How to Repair Tufted Sofas

Tufted furniture has an elegant and often retro look that is very attractive. The tufts add an element of movement to the furniture and show the fabric at different angles. If the fabric is velour and has a nap, the tufting can make the fabric look very rich and thick. The biggest problem with tufted furniture is when you lose a button or tear a tuft hole. Repairing the tuft or a torn fabric hole is often a little challenging but it can be done by most homeowners.

Look at the front and the back of the couch. Usually tufted buttons are visible only on the front of the furniture, and the back of the couch will have a solid fabric panel. Examine the damage and determine if the button is missing or if it has pulled through a fabric hole and is now lodged in the foam or stuffing of the couch.

Vacuum your couch. Remove your cushions and clean the couch as much as possible. If your couch can be shampooed, this is a good time to shampoo the fabric since the fabric colour can change between a clean and dirty fabric surface. Test your shampoo on a hidden part of the sofa to make sure the fabric colours are stable before washing the whole couch.

Purchase fabric patch material or tape that has adhesive on one side to make a repair to a tuft where the button is still present but hidden in the cushion. Cut two strips 1/2 inch by 1 inch longer than the torn fabric. Peel the backing and slide the tape through the fabric hole, lining the patch up with one side of the tear. Press the adhesive into the underside of the fabric and repeat on the other side of the tear. This will help strengthen the fabric.

Reach through the fabric opening with bent needlenose pliers and grasp the prong or thread area underneath the back of the button. Use your fingers to press the foam inward, exposing the button, and to work the button through the fabric opening. Bring the fabric together on each side of the button and sew the reinforced fabric together using tight stitches and a crossover stitch. Use a curved needle and sew from one end of the tear to the other with a matching thread.

Turn your couch face down if the button is completely gone so that the couch is resting on the back and arms and the bottom of the sofa is faced up. Find the seam that attaches the back fabric and carefully open that seam from the bottom of the sofa. In general you only need to raise the fabric to the height of the tufting for the repair. Open the seams evenly on both sides. Bring the fabric toward the top of the couch to expose the back frame of the couch.

Lift the layer of batting if the back is cushioned. You are looking for the washers, buttons, cardboard or blocks that are being used to hold the tuft buttons under tension. Sometimes these are placed over a layer of burlap or canvas or over a hard framing surface. Once you locate the tie-through spots, identify the missing button. The string may be missing or loose.

Cover replacement buttons in extra fabric. When possible, harvest scrap fabric from inside the sofa back. You only need a small amount to cover a button. Fabric-covered button kits are available at most fabric stores in several sizes or online. Mend the fabric on the front of the sofa with needle and matching thread. This will be helpful in providing a stronger material for the new button.

Pierce the existing tufting hole in the back of the sofa using a very long upholstery needle. You can tape a smaller needle to a wire if necessary. Slide the needle through the cushion to the front of the sofa. Tip the couch upward so you can see where the needle exits. Align the needle with the fabric hole. Attach the end of the thread to a washer and pull the needle through the front. Attach the button and stitch back through the washer. Use an upholstery twine for the thread.

Pull the thread through to the back and adjust the tuft so that it is the same depth as the other tufts. Knot the twine securely into the washer. Replace the batting. It may be necessary to handsew the seams of the original fabric, or you can try hot gluing the edges down. If sewn, use small stitches that are evenly spaced and a curved upholstery needle.


Tufted cushions may be separate from the couch and can be tufted directly through the cushion on both sides.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Shampoo
  • Fabric patch or button
  • Bent needlenose pliers
  • Needle and thread
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors
  • Long upholstery needle
  • Hot glue gun
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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.