panel, stopping ¼” from the second corner.
- Remove the project from the machine to pin the side ring to the next side in the same manner.
- Remember to align the center pin points of the side and the panel first,and then pin out to either end.
- Stitch this next side, starting and stopping your seam ¼” in from each corner. Repeat to stitch the remaining two sides in the same manner.
NOTE: If you are brand new to setting a flat panel into a ring to form a box, we have a full step-by-step tutorial you can review prior to starting the project. Note that our tutorial references a ½” seam allowance, which is standard for most home décor projects. You are working with a ¼” seam allowance for this project and a very lightweight quilting cotton; this means the pivot at each corner should be easier. You are unlikely to have to snip into the side ring at each corner to ease the fabric, but it is still an option if you are not getting as sharp a turn as you’d like.
- Repeat this process to attach the remaining free edge of the side ring to the bottom panel; but leave most of one side open to insert the foam. When you get to this final side, stitch just 1-2” from each corner's ¼" point and lock your seam, leaving the center open.
Cut, wrap, and insert the foam
- We started with a slightly larger square that need to be trimmed down. To do this, measure the amount to be trimmed from each side (we trimmed down from 22” x 22” to 18” x 18”), draw in cut lines on the foam with a sharpie, then use a serrated blade or an electric knife to trim along the drawn guide lines.
- Find the two lengths of high-loft polyester batting.
- Wrap one length around the foam one way and the second length around the foam in the opposite direction. This gives you one layer of batting along each side and two layers top and bottom.
- Butt together the ends of each wrap along an edge and hand stitch to secure. Simply use a large whip stitch; this seam will never be seen.
- Find the main cushion cover. Turn it right side out.
- Insert the foam through the open side. You may need to compress the foam to get it to fit through the opening. Once inside, let it gently unfold, then adjust the foam into position against the side walls of the box.
- Pin the opening closed so it matches the sewn seams.
- Thread a hand sewing needle and hand stitch the opening closed with tiny, even stitches.
Make the covered buttons and tuft
- Mark the top and bottom of the cushion for the covered buttons. There are nine along the top and nine along the bottom, all of them aligned with the seams as shown in the drawings above.
- Create 18 covered buttons. We recommend using the same fabric for all the buttons. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse an interfacing square at the center back of each of the 18 fabric circles.
- Assemble the eighteen covered buttons. If you are new to this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial.
- Thread the Dritz upholstery needle with an approximate 18” length of the Dritz waxed upholstery thread.
- Secure the shank of the first button to the thread.
- Insert the needle (with the button attached) at the first marked tufting point. You are working from the top through to the bottom.
- Firmly push the needle through until it comes out the bottom at the same point.
- Flip over the cushion. Pull the thread taut then slip off the needle.
- Find a second covered button. Insert one free end of the thread through the shank of the second covered button. Then tie the ends together into a knot.
- Continue tightening this first knot until the covered button flips down into position and you have the depression depth you want for the tuft. When you have the look you want from both sides, tie a second knot to secure.
- Trim the ends of the waxed thread so they disappear under the covered button
- Repeat to add all the buttons.
NOTE: If you are brand new to tufting, we have a tutorial that features the same Dritz products to explain stitch tufting, button tufting, and tufting a bolster. Check out the full tutorial here.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild