There are three types of tufting – diamond (this includes the elongated or antique diamonds), biscuit (square) and bun (rectangle) tufting. This article is about diamond tufting. This is the type of tufting that has a vertical pattern that is longer than it is wide, which is why it’s called diamond tufting. The diamond shapes are elegant and more visually pleasing.
Every tufting job is different based on the shape and dimension of the furnishing. There are a few basic things about laying out the pattern that are similar for all. The best uniform pattern uses either a 5” wide by 7” tall or 4” X 6” or 3” X 5” diamond. The size of the diamond depends on the overall size of the furnishing. Once you go over 5” x 7”, you’ll need to draw a few different sizes to see how the pattern balances out. Remember three things:
- Diamonds that are wider than they are tall look fat and appear wrong.
- Diamonds that are too narrow look like a toothpick and also look wrong.
- Create anything smaller than a 3”X 5” diamond and the buttons will look too big.
To begin, measure the top of the piece being tufted. Try to determine what size diamond will look the best on the furnishing by using diamond cutouts and laying them next to each other. (See picture A for sample diamonds) After finding the diamond size, lay out a grid with vertical and horizontal lines.
As an example, if you have an area that is 16” high by 30”across, a 3” X 5” diamond works the best. To layout perfect diamonds, draw a grid of straight lines to create rectangles. Each rectangle on the grid will be half the size of diamond, so for 3” X 5”, the grid lines are 1 ½” apart on the height x 2 ½” apart on the width across. This grid will create 8 diamonds across and 2 diamonds high. This will leave 3” edge at the top, bottom and each side for a balanced look. For the proper balance, the diamonds should not finish too close to the edge and the spacing top/bottom should be similar to the spacing on the sides. Lay out this same pattern on both the foam and the burlap (under the foam) or board if seat is solid. (See picture B for layout).
Cut holes in the foam using a foam cutter. This creates a uniform pattern for the buttons and the exact same hole size for each button. There are tufting foam cutters available in a few sizes. For the larger buttons (for #30 and over), the foam cutter is 1 1/2” and the smaller buttons (#22 and smaller) a 1” cutter works best. Center the cutter on the mark and cut the hole perpendicular to the top, not allowing any slant. If using a board base, drill holes in the button locations that are 1/4” diameter.
For the fabric, it’s important to add enough to recess the button in each of the holes cut in the foam. In 3” thick foam, the buttons should be set around 1 ¼” to 1 ½ ” deep, but no more than 2” deep. This recess will use up an additional 1 ½” of fabric for each diamond. If you are recessing the fabric deeper than 2”, then add 2” of fabric per diamond. (For fabric that stretches, the additional fabric may be reduced to allow for the stretch. Calculate your stretch per inch and reduce accordingly. Make sure to only reduce for the direction that stretches.) Mark the fabric – taking into consideration the additional fabric for each diamond – for the button location. (Stripe or plaid fabric will appear distorted for diamond tufting – use a floral or plain for tufting.)
Create or purchase buttons with a shank. For buttons on a 3”X 5” diamond, use a #22 button (which is ½” diameter) and a #30 button (which is ¾” diameter) for the 4” X 6” and larger patterns. Start at the center for placing the first button. Use tufting twine, which is coated and doesn’t allow the knot to slip. Loop both ends of the twine thru the needle eye with the button on the loop. Poke the needle thru the fabric and then the mark on the burlap or hole drilled in the wood, pull thru to bottom and off the needle. For burlap, place ½” welt between the two strands of twine and tie a knot without locking (See picture C). For wood base, staple once in place. Continue until all the buttons are placed in the fabric/foam/burlap or base.
The sequence to add buttons is to start at the center and work out to the edge for a horizontal (piano bench) piece. For a vertical piece, start at the bottom and work up to the top. For a chair seat, begin at the front and work toward the back of the seat. Once a second row of buttons has been added to the first row, finger pleat the fabric along the diamond lines. For the piano bench, always fold the pleats to the center of the seat. For the vertical cornice, the pleats face to the bottom (so they don’t catch dust). On a chair seat, the pleats face the front of the seat so you can slide forward out of the chair. Pleat each row as you complete adding the buttons.
To finish the fabric around the edges, begin at the center of an ‘open’ diamond on one side (directly out to the edge from the center top button). Do not pull too tight, but create the same crown height that appears on all diamonds. Place one staple in the center. Now take the fabric from the outer edges of that same diamond (the left and right buttons) and equally tighten to maintain the crown height and staple across the section of fabric. Move to the diamond on the left or right and staple center. On this diamond, you will need to make a pleat of fabric on these outside edges. Fold the pleats to the center of the bench and staple.
You may also need to make a pleat on the corners.
Once all the edges are stapled, the buttons need to be set at the same depth. To help gauge and match the depth of each button, create a ‘T’ out of cardboard tack strips. The top of the ‘T’ will sit on top of the fabric and the bottom will be cut the depth desired for each button. (See picture D). Once all the buttons are in the same location, lock the knots. For wood base, staple the twine 3-5 times in one direction, fold twine over staples and staple again 3-4 times.