I wanted to build a padded headboard for a couple of reasons – both practical and aesthetic: 1) We like to sit in bed and read at night, and 2) I want my bedroom to look more like a fancy hotel and less like a crappy rental.
Last month, we renewed our lease for another year and four months (yes, our landlord is clearly up to something). To celebrate, I painted the mustard-yellow bedroom a soothing shade of gray. The cool charcoal walls seemed like a great backdrop for a pop of yellow and white geometry. We already owned a yellow-and-white dresser/nightstand set that we picked up from a yard sale about four years back, and I wanted to continue that color scheme.
— Big slab of plywood or MDF board (medium density fiberboard)
— 2 inch foam, same height and length of the board
— Fabric, cut to the size of the board, plus a minimum of six extra inches on all sides
— Batting, same size as fabric
— Thick thread or twine
— Button kit
— D-ring hangers
— Staple gun (and hammer if your staple gun is as weak as mine)
— Serrated kitchen knife (the scarier the better)
— Long (3″+) decorator’s/upholstery needles or doll needles
— Duct tape (maybe)
— Shot of whiskey
PART ONE: BASIC PADDED HEADBOARD
1) Have the hardware store cut your plywood so that it is the width of your bed and your desired height. Our double bed is 54” wide, and I made my headboard 30″ high.
But let me pause here to explain my first mistake, which I’ve been trying to blame on my husband, even though it’s my fault. I had seen similar projects that used plywood, and thought, “since we’re hanging this on the wall, we need something lighter.” So I sent hubby to our local big box for something lighter, and he returned triumphantly with MDF board. However, I realized later that MDF board was the wrong choice because:
– It isn’t really much lighter, since MDF is significantly denser than plywood
– It’s too thin to fully absorb your staples (ouch), and
– It’s awfully flimsy – a stiffer board would have made stapling easier.
2) If you’re tufting, decide on how many buttons and how far apart you’d like them to be. I chose eight buttons in two rows of four, spaced about ten inches apart. Measure and mark the button holes on your board, and drill through them with a 7/32 drill bit.
3) Place your foam over the board. If you are lucky enough to have an exact fit, skip to step 4. My foam was cut at the craft store from a bigger roll that was only about two feet wide, so I had it cut a foot longer than the length of my board. I then cut off the excess length – first with a utility scissors, then with a serrated kitchen knife (do this step after all small children have gone to bed). I cut the excess pieces to fill in the remainder of the board space, then added a touch of class by duct-taping them all together.
Remember, that for this project, it’s what’s on the OUTSIDE that counts.
4) Place your batting over the foam, with at least six inches of batting past the edges. Pull the batting as tight as you can over the foam and staple it to the back of the board, stapling every six inches or so.
5) Iron your fabric, and then repeat Step 4 with the fabric, taking care to twist and pull the corners so that no fabric is loose. I chose to cut some of the excess fabric off the corners to avoid stapling a big pile of fabric, but if you have a good staple gun, this shouldn’t matter.
I will confess now that I planned for the zig-zags to run horizontally across the board. Of course, I didn’t think of this when I ordered the fabric, and it wasn’t enough to cover the width of the board. So, I turned the fabric around and it fit plenty well with the zig-zags running vertically. Oh well.
PART TWO: TUFTING WITH BUTTONS
6) The tufting process is by far the most time consuming, so if you’re looking for a one-hour project, stop here and skip to step 10. First, you’ve got to make your buttons. If you’re eccentric, you could try using flat “sew-through” buttons, but I decided to make my own shank fabric-covered buttons. You’ll need a button kit from the craft store (about $9), plus some extra fabric to cover the buttons.
For each button, cut a circle of cloth with the template. Place your fabric in the mold (a little plastic cup) and place the button shell over the fabric. Use your thumb or the “pusher” to press the shell into the mold with the fabric. Tuck the excess fabric into the shell, then place the back (with the little hook or “shank” over the shell) and push into the mold with your pusher. Then pop your finished button out, like magic!
Warning! If you used a heavy fabric for your headboard, you will have trouble using that same fabric to make buttons. After disfiguring my thumb on the first button (derailing my hand modeling career), I pulled this piece of scrap fabric out from the rag bin under the kitchen sink. It’s a retired bed sheet that we cut into rags. But it was clean and white and thin enough for my button kit.
7) Secure the buttons to the front of the headboard. Use a needle that is at least as long as the thickness of your materials—board, foam and fabric—about 3″ for this project. They are called upholstery or decorator’s needles, but I found these “Doll Needles” at the craft store, which worked well (they are also useful for intimidating dolls).
Locate the holes you drilled in Step 1. Thread the needle with very thick thread or twine (knotted tightly) and insert it into your pre-drilled button hole. Leave a couple inches of thread still hanging out top and staple that thread to the board. I stapled the thread over some batting overhang to make it more secure. Remember that the thickness of the thread really does matter. My thread ran out after the first seven buttons. I dug around and found a piece of thin twine, which worked so much better than the thread. I could pull the button tighter and staple it more securely to the board. Use twine.
9) Now take a deep breath, or maybe a drink. Push the needle back through the fabric/foam and poke around until you can locate the hole in the board again, and pull the needle back through (this step may take a while).
10) Attach D-ring hangers to the back of your board with a drill. You may want to locate the studs in your wall before this step, so you can match the hangers to the studs where you will drill your screws.
11) Sit back, read a celebrity magazine, and fall asleep with your shoes on. Your bedroom is now 50% more classy.