Here at S4H, we believe one of the best ways to be happier is to surround yourself with home décor that makes you smile. Why are you smiling? Because you made it yourself! This colorful mini bolster is a great start to your happiness project. It looks quite fancy with its ruched center panel, piping accents, and pony tail ends, but it's easier than you might think... and easy makes us all happy!
The center ruched accent (a panel with gathering along both sides is considered ruched) gives the bolster a unique dimensional embellishment and goes nicely with the gathered pony tail ends.
This pretty round pillow was originally done it a colorful floral that completely lived up to the collection’s name: Happy Land by Jennifer Paganelli for FreeSpirit Fabric. We had so much fun with the original, we created a second pair, switching the palette to a deep navy, wedgwood blue, and cream with gold metallic accents to give the new version a sleek and elegant styling.
Our second set of fabrics is from the Charleston collection by Revive for Timeless Treasures, a 2015 collection from our S4H stash. Both fabric collections are no longer readily available, however, rather than worrying too much about the particular fabric we used, focus instead on how a new combination can create a whole new look.
We do recommend making your own piping rather than using packaged. The pillow's design really needs the bolder dimension of the thicker ¼" piping cord. And, of course, making it yourself allows you to choose a perfect fabric – to match or contrast. We used the same accent piping on our pair of pillows to tie them together as a coordinated set.
Our original bolster was 14" x 6", but as you'll see below, we also give you options for two additional sizes (the two sizes we used for our second set): 14" x 5" and 16" x 6". The deep 9" ponytail ends are the same for all three sizes.
Two bolster pillow forms in slightly different sizes makes an interesting pair when displayed on a couch or chair. You could also make just one to add a bit of variety to a standard pile of square and rectangle pillows.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: These supplies are for our original 14" x 6" bolster. The two additional bolster sizes are listed below.
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the main body of the pillow
- ⅓ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the piping
NOTE: To get the proper curve, you really need to work with bias cut strips for the piping fabric, which do require more yardage, however, the finished smooth look is worth it. If you are new to the technique, see our Bias Binding tutorial for more information about figuring yardage, cutting, and making bias binding.
- 1¼ yards of ¼" piping cord
- ½ yard of low loft batting
- One 14" x 6" bolster pillow insert
NOTE: If you cannot find an appropriate size bolster pillow insert, you can make your own with lightweight muslin and polyester fiberfill
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- 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
- From the fabric for the main body of the pillow, cut the following:
ONE 5" x 40" rectangle for the main center panel
TWO 6" x 20 rectangles for the main side panels
TWO 20" x 12" rectangles for the ponytail ends
TWO 20" x 1½" strips for the ponytail ties
- From the fabric for the piping, cut enough 1½" strips on the bias to yield TWO 21" strips.
- Cut the piping cord into two 21" lengths.
NOTE: As mentioned above if you are new to bias cuts and binding (it's the same technique for the strips to wrap piping cord), see our tutorial.
- From the batting, cut ONE 14" x 19" rectangle.
- In addition to the cuts shown above, below are cut guidelines for two additional common bolster sizes (click the image to see a larger version).
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Main body of the pillow
- Find the 5" x 40" center panel.
- Use your favorite method to gather both 40" sides of the fabric panel, reducing the panel to 20". We used the corded zig zag method.
- Adjust the gathers as needed so they are evenly spaced along the entire panel.
NOTE: If you are new to gathering, check out our How to Make Gathers by Machine tutorial, which shows the zig zag method as well as two additional options.
- Find the two 6" x 20" side panels.
- Place one side panel right sides together with each 20" gathered side of the center panel. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch each flat side panel to either side of the gathered main panel.
- Press the seam allowances toward the flat side panels.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch and topstitch along each seam within the side panel. Your stitching line should be approximately ⅛" from the seam. Be careful to keep the spacing consistent along both sides.
- Find the batting. Place it flat on your work surface.
- Center the main body of the pillow right side up on top of the batting. If necessary, trim the batting so it is flush with the sewn main panel. Lightly pin the two layers together. This layer of batting will make the center of the pillow look nice and smooth when done.
- Find the bias cut strips and the piping cord.
- If you did not cut full-length strips, stitch your multiple strips together end-to-end, with ¼" seam allowances, to yield two 21" strips. Press all seam allowances open and flat.
- Place the two finished 21" strips wrong side up on your work surface.
- Place a length of cording down the center of each strip.
- Wrap the strip around the cording, right side out, aligning the long raw edges of the strip.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Stitch the length of the strip, staying as close to the cording as the foot will allow. If possible on your machine, you can move your needle position to the left to snug up your seamline even closer.
NOTE: If you are new to piping, check out our step-by-step tutorial
Adding the ponytails
- Place the main panel (with the batting pinned to it) right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Center a length of piping along each 20" raw edge of the main panel. On each side, the raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric panel. The ends of the piping will extend beyond the panel a bit.
- Pin the piping in place. Hand or machine baste each piping strip in place. If machine-basting, continue to use your Zipper foot.
- Find the two 20" x 12" ponytail panels. Place one right sides together along each 20" raw edge of the panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place through all the layers.
- Still using the Zipper foot, stitch the ponytail panels in place through all the layers. As above, stay as close to the piping as the foot will allow. If you machine-basted your piping in place, you can follow along in this basting seam.
- Press the ponytail panels away from the center panel, revealing the piping.
- Fold the entire piece lengthwise, right sides together, aligning the long raw edges. Pin in place. Be especially careful to make sure the ends of the piping line up.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch in place.
- Trim away any excess piping.
- You now have one long tube. Turn this tube right side out. Roll the tube so the seam you just made is at the center back. Press flat.
Finish the ends and make the ponytail ties
- Make a deep hem on each ponytail end. To do this, fold in the raw edge of each ponytail panel ½" and press.
- Fold an additional 4" and press again.
- Stitch the hem in place. If your machine has a free arm, now is a good time to use it.
NOTE: If you are new to hemming, we have a Simple Hem tutorial.
- Slip the pillow insert inside the tube. Center it side to side; it should flush with the piping line on each end.
- Find the two 20" x 1½" ponytail tie strips.
- For each strip, fold back and press each end ¼".
- Fold in each 20" raw edge ¼" and press.
- Fold the entire strip in half lengthwise, aligning all the folded edges.
- Lightly pin in place.
- Edgestitch across both ends and along the folded edge to create your finished skinny tie.
- Gather each end like the ponytail it's named for, wrap it with a tie, and make a pretty bow.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Aimee McGaffey