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The round bolster is a great way to add a new and interesting shape to your pile o’ decorator pillows. We chose a 6″ x 16″ cylinder, which is a classic size to pair up with a 16″ or 20″ square pillow. Or, make a pair of bolsters as we did and display them on their own. Cording accents and gathered ends are elegant touches that add true designer style yet are very easy to accomplish.

These bolsters have tightly cinched ends that add such pretty texture. Tiny bows hold the gathers closed. It’s a very vintage look and we knew the fabric we chose needed to echo that style in both color and motif.

We originally choose the Indigo Rose collection by Verna Mosquera for FreeSpirit Fabrics, an older collection that is no longer readily available. Shop your favorite designer quilting cottons for the look and feel that best matches your décor; there are new collections each season – each more beautiful than the next.

If you’ve done cinched ends before, you may have had trouble with the center point of the gathers “popping out,” which happens as the drawcord pulls against a narrow channel. To combat this common problem, we show you how to create a wider hem for the drawcord channel. This helps the spiraling gathers lay flat against the ends of the pillow insert for a true professional finish and a tidy center point against which to tie those small bows.

We picked two complimentary fabrics for our bolster pair but kept the cording accents the same on both to tie them together as a set.

As with many of our dimensional projects here at Sew4Home, we’ve organized the steps to allow you to do as much of the construction as possible with flat pieces. It’s easier to wrap your brain around, and it helps keep seams straight and precise when attaching cording and layering on the end panels.

We created matching skinny ties for our gathered ends, but you could also use a pretty satin ribbon in a dramatic accent color.

Our bolsters finish at the size of the insert: approximately 16″ long x 6″ in diameter.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: Supplies shown are for ONE bolster.

  • 1 yard of 44+ wide quilting weight cotton
  • ½ yard of 20″+ wide fusible batting for the main center panel; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus Fusible Fleece
  • 1¼ yards of soft decorative cording to coordinate with fabric; we used a soft jute cording with gold metallic accents
  • ONE 6″ x 16″ bolster pillow insert
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Seam ripper
  • Seam gauge
  • Large safety pin
  • Seam sealant, such as Dritz Fray Check; optional for the ends of the ties

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric, fussy cut the following:
    ONE 20″ high x 17″ wide rectangle for the main center panel
    TWO 20″ high x 6″ wide rectangles for the end panels
    TWO ⅞” x 20″ strips for the ties
  2. From the batting, cut ONE 20″ x 17″ rectangle.
  3. From the cording, cut TWO 20″ lengths.
    NOTE: As mentioned above, we purchased our cording locally in a home décor department. With home décor trim, the flange onto which the cord is attached can be wider than normal. For this project, the flange needs to be a standard ½”. If this is not the case for your cording, you can trim away a bit to make it easier to work with.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Prepare the center panel

  1. Find the center fabric panel and the fusible batting panel. Place the batting against the wrong side of the fabric panel. All edges of both layers should be flush.
  2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the batting in place, applying heat from the fabric side.
  3. Place the fused panel right side up on your work surface.
  4. Find the two lengths of cording. Pin one length along each of the fabric panel’s 20″ raw side edges. The raw edge of the fabric should be flush with edge of the cording’s insertion flange. As mentioned above, trim this flange to ½” if need be in order to have a correct seam allowance width.
  5. Machine baste each length of cording in place. We used our standard presser foot with the needle in the left position. You could also use a Zipper foot.

Prepare and place the end panels

  1. Find the two end panel rectangles.
  2. Along one 20″ side of each end panel (if you have a directional print, this is the outside edge), fold in the raw edge ½”. Press well to set a crease. We used a Clover Hot Hemmer.
  3. Fold in an additional 2″ and again press well to set a crease.
  4. Place an end panel right sides together along each side of the center panel. The remaining raw edge of the end panel should be flush with the corded edge of the center panel. The cording is sandwiched between the layers. Pin each end panel in place.
  5. Attach a Zipper foot. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
  6. Using a ½” seam allowance, which should run right along but not on the cording itself, stitch each end panel in place.

Complete the main seam and drawcord channel

  1. Unfold the end panels so both crease lines are visible.
  2. Fold the entire sewn panel right sides together. Carefully match up the cording and the crease lines and pin in place. Start and stop your pins 1″ beyond cording/panel seam line.
  3. Re-attach the standard presser foot.
  4. Using a ½” seam allowance, and starting the seam 1″ from the cording/panel seam line, stitch together. Remember to stop and lock your seam 1″ beyond the opposite cording/panel seam.
  5. Press the seam allowance open and flat, continuing all the way up at both un-sewn ends of the seam.
  6. This pressed-in edge will form the opening of the drawcord channel. You don’t want the raw edges of seam allowance pulling out when the tie is inserted and cinched, so topstitch both sides of the open seam allowance in place to secure.
  7. Re-fold each end panel along both its original folds: the ½” first fold and the 2″ second fold. Press again if necessary. Pin in place.
  8. Stitch the drawcord channel in place all around, running the seam close to the inner fold.
  9. Stitch all the way around, crossing over at the top of the original seam where the seam allowance splits into the drawcord opening.
  10. Insert the pillow form through the open end and center it.

Make the skinny ties and cinch to finish

  1. Find the two remaining ⅞” strips.
  2. Press each strip in half, wrong sides together, to set a center crease.
  3. Unfold wrong side up so the center crease line is visible and fold in each long raw edge so they meet in the center at the crease line. Press well.
  4. Fold again along the original crease line to form your finished tie.
  5. Edgestitch each tie to secure. The tiny ends remain raw.
  6. Attach a safety pin to one end of one tie and insert through the drawcord channel.
  7. Hold both ends of the tie and cinch up tight. You want the center hole to be as small as possible.
  8. Tie a neat bow. Trim the ends of the tie if necessary then knot each end and apply a dot of seam sealant.
  9. Repeat on the opposite end panel.


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

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1 year ago

Is there a video that I can watch on this project? Thanks!

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Deb

Hi Deb – We don’t do full-length videos for our tutorials, but we do go into extra detail with our instructions and photos. If you read through to “make it in your head,” I bet you’ll be ready to go.

1 year ago
Reply to  Liz Johnson

Thank you!

Beverley Oliver
Beverley Oliver
3 years ago

How is the pillow form inserted? From the ends? Is this pillow cover washable?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago

Hi Beverly – Yes, you slide the pillow in through the open ends then cinch the ends closed and tie the bows at each end. So, yes, this means the cover is removable and washable. Of course, you need to keep in mind whether or not the fabric you choose is washable. If a standard quilting cotton, it would be washable. Finally, as always, it is best to pre-wash/pre-shrink your fabric in the same manner as you plan to wash the finished cover.

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