What does tufting fabric mean?

Written by louise harding
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What does tufting fabric mean?
Tufting can be accomplished with buttons or stitches. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Fabric can either be tufted fabric like chenille fabric, or the fabric can be stitched and buttoned to create tufts. When fabric is tufted, stitches or buttons are sewn through the item, usually a cushion or mattress, to keep the stuffing inside from bunching or shifting. Tufting also adds a decorative element to furniture and cushions. Tufted fabric is a type of medium- to high-loft fabric with loops.

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Tufting Defined

Mattresses are an excellent example of a tufted object. Historically, mattresses were tufted with stitches placed at intervals over the surface and through the mattress interior in order to hold the batting or stuffing in place. Before the technology of mattress coils was developed, mattresses were filled with feathers, cotton, and other materials and had to be flipped over often to equally wear both mattress sides and the stuffing inside. An untufted mattress would result in stuffing shifting to one side or end of the mattress. Buttons are now used to tufted mattresses more for decorative appeal than function as mattress interiors now contain foam, coils, springs and other stationary means of support. Chairs, sofas and cushions are tufted in the same way as mattresses, but in some cases the buttons are decorative rather than functional.

Button Tufting

Button tufting is accomplished by using button forms, which are metal button blanks that are covered with same or contrasting fabric to the object being tufted. Buttons are typically a shank-style button, which means the button has a metal, plastic or wire loop through which the thread is fed and then sewn through the layers of the mattress or cushion being tufted. Long tufting needles with or without a wooden handle can be used to insert through the thicknesses of mattresses and cushions, but a very long, sturdy upholstery needle will work for projects with less thickness, such as a throw pillow, doll or cradle mattress. Button tufting requires the seamstress or upholsterer to work on the backside of the article of furniture or mattress, as well as the front, such as an attached chair back cushion.

Stitch Tufting

Stitch tufting is the traditional form of tufting. Twine, button thread, waxed thread or industrial thread is used in conjunction with a tufting or upholstery needle to insert through the object being tufted at equally spaced intervals. The stitches are sewn tight to keep the stuffing from shifting or bunching inside of the object. Homemade cradle, bassinet, pet and doll mattresses can be tufted with button thread and upholstery needles. The strength of the thread used is important because it must be able to withstand the shifting, pressure and washing of the mattress.

Chenille or Loop Tufted Fabric

Tufted fabric is fabric that has vertical rows of fibre or yarn loops sewn through it to form a pile. The loops can have the loop tops cut straight across or the loops may be left intact. Designs can be tufted into fabric, such as flowers, leaves or figures, such as ballerinas and cowboys. Chenille fabrics are common for bedspreads and bathrobes. Carpet and rugs are also tufted, also with the loops left intact or cut straight across to create a lush pile resembling velvet.

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