Upholstery buttons are often buttons covered in the same fabric as the furniture. The button presses into the foam or cushion of the furniture to create a tufted look. A piece with a lot of buttons is called tufted. It is easy to add a button to a loose pillow but care should be taken when adding buttons to furniture. If the furniture has a wood structure, you may need to drill through that wood to provide needle access to create the tufts.
Count and position the location and number of buttons you want to place on your furniture. If the existing or original upholstery had buttons, you have a natural guide to replacing the buttons. Before removing the buttons during re-upholstery, place a piece of muslin over the furniture. Align the muslin with a seam or other easy to recognise landmarks on the furniture.
Mark the location of each existing button on the muslin with a marker. Label the muslin with the size of button and how deep it is recessed in the fabric. Look at the back of the furniture to see if there is any evidence of the tufting on the back side. Often the front tufting is done before the back is covered. If your piece was tufted, it has tufting holes in the frame of the furniture.
Attach the button, after the old upholstery is removed and the new front upholstery is covering the front of the furniture. A prong button is a button with a 2-inch two piece metal shaft and a larger round shaped washer. The prong button is pressed through the fabric and through the wood frame hole or other structure point. The washer is placed over the prong and the prongs are spread apart to secure the button.
Cover buttons with fabric that matches the upholstery. Other buttons can be nailed into the back support wood. These buttons have screwlike ridges around the sides of the shank to help hold them in place.
Attach fabric buttons using heavy twine. Attach the twine to the washer at the back of the wood support structure. Thread the twine, using double threads, through the hole in the wood and out through the location of the button marked on the muslin. Thread the button onto the twine and take the twine back through the cushion and wood back.
Pull the twine snug. Knot the twine at the washer and then bring the ends back to knot around the twine. Snip off the excess twine.
Buttons are usually covered in upholstery fabric using a small machine. Hand tools are available and most fabric stores carry lighter versions of fabric covering buttons that can be assembled by hand. These may not hold up as well under stress conditions since they are designed for garments.