How to install upholstery buttons on furniture

Updated March 23, 2017

The process of installing upholstery buttons is called tufting. Tufting is used to provide interest and texture to the surface of furniture. You can install upholstery buttons on cushions, bed headboards and furniture that does not have permanent backing yet. In some instances, it makes sense to replace tufted buttons, but this may require you to drill a hole in the back of your furniture if a permanent backing is in place.

Mark the placement of the upholstery buttons on your furniture with the marking chalk.

Use the sewing scissors to cut a length of upholstery thread, heavy twine or floss long enough to pass through your upholstery twice.

Thread one end of the thread through the eye of the long upholstery needle. Thread the other end into the shank of the upholstery button and then through the eye of the needle. Both ends of the thread should be secured to the needle, with the button hanging on the thread loop in the centre of the length of upholstery thread.

Plunge the upholstery needle into the mark on the piece of furniture and pull it out the opposite end.

If the piece is double sided, secure the thread at the back of the furniture to another shank button. For one-sided designs, wrap the thread several times around a small washer or sew several stitches into a piece of cotton or batting.

Tie a slip knot in the length of thread. Pull tightly until the front upholstery button sinks into the fabric to the desired depth.

Plunge the needle back through the upholstery, coming back out the front of the furniture with the needle hitting directly next to the already placed shank button. Pull securely to maintain the desired tufting depth. Pass the thread through the shank several times, wrapping the thread around the button with each pass.

Pull the thread tightly to ensure that the button is secure. Hold the button firmly in place while you tie a double knot in the thread close to the button shank.

Clip the ends of the upholstery thread with the sewing scissors.


Use a curved upholstery needle to secure buttons to furniture with hard backs. The tufting, however, will not be as deep. Practice installing upholstery buttons on pillows before attempting a large piece of furniture. For furniture with several buttons, you can install them with one length of thread. Tie off each button separately before beginning the next tuft.


Avoid poking your fingers when passing the needle through the layers of upholstery.

Things You'll Need

  • Marking chalk
  • Sewing scissors
  • Upholstery thread or heavy-duty twine or floss that matches furniture
  • Long upholstery needle
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About the Author

Rosa Lyn has been a freelance writer since 2009. She has worked as a ghostwriter for companies such as eBay and was the editor-in-chief for the member newsletter at the websites SewingMamas. She specializes in subjects such as home and family, parenting, alternative health and crafts.