Great fabric, an interesting shape, and a few special bits of embellishment. We combined all three to create a fabulous 50" soft bolster pillow. Bolsters are usually round, but the Home Décor Rule Book allows you to vary both shape and size. Of course, there's not really a rule book, but if there was, you know we'd find a way to bend a few guidelines in order to stay unique and trendy!
The striking motif on the fabric we chose (a cut we got a couple years ago at Hancock Fabrics) dictated the need to go large and bold with our bolster, which finishes at 50" x 16". This long, rectangular shape provides a billboard-like format that showcases the design. As an echo to the heavy black lines in the motif, we added a perimeter ruffle and covered buttons - both in a rich black cotton sateen. The ruffle is extra dense, allowing it to stand up nicely all around the edge.
Although the featured fabric is no longer available, we searched for some new options that had similar dramatic looks. We recommend a heavier home décor fabric or even a lightweight printed canvas for this pillow. Below are a few of our favorites from Fabric.com. Above each swatch is a color that would look good with it for the accent ruffle and covered buttons. Click the fabric swatch to see more information.
We felt the look of the fabric lent itself to a "shabby chic" feel, which was another reason we went with the more relaxed look of a rectangle over the taut and structured construction of a round bolster.
A secret to our cushy feel is the bamboo blend fiber fill we selected. It's more silky than traditional polyester fillers, resulting in a velvety finish. It's a bit messier to work with, but nothing a lint roller can't take care of. We made our own insert, using this filler inside a simple muslin cover.
The covered buttons, five across both the front and back, are gently tufted to soften the surface, but without compromising the overall comfort of the pillow. It's still very pleasant to rest against whether across a bed, the back of a sofa or even along a narrow bench.
On a sofa, this type of pillow is a nice alternative to standard square decorator pillows, which are normally clustered at either end and can take up quite a bit of seating. Our center bolster adds a terrific splash of color and design while leaving more room for sitting.
The bolster finishes at approximately 50" x 16" excluding the ruffle, which is 1" deep all around.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Ruffler attachment; optional, but it makes the ruffling so much faster and easier! Check out our tutorial on this accessory.
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 54"+ wide décor-weight or light canvas for the front and back of the pillow
NOTE: Our recommended yardage includes extra to allow for fussy cutting with an extra large motif. You can get by with a single yard.
- 1 yard of 52"+ wide muslin for the pillow insert cover
NOTE: Muslin comes in a variety of widths, including very wide widths. The muslin we used was 108" wide, which meant we needed just ½ yard for our two 51" x 17" cuts.
- 1 yard of 45"+ cotton sateen or similar for the ruffle
- Approximately 48 ounces of premium fiber filler (we used FOUR 12 oz bags); we used and recommend Fairfield's Nature-Fil Blended Bamboo Fiber Fill
NOTE: As mentioned above, this pillow is designed to be "softly shabby chic" – the bamboo batting helps achieve the correct feel.
- TEN 1½" covered button kits; we used and recommend Dritz 1½" Cover Button Kits, which come two to a kit; we used FIVE KITS
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Heavy thread for tufting and sewing on covered buttons
- See-through ruler
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Measuring tape
- Iron and ironing board
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Standard hand sewing needle
- Extra-long hand sewing needle for tufting, optional but helpful with the thickness of the bolster
- From the fabric for the pillow's front and back, fussy cut TWO 51" wide x 17" high rectangles.
- Using our fabric as a fussy cutting example, our steps were as follows. We chose the white bird-in-a-frame motif as our main centered image. We measured 2" above the point of the frame and marked that point with a fabric pen.
- From this first marked point, we then measured 17" down and placed a second mark. This gave us our top and bottom cut points.
- To make it easier to cut with one slice of a rotary cutter, fold up the width of the fabric, aligning the marked points.
- Using a clear ruler and rotary cutter for the most precision, make the top and bottom cuts along your marked points. This will yield a 17" x width of fabric (WOF) rectangle.
- Trim this WOF down to 51", centering the motif side to side.
- Repeat to mark and cut a second matching panel.
NOTE: If you are new to fussy cutting, take a look at our full Fussy Cutting Tutorial as well as our tutorial on Rotary Cutting of Large Panels.
- Use a bowl or similar to round all four corners of both panels.
- Cut along the drawn line.
- Cut carefully to insure all the corner curves are the same.
- From the muslin, cut TWO 51" x 17" rectangles. As above, use the same bowl (or similar) to round all four corners of both panels.
- From the sateen or similar, cut NINE 3" x WOF strips.
- Set aside the excess sateen. It will be used to create the covered buttons below.
NOTE: The general rule of thumb says your ruffle should be approximately 2½ times the length of the edge to which you're applying the ruffle; we wanted a very dense ruffle and so actually opted for 2¾ times the length of the perimeter of this pillow. We have more information in our tutorial about Gathering by Machine.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the ruffle and baste in place
- Sew all nine 3" strips together end to end. To do this, place two strips right sides together and stitch along the 3" edge, using a ½" seam allowance. Repeat to create one long strip of about 400".
- Trim back each seam allowance to ¼" and press open.
- Fold and press this long ruffle piece in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, so it is now 1½".
- Gather the entire length of the ruffle to the approximate length of the four sides of the pillow, plus about 4" for an overlap (approximately 140" in our sample).
- We set our ruffler attachment on ONE ruffle per stitch with a depth of about 5-6. Remember to leave some extra length (about 4") for overlapping to finish the ends. No need to have an exact measurement, just give yourself plenty to work with. As with all techniques, it's always good to have extra so you can test your settings to insure you are getting the look you want.
NOTE: This is a LOT o' ruffling. We opted to use the Janome Ruffler attachment. These puppies look intimidating but are easy to use. Take a look at our online tutorial or check out Janome's video tutorial. The Janome Ruffler works on the majority of machines that accept snap-on presser feet.
- When done, make a narrow hem on one end of the ruffle. To do this, turn one end under ¼" and press, turn under again ¼" and press again.
- Re-attach a standard presser foot and stitch close to the folded edge to secure.
- Find the exact center along the bottom edge of the front pillow panel. Mark this point with a pin.
- Starting with the hemmed end of the ruffle at this marked bottom center point, and with the folded edge of ruffle facing up, pin the ruffle to the right side of the front fabric. Align the raw edges of the ruffle with the raw edge of the fabric. The hem is facing wrong side up.
- Continue pinning around the entire perimeter of the panel.
- You may need to adjust your gathers slightly to fit, especially around the curved corners, but be careful not to pull too hard or you might break the stitching and have to re-ruffle... not fun.
- When you get back around to the beginning, overlap the head of the ruffle by about 2".
- Cut off any excess, un-pin the ruffle, then hem this end in the same manner as you hemmed the head of the ruffle.
- As above, stitch this narrow hem in place.
- After hemming, pin the ruffle back onto the front of the pillow, overlapping the two finished ends so they lay flat against the main panel. Pin securely.
NOTE: Make sure the right side of the ruffle is against the right side of the pillow. The only way to tell is by the hems, both finished sides of the hems should be against the right side of the pillow. So, you're looking at the turned under side (the back side) of the hems when you are pinning the ruffle in place.
- Machine baste the ruffle in place around all four sides, using a ⅜" or smaller seam allowance. Go slowly; you don't want to disturb your pretty ruffles.
Mark for buttons and stitch front to back
- With the ruffle in place, mark both the front and back panels for the covered buttons.
- First find the center line, which is 8½" from the top and bottom raw edges. Then intersect this line with the first button point, which is 5½" in from the right raw edge.
- From this first button point, measure 10" to the left four times to create the four additional evenly-spaced button markings. The drawing below shows you the overall finished measurements.
- Place the front and back layers right sides together, aligning all the raw edges and sandwiching the ruffle between the layers. Pin together.
- Leave an approximate 10-12" opening along the center bottom edge.
- Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat. We like to stitch with the back panel on top and the front/ruffle panel against the feed dogs. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 10-12" opening.
- Turn right side out through the opening. Pull out the ruffle all around. If needed, pick out any stray basting stitches with your seam ripper. Press flat.
- Press in the raw edge of the opening so it is flush with the sewn seam.
- Set the pillow cover aside.
Create the muslin pillow insert
- Find the two large muslin panels. Their corners should all be rounded.
- Place the panels right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Pin together, leaving an approximate 10-12" opening along the center bottom edge.
- Stitch together around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Turn right side out and press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Fill the cover with the soft fiber filler. Fluff up small handfulls and work from the corners in toward the middle. Don't overfill, you want a soft, "shabby chic" shape to the pillow. Leave about 12 ounces un-stuffed (about one bag) at the center.
- When you're stuffing, you need to pay attention to the outside as you go. It's from the outside that you can really see any lumps or indents forming. Keep in mind, sometimes the solution is to add a bit more filling to the immediate area. Other times, you might need to remove some filling and "work it" some more to remove a stubborn clump. Take the time now, because you won’t be able to fix it later.
NOTE: See our full tutorial for more pillow stuffing techniques.
Final stuffing, hand stitching, and covered buttons
- Pin the opening closed on the pillow insert and slip it into the main exterior pillow cover. Fluff the insert into the corners of the exterior cover. The opening of the insert and exterior should align.
- Unpin the opening of the insert and add the 12 ounces of the fiber fill to get your very best look.
- Re-pin the opening. Thread a hand sewing needle and stitch closed the insert's opening.
- Pin the exterior opening closed, being careful to keep the edge of the opening exactly in line with the sewn seam.
- A lint roller will easily take care of the fibers from the filler that are likely to escape onto the exterior cover during the final stuffing.
- Re-thread the hand sewing needle with thread to match the ruffle. Hand stitch the opening closed, hiding your stitching within the ruffles.
- Using the pattern included with the covered button kit, cut out ten circles from the leftover sateen fabric.
- Create the ten covered buttons.
- If you are new to making covered buttons, we have a full tutorial.
- Re-thread an extra-long needle with heavy thread, and using the button markings you made above on both the front and back panels, stitch through from front to back to lock your thread.
- Continue stitching to cinch to your desired indentation. Then hand sew each covered button in place.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand