diy projectsUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: boxed ottoman

by Amanda Brown

The last time we met, we got out our sewing machines and tackled boxed cushions. I have a feeling your pets (and you) have recently found a comfy and fashionable place to perch.  So what better way to finesse our sewing skills than to try, try again. I found this stout coffee table at a thrift store and thought it would look so much better with some padding and this great geo fabric by Lulu DK. With the skills we learned last month, a little elbow grease and a staple gun, this table went from stodgy to stylish in a few short hours. — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • goggles
  • high-density foam
  • permanent marker
  • carving knife
  • foam and fabric spray adhesive
  • burlap
  • Dacron
  • plywood (optional)
  • fabric
  • white or yellow chalk
  • yard stick
  • square
  • scissors
  • t-pins or straight pins
  • 5/32″ welt cord
  • sewing machine
  • single welt cord foot
  • thread
  • masking tape
  • stapler
  • 3/8″ staples
  • staple remover
  • pliers
  • cardboard tack strip
  • dustcover

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


When selecting a coffee table, make sure you get something sturdy enough to sit on.

1. Let’s start by padding the table. Since the dimensions of my table are too big to fit on a standard piece of foam, I’ll glue two pieces of foam together. Stack the two pieces on top of each other with the sides that need to be glued together facing the same direction. Spray the sides with foam and fabric spray adhesive.

2. Give the glue about 30 seconds to get tacky. Then flip the top piece over and stick the two sides together.

3. When you have a piece of foam big enough to cover the top of your table, follow Steps 3 and 4 from Dining Chair Do-Over to cut it to size.

4. I like to reinforce the connection in the foam with a burlap band-aid on both sides. Cut a burlap strip about four inches wide and as long as the connection. Place it adjacent to the connection and spray glue on the burlap and the foam.

5. Once the adhesive is tacky, flip the burlap over onto the connection and press to stick. Don’t forget to flip the foam over to band-aid the other side.

I want the entire coffee table to show beneath my upholstered top, so I cut out a piece of plywood the same size as my coffee table and am upholstering to that. You can do this too, or just upholster straight to the coffee table.

6. Spray glue on the bottom of the foam and top of the coffee table/plywood and stick the foam down.

7. Cut a piece of Dacron that is big enough to cover the top and all four sides of the padded top. Leave a few extra inches for wiggle room.

8. Split the edge of the Dacron in half before stapling to the bottom edge of the table top. The top half of the Dacron will cover the dimples created by the staples so they don’t show through the fabric.

9. It’s best to staple the Dacron into the wood at the bottom of the sides instead of underneath the table top. This keeps the bottom edge of the table top clean and free of unnecessary padding. When pulling the Dacron, smooth out the excess but don’t pull it tight enough to change the shape of the foam. Our goal is to keep the padding square for the boxed top.

10. Trim the excess Dacron even with the bottom edge of the table top.

11. In the corners, trim straight down to remove the excess Dacron.

12. Now that we have the table padded, let’s cut out our fabric pieces. We’ll need a piece of fabric for the top, four side boxings and welt cord. My table is 33.5″ x 33.5″, so I need a top piece that is 35″ x 35″, four sides that are 35″ wide x 8″ tall, and about 300″ of single welt cord (enough to go around the top and underneath the table top). To determine the height of your boxing, measure the thickness of the padding (mine is 5″), add the thickness of the board underneath the padding (mine is about 1″) and add an extra 2″ for pulling and stapling. Refer to Steps 2–6 from Boxed Cushion Sewing to draw out pattern-matched pieces.

You’ll notice that I’ve added an extra 1.5″ to the dimensions of the table top for seam allowance when the rule of thumb is adding 1″. This extra .5″ will give us just enough allowance so our boxing isn’t so tight around the wooden frame.

13. Sew the ends of all the boxing pieces together, leaving the last two ends open.

14. Follow Steps 9–14 of Coil Seat Finale to sew the welt cord.

15. Follow Steps 15–22 from Boxed Cushion Sewing to attach the welt cord to the top piece of fabric.

16. Attach the boxing all the way around the four sides, making sure to match your pattern where possible and keeping the seams in the boxing at the corners. Refer to Steps 24–26 from Boxed Cushion Sewing for tips on sewing on the boxing.

17. Stop sewing about two inches from either side of one of the back corners. I leave this last corner open because it is nearly impossible to sew/cut so perfectly that the boxing is the exact length to extend all the way around. By closing up the boxing right at the end, we’re able to adjust the length of the boxing so we have a perfect fit.

18. Place the ends of the boxing together.

19. Determine where the seam should be by pinching the fabric at the corner. Using the tips of your fingers as a guide for where the seam should go, carefully place that point under the sewing machine needle.

20. Now sew the ends of the boxings together.

21. Once the ends are sewn together, we need to close up the last corner.

22. Here’s what it looks like when it’s nice and tight. Sewing complete!

23. Slip the cover over the padded table top and adjust the fit so the corners are lined up and the pattern is straight.

24. Follow the same principles from Step 10 in Dining Chair Do-Over to attach the fabric with sub-staples.

25. Sometimes I add a little puff of Dacron in the corners before I staple it all down. This makes the corners look full and crisp instead of deflated.

26. After you’ve gotten your fabric in place with sub-staples, replace them with permanent staples. If you have a lot of excess fabric in the corners, cut out some of the bulk.

27. Once the fabric is permanently attached, let’s staple welt cord to the bottom edge to finish it off. Start at the middle back and staple the welt cord on the bottom of the table top all the way around. Keep the edge of the welt cord lined up with the edge of the board as you go by using your thumb and forefinger as a guide.

28. Cut out excess fabric in the corners to minimize bulk.

29. We’ll connect the ends the same way we did in Steps 18–22 from Boxed Cushion Sewing, except we’ll staple them down instead of sewing them.

30. If you upholstered straight to your coffee table instead of a piece of plywood, follow Steps 23–25 from Coil Seat Finale to attach the cardboard tack strip and dustcover.

31. If you upholstered to a piece of plywood, attach it to the coffee table by screwing it in from the bottom.

Check it out!


  • Since different fabrics may stretch, making it difficult to keep the pattern lined up, pin your fabric together before sewing.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have a saw to cut a piece of plywood. Hardware stores like Home Depot will cut wood to the dimensions you need for a very small fee.
  • If upholstering to a piece of plywood, clamp the board to the table top and pre-drill pilot holes for your screws. Be sure to mark the front edge of the table and the plywood so you can easily line up the holes when you assemble in the end.

Meet me back here next month for an upholstery project of large proportions! Happy V-Day!

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