DIY upholstered headbord with black plaid fabric and black edges

How to Make an Easy DIY Upholstered Headboard

In my last post, I talked about making over a headboard for my daughter’s room and how I gave a thrifted second-hand headboard a whole new look with paint.  That was only step one of that makeover, step two is adding upholstery!  Here is the step-by-step process of how to make an easy DIY upholstered headboard!  

I used a thrifted headboard and upholstered the area inside the outer edge.  

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DIY upholstered headbord with black plaid fabric and black edges

Table of Contents

Choosing the Fabric

When visiting the fabric store or shopping online, you should look for more heavy-duty upholstery fabric for this project.  It holds up better to being pulled tight and to wear and tear.  

That being said, any sturdy fabric will work for the headboard fabric for this project, just make sure that it is not too thin or it might tear when being stapled and pulled tight.

upholstery fabric for DIY headboard folded

​To figure out how many yards of fabric you need, consider the direction of the fabric and the size of the headboard.  For example, if your fabric is 54″ wide (standard width) and your headboard is 65″ long, you will need to run your fabric “sideways” to have a single piece of fabric so choose something that looks good no matter which way the pattern is turned.

​Measure the headboard size by taking the width and height and ordering or buying enough fabric to cover it.  In my case, I needed about 1.5 yards of fabric to cover the headboard.


This project is very easy and only took me a few hours from start to finish!  Here is what you need:

headboard leaning on a wall
This is the headboard I started with, I found it on Facebook Marketplace and then gave it a coat of paint
  • headboard with outer frame or edge 
  • upholstery foam – I used 1″ foam 
  • fabric to cover the headboard (This is the gorgeous fabric that I am using for this project)
  • cording (I made my own coordinating fabric-covered cording but you can also buy it already made, use welt cord or an upholstery tack strip to cover the staples)
  • – Stapler (I have this one to use with my compressor but you can also use a electric or manual one!)
  • Glue gun and glue
  • Spray adhesive

DIY Upholstered Headboard Step 1 – Cut and Affix the Foam

The first step is to cut the high-density foam to fit inside the headboard.  I used 1″ thick foam for this, I didn’t want the headboard to be too “fat”, and I didn’t want the upholstered part to protrude past the edges of the bed frame.  

I took some packing paper and traced around the inside edge to get a template for the shape of the headboard.  I wasn’t sure how well that would work but it did the trick.  

Using some paper to trace the shape of my headboard to make a template
I took some used packing paper and taped it together to use to make a template

I laid the template onto the foam and traced around it with a Sharpie.  In the past, I have cut thick foam with an electric knife, but since this foam was pretty thin I was able to cut the shape out using scissors.  Don’t worry too much if your shape is not perfect, this project is very forgiving and you will not be able to see those imperfections!  

using a paper template to cut the shape of the headboard onto foam

I was planning on doing this project flat on the ground but ended up finding it easier to stand the headboard up while I worked.  To keep the foam in place on the headboard, use spray adhesive on the back side of the foam and stick it to the front of the headboard to hold it in place.

Cutting out foam for DIY upholstered headboard
Foam cut out and laying on the headboard.

DIY Upholstered Headboard Step 2 – Staple the Fabric

My fabric was plaid so I was a little concerned with getting my lines all perfectly straight on the new headboard.  I set up a laser level so that I could keep an eye on the horizontal and vertical lines as I was working.  If you have an organic pattern or a solid fabric you won’t have to worry too much about that part.  

I used my air-powered upholstery staple gun that hooks up to my compressor, but you can do this project with an electric staple gun or even a manual one.  

I started by laying out my piece of fabric across the headboard and pinning it temporarily in place to the foam.  Starting in the center, I added a few staples to the inside edge of the bed frame.  

Adding staples to affix the fabric on the DIY upholstered headbaord

​Pulling the fabric tight along the edge of the frame kind of squishes the foam down along the edge, which is what you want.  Don’t worry about it if the foam ends up with a few staples in it too.

Once I had a few staples in I stretched the fabric down over the bottom of the headboard and added a few staples.  I carefully kept my lines on my plaid fabric lined up with my straight line of the laser level.  

I started out thinking I would wrap the fabric around the bottom part of the headboard and staple to the back of the headboard, but it turned out to be too difficult to keep flopping back and forth between the front and the back.  What I ended up doing was just adding the staple to the very bottom edge of the headboard.  When I was all done, I wrapped the fabric around the bottom and added a few staples along the edge of the fabric too, just to hold it in place and keep it from flopping down.

Adding staples to affix the fabric on the DIY upholsted headboard

Continue on in this way, working your way out from the center of each side and adding a few staples to the top and then the bottom.  Go slow, stand back often and see if you are pulling it too tight or not tight enough if things are looking smooth and even and have a secure fit, and do not be afraid to pull a few staples out and make corrections.  

Continue to work your way around the entire headboard until everything is stapled in place around the sides of the headboard.  

DIY Upholstered Headboard Step 2 – Trim the Fabric

If you are happy with how everything is looking, and you don’t need to take any staples out, you can trim your excess fabric.

Trimming excess fabric close to the staple line
Trimming excess fabric

Take some sharp scissors and trim the fabric as close as you can to your line of staples.

I cut my fabric too close in a few places and the fabric came loose, but I just added a couple more staples in those locations after I was done.  

Trimming excess fabric
I cut as close as possible to the staples

DIY Upholstered Headboard Step 3 – Options to Cover the Staples

What I decided to do to cover the staples is to make coordinating piping.  If you have never made your own piping before, it is not that hard to do but it does require a sewing machine.

If you don’t want to make your own, a great option is to buy some piping or trim that coordinates with your fabric.  You could use what is called Gimp Trim or ribbon or trim made out of nail heads, really anything you want to cover those staples.  

If you want to make your own coordinating piping out of your own fabric, it is really quite easy.

​Usually, when making bias trim you want to try to cut your fabric on a diagonal (or the bias) so that it stretches a little easier.  In my case, I was using such thick upholstery fabric that I didn’t think that was going to make a big difference, so I just cut a long strip of fabric about 2″ wide.

You will likely need to piece a few strips together in order to make a strip that is long enough to go all the way around the edge of your headboard.  Sew the strips together at the ends until you have one long strip.  

Cording placed in the center of the fabric strip

Next, take a piece of cording and lay it in the middle of the fabric strip.  Fold the fabric over the cording.

Cord folded inside a strip of fabric
Fold the fabric over the cording

On your sewing machine, use a cording foot (or a zipper foot also works) to sew very tight to the edge of that cording.  

Sewing cording into a strip of fabric to make piping
Use a zipper foot or a foot made for piping to sew very tight to the edge of the cording

You will end up with a piece of fabric-wrapped cording with a tail of fabric on it.  Cut the excess fabric as closely as you can to the stitch.  

DIY Upholstered Headboard Step 4 – Glue the Piping On

For the next step, take your piping of choice and glue it on top of the line of staples.  

Adding glue to the staple line
Add a bead of hot glue on the staple line and stick the cording, seam side down, into the glue

​Using the glue gun, add glue along the staples and press the piping into the glue while it is hot with the seam side down.  Take care to make sure loose strings are tucked in.  

Placing the cording over the staple line
Press the cording into the glue

I have done a few upholstery projects and it does not seem like using a glue gun would be the most sophisticated method of adding this trim, but after doing some research it is the way that a lot of professionals add the trim to cover the staples and it holds up great over time!  It is such an easy way to cover that edge.

Cording half on and half off the staple line
Covering the edge with cording gives it a very finished and professional look

DIY Upholstered Headboard – The Results

I’m very pleased with how this DIY upholstered headboard turned out, it looks like a custom headboard and it was very affordable to make!  The total cost will vary depending on the fabric you choose and the headboard or wood frame that you are able to find, but I think mine rang in around $200 for the whole thing!  And it didn’t take much time at all, a few hours here and there over the span of a week.  

Close up of finished headboard

I have yet to put it together with the rest of the bed and put it in my daughter’s room. I think she needs some new bedding to complement the headboard, so we will be on the hunt for that!

Upholstery DIY projects are so easy and so satisfying!  I hope this DIY upholstered headboard tutorial sparked a few ideas for you!  

Finished DIY upholstered headboard
DIY upholstered headbord with black plaid fabric and black edges

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  1. Hi Erin,
    This turned out just as beautiful as I thought it would. Since I’m in the process of designing my own bedroom, I want to do this. It would be a lot easier than making an upholstered headboard. Dealing with buying plywood, trying to make it fit in my car, cutting it into the desired shape, & then wrestling with it to get it covered.
    Fingers crossed I can find a similar headboard on FBM. 🤞🙏

  2. Good luck finding one Mary! It might take some time but I’m sure you will find it!

  3. This looks sooooo good. Thank you very much for putting together a fantastic step by step of this! I always feel intimidated when it comes to upholstery, but this is super helpful!

  4. You could. Or have chosen a harder fabric to use, especially on a curved headboard, and it looks perfect. Kudos to you for accomplishing such a task so well. It is quite stunning.

  5. Sorry that should have said could not have chosen a harder fabric. Auto spell corrected it.

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