How to put buttons on upholstery

Updated July 06, 2018

Buttons add a decorative finishing touch to fine living room furniture. Chesterfield sofas and tufted ottomans are made by adding buttons after your furniture is upholstered. The buttons can be arranged in diamond, wave, square and triangular patterns. Cloth covered shank buttons work best when making tufted furniture. Contrasting colours can be used on modern furniture, but most tufted furniture uses coordinating fabric to cover the buttons.

Thread a tapestry needle with waxed coat thread or waxed dental floss dyed to match your upholstery. Before the upholstery for the back of your chosen furniture piece has been stapled or glued into place, push the tapestry needle through the back, into and through the cushion and out the other side.

Move the needle over 1/8 inch in any direction from its entrypoint through the cushion, and push it back through to the starting point. Once you have chosen a direction, do the same for all the buttons you attach. Pull the thread through the cushion two more times, coming out and going into the same holes, pulling taut each time. This pulls the cushion tight and ensures that the button will have a strong attachment point.

Thread a button onto your needle and pull the needle and thread back through the same points in the cushion. Repeat at least 4 times, going through the cushion and back through the button, then out the other side of your chosen furniture piece to ensure that the button is firmly attached. Tie off the thread and snip it close to the cushion, under the button.

Continue to attach buttons until you have created the pattern you prefer. Tufting can be done in a single straight row across the back of a sofa, in a group of four on a toss pillow, or in a group of seven buttons connected by contrasting thread to give the appearance of daisy petals. You can also attach buttons in a single or double wave pattern.

Use a stapler or hot melt glue gun to finish attaching the upholstery on the back of the furniture piece once you have attached all the buttons in your chosen pattern. Add piping between buttons to create a stem effect. You can also connect tufts using satin ribbon, rickrack or bead strings. Stitch ribbon roses around your buttons if desired, to further enhance the three-dimensional effect of your tufts.


If you are tufting a throw cushion, you can attach buttons to both sides. Make sure to knot the thread as far under the button as you can to hide it from view.

Things You'll Need

  • Cloth-covered shank buttons in coordinating or contrasting colours
  • Tapestry needle
  • Thick, coated coat thread or dyed-to-match waxed dental floss
  • Scissors
  • Piping or other trims
  • Satin ribbon
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About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.