Monday, August 27, 2012

Meg vs. the Bedroom: DIY Gathered Headboard

As I hinted a week or two ago, this project started a while back and was going nowhere (in part because I realized our staple gun was several hundred miles away and had to be sent to us, but mostly because I was angry with my sewing machine, er, my lack of sewing patience), so I bagged it for a while. It is so hard to pull out a project once you put it away! But I forced myself to do it. It helped that the alternative was doing the dishes and cleaning the house. I will always avoid that.

Background story: We bought a mattress, a box spring, and four wooden feet at Ikea when we got married. We figured any real bed we could afford would not survive the moves we knew we would be making during our first few years of marriage (sure enough, it has been five years, and we have moved 7 times or so--I'm losing track). We never really decorated beyond a couple of propped on our dresser or on shelves (I never felt like making holes only to fill them a few months later). Now that we have our own place, I am itching to make it feel like we have settled down, though for all I know we may be moving again in a matter of months. So I had to make something easy, inexpensive, and portable.

Enter seven bazillion headboard tutorials on Pinterest.

I actually think that number is a low estimate. Apparently everyone makes their own headboards these days. Why not me?

I decided I wanted something soft (no old window panes or barn doors) that had some visual interest but wasn't overwhelming, since I am going for a calm, neutral, airy feel.

My materials:

*1 plywood sheet, cut to 4 feet by 5 feet (we have a queen bed, which is five feet wide, and I decided I wanted the headboard four feet high. I actually think I might have liked it better a little lower, but perhaps I just need to adjust to having anything there at all.),
*1 piece of upholstry foam, 2 feet by 6 feet, bought at the only fabric store in town.

*2 yards of silvery grey fabric that I initially bought to cover a bulletin board in our church nursery, until the nursery leader decided she wanted to do something different.
*Spray adhesive
*Staple gun and staples

I wanted to sew ruffles at regular intervals across the fabric, and had read about a thousand different "super easy" ruffle tutorials so I thought this would be relatively simple. Not so. For the life of me I could not get this very large piece of fabric to gather nicely when I did the pull-the-bottom-thread technique, and then I couldn't get it to stay ruffled when I tried to go over it again to fix it in place. My matching thread was apparently junk and kept breaking, so I would have to start over again. I don't really know how to use my sewing machine, so I kept messing things up. Finally I just went with the only idiot ruffle technique that I can manage. The down side to this technique is that you can't control the final length of the ruffle. The up side is that I can actually pull it off. And I lucked out that it gave me just the right width, which was a little more than half of the original width of the fabric.

I have no pictures because I was far too angry at the universe and was wanting to trash the whole thing, so I apologize for that. Here is the technique:

1. Set the tension on your sewing machine as tight as you can (my tension dial goes up to 9, so I set it at a 9. I don't really know what that means, and have never cared to figure it out).
2. Set your machine to the longest possible stitch.
3. Feed the fabric through like normal, and the machine will do the ruffling for you.

I ended up doing half of the gathers with my matching thread, then going back and fixing all the broken spots and doing the rest with my more sturdy white thread. Luckily the clashing thread isn't too noticeable.

Next I got out my board and put it together. This took all of about 10 minutes, in part because, as you will see, I did not pick up the toy room before I began. What can I say? I have no shame.

I sprayed both the top of the board and the back of the foam with adhesive and stuck them together, like so.

Next I pulled the foam around the sides and stapled it down thusly,

resulting in this:

I draped my gathered fabric over the top (it has character, doesn't it? [That is poor code for it is crooked and poorly done]),

I stapled the fabric around the back,

added a few staples at the bottom on the front, and ta-da!

I hauled it into our room and shoved it between the bed and the wall. At some point we will probably secure it to the wall, but it isn't as wobbly as I would have expected.

 Now remember, our bed used to look like this:

Now it looks like this:

Better, right? The effect would be superior if I took a broader picture of the room, but I'll just come out and say I didn't feel like cleaning so I just cropped it out. Still, don't look closely; I think you can see some shoes and a baby hoodie halfway under the bed. Headboard! That's what we want to see!

I honestly don't think this is going to be a keeper in the long term just because the sewing job is bad and the gathers will come undone over time. But for the now it fits the bill, the price was right, and I am really happy that it actually came out just as I envisioned it.


  1. Well, I think it looks great, but if you want to consider this one 'practice' then I can't wait to see the next one!

    I'm making progress on our room too. More pictures will be posted to my blog soon.

  2. WOW!!!! Please pick my name for Christmas!!! : ) I am IMPRESSED to say the least!

  3. So fun! It looks awesome and I can hardly believe that the fabric ended up just the right height - you are amazing even when angry at the universe, see?

    (Turning the tension to 9 means that the machine is pulling one of the threads for you, while you're sewing. Not that you need to know that, since all it means is that it makes ruffles in your fabric, which you already knew : )