This post is for 1. bluishorange, who has patiently waited for process photos from this project and 2. anyone who…wants to DIY a round tufted leather ottoman? (I might be the only one!)
So as everyone on the internet knows because I never stop talking about it, I recently reupholstered a couch. Soon afterward, we realized that the thing about having a couch is that you kiiiiinda also need a coffee table to put your drink and laptop and book on, and yet the layout of our apartment doesn’t really make sense for having one. Inspired by the idea of an ottoman that could be used alternately as an extra chair at dinner parties, as a step stool for our library wall, and — with the help of a tray — as a coffee table, and armed with this tutorial and the photos from this Etsy shop, I got to work.
1. The scratched-up round wooden side table I bought at Housing Works for $10, after being retrieved from the nice people at the nearby lumber yard who cut off the bottom four inches for us.
2. Cutting — with a bread knife, because that’s actually the only way to cut it — the 3” foam that I would eventually spray-glue to the table in our apartment building’s backyard on the only non-snowy day we had in weeks.
3. I thought that I had measured very, very carefully (see all those marks on the tissue paper I taped to the table?) and yet I still drilled the holes for the tufts wrong the first time. (I also really made it tough on myself, drilling first with a 1/16” drill bit and then a 1/8” bit before realizing that I needed a 3/8” hole for my upholstery needle to make it through.) But once I knew that the wood could hold up to having tons of tiny holes in it, I merrily and blithely drilled away.
4. It turns out that (a) eBay is the place to go for reasonably priced leather and (b) 38 square feet seems like so much leather, and yet I was only barely able to eke out the pieces for 2 bolster pillows, 36 little leather buttons, and a 60” circle for the ottoman.
5. Obviously you can’t baste leather, since the holes in it are permanent, so I “pinned” the pieces for the bolster pillows together using…paperclips. It worked surprisingly well, until I realized that I sewed the wrong end of the rectangular portion together. So much for avoiding making extraneous punctures! (They turned out just fine.)
6. I have never done anything as tedious as hand-sewing these 36 little spermatozoa-looking buttons. The leather was too thick to use the button maker as I had planned (it basically involves applying pressure to grip a circle of fabric between two metal plates), so I cut out tiny circles, gathered each one around the edges, tied them off tight around each metal button, and then used a curved needle (just visible under the spool of thread in both photos) to get a long tail secured to the button for threading it through the layers of leather, batting, foam, and wood before getting tied off with a button, knots, and a staple gun.
7. Although I’d started to realize this when I made a scale model of a tufted ottoman using cardboard, cotton balls, and pins, this was about when it hit home that uh, stretching a circular piece of fabric (the batting layer between the foam and the leather, in this case) on a cylindrical form leaves you with a lot of excess fabric at the bottom. I then decided to ignore it for the time being.
8. I ended up redoing all eight of these buttons, two nights’ worth of work that laid the foundation for the calluses on the outer edge of both my index fingers from gripping and tugging on the threads to tighten them. It was only after those nights of struggling to get the buttons tight enough that I realized I could have Jarrett push the button in from the other side to hold it in place while I concentrated on securing it and stapling its thread to the table. After that working on the table got a lot more fun.
9. Except for when it wasn’t fun — so un-fun that I couldn’t even bear to take process shots until this point, by which time it was all over. The top 12 tufts were easy enough, and the next 8 (the top row of buttons along the circumference) weren’t that bad, but by the time I got to the second row my decision to ignore the fact that the square footage of leather was increasing really came back to bite me, and the last few days of work on the ottoman were mostly spent ponderously draping and folding the leather this way and that to get it to fold appropriately. It was only after that last row of staples tightly binding the bottom edge of the leather to the wooden frame that I stepped back, flipped it over, took a look, and thought, “Hey, that looks good.”
10. I was so thrilled to be done with upholstery — hopefully for forever: you have my permission to tackle me if I ever decide to do it again — that I immediately started sewing myself a dress. It took a blissful three evenings to complete instead of three weeks, and I was so wiggly-happy about it afterward that Jarrett could barely get me to stay still for a photo.