To ‘bolster' means to uphold or add support, as in, "They bolstered morale by serving large pieces of free cake to everyone." The etymology originates in the world of pillows (a very, cushy world), where a bolster is a long, narrow pillow, often used to support the back or neck. Our black, white, and linen version finishes at over 30" long and makes a dramatic statement across a bed or against the back of a couch.
The flanged ends are an interesting and intricate-looking detail, but our step-by-step instructions make them easy to create... and without a separate panel.
At several points in this project, you'll be sewing in a circle. If your machine has a free arm, this is a great time to use it.
We stuffed our pillow with quality polyester fiber fill. You could also use a bolster pillow form at approximately 30" x 8".
If you'd like to re-create our black and white palette, below are a few current collections that feature strong motifs, all of which could be beautifully paired with a natural linen. Click on any swatch for more information.
Featured along with this bolster in photo above and below are three additional pillows that made up our original black and white pillow series: Six Cornered Tassel Pillow, Eiffel Tower Pom Pillow, Pleated Lumbar Pillow, and Squares and Stripes Square Pillow.
The Double Flange Bolster finishes at approximately 30" wide x just under 26" in circumference and 8" in diameter.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: The solid fabric can be cut to make the best use of the ¾ yard of fabric: 10" high x 26¼" wide in two rows with each rectangle side-by-side with a 12½" square. The feature fabric cut is, as listed 26¼" high x 16" wide, which would require a ¾ yard cut, however, if you fabric's print is non-directional, you could certainly cut on the horizontal (16" high x 26¼" wide) and would need only a ½ yard cut.
- ½ - ¾ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton in a striking print for the center feature panel
- ¾ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton or lightweight linen in a coordinating solid for end panels and end caps
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Pressing ham; optional
- From the solid fabric, cut the following:
TWO 12½" x 12½" squares
NOTE: Make sure your original squares are even and true; they will be used to create circles.
TWO 10" x 26¼" rectangles
- From the feature printed fabric, but ONE 16" x 26¼" rectangle
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Creating the rounded ends
- Fold and press one 12½" x 12½" square in half and then in half again, creating intersecting crease marks.
- Lay the folded, pressed 6¼" square on your work surface so the center point is in the lower left corner of the square. Place a see-through ruler at the exact center of this lower left corner and swing the ruler from the top to the bottom of the square, like a pendulum, measuring and marking a dot at the 6" point in three to four spots. You are creating a semi-circle.
- Draw an arc to connect the marks. If you own a large compass, you could also use it to create your 6" arc.
- Cut along the drawn arc, then unfold to reveal your finished 12" circle.
NOTE: The original crease lines will be important in the construction process later, do NOT repress the circle after cutting.
- Repeat with the other 12½" square to create the other 12" circle.
NOTE: You can also review our handy tutorial on how to mark and measure a circle without a pattern.
- Pair one circle with one 10" x 26¼" rectangle. You will use these two pieces to create the ends of the bolster.
- Using a long straight stitch (a machine basting stitch), sew ½" around the raw edge of one of the circles. Because this is a basting stitch, do not back tack at the beginning or the end.
- Pull the bobbin thread to gather. Remember those creases you made when the circle was a square? Now is the time to use these to help you even out the gathers in each quadrant.
NOTE: If this is your first time gathering, check out our tutorial on Machine Gathering.
- Fold one 10" x 26¼" piece in half, right sides together, matching the short ends (the 10" ends). Pin. Stitch along the 10" side with a ½" seam allowance, creating a tube open on both ends.
- You need to create creases in this tube that will match up with the creases in the circle. 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. The seam line and the three creases can now match up with the quadrant folds on the gathered circles.
- Place one gathered circle inside the pressed tube, matching the tube's seam line with one of the pressed fold lines on the gathered circle. Pin in place. Now, match up and pin the remaining creases with one another.
- Adjust gathers as needed within each quadrant. Pin around entire circle.
NOTE: Be sure you are pinning your circle and tube piece so the gathered circle will be on the bottom. It's much easier to sew a gathered piece when the gathers are against the feed dogs of your sewing machine.
- You are now going to stitch in-the-round. This is unlike theater-in-the round, but is similar to how set-in sleeves are done. Place the pinned bolster end piece 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 the circle.
- Turn the bolster end right side out. It should look like this. Repeat to create the opposite bolster end with the remaining panel and circle.
NOTE: The steps here are pretty detailed, but if you are brand new to this technique, we have a full, step-by-step tutorial on How to Insert a Flat Circle Into a Tube.
Create the flange
- Push the circle end back in on itself, into the tube, to create a 1½" folded edge. Pin and then press in place.
- Take the pinned flange to your machine. Insert the inside of the end under the foot and position your needle to stitch in the ditch, which means you are stitching right along the previously sewn seam.
- Press the end again to smooth out the fabric. We recommend using a pressing ham if possible, which is a great tool anytime you're working with a curved surface.
- Repeat to create the opposite end's flange.
Putting it all together
- Fold the 16" x 26¼" center piece in half, right sides together, matching the short ends (the 16" ends) to create another tube. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, partially sew the seam. Stitch either end, leaving an approximate 9" opening in the center of the seam for turning. Press open the seam allowance.
- Insert the flanged end pieces into each end of the center tube, right sides together. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, sew around the ends.
NOTE: If your sewing machine has a free-arm, this is a great time to use it!
- Pull the ends out, keeping the bolster wrong side out for now. Press the seam allowances toward the center.
NOTE: Consider finishing the seams allowances if working with a fabric that has a particular tendency to ravel.
- Turn the bolster right side out through the 9" opening in the center fabric's seam.
- Here's where that free-arm comes in handy again. Slide the bolster onto the sewing machine, through that 9" opening in the seam.
- Position the bolster under the foot so you can topstitch about ⅜" from the center seams within the coordinating fabric. We used matching thread, but you could also use a contrasting thread for a more dramatic effect.
- Repeat the same top stitching on the other side.
- Stuff generously with quality polyester fiber fill or insert a pre-made bolster pillow form.
- Slip stitch the 9" opening closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation & Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly