The bolster is one of our favorite shaped pillows, especially the classic style with closed, button-tufted ends. As much as we love the look, we’ve also heard from many followers that they shy away from attempting this type of bolster because of the mystery of how it all comes together. “There’s no opening! Are those buttons attached by magic?!” Nope. No magic, just clever upholstery notions. Read on to see how we used a set of Dritz extra long Upholstery Needles, heavy Waxed Thread, and Cover Button Kits make it easy. And there’s “nothing up our sleeves” – we promise!
We’re going to take just a minute to pull out our soapbox and step right up on it to talk about our number one rule for getting the most professional look on your finished projects. Use the right products and tools for the job. When you use products and tools that have been designed for a specific purpose, the installation is easier and the result is superior. That is exactly what is happening with this project. By using the Dritz Upholstery Tools, putting together a bolster is faster and the finish is better.
The extra long needle allows you to drive through the center of the pillow form while keeping a straight trajectory. The waxed thread is tough enough to withstand the increased pulling and tension needed to create and maintain the tuft. The Cover Button Kits allow you to create a perfectly matched set of button accents.
Speaking of accents, we chose a beautiful cotton velveteen in deep purple for our piping and button fabric. The thickness and rich texture of the velveteen is a lovely compliment to the smooth quilting cotton used on the rest of the pillow. And, by keeping the accent fabric and color consistent, it pulls together the different fabric used on our pillow pair into more of a matched set.
Bolsters are traditionally meant to be decorative and, therefore, are usually just spot-cleaned.
Our bolsters each finish at approximately 6″ in diameter x 16″ in width.
If you like this bolster pillow, you may also like our Folklore Bolster with Ribbon Trim. The tufting is done in the same manner with the same Dritz® upholstery notions.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies shown are for ONE bolster pillow; the recommended exterior fabric yardage includes extra to allow for fussy cutting.
- TWO 1½” Dritz® Cover Button Kits; you need one package, which contains two button kits
- ONE set of Dritz® Upholstery Needles; you’ll use the 12” needle
- ONE spool of Dritz® Waxed Thread
- ⅔ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the exterior panel and end caps; we originally used Wingspan in Dark Blue and Femme Metale in Off White both from the Floralia Fusion collection by Art Gallery Fabrics
- ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide velveteen for the piping and covered buttons; we originally used Lush Velveteen in Aubergine by Robert Kaufman Fabrics for both bolsters
- ½ yard of 20″+ wide fusible batting; we used Pellon 987F one-sided fusible fleece
- ONE 6″ x 16″ bolster pillow insert
- 1½ yards of ¼” piping cord
- 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
- Small hammer to set the button covers
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print out the Bolster End Pattern Piece.
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 on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out the pattern along the solid line.
- From the exterior fabric, fussy cut the following:
ONE 17” wide x 20″ high rectangle for the main center panel
Use the pattern to fussy cut TWO end circles
- From the piping fabric, cut enough 1¾“ bias strips to equal two 19″ lengths. As always, the fewer the cuts, the better the finish.
NOTE: If you are new to cutting on the bias for piping, we have a great tutorial: How to Make and Attach Piping for Pillows & More.
- From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
ONE 16″ x 19″ rectangle
Trim the Bolster End pattern along the dotted seam allowance line, then use this trimmed pattern to cut TWO
- From the piping cord, cut TWO 19″ lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Fuse the fleece in place
- Find the exterior panel and the end panels in both fabric and fleece.
- Place a fleece panel on the wrong side of each fabric panel. Center the fleece so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
Create and place the piping
- Find the piping cord and the bias strips. You should have two 19″ lengths of fabric and two 19″ lengths of cord. If necessary, now is the time to stitch together shorter bias strips to create your full 19″ lengths. As mentioned above, if you are new to working with bias cuts for piping, we have a full step-by-step tutorial.
- Thread the machine with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Wrap one length of fabric around one length of piping cord. Align the raw edges of the fabric and pin in place. The fabric is wrong sides together, right side out.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Secure the fabric in place around the cording with a basting stitch, running your seam as close to the cording as possible. Go slowly; it’s important the raw edges of the fabric stay even with one another.
- Find the two end panels. Place one right side up on your work surface.
- Place a length of piping around the perimeter of the circle, aligning the raw edges of the piping with the raw edge of the fabric. Pin in place.
- The ends of the piping should overlap about 1”.
- Still using the Zipper foot, machine baste the piping in place, leaving the overlapped ends loose.
- Remove the end panel from the machine, and with a seam ripper, open up the piping fabric on the tail end. Pull back the fabric to expose the cording inside.
- Cut the cording only, not the fabric, so the tail of the cording is even with the head of the cording.
- The head of the cording should be trimmed flush.
- Pull the fabric portion of the tail back into place and fold under its raw edge ½” to create a clean finish.
- Wrap the folded fabric of the tail around the head, enclosing the matched ends of the cording. Pin in place.
- Finish basting the piping in place, matching this final portion of the seam with the already sewn seam.
NOTE: As mentioned above, if you’re new to piping, check out our tutorial for general tips on making, joining and finishing.
- Repeat to create and attach the remaining length of piping to the remaining end panel.
Create the main center tube
- Fold the main exterior panel, which should have the fleece fused in place, in half, aligning the 17″ sides. Pin in place; leave the ends open.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length from basting to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the seam to form a tube, leaving an 8″ opening at the center to insert the pillow form.
- Remember to lock your seam at either side of the opening.
Insert the end panels
- Find the two end circles, both of which should have their piping accents basted in place.
- 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 or a fabric pencil. It’s like the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 points on a clock face.
- To create marks on the bolster tube that will line up with the pin marks on each end panel, 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. If pressing seems to complicated, you could also simply pinch the fabric to set a mark and then add a pin. The seam line and the three pin marks should now match the quadrant pins on the end panels.
- Set one end panel inside each end of the bolster tube, right sides together. Line up those helpful quadrant marks you made. This is similar to how set-in sleeves are sewn. Pin in place around the entire circle.
- 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.
- Using a ½” seam allowance and your Zipper foot, 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 piping.
- Repeat to stitch the opposite end panel in place.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our full tutorial: Learn How to Insert a Flat Circle Into a Tube
Make the covered buttons
- Turn the bolster cover right side out through the center opening in the tube.
- Insert the bolster pillow form into the cover.
- Cut two circles from the leftover piping fabric and make the two covered buttons. The Dritz Button Kits come with a circle template. With velveteen you will need to trace your circle on the back of the fabric.
- Place one button mold open-side-up on your work surface.
- Center one fabric circle over the mold, wrong side up.
- Center the Dritz Kit button shell on the fabric circle; it should be directly above the mold.
- Using your fingers, gently push the button shell down into the mold. The fabric should gather up around the button shell like a little pouch.
- Tuck the fabric into the button shell then cover it with the button back.
- Place the bright blue “pusher” on top of the button back. Normally you can just use your fingers to push the back into place, but with the thick velveteen, it’s best to use a hammer to gently and firmly set the back into the mold.
- You can usually hear a small snap when the back seats against the shell.
- Repeat to create the second covered button.
NOTE: If you’d like more details about this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial: Making Covered Buttons with a Button Kit.
Attach the covered buttons to create the tufted effect
- From the spool of Dritz Waxed Thread, cut a length three times the length of the pillow insert (48” in our sample).
- Thread through the 12” Dritz Upholstery Needle.
- Run the waxed thread through the shank of one covered button.
- Double knot the ends of the thread against the button shank.
- Trim away the excess thread close to the shank.
- Find the exact center of each end panel. If you have a very precise fussy cut, such as we did with our butterfly pillow, make sure the button placement is identical on each end. Mark each point with your marking pen or pencil. You can also use the original paper pattern to help; it includes a center point marking.
- Insert the needle at the exact center point of one end.
- Push the needle in, keeping it as straight and level as possible.
- As the needle begins to disappear, “accordion” the pillow to continue moving the needle down through the center of the form until the needle comes out the opposite end. Maneuver the point of the needle as necessary to insure it comes out through the exact marked center point.
- It can be helpful to set the pillow on end along the edge of a table (half on and half off). Gently compress the pillow to achieve the accordion motion needed to push the needle through and out the end.
- If you are brand new to the technique, it can be a little bit hard to keep the needle straight and true as it moves out of sight through the center of the pillow form. If you are having trouble, back up the needle a bit and reach in through the opening in the seam. Grab the pillow around the center, feeling for the needle, then guide it through to the end.
- Once you’ve made it out the end, pull the needle and thread all the way through.
- Continue to pull the thread tight to cinch up the first button (the one the thread is knotted against). This button is secured as is.
- Remove the thread tails from the needle, keeping some tension on the thread as you pull it away from the pillow. Pull apart the two lengths of thread. Thread one length through the remaining covered button. Tie the ends into a slip knot.
- Tighten the slip knot, pulling on the thread tail, cinching it up until the tufting on both ends looks good to you. When you’re happy with the look, secure the thread by tying the ends into a standard double knot. Cut away the excess thread. The raw ends of the thread will be hidden behind the second covered button.
- Thread the standard hand sewing needle with thread to match the exterior fabric. Pin closed the original opening used to turn right side out, being careful to insure that the pinned section matches the sewn seam.
- Hand stitch the opening closed. We used a tiny ladder stitch.We received compensation from Dritz® for this project, and some of the materials featured here or used in this project were provided free of charge by Dritz®. All opinions are our own.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild