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Pillow Trio in Two Bold Shapes: Rectangular Bolster and Classic Round

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What makes a great pillowscape? Gorgeous fabric, an interesting shape or two, and a few special bits of embellishment are good places to start. We combined all these attributes to create a fabulous 50" bolster with two matching round pillows. Make one or create the entire trio to pump up the pillow power on your sofa or bed. 

Wait a minute… aren’t “bolsters” supposed to be round?! Yes, that is the traditional shape to be sure, but we’ve stretched the definition to include this long rectangle because it functions in much the same way as a bolster: a low, horizontal pillow that acts as back support or as the base of a pile of pillows. For this fabric combination, we like the more relaxed look of the rectangle over the taut and structured construction of a cylindrical bolster.

Covered buttons, five across both the front and back of the bolster and center buttons on each of the rounds, are gently tufted to soften the surface, but without compromising the overall comfort of the pillows. They are still very pleasant to rest against whether across a bed or the back of a sofa.

On a sofa, this type of pillow is a nice alternative to standard square decorator pillows, which are normally clustered at either end and take up quite a bit of seating. A center bolster adds a terrific splash of color and design while leaving more room for sitting. It’s like a pillow billboard. Home décor prints, with their bold, colorful motifs, are an especially lovely choice.

The round pillows are stuffed with a purchased round insert, but for the bolster, we show you how to create your own insert with muslin and polyester fiber fill.

We also show you how to create custom piping so it will coordinate perfectly with your feature fabric. The yardage amounts shown below are figured for cutting on the bias – both for the bolster and the rounds. Even through the bolster is mostly a straight edge, if there is any curve around around which you’ll be wrapping piping, it’s always best to cut on the bias. Find out more by reviewing both our Piping tutorial as well as our Continuous Bias Binding tutorial.

Pillows are the fastest, easiest way to freshen a room’s décor. You can make this entire set in a single afternoon.

Our bolster pillow finishes at approximately 50" x 16" excluding the perimeter piping. The round pillows are approximately 16” in diameter, also excluding the perimeter piping.

Sewing Tools You Need

THE BOLSTER

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1¾* yards of 45"+ wide décor-weight or light canvas for the front and back panels: we used Cadence in Blush a 45” Home Essentials Lightweight Décor Fabric from Joann Fabric
    NOTE: Our recommended yardage includes a bit extra to allow for fussy cutting with an extra large motif. At the narrower 45” width (what we used) the full *1¾ yards is recommended, cutting the panels vertically. If you use a fabric that is 52”+ (often standard with home décor options), you can get by with a single yard, cutting horizontally.
  • 1* yard of 52"+ wide muslin for the pillow insert cover; we used a standard 90” muslin
    NOTE: Muslin comes in a variety of widths, including very wide widths. *The final width you select will determine how much yardage you need for the two 51" x 17" cuts.
  • ¾ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton or similar for the piping; we used Kona Cotton in Taragon
  • 4 yards of ” piping cord
  • Approximately 48 ounces of premium polyester fiber fill
  • TEN 1½" covered button kits; we used and recommend Dritz 1½" Cover Button Kits, which come two to a kit; we used FIVE KITS
  • Scraps of standard batting for the covered buttons (creates a smooth, soft finish for the top of the buttons); optional
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Heavyweight thread to stitch covered buttons in place
  • 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
  • Long, strong hand sewing needle for attaching the covered buttons

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the pillow's front and back, fussy cut TWO 51” x 17” rectangles.
    NOTE: As mentioned above, depending on your fabric width and motif, you can cut these panels vertically or horizontally.
  2. Use a bowl or similar to round the corners of both panels.
  3. Cut along the drawn line.
  4. Repeat to create a matching curve at each corner.
  5. From the muslin, cut TWO 51" x 17" rectangles. Use the same bowl (or similar) as above to round all four corners of both panels.
  6. From the piping fabric, cut enough 2½“ strips on the bias to create the necessary finished length of approximately 140”.
    NOTE: If you are new to cutting bias strips check out our Piping tutorial as well as our Continuous Bias Binding tutorial.
  7. Set aside the excess piping fabric. It will be used later to create the covered buttons. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the piping and baste in place

  1. Sew together all the 2½" strips end to end. To do this, place two strips right sides together and stitch along the 2½" edge, using a ½" seam allowance. Repeat as necessary to create one long strip of about 140".
  2. Cut a matching length of piping cord.
  3. Wrap the bias strip around the piping cord, right side out. Aligning the raw edges, pin in place.
  4. Thread the machine with thread to best match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin. Machine baste the fabric around the cord, running the seam close to the cord. A Zipper foot works well for this step.
  5. Find the exact center along the bottom edge of the front pillow panel. Mark this point with a pin. Leaving about 2" free at the head, begin pinning the piping to the right side of the front pillow panel at this marked point. The raw edges of the piping flange/lip should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric. Lightly pin in place.
  6. Continue around the entire perimeter of the panel. You may need to clip into the raw edges of the piping around the curved corners to keep a smooth line. Leave a matching 2” free at the tail end.
  7. Still using a basting stitch length, baste the piping in place about ¼ - ½" from the raw edge – just to the outside of the original seam line that created the piping flange/lip. You can use your standard presser foot with the needle moved all the way to the left (our choice) or a Zipper foot for this step.
  8. When you get back around to the beginning, overlap those free ends. Pull back the fabric, ripping out the basting stitches as needed, and cut the cording only, not the fabric, so the tail of the cording is even with the head of the cording.
  9. Pull the fabric portion of the tail back into place and fold under the raw edge about ½" to create a clean edge. Trim away any excess fabric as necessary.
  10. Wrap the folded fabric of the tail around the head, enclosing the matched ends of the cording. Pin in place. 
  11. Finish basting the piping in place, matching this final portion of the seam with the already sewn seam. 
    NOTE: If you are new to working with piping, we have a full Piping tutorial you can review prior to starting the project.

Mark for buttons and stitch front to back

  1. With the piping in place, mark both the front and back panels for the covered buttons.
  2. First find the center line, which should be 8½" from the top and bottom raw edge. Then intersect this line with the first button point, which is 5½" in from the right raw edge.
  3. From this first button point, measure 10" to the left four times to create the additional four evenly spaced button markings. The drawing below shows you the overall measurements on the finished pillow.
  4. Place the front and back layers right sides together, aligning all the raw edges and sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin together. Leave an approximate 10-12" opening along the center bottom edge.
  5. Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance. If necessary, re-thread with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bottom. Re-set for a normal stitch length. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat – especially around the curved corners. We switched back to a Zipper foot for this step.
  6. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 10-12" opening.
  7. Turn right side out through the opening. Pull out the piping all around. If needed, gently pick out any visible basting stitches with your seam ripper. Press flat.
  8. Press in the raw edge of the opening so it is flush with the sewn seam.
  9. Set the pillow cover aside.

Create the muslin pillow insert

  1. Find the two large muslin panels. Their corners should all be rounded.
  2. Place the panels right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Pin together, leaving an approximate 10-12" opening along the center bottom edge.
  3. Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance.
  4. Turn right side out and press open the seam allowance all around.
  5. Press the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  6. Turn the insert cover right side out through the opening. Press flat once more.
  7. Fill the cover with the soft polyester fiber fill. Fluff up small handfulls and work from the corners in toward the middle. Don't overfill, you want a softer, "shabby chic" shape to the bolster but it should still be firm enough to sit up straight against the back of the sofa or bed headboard. Leave about 12 ounces un-stuffed.
  8. 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 filler 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

  1. Slip the insert into 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.
  2. Add the balance of the fiber fill, fluffing to get your very best look.
  3. Pin the opening closed.
  4. Thread a standard hand sewing needle with thread to match the muslin and whip stitch closed the insert's opening.
  5. Pin the exterior opening closed, being careful to keep the edge of the opening exactly in line with the sewn seam.
  6. If necessary, re-thread the standard hand sewing needle with thread to best match the fabric. Hand stitch the opening closed with a tiny ladder stitch.
  7. Using the pattern included with the covered button kit, cut out ten circles from the leftover piping fabric. We also like to add a small circle of batting for a smoother finish to the top of the covered buttons.
  8. Create the ten covered buttons. If you are new to covered buttons, we have a full tutorial on making them with a kit as well as stitching them into place with a standard tuft.
  9. Thread the long, strong needle with the heavy thread. Using the button markings you made above on both the front and back panels, stitch through from front to back with just the thread to lock your stitches. Continue stitching to cinch togther the panels to your desired indentation.
  10. Slip the needle through the shank of the first covered button.
  11. Sew each covered button in place. Stitch and secure the front button and then stitch and secure the matching back button; don't try to stitch them both on at once. If you're having challenges, try a curved sewing needle .

THE ROUNDS

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: Amounts shown are for ONE round pillow.

  • ½ yard of 44"+ wide fabric for the front and back round panels: we used both Cadence in Blush a 45” Home Essentials Lightweight Décor Fabric from Joann Fabric and Kona Cotton in Taragon
  • ½ yard of 44"+ quilting weight cotton or similar for the piping; we used Kona Cotton in Taragon for both pillows
    NOTE: You need an approximate 15” x 15” square from which to cut enough bias strips for the perimeter of the pillow. If you have 50”+ wide fabric, you may be able to cut both the round panels as well as the piping square from one half yard cut. If using narrower width fabric and contrasting piping, you’ll need a half yard of both the main fabric and the piping fabric.
  • ½ yard of 44"+ wide low loft batting for the front and back round panels – we’ll also use scraps of this batting for the covered buttons (creates a smooth, soft finish for the top of the buttons - this button batting is optional) 
  • 1 yards of ” piping cord
  • ONE 16” round pillow insert
  • TWO 1½" covered button kits; we used and recommend Dritz 1½" Cover Button Kits, which come two to a kit; we used ONE KIT
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Heavyweight thread to stitch covered buttons in place
  • See-through ruler
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Standard hand sewing needle
  • Long, strong hand sewing needle for attaching the covered buttons

Getting Started and Pattern Download

  1. DOWNLOAD PATTERN: Download and print out FOUR copies of our TWO pattern sheets: 16” Pillow Part A and 16” Pillow Part B, which have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier. 
    IMPORTANT: Each page in the PDF 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 on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line. Butt together (do not overlap) each pair along the solid center lines, aligning the printed notches. Tape together each to create ONE full quarter section. Repeat with the remaining pairs of pattern pieces so you end up with four quarter sections.
  3. Using the printed double arrows as your guide, assemble the four quarter sections to create the full circle pattern. As shown in the photo below, you’ll flip over two of the sections to make it all come together correctly.
  4. From the fabric for the pillow's front and back, pin the fabric in place, taking the time to nicely center a motif.
  5. Cut TWO panels
  6. Use the same pattern to cut TWO panels from the batting.
  7. From the piping fabric, cut enough 2½“ strips on the bias to create the necessary finished length of approximately 57”.
    NOTE: If you are new to cutting bias strips check out our Piping tutorial as well as our Continuous Bias Binding tutorial.
  8. Set aside the excess piping fabric. It will be used later to create the covered buttons. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the piping and baste in place

  1. The piping is created in the same manner as above for the bolster. Your working length should be approximately 57”
  2. Place the top pillow panel right side up on one of the round batting panels. The raw edges of both layers should be flush.
  3. Pin the piping around the perimeter through both layers, then machine baste the piping in place. We used a Zipper foot.
  4. Cut and butt together the ends as you did above to finish.
  5. You want the piping to lay as smooth and flat as possible when finished. Remember that Piping Tutorial we’ve mentioned above, it also shows you steps for clipping to smooth your curves.

Layer front to back and add the buttons to finish

  1. Layer the bottom pillow panel with the remaining round batting panel. You can work with these as two separate panels or machine baste them together and handle them as one.
  2. Place the top and bottom panels right sides together, sandwiching the piping between the layers.
  3. Pin through all the layers around the perimeter of the pillow, leaving an approximate 5” - 6” opening to insert the pillow form.
  4. Using an approximate ½” seam allowance, stitch around the perimeter of the pillow. We say “approximate” because you can actually follow along in your original basting seam that attached the piping to the pillow – this may be slightly narrower than a full ½” seam allowance. The goal is to keep the seam allowance even and close to the cording. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 5” - 6” opening.
  5. Turn the pillow cover right side out through the opening. Take another look to make sure your piping is as smooth as possible around the edge of the cover. If the look is not up to par, turn the cover wrong side out again and further clip the curve and/or grade the seam allowance.
  6. Turn the pillow cover right side out again and insert the pillow form into the cover through the opening.
  7. Pin the opening closed, being careful to keep the edge of the opening exactly in line with the sewn seam.
  8. Thread the standard hand sewing needle with thread to best match the fabric. Hand stitch the opening closed with a tiny ladder stitch.
  9. Create the two covered buttons as you did above for the bolster, using the kit’s package instructions or our own full tutorial.
  10. Find the exact center of the pillow.
  11. Stitch the two buttons in places – first one and then the other.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas    
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (2)

Momo said:
Momo's picture

Slam dunk perfect idea!  It ends our dislike of too many pillows on the bed, allows me to add a punch of color to my bland expanse of white on a king size bed, and provide a bit of elegance or fun, depending on what I choose to make.  There will be more than one for different seasons.  I truly love this.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Momo - Thanks so much. And, love the idea of more than one set for different seasons.