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DIY: Fabric Headboard

by gina on January 12, 2010

IMG_3497 New year, new DIY project!  HCG has had success with a super easy DIY project before, and, although this endeavor is definitely more involved than our last one, it’s still extremely simple (believe me – HCG does not attempt to tackle complicated DIYs.  Life is too short, and there is too much DVR to catch up on).

Disclaimer: this isn’t the first time Team HCG has made a fabric headboard.  Joe and I tamed this beast when I first moved into my law school apartment, and we learned many lessons from that inaugural DIY including: (1) what type of fabric works best (upholstery), (2) how much padding is needed (the more the merrier), (3) that fabric covered buttons are more effort than they’re worth, and (4) that making a headboard in the middle of the night at the end of August in an apartment without AC can cause tensions to run high.

We gave it five years and decided to jump back in.  Because we haven’t taken the plunge into home ownership yet, we’re hesitant to purchase furniture to fit a temporary space.  But we were also sick of living like nomads without a headboard.  A fabric headboard is an inexpensive way to add polish to a bedroom without having to invest in a large piece of furniture.

Both times I’ve made fabric headboards, I Googled the subject to death and was disappointed at the lack of practical information available.  Hence, the HCG guide to DIY-ing a fabric headboard!

Step 1: Load your weapon.  If you think making a fabric headboard sounds like an intimidating task, take comfort in this: only ONE tool is required for the entire project – a staple gun.  Team HCG doesn’t own a staple gun, but our dad does.  Fortunately, he provided a box of staples, too.IMG_0731
Step 2: Gear up your supplies. There are four essential materials required to make a basic upholstered headboard, all of which are shown below:
a. Plywood: The size of your plywood depends on (1) the size of your bed, and (2) how high you would like your headboard.  A standard sheet of plywood is 80 inches (about 6 1/2 feet) wide and 48 inches (4 feet) high.  We have a king size bed and a relatively high pillow top mattress, so a four-foot high piece of wood was fine with us.  If you have a lower bed, you may want to get the plywood cut down a little.  We decided on the width of the wood by measuring the width of our bed and adding a few inches on each side.  The final measurements of our plywood were 80 inches wide and 48 inches high.  Also, we wanted a relatively thick piece of plywood so we went with plywood that is 3/4 of an inch thick.

b. Foam padding: Padding is a critical component for a fabric headboard.  It adds depth and prevents the finished product from looking homemade.  We erred with the first headboard and used foam padding that was only half an inch thick, and I always wished it was thicker.  This time around, we went with one-inch thick foam padding.  The  foam padding we purchased for this project was only 41 inches high, so it didn’t go all the way to the bottom of the plywood – there were about 7 inches of the wood that were not covered by the foam.  I thought this would look weird, but it really didn’t make any difference (read below for more).  The dimensions of the foam we purchased were 41″ x 85″.  In retrospect, we should have purchased foam that extended further on the sides because this didn’t leave us enough extra foam to pull around the back of the wood.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.

c. Polyester batting: Polyester batting is used to cover the foam and add another layer of material.  You definitely want the poly batting to wrap all the way around the entire piece of wood, so it’s best to buy it slightly larger than the plywood.  The dimensions of our poly batting were 54″ x 85″.  We bought both the foam padding and poly batting at Adler’s Fabrics on Philadelphia’s Fabric Row.

d. Fabric: For obvious reasons, the fabric you choose for your headboard is the most important piece.  Upholstery fabric is sturdy, easy to work with and looks the nicest.  We found the winner in an hour’s time on Fabric Row: a chocolate brown and light blue flowered upholstery fabric at Jack B. Fabrics.  Upholstery fabric usually comes 54 inches wide, so that was enough to fit the entire height of our headboard.  We bought 8 yards (96 inches) so we would have extra fabric to pull around the sides of the wood.  The final dimensions of our fabric were 54″ x 96″.  I’m pretty obsessed with the fabric we chose.  See how soft and luxurious it looks up close?IMG_0818Step 3: Foam first. Now that you have all of your supplies, it’s time to get cooking.  Note: You will definitely need a partner for all of the following steps. First, stand the plywood upright and position the foam against the wood a few inches higher than the top of the wood.  Pull the foam taut on both sides of the wood making sure it is smooth across the front, and pull each side around to the back side of the wood.  Begin stapling about one inch apart.  Once the sides are stapled, bend the foam that extends above the top of the wood over and staple again.  Make sure you fold the corner down smoothly so they resemble a regular corner as best as possible.IMG_1447Once the entire foam is stapled around the plywood, it should look like this from the back (as you can see, we really didn’t have too much extra foam to work with on the sides):IMG_1458Step 4: Poly batting goes next. Do the same thing with the poly batting: position it against the foam-covered wood, pull taut and staple one inch apart around the back sides and top.  You’ll need to be a little more careful when pulling the poly batting taut against the wood because it’s relatively delicate and may tear.  NOTE: the poly batting should wrap all around all sides of the wood including the bottom.  This will smooth out the bottom of the foam that doesn’t extend all the way to the bottom of the wood.IMG_1462Step 5: Finish with fabric. Finally, the pretty part: securing your fabric.  Now that the entire piece of plywood is covered in poly batting, do the same thing with the fabric.  Pull it taut, begin stapling one inch apart, and make sure the corners are folded down smoothly.  Don’t worry about what the back of the plywood looks like – no one is ever going to see that.IMG_1464Step 6Tie the extra fabric around your head and waist and practice ninja moves in your living room (recognize the sweatpants?  I told you I wear them every night.  FYI, this photo was taken the night before our Halloween party at 2:00 a.m.).IMG_1474The finished product:IMG_3488Feeling adventurous now that you’ve read this?  Give it a shot!  What else were you planning on doing on MLK day anyway?

Breakdown of expenses:
- Plywood: $32.50
- Foam padding and poly batting: $44.13
- Upholstery fabric: $57.78

Total cost: $134.41

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jmjr. January 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Looks good Regina Son! Here are a few concerns I have. 1. Are the materials used to create this headboard flame retardant? 2. Also I hope that thick foam will not provide a cozy place for bed bugs to live. Any who looks great, and don’t let the….never-mind you get my point.


2 gina January 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

JMJR: You are like a thorn in the side of the HCG comments section.


3 jmjr. January 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

Oh no you didn’t!


4 Jessica @ Domesticated Bliss April 26, 2010 at 4:47 pm

This is awesome :) I’ve been contemplating tackling this project but haven’t gotten the courage up, maybe now that I’ve seen how easy it is I’ll do it!

Looks beautiful by the way!


5 Headboards for Beds April 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

Thank you for a great post


6 msc August 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for posting this info! I’m trying to use a 54″ fabric that has a definite up and down pattern (i.e. it will look like it’s pointing sideways unless it’s done with the 54″ as the width). Doyou have any suggestions as to how to make this fabric work, or do you think I should just find another?


7 gina August 9, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Hi MSC! Since your fabric allows only one direction, I would suggest you sew together several panels of the fabric to make one larger piece – but make sure you match up the pattern with each piece so it looks like one relatively seamless piece. If you’re not up for sewing (or, in my case, paying someone else to sew for you), you could also try making a headboard out of a panel door and create padded fabric inserts for the panels. I’ve seen this done a lot and the end result is usually pretty cool. In this example of a door headboard from Martha Stewart, the fabric panels would be inserted into the yellow portions of the door: http://bit.ly/aIJL7I. Good luck and be sure to let us know what you decide!


8 JESSICA October 17, 2010 at 10:31 am

am trying to make a change in my bedroom, by making my own headboard but am having trouble finding the supplies i need in houston (you could tell its my first project). and am trying to stay on my boget


9 Brian April 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Great post, can’t wait to do this. My sister-in-law sent me here in my hopes to make my boring single male condo more homey. Did you attach the headboard to the wall or does it just stand on the floor and the bed holds it against the wall? If you attached it, where should the bottom of the headboard be? Thanks, Brian


10 gina April 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

Hi Brian – I simply stood the headboard against the wall behind the bed and haven’t had any issues. I know others have attached the bottom of the headboard to the bed frame with little trouble. If you want to attach your headboard to the bed frame, I would decide where to attach it based on how high you want the headboard to come up above the bed. Good luck!


11 Samantha July 1, 2012 at 4:02 am

Just made my own! Thanks for the inspiration, I have a beachy feel to my room so I did a linen fabric for the headboard. Can’t wait to read more of your posts


12 gina July 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

Great to hear, Samantha! Linen is always a great choice for a fabric headboard. Thanks for sharing :)


13 Arianna July 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I’m re-doing my room (paint, furniture, the whole 9 yards) and I decided to jazz it up with a headboard the only problem is staying with in a budget. But this gave me some great ideas on what to do!


14 tiffany scott July 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

where did you get the foam????? btw it looks stunning


15 gina July 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

Tiffany: I got the foam at a local fabric store (Jo-Ann Fabric). I think Michael’s or A.C. Moore also sell foam. Thanks!


16 MikeKai February 1, 2013 at 2:35 am

HI Gina! Love the instructions! Can you tell me where I could find the foam you used and poly batting? Could I find these at a Lowes or Home Depot? I live in Hawaii so I might have to ship it here if they don’t have it.


17 gina February 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Hi MikeKai! I found the foam and poly batting at a local independent fabric store in Philadelphia. I don’t know if those materials are available at Lowes or Home Depot, but I imagine you could find them in a Jo-Ann fabric store or order them on the Jo-Ann website (http://www.joann.com/). Good luck!
P.S. I love Hawaii so much.


18 Mo February 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Thanks for all the tips. Before I read this I was considering buying 2 inch latex topper to use as my “foam”. I was going to use a sheet instead of the batting. I thought the topper would go around to the back and couldn’t see the need for the batting. What are your thoughts: is 2 inches too thick? is the batting necessary if your topper is thicker and you use a sheet to hold it all in place? THANK YOU!


19 gina February 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

Mo: I definitely don’t think two inches is too thick. In fact, I wish I had used a thicker foam for my headboard. I’m sure if you use a sheet to hold the foam in place it will have the same effect as the batting. Good luck!


20 Kara February 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

I noticed that you said you ordered 8 yards of material , which equaled out to 96″. Isn’t 1 yard=36 inches? So that would be only 3 yards of material.. correct? I was just a little confused and ordered 8 yards following your post before I actually calculated it out myself. I could be wrong though, just checking!


21 gina February 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

Kara: You are totally correct – I bought only 3 yards of fabric. I have no idea where I came up with the 8 yards situation. 8 yards is like 24 feet of fabric which is senseless. Thanks for the heads up!


22 Ryan March 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Great tips! I’m about to tackle one soon. Have you tried, (or why did you choose against), using a spray adhesive for the foam? Also, how heavy do you estimate the final headboard is? Thanks!


23 gina June 26, 2013 at 6:58 pm

I didn’t even consider using a spray adhesive for the foam. I just went straight for the staple gun. I would estimate that my final headboard is maybe 15-20 pounds. Good luck!


24 Dakers01 March 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I am getting ready to make one of these fabric headboards and wanted to comment about the foam possibilities. I have seen several tutorials where people have used the egg crate mattress toppers/ convoluted foam toppers as their choice of foam. It’s what I am planning to use and it should be easy for anyone to obtain and is affordable. I am planning to purchase 2 of them and layering them with the flat side up, then placing batting on top of that and then my upholstery fabric on top of all that. Egg crate mattress toppers can be purchased at places like Wal-mart, Target, etc.


25 Dakers01 March 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Also, wanted to say your fabric headboard looks great:)


26 gina June 26, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Thanks! Good tip on layering the egg crates for foam.


27 sarah April 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

How would you fold over the materials on plywood into a curved design on top? Any advice?


28 gina June 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Sarah – I’m not skilled enough to attempt that, sorry!


29 Phalonne May 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm

You’ve given the courage to finnaly do it myself!! Quick question for the ones you’ve already tried it: Do you just put the headboard against the wall when you done or do you attach it to your frame?
Thanks in advance!


30 gina June 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I just pushed the headboard against the wall, but attaching it to the bedframe is a great idea. Mine doesn’t move around very much so I haven’t felt the need to attach it to the frame. Good luck!


31 susan June 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Hi Gina!!
I am about to make a headboard too. Like you I have been googling it “to death”. I ordered 2″ latex foam [from amazon ]( because I’m getting paranoid about the fire retardant chemicals in poly foam) but anyway… I am having a hard time deciding on what shape to make the thing. I feel like I have to look AT THE ENTIRE INTERNET before I can decide. Decisions. ack. hate’em. But I’m making progress , slowly. I just wanted to say thanks and can I be yer friend?


32 gina June 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi Susan! I feel your pain. I imagine Pinterest only makes the decision harder. I didn’t have to worry about that back when I made my headboard. Consider us friends :)


33 Kathryn July 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

Looks gorgeous! How is it attached to the bed?


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