Furniture Upholstery | Refinishing | Window Treatments

The Furniture Workshop at JH Conklin & Co - New Jersey  (800) 889-8858  (856) 339-9766

Workbench Blog

Upholstery: Buttons, Channels, Tufts

Posted on January 10, 2013 at 11:00 PM

In speaking with folks about their furniture re-upholstery projects, we often ask about any special features they want or which already exist on their furniture. This little article is about a few of the most common features: buttons, channels, and tufts.

A piece of upholstery fabric tacked over the padding is often called 'plain'. In these examples - chair backs - such a back would be called a plain-back chair. Most furniture is like that.

The most simple variant from a plain back is a button back.


It is formed with a pattern of fabric covered buttons which are attached with a strong thread pulled through the padding. They are pulled just tight enough to slightly dimple the otherwise smooth sweep of the fabric. Buttons are often used to provide a more firm feel by slightly compressing the padding.

You can see the pattern and the compression in the photo.

The next variant is a channel (or channeled) back.

Here, a series of tubes or pockets are sewn into the back. The backing fabric is laid out on the chair and the channels are marked. It is then removed from the chair and the upholstery fabric is sewn onto the backer. Some slack is established to form a 'pocket' which is then filled with padding.

Channeling generally yields a clean, vertical look which can help shorter, wider chairs from appearing 'stumpy'. Channeled backs tend to be firm. They are also cool, because of the limited contact with the chair back.

The channels do not have to be round nor deep. The technique used and the choice of stuffing can deliver wide and flat channels.

The chair above has a nicely tapered or fluted appearance that accents the sweep of the frame. The channels are flat and shallow.

Another variant is tufting. Most people recall the image of Victorian parlor sets upholstered with tufted velvet.

Tufts utilize fabric covered buttons. They are pulled deeply into specially prepared recesses in the padding. The fabric is folded to avoid a simple puckered look, or is specially sewn into a pattern to enhance the classic 'diamond' pattern of tufting.

Tufted backs can be rather plush and are often used on backs with a deep curvature or that curve into an integrated arm. They take up slack that might otherwise form with a plush fill on a curved back.

While many upholstery styles and techniques exist, we hope to show most of the more common ones. Thanks for reading...and check back or subscribe for more news from The Furniture Workshop.


The furniture workshop of JH Conklin & Co. refinishes and upholsters furniture for people throughout the Philadelphia Metro area, South New Jersey, Delaware and the southern shore areas. The pictures in this blog entry are from the JH Conklin & Co archives. Some of the chairs for sale.

By James Conklin

Categories: Furniture Upholstery, Resources