How-to Make a No Sew Padded Headboard

How to Make a No Sew Padded Headboard

How to make an easy padded or upholstered headboard

I was recently up in my attic and came across two headboards that I had made for my daughters’ beds when they were little.  I forgot all about them.  They were one of the project’s  in my book, Instant Decorating.  The photo above is from the book.

I demonstrated how to make the headboard on Lifetime television at the time, on a show called Our Home.  For TV demonstration purposes, I had to make a series of mini headboard’s so I could easily show all the steps required to make it. For this tutorial, I am going to use them as a step-by-step guide just like I did on TV, but this time – all the work was done, just had to snap the photos. They look pretty good after 16 years – 10 of them in the attic.  I didn’t tweak a thing.

You will want to add your own style – updated fabrics – patterned, textured, or solid colors will look great.  Nailheads in place of cord?  Leather, suede,  burlap?  Anything goes when you make it yourself.  That is why I love DIY projects so much. You can make everything totally unique to you.

How to Make a No Sew Padded Headboard

For the full step-by- step directions you can download them below.  If you are visual like me, you may not need the written directions – the photos may be enough.  I chose to curve the top of the headboards I made, but the same steps would apply to a square or rectangular board.  The hardest part of making a headboard like this is getting the wood cut.  If you don’t have a table saw, take your measurements to the lumber yard where they will make straight cuts for you.  After the wood is cut, making the headboard is as simple as layering fabric and LOTS of stapling.

For full directions download pdf.  –  Directions for Padded Headboard 001

Supplies needed to make a padded or upholstered headboard

1.  Cut board to size and shape desired with saw.  If you are making a square or rectangular shape then you can use a table saw.  A jig saw works if you are cutting a curved shape like the one below.  Draw the shape again with a magic marker in the center of the board. This will be the center padded area.

Padded headboard

2.  Cover board with foam, staple excess to back. Draw the shape again with a magic marker to show where the padded center starts.

DIY Padded Headboard tutorial

3.  Cover with quilt batting, staple to back.  I unraveled twisty cord slightly and layed it on top of the marked lines.  Staple this cord all along the line. This starts the depression in the foam between the sides and center.  Excess cord can be cut off.

Step by step upholstered headboard tutorial

How to pad a headboard

4.  Staple center fabric onto board, right on top of the twisty cord.  By the time you are done, there are going to be a lot of staples in this “channel” between the the center and the border of the headboard.

The best padded headboard tutorial on the internet

Upholstered headboard tutorial

5.  Instead of covering the border with just one piece of fabric, I opted to cover it with four different striped fabrics.  Each color fabric was cut into pieces, then placed and stapled to the headboard consecutively to achieve the rainbow effect.

Upholstered headboard tutorial

Step by step padded headboard tutorial

Step by step padded headboard tutorial

6. Decorative cord is used to hide the staples between the center and  border fabrics.  I could not find cord in the color I wanted, so I covered cord by using fabric and fabric glue to cover the cord. I pushed it back as I went to ruch the cover.

How to cover cord with fabric

 Directions on how to do this without sewing a stitch:

How to cover cord with fabric the no sew way

If you are thinking that fabric glue won’t be permanent, think again. Remember these  headboards are 16 years old.  The last 10 years they have been stored in my attic where there are huge temperature swings from freezing in the winter to extremely hot and humid in the summer months.  The other six years they were on my daughters’ bed’s. I think the cord held up just fine under such extreme conditions.

7.  Hot glue the cord ( seam side down) into the channel, making sure to leave excess to staple onto the back.

Upholstered headboard tutorial

8.  Run the hot glue in the channel and then press the cord, seam side down into the channel.

Step by step upholstered headboard tutorial

9. I used eye hooks and wire to hang the headboard on the wall.  You can used picture hanging hooks, but I didn’t have any when
I made mine and used what I had on hand to hang the headboard.

Step by step padded headboard tutorial

This is the actual photo from my book – taken in 1994!

How to make an easy padded headboard

Here is a close up of the cord that I just photographed today one of  the full size headboards.

DIY Upholstered Headboard Tutorial with photos

I placed this on my daughter’s bed just to take this photo of  full size headboard 16 years later.

How to make an upholstered padded headboard tutorial

This chart below will show you the approximate measurements of the materials you will need:

Headboard Measurement Chart

If you have any questions about any of the steps, just leave me a comment.

Over the years I have made many headboards to fit my changing style. I have made a Cornice headboard, an Easy-Sew Reversible Padded headboard, a headboard made of doors, a Cushion headboard and a headboard made with a bed sheet.


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  1. I’ve been looking for a tutorial just like this for over a year, & am so thankful you’ve shared! Every grandmillennial needs this tutorial!

  2. Hi Diane,
    My MIL made this from your show and it still looks fantastic! It is about as old as your book and has been slept in nightly and still looks great! Classics never go out of style!

    My question is probably really dumb, but I am new to DIY and want to impress my MIL or I would just ask her. Where you have ” standard bed size” listed for measurements, what dimension is 24″? I can’t figure out where on a bed the measurement would be the same for all bed sizes.

    Also, I am planning to forgo the ruched border and go for a clean, straight line. Will I just pull foam around entirety and then cover with fabric? I will also be using fabric tacks for decor purposes…any extra tips will be used and GREATLY appreciated!

    I have spent the last 5 hours perusing your site ( which I found through LizMarieBlog) and love all of your ideas, old and new. Like I said before, a classic is always in style!

    Thank you for helping me make my house a home! I will be sure to send you a finished picture!

    Sincere thanks,

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Tarynn – It is always fun to hear from readers who had my book and made projects from it. Give your MIL a hug for me. :)

      The answers to your questions: The 24″ is the height of the headboard – from the top of the bed to the center top of the curve. It can be the same height for any bed size or you can make it as tall as you like. The width should be as wide as the by bed.

      No center tufting – Just wrap the board with a piece of foam and fabric all around – just skip the cord, staple, and extra fabric pieces added to the edge steps for the center of the headboard.

      When using decorative tacks. The hardest thing is making sure they are lined up straight. you can make pencil guidelines to help. After placing a few in, check for straightness and then continue, keep checking that they are in line as you work.

      The only other tip I can think of that will make the headboard look good, is to make sure you pull the fabric very tightly around the headboard. If there is a pattern in the fabric – make sure as you pull it taut, that you don’t make the pattern look skewed. If the fabric is light in color – the color of your foam may show through. Line the foam first with white cotton fabric, then your decorative fabric.

      Best of luck with it – think of it as wrapping a big gift :) I am sure your MIL will love it and your newly found DIY skills.

  3. Alice Crawford says:

    What a great job you did in the tutorial, easy to understand and GREAT pictures. One thing I don’t “get”…why bother putting in that green rope, why not just go ahead and staple around the Sharpie lines, I don’t understand the use of the rope which only adds more bulk to have to staple through? Really would like to know, not just being snarky. Now….surely you have a sewing machine, so why didn’t you sew that ruching together since hot glue has a nasty tendency to get hard as it ages? Just asking. :) I was strolling through the internet to see how to do “sewn” squares upholstered headboard I’ve seen on a few sites when I ran across this, glad I did as I will be following you. I think I remember seeing you on all those good ole shows before they started doing all that real estate selling up thar in Canada. SOMEONE, PLEASE BRING BACK THE GOOD HGTV!! (like Carol Duval) See you later, alligator, I’ll be watching. Alice

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Alice –

      Stapling down the paper twist cord holds the foam and batting down evenly. If I didn’t use it, there would be a pouf indentation between the staples that would make the headboard look unprofessionally done. I didn’t sew the ruching as it was a no-sew project from the decorating book I wrote called Instant Decorating. BH&G (the publisher) wanted it to be all no-sew.

      I do miss the old HGTV – it was truly inspiring back then.

  4. I love this idea!!!,
    just wondering if you have to do the rucheing part, will it still look nice if you just didn’t? would it have the same effect?

  5. Diane,
    Your decorating book is still one of my favorites and my padded headboard has lasted for over 15 years! I love your book and your blog! I’m updating my headboard this week! :-)

  6. zeshuregi says:

    its perfect,thank you for sharing nice tutorial…

  7. It is always nice to see how to’s like this. I am a direction person, so anything that is this clear cut, makes life sooo much better. Thanks!

  8. Mary @ Room Polish says:

    What a fantastic tutorial! I am definitely going to have to try this. Thank you for the step by step. Lovely!

  9. The Neo-Traditionalist says:

    This is amazing Diane! Every time I swing by I am in awe of your craftiness. I can’t wait to show this to my fiance—we’re in desperate need of a headboard!

    xx Katie

    1. Hi Katie-

      Hey, were you not “just married” last week? I think your fiance is now your “hubby”.

  10. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    Nice job, Diane! I probably saw that show on Lifetime, too, because I was a SAHM then and I used to watch whatever decorating shows I could find {plus it was pre-HGTV}. Besides Lynette and Christopher Lowell there weren’t too many! : )

    1. Hi Kathy-
      Lynette Jennings was like Candace Olsen is today. I loved her. Kitty Bartholemew was big on the scene back then too. I was on the show 5 times doing a different project each time. It was a lot of fun.

  11. RHoda @ Southern Hospitaltiy says:

    Hey, Diane, thanks so much for stopping by & for your lovely comments. Truly appreciated.

    I’m loving all these headboards out there in blogland. Wish I needed another headboard. Your version still looks cute, there are so many possibilities with these. I didn’t know you were on TV back then! How fun, you are/were a celebrity!

  12. That, my dear, has a wow factor. I would have loved a headboard like this when I was young.