The way you put together the fabrics in your projects can tell a little story. Our pillow pair does just that. In our story, an absent-minded French lepidopterist (butterfly specialist) is on his way to collect the final rare butterfly missing from his collection. He checks his watch at the subway stop, adjusts his spectacles, grabs his battered valise, and jumps aboard the train as it disappears under the streets of New York. And you thought it was just a set of pillows! We added some great texture and dimension with natural cotton webbing and twisted rope trim.
We’ve used five fabrics from the original Electic Elements collection by Tim Holtz for Coats Fabrics. Since then, Tim Holtz has debuted two additional add-on collections for FreeSpirit Fabrics: Eclectic Elements 2 and Eclectic Elements Remix.
With the coordinating fabric, these two interesting shapes look great together. The long length of the bolster makes it an especially nice pair for a bed accent.
The bolster pillow finishes at 8″ x 30″. The square pillow finishes at 20″ x 20″.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: For the very best look, all your pieces should be carefully fussy cut. The yardage shown allows extra for this purpose.
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the center panel; we used Subway Signs in Taupe from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- ½ yard of 44″” wide cotton for the end panels and center flange accents; we used Ticking in Blue from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the side panels; we used Butterflight in Taupe from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- 1½ yards of 20″+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shir-Tailor
- 1½ yards of ¼” -½” twisted rope piping; we used white, purchased locally, here’s one online option for a similar look
- ½ yard of 1″ cotton webbing; we used natural
- ONE 8″ x 30″ bolster pillow insert
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the upper left front panel; we used Timepieces in Taupe from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- ¼ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the bottom left front panel; we used Butterflight in Taupe from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the bottom right front panel; we used French Script in Taupe from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
NOTE: For the three fabric selections listed above, you could also use one Fat Quarter for each
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide cotton for the back panels and ties, the upper right front panel and bottom left/center front panel; we used Ticking in Blue from the Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats
- ¾ yard of 45″+ wide fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus Fusible Fleece
- 1 yard of 20″+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shir-Tailor
- ½ yard of 1″ cotton webbing; we used natural
- ONE 20″ x 20″ pillow insert
- All-purpose thread to match fabrics
- 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
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print out the Bolster End Panel Circle pattern.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule printed on the page so you can confirm your printout is the correct size.
- Cut out the pattern along the solid line.
- From the fabric for the center panel (Subway Signs in Taupe in our sample), fussy cut ONE 13″ wide x 26″ high rectangle.
- From the fabric for the end panels and center flange accents (Ticking in Blue in our sample), fussy cut the following:
TWO 5″ x 26″ strips (stripes should run horizontally)
Using the pattern and cutting on the fold, TWO 9″ circles
- From the fabric for the side panels (Butterflight in Taupe in our sample), fussy cut TWO 10″ wide x 26″ high rectangles.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 13″ x 26″ rectangle
TWO 10″ x 26″ rectangles
Using the pattern, TWO 9″ circles
- Cut the cotton webbing into ONE 14″ length.
- From the fabric for the upper left front panel (Timepieces in Taupe in our sample), fussy cut ONE 13½” x 13½” square
- From the fabric for the bottom left front panel (Butterflight in Taupe in our sample), fussy cut ONE 7¼” wide x 8½” high rectangle (the butterflies should be running vertically as shown in the photo)
- From the fabric for the bottom right front panel (French Script in Taupe in our sample), fussy cut ONE 8½” wide x 12″ high rectangle
- From the fabric for the back panels and ties, the upper right front panel, and the bottom left/center front panel (Ticking in Blue in our sample), fussy cut the following:
7½” x 10″ rectangle (stripes should run horizontally)
7¼” x 8½” rectangle (stripes should run vertically)
16″ x 21″ rectangle (stripes should run horizontally)
12″ x 21″ rectangle (stripes should run vertically)
FOUR 1½” x 12½” strips
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 16″ x 21″ rectangle
ONE 12″ x 21″ rectangle
- From the fusible fleece, cut ONE 21″ x 21″ square.
- Cut the cotton webbing into ONE 8½” length and ONE 7¼” length.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the body of the pillow
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the appropriate interfacing piece to the wrong side of each of the fabric pieces. The only fabric pieces that are not interfaced are the narrow center flanges.
- Find the two 5″ flange strips. Fold each in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, so they are now 2½” x 26″.
- Find the two side panels. Place one folded flange along the inside edge of each of each panel, aligning the raw edges of the flange with the raw edge of the fabric panel. Pin in place.
- Machine baste each flange in place, staying within the seam allowance (⅜” is a good option).
- Find the center panel and the length of webbing.
- Fold the center panel in half widthwise (13″ x 13″) and mark the center point along each side with a pin.
- Unfold the panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the webbing horizontally across the middle, centering each end over your pin marks. The ends of the webbing should be flush with the raw edges of the fabric panel, which means the center of the webbing will be loose. This is what becomes the handle.
- Pin the webbing in place. Stitch in place with a 1″ X Box.
- Start the box ⅝” in from the raw edge on each side.
- Place a side panel right sides together along each side of the center panel, aligning the raw edges of all the layers and sandwiching the flange and the webbing between the layers. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each side panel to the center panel.
- Press flat, pressing both the flange and its seam allowance out towards the side panel.
- Fold the completed panel in half, aligning the long sides. Pin the long sides; leave the ends open.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the side seam to form a tube, leaving a 10″ opening at the center to insert the pillow form. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the opening.
Insert the piping and end caps
- Find the two end circles, which should already be interfaced.
- 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. It’s like the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 points on a clock face.
- In order 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. First, press the seam open.
- Then, 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.
- Remember, you are only pressing the very end of the bolster, just enough to place your pins. The seam line and the three pin marks will now match the quadrant pins on the end circles.
- Find the two lengths of twisted rope piping.
- Pin one length of piping around each circle, aligning the edge of the piping’s insertion tape with the raw edge of the fabric.
- Using a Zipper foot, stitch the piping in place. Keep your stitching as close to the piping cord as possible.
- Start at the seam and sew around to the end, overlapping the ends of the trim at the seam as shown below.
- Set one end circle inside each end of the bolster tube, right sides together. Line up those helpful pins you placed above. This is similar to how set-in sleeves are sewn. Pin in place around the entire circle.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check our our helpful tutorial on inserting a flat circle into a tube.
- 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.
- If you are new to sewing and clipping curves and circles, luckily for you, we have a great tutorial on sewing smooth curves.
- 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 cording; you can try to follow along in the machine basting seam line.
- Trim away any excess piping tails.
- Turn the bolster right side out through the center opening in the tube. Press well.
- Insert the bolster pillow form through the opening. This is a large pillow, so you’ll need to work with and wiggle the form to get it into place.
- Thread a hand sewing needle with matching thread, and slip stitch the opening closed. Bolsters are traditionally meant to be decorative, and therefore, are usually simply spot-cleaned.
Piece the pillow front
- Find the five pieces that make up the pillow front and the two lengths of webbing. Following the diagram shown above for both placement and direction of motif, arrange the fabric pieces in a square.
- Place a length of webbing across each of the Ticking pieces – the shorter length on the bottom piece and the longer length on the top piece. On each piece, the webbing should sit ½” from the edge of the fabric. This keeps the webbing out of the seam. Pin the webbing in place.
NOTE: Our piecing instructions use our fabric’s names. If you are using a different fabric, see the diagram above to plot your piecing.
- Place the lower left Butterflight panel and the lower center Ticking panel right sides together. Align the inside 8½” sides. Pin in place along this side only.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance, catching one end of the webbing in the seam. Press the seam allowance towards the Butterflight piece.
- Place the sewn lower left unit right sides together with the upper left Timepieces piece, aligning the top of the lower unit with the bottom of the upper piece. Pin in place.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.You are stitching right along the webbing by NOT catching it; you want the seam to lay right along the top of the webbing. Press the seam allowance towards the Timepieces.
- Place the upper right Ticking piece right sides together with the lower right French Script piece aligning the top of the lower unit with the bottom of the upper piece. Pin in place.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance. As above, you are stitching right along the webbing by NOT catching it; you want the seam to lay right along the bottom of the webbing. Press the seam allowance towards the French Script.
- Place the sewn left and right units right sides together, aligning the center raw edges. Pin in place.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance. On the wrong side, clip into the seam allowance where the French Script is seamed to the Ticking. Press the upper portion of the seam toward the Timepieces. Press the lower portion of the seam toward the French Script. This keeps the center point nice and flat.
- Find the 21″ square of fusible fleece. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse it to the wrong side of the completed front panel. This creates a smooth surface for the pieced panel where it will rest against the pillow insert.
Pillow back and ties
- Find the four 1½” x 12½” strips.
- Fold each strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press to set a crease.
- Unfold so the center crease is visible.
- Fold in each end ¼”. Then, fold in each long raw edge to the middle so the two raw edges meet in the center. Press each side.
- Fold in half again along the original crease, encasing all the raw edges. Press and pin in place.
- Topstitch the length of the strip to secure.
- Repeat for the remaining three strips, then set the four finished ties aside.
- Find the two back fabric panels and the two matching interfacing panels.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of its respective fabric piece.
- The direction of the Ticking stripes run vertically on the under layer and horizontally on the over layer.
- On both, make a ½” double turn hem along the inside 21″ edge. To do this, fold under the raw edge ½” and press. Fold under an additional ½” and press again.
- Edgestitch along the inside folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.
- Place the under layer right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the over layer on top, also right side up. With the top and bottom raw edges aligned, overlap the hems to yield the correct finished width of 21″.
- Working as close to the raw edges as possible, tack the overlap together at the top and bottom to secure and create one piece. It will be easier to work with one piece instead of two when you stitch front to back.
- Find the four finished ties.
- Place one set of ties 5″ down from the top raw edge. The second set of ties is 5″ up from the bottom raw edge. Pin in place as shown in the photo below (remember, you can click on all our in-step photos to see a larger view).
NOTE: We turned under the ends of our ties ¼” prior to stitching in place, knowing our Janome machine would have no trouble with the thicker layers. If you are worried about the layers, because both ends of the tie are finished, you can stitch in place without the fold.
- For each set, with the ties pinned in place, practice tying a loose bow to insure you’re happy with the position of ties. You can adjust how the ends of the ties are pinned as needed.
- Stitch one end of each tie in place with a small box seam.
Assembling the layers
- Find the finished front and back panels.
- Carefully fold up and pin the ties on the back so they do not get caught in the stitching. It also helps to pin the envelope opening closed so it lays flat.
- Place your pieced front panel on your work surface right side facing up. Place your back/tie piece on top, right side facing down – in other words, right sides together.
- Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place.
- Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½” seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat. Remember to pivot at all the corners.
- Clip the corners diagonally. Be careful not to clip into your seam.
- Turn right side out through the back opening.
- Gently push out the corners from the inside using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
- Tie two neat bows on the back.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler