I recently moved into a new house and really wanted to make a patchwork tuffet for the living room as I’d seen lots of lovely ones on Instagram. I knew The Quilt Room were the place to go as I’d seen pictures of tuffets made during their workshops. As well as running tuffet making classes, they sell the tuffet making kit, the pattern and individual tuffet making supplies too.
I will warn you upfront it’s not a cheap project to make, but then pre-made tuffets are expensive to buy and at least by making your own you’ll have a unique one in your favourite fabrics.
What do you get in the tuffet making kit?
The tuffet kit contains the foam tuffet body (for an 18 inch tuffet), the wooden feet and t-nuts to attach them, the mdf base, the wadding, cord and large button for the centre. There’s a couple of needles you need to buy if you don’t already have them, and the add a quarter ruler comes in handy – I already owned one.
You will need to purchase the tuffet pattern separately, and that comes with pre-printed interfacing with lines that show you where to sew and where to cut. The process of piecing the fabrics it’s very like foundation paper piecing (read our beginner’s tutorial here).
You also need 8 fat quarters of fabric, a couple metres of calico plus a staple gun; I found a cheap one on Ebay for under £9 which worked perfectly fine. I thought I had 2m of calico in my stash but I didn’t have enough so I used a plain cotton as my base, which in hindsight was not as stiff as calico so may explain which I had a couple of wrinkles on the edges of my tuffet at the end. That said I found it quite hard seeing through the cotton and interfacing when placing my strips, with calico I imagine it would have been even more difficult. So, I guess there are upsides to both options.
Making the tuffet
The trickiest bit come at the start – picking your fabrics and deciding exactly how you are doing to do it. What layout are you going to do? Are you doing lots of small skinny strips as recommended in the pattern? All one fabric? Or double width strips? Are you using prints? Solids? Blenders? A mixture? On the Tuffet Source website (the company who designed the pattern) you’ll find a gallery of tuffets which may inspire you.
I chose double width strips as I wanted to see the detail on my fabric prints, plus it means less seams too! I sought advice on Instagram whilst choosing my fabrics and someone pointed out that whereas initially, I’d gone for all prints of a very similar colour there wouldn’t be enough contrast to break up the design. So, I swapped out some of the prints for a couple of co-ordinating solids. I evenly spaced the solids throughout which broke up the prints. The prints I used are from my Tula Pink stash, some are from Zuma but others are older collections like Eden which are no longer available.
For the double width strips I didn’t cut strips twice as wide because the original width includes the seam allowances. So Instead I used 3 inch wide strips. They were a perfect fit, but you need to be very accurate with your seam allowance, if you want a little more leeway cut them 3.25 or 3.5 inches wide.
The instructions are very detailed, but the photos are a little small. I sometimes found it hard to see the detail on them. I guess it’s because if they printed them larger the pattern would be much longer. It took me a little while to get used to what I was doing, I did make a few mistakes. When attached the 3rd strip on a panel for the first time I had to restitch as I hadn’t bent it around the elbow (bend) when pinning.
One time I also accidentally trimmed off the seam allowance on a strip. Because when you join the strips you leave a ¼ inch seam allowance when trimming, but when you trim each panel you don’t leave a seam allowance. So, I got them mixed up. After I made that mistake I only used the add a quarter ruler for trimming strips, and a regular quilting ruler for trimming the panels so I’d remember to ‘add a quarter’ to the strips but not the panels.
Once I had done the first couple of panels and got past those mistakes the rest went much quicker. There are 8 panels in total. I cut my strips them laid them out in piles in the order I wanted to join them together to ensure I didn’t mix up the order. I also kept checking 1 panel against the next after every seam to ensure I hadn’t messed up the layout. Better to only have to unpick 1 seam than 2 or 3.
It advises you to use the packing from the add a quarter ruler to fold the fabric over when trimming the seam allowance. I bought my ruler a few months back so didn’t have the packaging still. But I found the pattern cover is card and worked just as well.
There were a few bits I struggled with a little, joining the panels together got hard towards the end as there was so much bulk in the centre. I also struggled to get the 2 sides of the button to clip together. It took a lot of force. In the end I laid the base flat on my cutting table, put the top on and then used my body weight to push down hard and that did it. It was a little tricky to attach the cord to the button, the eye of the needle kept getting stuck as it was so thick. But I found wiggling it around whilst pulling helped it get through.
I was a little daunted about using the staple gun as I’ve never used one before. But I loved it and found it great fun! You can hand finish the bottom, stitching the bottom fabric circle to the edges of the tuffet but I wanted an excuse to use the staple gun again so did it that way. Hand finishing would look neater, but I decided being as no one is going to see the bottom I’d staple it.
A few of tips for the latter stages:
I marked the ½ line where the cord is being attached to the edge of the tuffet fabric with chalk. That way you aren’t trying to keep an eye on the cord (to make sure you don’t sew through it) and trying to look at the edge of the fabric to make sure it’s lined up with the ½ an inch line on your needle plate.
When marking the black dot on top of the wadding make sure it’s really big and dark. I just used a fine tip pen the first time and once I was putting the cover on it was too faint for me to see if the hole in the top was still over the black circle. I removed the cover and drew a larger darker circle with a black Sharpie and that worked much better.
It’s also helpful to have 1 person holding the fabric in place around the hole at the top, whilst another pulls it downwards and smooths it down the sides, otherwise you need 3 hands!
The Quilt Room offered a few handy tuffet making tips too:
The pattern says to sew the fabric strips together in alternate directions but we find it easier sewing them from the bottom base to the top shoulder and then going very slowly at the top as there is a lot of bulk. The top is covered by the button which gives a bit of hiding space so it doesn’t matter if it is not 100% neat at the top.
Always screw the feet in first to check that the T nuts are all ok before you start.
Pop a little bit of wadding under the base before sewing the base fabric. This just buffers the feel of the cord knots.
Overall thoughts on the tuffet making kit
It was not as daunting as it looks! The big scary 12 inch needle, and thought of using a staple gun combined with the fact I’ve never done upholstery before made me a little nervous about this project. However, it was nowhere near as tricky as I thought it would be. I found it all came together easily and I was really pleased with the finished results.
I wouldn’t think it would be suitable for a total beginner, but if you have a little sewing experience, especially if you’ve done foundation paper piecing before, you will be able to make this.
Go on, give it a go. You know you want to…
Order your tuffet kit on The Quilt Room website.