Bolster pillows have been around for at least a century and possibly even from when padded fabric first became popular. Making a bolster can be a great creative task, and these comfortable cushions are easily made and used to create contrast and support you.
It’s time to learn how to make a simple bolster pillow from scratch using upholstery fabric.
What Are Bolster Pillows?
Firstly, the idea of a bolster pillow may mean something different to me than it does to you. Where the traditional bolster cushion is a tubular cushion with rounded ends, these supportive cushions are today available in simple square or rectangular shapes, with flat ends or even with wider sides.
Traditionally, bolster pillows are used on sofas and sleigh day beds. Today, a bed seems unmade if there isn’t at least one bolster pillow rounding off the stack of occasional pillows and cushions.
Why Make Bolster Pillows From Upholstery Fabric?
Since bolster pillows are often used to support you while sitting or reclining in bed or on the sofa, it’s a pillow that is much more hardworking than regular square scatter cushions.
Therefore, using a hard-wearing upholstery fabric is a great idea as the overall fabric finish will last longer. Upholstery fabric has a higher rub rating or score on the Wyzenbeek test which looks at how many rubs it takes to wear through a fabric.
Regular cushions may be made from lighter fabrics with a light-use rub rating of 10,000-15,000 rubs. But a bolster pillow should have a rub rating of at least 15,000 to 30,000 rubs to ensure a durable fabric that can stand up to heavy use.
Types of Bolster Pillows
Bolster pillows can be classified in terms of the type of upholstery fabric and shape. These handy cushions come in a range of fabrics from quilted fabrics to tapestry fabrics. Additionally, there are round tubular designs, flat tufted designs, rectangular cushions with trim, shortened bolsters, and mini bolsters for those comfy chairs.
How to Decide Between Different Bolster Pillows
Choosing a bolster pillow to make depends on how and where you want to use it. Typically, a tufted bolster won’t be washable, but it can offer a great look and be a forgiving bolster to make for newbies.
To make your selection, consider how much friction the bolster will be exposed to. A round bolster will show UV damage more easily than a square or rectangular bolster. A flat rectangular bolster is easy to add a zipper to for cleaning, and it’s a fairly easy bolster to sew too.
My Bolster Pillow Project
For my bolster pillow project, I decided on a trimmed flattened rectangular bolster in a vibrant ethnic or tribal upholstery fabric to suit my eclectic style home. This easy project can be customized according to your sizes, fabrics, and skills.
Tools and Materials
- Foam cushion padding chips and polyester batting
- Upholstery fabric
- E4007 (Ivory) for the sides and back panel of the cushion
- KB371 (Pecan) for the decorative middle insert of the pillow
- Zipper according to your size (I chose a 24-inch zipper to run down the long side of the pillow)
- Sewing machine
- Steam iron and ironing board
- Sewing pins
- Cotton thread
- Cord for trim
- Straight edge or architect’s ruler
- Four tassels for decorative detailing
- A workspace sufficiently large that I can lay out the fabric
1. Laying out the fabric on the work surface, measure out the dimensions you require and cut this with a straight edge or architect’s ruler. I chose a simple flat two-sided bolster with an insert to make it more appealing. My pillow dimensions were 24 by 9 inches. With the extra fabric allowance, I cut two rectangles of 26 inches by 11 inches each from the ivory fabric.
Then I cut a second panel that would be sewn to the middle of the pillow from the pecan fabric of 9 by 11 inches. I also cut a strip of 2 by 70 inches for the corded trim from the pecan fabric.
2. Cut the same length cord as the fabric strip (70 inches). Lay the fabric strip flat (right side down) and center the cord in the middle. Fold the fabric over the cord, and using your steam iron, flatten the corded section. Carefully set the covered cord aside. Iron the fabric panels.
3. Taking the 9 by 11 inches pecan fabric panel, iron the two 11-inch sides with a half-inch fold each with the fold on the inside of the fabric.
4. Center the pecan fabric on one of the ivory fabric panels (both with the right side out). Secure with sewing pins. The flattened seams will be on the inside.
5. Sew the two 11-inch folded sides of the pecan fabric to the ivory fabric panel. Remove the sewing pins.
6. Flip the panel with the insert over, and lay it precisely over the top of the second ivory fabric panel (the right side is on the inside of the pillow). Secure with sewing pins.
7. Remove the sewing pins one at a time, then insert the strip and cord, so the rounded side of the cord is on the inside of the pillow with the rough edges on the outside where the pillow’s rough edges are.
Work one pin at a time to insert the taped cord, then replace the pin, so the whole pillowcase is evenly corded.
8. Sew three sides, ensuring there is an even amount of fabric on the inside of the fabric pillowcase. Sew one long side and two short sides.
9. Flip the pillowcase inside out, so the right side of the fabric is on the outside. Iron with the steam iron, carefully straightening edges. You can use a blunt butter knife to push the corners of the pillowcase for a perfect corner.
10. Insert the zipper in the opening of the second long side. Pin in place for easy sewing. Sew in place using an appropriate zipper foot for the machine. When both sides of the zipper are secured, test it a few times to ensure the zipper works well.
11. The fun part! Stuffing the pillow. Add as much stuffing as you can to the pillow without getting a lumpy look. I like to close the zipper until there’s only about an inch of space where the foam can be pressed into the pillow.
A good technique for foam is to add the chips and batting in fistful bunches. This prevents all the padding from moving to one corner. Keep adding padding while you flatten the pillow and then add more. When the pillow is firm and has reached the desired padding, you can zip the last corner of the zip shut.
12. Add the tassels to the corners by sewing them onto the cord trim by hand on each corner.
The Final Bolster
Bolster pillows are very handy, and with a few propped between you and the sofa, you are sure to enjoy a rainy afternoon with Netflix and some coffee. Making your own bolsters is easy. Simply follow this tutorial, work methodically, and enjoy. Read more about what different fabric patterns are called, check out our article on fabric pattern names so you can choose the best fabric for your needs on the Kovi Fabrics site.