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Folklore Bolster Pillow
With its bright ribbons and a festive red denim highlighted with white piping and white tufted buttons on each end, this bolster reminds us of a cozy Scandinavian sweater. Doesn’t it just make you want to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa. It’s a great style for the holidays, but because the ribbon designs don’t contain any specific Christmas motifs, you could keep it on display throughout the winter season… or until the cocoa runs out.
Our thanks to Renaissance Ribbons for sponsoring this and many of our most popular projects here at S4H. We originally used a Jane Sassaman ribbon design called, Wild Child. This particular ribbon set is no longer available, but you’ll enjoy browsing the Renaissance Ribbons site for new options from some of your favorite designers, like Tula Pink, Mary Engelbreit, and Kaffe Fassett among many others.
As with many of our projects using the beautiful and colorful Renaissance Ribbons, we chose invisible thread for all our ribbon stitching. This is not mandatory, but is a nicer look against the ribbon. For the best results, you may need to loosen your upper tension slightly. It’s also a good idea to lengthen your stitch and sew at a slow and even pace. This type of thread does not stretch as well as regular thread and can break more easily under pressure, especially if it accidentally slides off the spool and wraps around the spool pin. Using a spool cap against the spool helps hold it in place on the pin, and again, going slowly and evenly helps the thread feed correctly off the spool. Finally, always sew in the same direction along both sides of the ribbon. This will help prevent any shifting and puckering. If you’d prefer not to use invisible thread, we won’t get mad. But, we will suggest you choose thread colors that very closely match your ribbon and take the time to re-thread as often as needed to maintain a perfect match.
You’ll also notice we use pins to hold our ribbons in place. Another option would be to apply a little basting glue or strips of lightweight fusible web, such as Dritz® Stitch Witchery, to the wrong side of the ribbon. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test to make sure the ribbon can be easily stitched without the adhesive gumming up the needle. Some adhesives are not meant to be sewn through.
Learn the steps for this style of classic button tufting. You’ll need a long needle and the ability to push.
The pretty faux fur throw the bolster is sitting on in the photo above is also a S4H project. Click here to go the tutorial.
The bolster finishes at approximately 6″ in diameter x 20″ in length x 19″ in circumference.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Zipper foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- We originally used THREE beautiful jacquard ribbons from the Jane Sassaman Collection at Renaissance Ribbons; browse their site to pick your own favorites – follow our width suggestions or choose your own. If you choose ribbons of different widths, your final look may vary.
1½ yards of 1½” Red with Blue Morning Glory
2 yards of ⅞” Red Bouquet
3 yards of ⅝” Yellow & Blue Night Life
- ⅝ yard of 54″ wide medium-weight denim or twill; we originally used Crossroads Denim from Indygo Junction in Fire Red
NOTE: We are conserving fabric and using just ⅝ yard for this project. To make this work, we will seam two rectangles together to give us the appropriate width. Then, we will cover that seam with the pretty ribbon. Cool, huh? And, no one will know. Well, you know, but you aren’t going to tell anyone, are you?
- ⅓ yard of 45″+ wide medium weight twill for the piping; we originally used 60″ Organic Cotton Twill in Winter White
- Optional: ¾ yard of 20″+ wide low loft batting (you need a 20″ x 20″ cut)
NOTE: The denim we chose is wonderfully soft, which makes it great to work with, but we wanted to be sure the bolster had a firm finish, so we opted to wrap the pillow insert with thin batting.
- One 6″ x 20″ bolster pillow insert, we used a 6″ x 20″ Fairfield Soft Touch® Neckroll insert
- 1½ yards of ¼” piping cord
- TWO 1½” button cover kits
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- All purpose thread to match all the ribbons and/or Invisible Thread in Clear; we used invisible thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- 12″+ straight upholstery needle for attaching the tufted buttons
- One small spool of waxed button/upholstery thread also for attaching the tufted buttons
Getting Started and Pattern Download
NOTE: As mentioned above, cuts given below are for the specific ribbons we originally chose, and we will refer to them by name throughout the instructions. Click through to Renaissance Ribbons. If you choose ribbons of different widths, your final look may vary.
- Cut the 1½” Red with Blue Morning Glory into TWO 21″ lengths.
- Cut the ⅞” Red Bouquet into THREE 21″ lengths.
- Cut the ⅝” Yellow & Blue Night Life into FOUR 21″ lengths.
- Download and print out the Folklore Pillow End Pattern Piece.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out the pattern along the solid line.
- From the main fabric, cut the following:
TWO 10½” x 21″ rectangles
NOTE: As mentioned, we are conserving fabric and using just ⅝ yard for this project. To make this work, we will seam two rectangles together to give us the appropriate width.
- Use the pattern to cut two end circles from the remaining fabric. These circles are 7″ in diameter.
- From the piping fabric, cut enough 1½” bias strips to equal two 22″ lengths or 44″ total.
NOTE: If you are new to cutting on the bias for piping, we have a great tutorial: How to Make and Attach Piping for Pillows & More.
- If using batting, cut ONE 20″ x 20″ square.
- From the cording, cut TWO 22″ lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the body of the pillow
- Find the two 10½” x 21″ rectangles.
- Pin them right sides together along one 21″ edge. Pay attention to the weave of the denim; you want to make sure the weave is running in the same direction on each piece. I’m inserting a photo to show this. It may be hard to see on screen, but since we are putting two pieces together to make the finished width, it is important to pay attention to this step.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together. Press the seam allowance open and flat.
- Place the sewn panel right side up on your work surface with the seam running vertically.
- Find one length of ⅞” Red Bouquet ribbon. Center the ribbon over the seam. Pin or fuse in place.
NOTE: Remember, as mentioned above, if you’d rather not use pins to hold your ribbons in place, you can keep them from shifting by applying a little basting glue or strips of lightweight fusible web to the wrong side of the ribbon lengths.
- Re-thread the machine with invisible thread in the top and bobbin or carefully select all-purpose thread to match each ribbon, re-threading as necessary as you move from ribbon to ribbon.
- Edgestitch in place along both sides of the ribbon. Remember to always stitch in the same direction along both sides of your ribbon.
- Butt a length of ⅝” Yellow & Blue Night Life on either side of the center ribbon. Pin or fuse in place.
- Edgestitch in place along both sides of both lengths of ribbon.
NOTE: Take the time to carefully place your ribbons. It is very important the ribbons butt together so there is no fabric showing between the ribbons. Yet, you don’t want the ribbons to overlap.
- When the three center ribbons are stitched in place, place the three ribbons along each side.
- Using your ruler, measure ½” in from the raw side edge and draw a line. This will be the placement line for the first ribbon.
- Place a length of 1½” Red with Blue Morning Glory along the guideline.
- Butt a length of ⅝” Yellow & Blue Night Life next to this first ribbon, then butt a length of ⅞” Red Bouquet into the final position.
- The 1½” Red with Blue Morning Glory ribbon is directional. As you can see in the photos below, we flipped the ribbon on the opposite side so each would be correctly oriented.
- As above with the center ribbons, edgestitch each ribbon in place along both sides.
- Set aside the completed panel.
Create the piping
- Find the piping cord and the bias strips. You should have two 22″ lengths of fabric and two 22″ lengths of cord. If necessary, now is the time to stitch together shorter bias strips to create your full 22″ lengths. As mentioned above, if you are new to working with bias cuts for piping, we have a great tutorial.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Wrap one length of fabric around one length of piping cord. Align the raw edges of the fabric and pin in place.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Secure the fabric in place around the cording with a basting stitch, running your seam as close to the cording as possible. Go slowly; it’s important the raw edges of the fabric stay even with one another.
- Repeat to create the second length of piping.
- Find the main panel. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Place a length of piping along each side edge, aligning the raw edges of the piping with the raw edge of the fabric.
- Still using the Zipper foot, machine baste the piping in place along each side.
NOTE: As mentioned above, if you’re new to piping, check out our tutorial for general tips on making, joining and finishing.
- Trim away any excess piping so both ends on both sides are flush with the fabric.
- Fold the completed panel in half, aligning the raw edges and sandwiching the piping between the layers. Carefully align the ribbons. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the seam to form a tube, leaving an 8″ opening at the center to insert the pillow form. Remember to lock your seam at either side of this opening.
Insert the end caps
- Find the two end circles.
- Fold each circle in half and then in half again to find the four quarter points of the circle. Mark each point with a pin or a fabric pencil.
- It’s like the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 points on a clock face.
- In addition, find and mark the exact center of the circle. You will use this point later to attach the buttons.
- To create marks on the bolster tube that will line up with the pin marks on each end cap circle, you need to press the ends of the tube carefully. Your seam should already be pressed open. If not, press it open now.
- Gently pull the seam to the right, so you can press a fold directly opposite the seam.
- Now, gently pull the tube in the opposite direction, matching up the seam and the first crease, and press two additional creases at each side. Just like the end cap, it’s like the quarter points on a clock face.
- Remember, you are only pressing the very end of the bolster, just enough to place your pins. If pressing seems too complicated, you could also simply pinch the fabric to set a mark and then add a pin. The seam line and the three pin marks will now match the quadrant pins on the end circles.
- Set one end circle inside each end of the bolster tube, right sides together. Line up those helpful marks you made. This is similar to how set-in sleeves are sewn.
- Pin in place around the entire circle.
- Now you are now going to stitch in the round. Place the pinned end of the tube so the raw edge is flipped up a little under the sewing machine foot. This will make it easier to sew around the circle.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, sew around each circle through all the layers. If you can’t get a full ½”, that’s okay. Just get as close as possible to the piping.
NOTE: If you are brand new, check out our full step-by-step tutorial on how to inset a round base into a tube.
- Turn the bolster cover right side out through the center opening in the tube.
- At this point, you do have the option of simply inserting the pillow form and slip stitching the opening closed.
- We chose to add tufted center buttons to each end, which requires button covers, a special long needle, and waxed thread – specified in the supply list above.
- Insert the pillow form into the cover. As mentioned above, for extra firmness, we wrapped our pillow form with a 20″ x 20″ square of batting prior to inserting it into the cover.
- Cut two circles from the leftover piping fabric and complete the two covered buttons. If you are new to this technique, we have a tutorial: Making Covered Buttons with a Button Kit.
- Run the waxed button thread through the shank of one covered button, doubling the length. Make sure you have plenty of thread; you need it to be at least a few inches longer than the bolster itself – then double this because you are threading a double length. It’s better to have more thread than not enough.
- Thread both ends through the long upholstery needle.
- Insert the needle at the exact center point of one end.
- Push the needle in, keeping it as straight and level as possible.
- As it begins to disappear, “accordion” the pillow to continue moving the needle down through the center of the pillow form until it comes out the opposite end. Maneuver the point of the needle as necessary to insure it comes out through that end’s exact marked center point.
- It can be helpful to set the pillow on end along the edge of a table (half on and half off). Gently compress the pillow to achieve that same accordion motion needed to push the needle through and out the end.
- This is not the easiest thing to do. It can be hard to keep the needle straight and true. It wants to bend. If you are having trouble, back the needle up a bit and reach in through the opening in the seam. Grab the pillow around the center, feeling for the needle, and guide it through to the end.
- Once you’ve made it out the end, pull the needle all the way through.
- Pull the thread tight to cinch up the end with the button. This button is now secured as is.
- Remove the thread tails from the needle, keeping some tension on the thread as you pull it away from the pillow. Pull apart the two lengths of thread. Thread one length through the remaining covered button. Tie the ends into a slip knot.
- Tighten the slip knot, pulling on the thread tail. Cinch it up until the tufting on both ends looks good to you. When you’re happy with the look, secure the thread by tying the ends into a standard double knot. Cut away the excess thread. The raw ends of the thread will be hidden behind the second covered button.
- Thread a standard hand sewing needle with thread to match the main fabric, and slip stitch the opening closed. Make sure the ends of the ribbons are perfectly aligned along the hand stitched seam.
- Bolsters are traditionally meant to be decorative and, therefore, are usually just spot-cleaned.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild
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