A tuffet is a piece of furniture immortalized in a famous nursery rhyme, though some people profess to having no idea what it actually looks like. Similar to a poof or an ottoman, a tuffet is a low seating or footrest device. Unlike a stool, a tuffet is typically covered in fabric so that the framing device and legs are not visible.
Tuffets are often combined with a chair in order to give the feet a comfortable place to rest. Some contain small storage compartments under the top cushion, which is often hinged in place. Tuffets are often covered in fabric that matches its accompanying chair, although it can also be an excellent object to use an accent color or pattern. Judiciously accenting the main color or look of a room with small furnishings such as a tuffet can greatly enhance the style and design palette.
A fabric-covered footstool like a tuffet is popular in many styles of design, and is typical of more ornamental and decorative styles such as baroque, Victorian, and 19th century Parisian. It can be used indoors or outdoors, although outdoor versions typically feature more durable and weather-resistant fabrics. Tuffets also make excellent children's furniture, and some models can even increase storage capacity through the small inner compartment.
Although it is possible to purchase tuffets as part of a seating set, they are also easy to construct and design to specification. To create a tuffet, purchase a small stool from a garage sale, secondhand shop, garden supply center, or furniture store. Cover the top of the stool with a layer of stuffing covered by battening material, and use a staple gun to attach. Fabric covers for the stool can be sewn or even stapled on, as long as care is taken to ensure that unattractive staples are hidden from view. Sewing a fabric cover to fit over the stool with snaps or elastic allows it to be removed and easily cleaned.
The origins of the famous Miss Muffet nursery rhyme that references this useful piece of furniture are unknown, despite several prominent theories. Some suggest that Miss Muffet is a reference to Mary, Queen of Scots. In this interpretation, the tuffet is said to represent the throne of Scotland, and the spider religious reformer John Knox, a religious court official that tried to frighten the queen into abdicating. Another story suggests that the rhyme refers to the daughter of famed entomologist Thomas Muffet, who was frightened by her father's creepy-crawly subjects. As with many nursery rhymes, it is unlikely that the original meaning will ever be known for certain.