Sewing for the Home ~ Super Easy Upholstered Headboard

on September 17 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 77 Comments

Beth N. shares this easy tutorial for upholstered headboards… Just the thing create a focal point for any bedroom in the house! Beth N. did a wonderful pattern review for us last year so we asked her to update her contributor bio. Be sure to visit her at Modern Jax too!


Other than my son’s crib, all the beds in our house have one of these upholstered headboards. They’re easy to make and they have a high visual impact. Make sure you have everything ready to go when you start to avoid annoying your helper (in my case, my hubby!!).


  • 4’x8′ piece of plywood or OSB, cut to size
  • High–density foam, 3″ or 4″ thick x 24″ x width of bed
  • Batting, about 12″ larger in width and height than foam
  • Fabric (see notes)
  • 1.25″ long bolts, flat washers and nuts

Notes on Supplies: Your plywood should be at least 1/2″ thick. I used 19/32″ composite board or OSB (chips of wood are molded into sheets with resin) instead of plywood because it tends to be straighter and sturdier, and costs less than $15. I am making a headboard for a king size bed, so the plywood needed to be cut to 76″ (for more on sizing, look here, or just measure the width of your bed). Your local “big box” hardware store will cut this to size for you, up to two cuts for free at most stores.


George, our helpful hardware associate, cuts the plywood to size.

The high–density foam may be the most expensive part of the project. Locally, I get mine at JoAnn, and I always wait for a sale or use a coupon. Again, most stores will cut this to length for you.

I recommend upholstery–weight fabric for this project because it will wear better over time. Although I have used quilting–weight fabrics in the past, there are so many beautiful upholstery–weight lines out there you should have no problem finding a great fabric. Most upholstery–weight fabrics come in 54″–60″ widths, which is more than enough for this project. Purchase enough to cover the plywood and its sides as well as the sides of the foam and give yourself plenty to staple on the back. I am doing a king size bed, so I need 76″ + 1″ (both sides of 1/2″ plywood) + 8″ (both sides of foam) = 85″ + 12″ of play for stapling = 97″. I would purchase 2.75 yards of fabric to be safe.

The width of the fabric is important only if you don’t have a bed skirt that will conceal the edges of the headboard. If you don’t, you will need to make sure you have enough fabric to cover the 4′ of plywood, 8″ of foam (4″ top and 4″ bottom) and enough play to staple along the back. If you are using a directional print that runs selvedge to selvedge you’ll need to piece your fabric to get the width.

I used a king–size quilt to upholster my headboard, so I have plenty of fabric. This is a great way to show off a quilt, but keep in mind you will be stapling through it. Another idea is to upholster a headboard in muslin or a solid and then drape a quilt over it, adding ties on the side. Then you can also remove it for laundering!


  • Measuring tape
  • Marker
  • Drill with bit larger than your bolts
  • Straightedge
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Staple gun and staples (I used 5/8″ staples)
  • Hammer
  • A helper – many of the steps require two people

As always, when using power tools, you should wear safety glasses!


1. Prepare the plywood. George, our handy hardware associate, has already cut our plywood to length; we need to mark where the plywood will be bolted to the bed frame. Have your helper hold the plywood against the head of the bed and mark the two openings through the bed frame and onto your plywood. Make sure the plywood is centered!


This bed frame has two slots on each side to make it easy to center the headboard
(you can slide the headboard a couple of inches to the left or right before tightening the bolts).
Some frames have a hole and slot at each side or two holes.

2. Measure the bed height. The top of my bed is 24.5″ above the ground. I want my mattress to fit under the foam on my headboard, so I need to do a little math. My plywood is 48″ tall, and my foam is 24″.

24″ (foam) + height of top of mattress = X

X – 48″ = amount headboard must be raised

So in my case, 24″ + 24.5″ = 48.5″, 48.5″ – 48″ = .5″

My headboard needs to be raised .5″ off the ground. You do have some play here, especially with pillow top mattresses, and you want to be careful not to raise your headboard too high or you run the risk off breaking the headboard at the mounting point.

I would recommend raising the plywood at least .5″ no matter what, so that the plywood will not scrape your floors.

3. Drill the mounting holes. Lay your plywood on its back and measure down from your original marker lines by the amount you found in step two. I measured down .5″ and marked accordingly. Drill the mounting holes for your headboard. (Make sure you don’t drill into your flooring!)


Hubby drills the holes .5″ down from the original marks.

4. Size your foam. If your foam was not cut to size when you purchased it, do that now. I recommend an electric knife for this (that’s what they use in the stores!) and you can find one fairly cheaply after the holidays (I paid less than $10). If you don’t have an electric knife, a fine–tooth saw will do the job. Measure and mark your foam toward the top and bottom and then use your straightedge to draw a line between your measurements. Saw along the line.


Measure twice and cut once! You can see here a double line:
the first measurement was taken on uneven ground so we had to remeasure.

5. Adhere the foam. Lay your foam on the plywood so that both sides and the top are flush with the wood. Starting at one side put small dollops of hot glue every few inches between the foam and the wood. You just need enough glue to tack the foam in place while you work. Let it dry for a few minutes before proceeding.


Don’t try to glue too much at once or the glue will dry
before you have a chance to press the foam into it.

6. Staple the batting in place. The batting softens the hard edges of the foam. If you are using quilting–weight fabric I would recommend a couple layers of batting. Because I am using a quilt (and folding it for two layers!) I don’t need as much padding to soften my foam.

Center your batting over the foam. Starting in the center front (always start in the center so you won’t get wrinkles!!), staple the batting closely (push the staple gun slightly into the foam so you get right under it) to the bottom of the foam. Work your way out alternating left of center and right of center pulling the batting tight as you go. For batting, I like a staple every 4–5″ or so.


If you attempt to start at an end instead of the center you will not be
able to pull your batting and fabric tight enough to avoid wrinkles.

Once the bottom is stapled, stand the headboard up and have your helper support the front. Now working along the back, pull the batting tight and staple in the center, about 3–4″ down from the top. Continue, alternating left and right and pulling tight.


You want everything nice and tight but make sure you don’t
pull tight enough to rip the batting from the staples.

On each side, fold the corner like you are wrapping a present and cut any bulk away. Starting at the center of each side, continue the process until the batting is stapled all the way around.

If your staples aren’t going all the way into the wood, tap them with the hammer until they are flush.

7. Staple the fabric in place. Don’t worry; you’re almost there! Lay the plywood down on its back and place the fabric over the foam and batting. If you notice any wrinkles in your fabric, now is the time to iron. You won’t be able to fix those wrinkles once the fabric is stapled in place! Once again, starting in the center of the front, below the foam, begin stapling into place. You want to push that staple gun slightly into the foam to make sure your staples are right up there against it, or you will see the staples when you are finished. Work once again to the left and right, alternating, but this time staple every 2–3″ to get the fabric even. If you have a stripe or other linear motif make sure you are pulling at the same tension so it doesn’t look skewed.


See how the staple gun is pressing in on the foam?
If you don’t get it firmly in there you’ll be able to see staples.
Your bedding will hide a lot of flaws so don’t stress too much.

Stand the headboard back up and have your helper support the front. Now working along the back, pull the fabric tight and staple in the center, about 3–4″ down from the top. Continue, alternating left and right and pulling tight, stapling every 2–3″. Remember to stop and check your work so that you are getting the fabric tight and it looks good!


To keep the fabric nice and tight staple closer to the top.
I like to also staple close to the edge of the fabric to reinforce it.


Working from the center out, I check the front periodically to make sure everything looks good.

On each side, pull the back of the side panel into a triangle and flatten across the back of the plywood, stapling into place (see photo). Then pull the front of the side panel into a triangle forming a nice crease and staple over top of the last layer (see photo). This should look similar to wrapping a gift. Make sure you pull very tight without warping the fabric! Now staple all the way down each side pulling very (!) tight as you work.


Pull the fabric down from the top tightly, and then fold it sharply across the back.
Hold it in place while your helper staples it.


You should have a corner turned on the back and on the side when completed.
Make sure to pull that side as tight as possible so it doesn’t loosen over time.

If your staples haven’t gone all the way into the wood, tap them with the hammer until they are flush.


Stand back and admire your handiwork!

8. Accommodating the fabric length.
If your fabric extends all the way to the bottom of your headboard, fold it over and staple along the back. Then cut holes in the fabric where you drilled the holes for mounting so you can easily pass your bolts through.

9. Mount the headboard. Center the headboard at the head of your bed. With your helper holding the headboard in place, slide a bolt through the headboard and bed frame, and then add a washer and finger tighten the nut (on the back). Repeat for all bolts and then make sure the headboard is centered. Once you’re happy tighten all bolts. If your headboard will be under a lot of…umm…stress, make sure the nuts and bolts are very tight.


The bed skirt will hide the bottom of the headboard.



A beautiful headboard for under $100!

I’d love to see any completed projects you attempt! Please feel free to contact me with any questions at:

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77 Responses to Sewing for the Home ~ Super Easy Upholstered Headboard

  1. susan says:

    i’m sorry but that’s really not professional-looking. i made an upholstered headboard properly by making an encased slipcover with piping and slipping it over the top of a foamed & padded piece of wood. looks MUCH nicer and adds an elegant, tailored look to a bedroom.

  2. Allannaa says:

    The only issue I have with this is, headboards get horrendously dirty over time. My modification to this was to use heavy duty hook and loop fastners, sewn to the fabrick and glued to the headboard… that wasn’t exactly a disaster but let’s say it wasn’t good. So my next trick was to use heavy duty grommet snaps…. that works great! And I added the touch suggested by another poster — tufting with buttons. So purty!

  3. Pam says:

    Awsome idea can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Heather says:

    That’s so impressive! Thanks for sharing your process.

  5. Hayley says:

    I have been married for 2 1/2 years and still don’t have a headboard for the bed I inherited from my cute hubby! This just opened up a whole new world of options for me! Who needs to purchase an expensive cookie cutter headboard when I can MAKE MY OWN! Thanks for the idea! Love it!

  6. Anne says:

    Great tutorial! Now I don\t have any excuses – time to get busy making a headboard for myself 🙂

  7. Lisa says:

    So elegant, thank you for an inexpensive and custom solution.

  8. Mary says:

    What a neat idea! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  9. Staci says:

    I was just thinking of doing something like this for my daughters “big girl bed”. Headboards are so expensive and not nearly as unique as this. Thanks for this tutorial, it was perfect timing!

  10. Caitlyn says:

    I did this a while ago. Then I moved and changed my mind on the color of my headboard yet didn’t feel like stapling over the old fabric. The fabric was fine, I just wanted to change styles “for now”. No problem! The great thing about these is they are so easy to slipcover! Plus, the slipcover is washable– great when the muddy puppies decided to jump on the bed. 🙂

  11. Linda says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been torn between making one and buying one. I have my eye on a few that I can buy but with this costing less than $100 it might just be a great solution even if it is temporary.

  12. I don’t have a headboard and never even considered making one, but this tutorial has shown me it’s possible.

  13. I can’t wait to make one!

  14. Kate says:

    I love this look! Thank you for the instructions. I love when they make them on those home makeover shows. I always think, “I could do that”. Now, with your instructions, I think I really can!!!

  15. Crystal says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have been wanting to make a fabric headboard for a long time. Now time to save up for some fabric 🙂

  16. kirsten says:

    I just found the perfect fabric for this. Looks fairly easy…

  17. blondie says:

    I so needed this tutorial. I was getting ready to order an upholstered headboard – now I will make my own! Thanks!

  18. Paula in NH says:

    Thanks for these directions. I recently made a quilt top that we have decided will become our headboard. These directions will help me get that project done!

  19. Michele C says:

    I think these instructions are great. I wonder if it would work on a footboard, too.

    — Michele

  20. gillian says:

    Oooh. I have been looking for a tutorial for this. Thanks!!

  21. Melissa says:

    I’ve seen these, but didn’t know exactly how to do it. I want this look when my DD gets a little older!

  22. Amanda says:

    Thanks SO much for this tutorial! Maybe I can try and make one of these. I have always wanted to upholster a headboard! Thanks! 🙂

  23. Bridget McPherson says:

    This is great. I’ve thought about doing this for a long time. The detailed instructions will come in handy. ANd I love that you used a quilt.

  24. Jenny says:

    My hubby made two upholstered headboards for our house and we get rave reviews on them…It really is such a great and easy idea!

  25. Kristen L says:

    Awesome tutorial! We are in need of a headboard, so maybe one of these days I’ll chance this one and see what happens! Thanks for all the fun tutorials. I love having projects to add to my lists!

  26. Kelly says:

    This looks great. Thanks for such an easy to understand tutorial. I think I will be attempting this sometimes this winter…I have a backlog of projects til then, but will def be printing your instructions out!

  27. Penny says:

    Thankyou for this. I’m definitely giving this one a go, my youngest Daughter needs a headboard in her room.

  28. EmmyLizzy says:

    I’ve always wondered how to do this-great tutorial!

  29. Kimmer says:

    This is the perfect idea for my bedroom; thanks!

  30. Elizabeth says:

    I have a friend who has been wanting to do this to her bed. I will definitely send her over here for help!

  31. Barbara G says:


  32. Libby says:

    A fabric covered headboard is something I have been thinking about for a couple of years. For the last five years our bed just sits in a metal frame. Maybe this will give me the incentive to actually try my hand at one. Great tutorial.

  33. I have always thought about making one of these, because it would be so much cheaper then buying the pottery barn one and now I can. Thanks.

  34. susan says:

    I love the idea of using something with weight to it (like a quilt) for this project. I think it would give a real rich, textured feel to it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  35. LisaW says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial! I’d love to try a version of this with the platform bed my husband wants to make.

  36. Jill Tanner says:

    Great tutorial! Thanks!

  37. Andrea says:

    This looks so fun. Plus, much easier than I would have thought.

  38. Huong says:

    What a great idea. We received a bed for our wedding but if we didn’t I would make one of these. I can probably refine the idea and make a headboard for a twin-size bed. Thanks for the tutorial. Very helpful.

  39. Natalie says:

    I love this!!!! I have such and ugly head board and I really want to try this. I wonder if I could make one that would turn out this nice??? It is so tempting.

  40. Carrie S says:

    I was just thinking about making one of these! Now I have a pattern-thanks!!!

  41. Meilnda says:

    I love this, so simple yet a great way to add color! It’s on my to do list!

  42. joy newman says:

    that looks amazing and sounds relatively simple. great idea!

  43. Katie Lloyd says:

    Wow that’s awesome1 My son will soon be moving into a ‘big boy’ bed and we only have a frame…now I can make a custom headboard without spending loads of money!!! Thanks for the how-to! 🙂

  44. Monica gee says:

    Thank you for this clear explanation! I remember watching my mom put together a headboard when I was young and thinking it looked so complicated. Now I am ready to go try my own! Thanks!

  45. I am very excited about this. I have been wanting to get a headboard for a while, but have not found the right thing. This looks perfect.

  46. Katie says:

    This is a great idea. It seems like an inexpensive way to refresh a bedroom.

  47. Liliana says:

    The head board looks great! It makes a big difference!

  48. indywriter says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of an upholstered headboard for a while now… Maybe I will give it a go if I can find the right fabric.

    I had wondered about attaching it to the bed (versus to the wall), glad to see how you did it (most shows seem to do wall-mount instead).

  49. Sarah says:

    This is a fabulous idea! Thank you for the tutorial.

  50. Jeanne says:

    This is PERFECT! Thank you so much. My Mom has gifted us with a beautiful bedroom set, but the wood headboard is so uncomfortable for my husband and me. We’ve talked about taking off the headboard and replacing it with one of these – perfect timing! Now, I just need to figure out which fabric I want… LOL!

  51. dana says:

    What a fabulous idea! And such an easy way to spice up the room.
    And while we’re at it…I’d love to win some free paper doll fabric! 🙂

  52. Leah says:

    Ooooh, I want to run out to the store right now! I’m kind of confused how the footboard would work though…

  53. Kelly says:

    Awesome!! We just got a new bed & went up in size. Couldn’t afford to get the headboard… now I know how to make one. Love it!!

  54. DawnMarie says:

    I don’t have a headboard for my little one, but this tutorial make sit seem so easy…I think I maybe giving it a try!!

  55. Joanne says:

    This project is awesome! I am so excited to try it out. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial.

  56. aimee says:

    I love this idea and can’t wait to try it in our spare room!!

  57. Megan says:

    We don’t have a headboard, this might be the best way for us to get one! Thanks for the tutorial!

  58. Kelly says:

    Gotta love the simplicity of this high impact diy. Now, can someone watch my kids for me?

  59. Celeste says:

    I’ve always wanted to make one of these. Thanks for the tutorial!

  60. Abbi says:

    This looks so neat! Thanks for the great tutorial. I have been wanting to try something new for our guest bedroom…perhaps I’ll make a new headboard!

  61. Lindsay says:

    What a great way to spruce up a room! love it!!

  62. giants fan says:

    I’ve been lurking here– but I had to come out for a chance to win!

    I love the site! I’m a new sewer and am finding so much inspiration and knowledge here!

  63. beki says:

    This is great! I would love to make one.

  64. ellen says:

    I have always wanted to try making a headboard….thanks for the tutorial!

  65. Heather B says:

    Wow! Another great project I want to try. Thank you for the great tutorial!

  66. I have always wanted to try that. My son’s bed doesn’t have a headboard. Looks like I have a new project coming up!!!

  67. Siany says:

    We have two very small bedrooms and nowhere to store our single spare mattress. Youve just given me an idea to use the single mattress as a headboard until its needed!!

  68. Caitlin says:

    That’s a great idea, and I would love to make one for my bed! Great tutorial!

  69. Beth says:

    I hope you all enjoy! I have made a tufted version, too, and I used dental floss for attaching my buttons. They’re still there!

  70. McHats says:

    thank you for sharing it

  71. Lorie says:

    Love it! I have seen something similar, but you have to hang it on your wall, and I rearrange my room too much for that! But this I might do!

  72. Selena says:

    I love this idea. What a thrifty way to make a headboard. The fabric you used is perfect with the color of your walls.

  73. Amy says:

    I don’t have a headboard and have been wanting to do this. Now that I see how simple it is, I don’t have any excuses.

  74. Michele C says:

    Very timely! I need to make a headboard and a footboard.

  75. Kick says:

    Fantastic! I’ve been salivating over these in the furniture stores lately and have purchased two large tablecloths in chocolate brown fake ultra suede (from the 70% off bin, no less!) Now I have the how-to instructions to do this for myself. Thank you very much!

  76. Jen says:

    an enhancement which I have tried is to make a simiar headboard in a “tufted” style. When drilling your mounting holes drill evenly spaced holes for buttons to be threaded through. After all the other steps are done, take an upholstery needed and attach covered buttons (or any other button) with heavy thread or even light wire. The trick is to find the wholes which are now burried under the fabric, batting and foam. On the back side, thread wires/thread through a second button and tie of to secure. The tigher you pull the more of a tufted look you will have. hope that makes sense.

    thanks for the idea

  77. Baba says:

    Great job on the tutorial! The headboard looks great!

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