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Help Question... Tufting Leather

Catherine Ronan

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I have been looking for a tutorial about how to tuft a miniature leather chair. Most of It I can figure out on my own.

I know I will have to drill holes through the wood back of the chair. Then stitch through it, the padding and the leather. I just do not know what to use to keep from ripping a hole through the leather when I pull it tight through the back on the second stitch (through the same hole).

I know how I will make the faux leather covered buttons. I am planning to glue the leather to very thin metal, punch them out and dap them in my dapping block.

Any helpful suggestions would be most appreciated. Thank you.

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Catherine, how large are the buttons on a real tufted leather chair? I on't own one but my recollection of my father's was that the buttons weren't any larger than 1.5" which would translate to 1/8" in 1/12 scale.  Or perhaps even smaller.  At any rate I think I would start with a very small machine screw.  If you start with a round head screw or fillister head there would be enough metal that you could even do some shaping to whatever button shape that you wanted.  Then glue on the leather and trim to shape.  To install pierce the sheet leather drill appropriate size hole in the chair back, tap the hole and thread in the screw.  Cut off any extra length of screw from the back of the chair. 


The screws and tap could be purchased online from McMaster Carr.  Delivery is usually only 2 or 3 days.  But as an alternative you could start with a round headed pin.  You would want to anneal the pin shaft before starting.  Shape the pin head as above.  Glue leather and drill hole in chair back.  Insert the pin shaft, add a small washer and upset the pin end like a rivet to hold the pin and the upholstery.

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Catherine, this how many model carriage builders do it.  This is taken from Paul Woods progression of his coach.  Scroll down to 185 to start.      http://forum.scalemodelhorsedrawnvehicle.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1387&page=19  


And this how Jose does it.  http://forum.scalemodelhorsedrawnvehicle.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1491&page=9


Scroll down to page 89.


For leather I spot the back side at the hole location with thick super glue or a dab of quick dry epoxy (very thin). Once hardened it can be pierced with out tearing.  I used this method for the buggy seat below. I used a fairly thick rubber foam for padding and laid out the hole pattern on the back of the plywood seat bottom. Using matching black upholstery thread I stitched over the leather, pulling the thread deep into the folds. Then I used Paul's method of painting sewing pins and pushing them through at tyne dimples. By epoxying the pin and thread at the back side it holds very well. I use this method when ever I can find matching thread to the fabric.



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Thank you Peter I really appreciate your time and you suggestions. I will consider all of it.

Bill, I should have known you would have some answers to this question. Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I found a picture of an antique leather chair for a child. I fell in love with it the first time I saw the photo. I have found the perfect leather to make it with too. :-)

Thank you both!

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For the deep tufted leather and velvet seats I use a closed cell foam rubber I picked up from a heating and air conditioning company. It is about 3/8" thick, can be compressed for awhile but ail return to thickness in a short time. I have found it on the internet but it is way out of sight in price.  There are insulating foam rubber strips that are self adhesive which might do the trick,  Price not too bad for three inch wide by fourth inch thick. See the URL below.




I cut hobby 1/32" plywood to shape of the seat bottom, then I laid out the whole pattern on paper and made a copy of it gluing one copy  of it on the bottom of the seat board. I then drilled all the holes in the pattern.  I cut chunk of the foam and using double stick carpet tape, stuck it to the board. I then trimmed the foam to fit the board profile. Then I used artist rubber cement to affix the other pattern to the top of the of the foam.  I punched straight pins through the foam from the bottom so that they aligned with the hole pattern on top.  Once all pins were in place I trimmed off the sharp ends. Using a sharp scalpel I cut all the lines between the pins to about 3/4 depth.  Using cuticle scissors I trimmed off all the sharp edges of each pillow formed by the cuts leaving little V grooves at each slit.


Remove the paper pattern and pullout the pins. Fit the leather to the seat and glue the bottom edges to the bottom of the seat.  (I dampen the top-side of the leather to make it more pliable). Now it is a matter of stitching the dimples.  Start by taking a locking stitch through the leather that is folded and glued under.  This anchors the thread. Push the needle up through the hole and through the leather then back down.  Now press down on the dimple formed causing the leather and foam to depress and take up the slack.  Make the next stitch the same way, working around the edges of the seat then do interior stitches. Once done the leather should fit down in the groves cut in the foam giving a nice deep padding look.  Finish off by using straight pins and painting the tops top match the leather. Press them through the dimples and epoxy in place and trim. If using fragile fabric that won't hold the stitch  I stitch from one hole to the other on the top, pulling the thread and fabric down into the cut slits. I use a thread that matches the fabric.

Long winded but that is how I do it.


A little worse for wear

this sleigh was built back in 1987.  It was dropped and broken and sent back to me. I need to completely rebuild the runners and dash to properly repair it. The owner did not want to spend the money to repair it.  Right now it is just glued. It was/is very dusty. I probably will not ever repair it.   

Any way I used the thread over method to make the rolls. The thread has faded and now you can see it. When new the thread did not show.








I think I wrote a book!

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