After all, there is nothing new under the sun. (Another old adage, but one thatís more understandable.) You can use a pattern, read a book, buy a video; or there is the good, old-fashioned, figure-it-out-by-yourself method, which I employ on a regular basis. I find I learn the most when I am left to figure things out by myself. As long as you understand some basic principles of what fabric will and wonít do (and it always helps to have buddies in the business you can call), you usually do OK.
Sometimes, we have a tendency to make things more difficult than they have to be. This method of making a bed bolster is a product of learning on the fly, and it produced good results.
I was asked by my favorite designer to do a velvet bed bolster for a guest room. (Blue velvet, no less!) This one was to measure 9 inches in diameter by 60 inches long for a queen-size bed. The only other pillows on this bed were two 16-inch square pillows to be placed in front of the bolster. The bolster was to be for decorative use only, so I was able to make my own form and save myself some time and money. I definitely would have used a firmer bolster form if it would have been on a bed that was used daily, but the batting form served its purpose perfectly and made me look good by saving the designer and client some money. Hereís how I did it:
1. I went to my local fabric store and bought three yards of the widest, firmest batting it sold. How did I figure out I needed three yards? I pulled the batting out and rolled it up there in the store until I got right at 9 inches then measured what I had. Real scientific, huh?
2. At home, I cut the batting length to 60 inches wide.
3. I cut two lengths of roman shade cord about 12 inches longer than the length of the bolster (so, in this case, about 72 inches).
You can leave this step out if you are sure you wonít be doing a button on the ends. Iím never 100 percent sure, and itís a lot easier to leave the cord there unused (it doesnít show) than it is to add it later for buttons.
4. Roll up the batting as tightly (and evenly) as you can with the shade cord in the center of the roll. (Photo 1)
5. I used my tag gun to secure the batting in the rolled up position, then got my needle and thread to hand-baste it all together.
6. I cut two 9-inch circles of the densest batting I had on hand (cornice batting) and cut a slit in the center for the roman cords to come through. I hand-stitched this onto both ends of the bolster form. (Photo 2) This serves to keep the ends from collapsing and helps the finished pillow hold its shape.
7. Now that you have the form done, you can start on the pillow cover. I started by making the body of the pillow first. I decided to railroad this fabric so I would have no seams, so I cut a section of fabric that was 61 inches long (a 1/2-inch seam allowance on each end) and cut it the diameter of my form plus 1 inch for the seam allowance. I used a string to determine this measurement then I serged that piece.
8. Next, I made the ends. I drew a chalk circle on the fabric at 10 inches in diameter (9 inches plus 1/2-inch seam allowance on both edges.) There are fancy compass gizmos that will help you draw this circle, but I can never find them when I need them so I use a string and a pin. (Photo 3) Half of 10 inches is 5 inches, so I make a knot in a string and put my pin through it, then I use a marker to mark 5 inches away from the pin. I stick pins into the fabric center and follow my mark all the way around the circle with a chalk marker. Do not cut the circle out yet.
9. I made the bias cording for the ends. I made two small pieces from the scraps because the pieces I need are so short.
10. I clipped the bias cord about every 3/4 inches or so, and sewed it to my circle. (Photo 4)
11. I ran the whole piece through the serger to cut off any extra and finished the edges. (Photo 5)
12. Turning my attention to the body of the pillow again, I cut an invisible zipper (color matched) about 6 to inches shorter than the long length of the pillow (in this case: 60 inches Ė 8 inches = 52 inches of zipper.) Cutting the zipper a bit shorter means I donít have to deal with it at the ends.
13. Attach the zipper on one side of the length of the fabric.
14. Fold the fabric over (making a tube) and attach the zipper to the other side of the fabric. (Photo 6) Stitch the fabrics together up to the point where the zipper starts.
15. Mark the backside of the circles with chalk at 3, 6, 9 and 12 oíclock.
16. Put corresponding markings on the tube so that you can match them up.
17. Line up the marks and pin, pin, pin. (Photo 7) Sew the end on. Repeat on the other end.
18. Turn that puppy right-side out, stuff the form into it, and zip it up. You are all done! (Photo 8)
About those roman shade cords: If you need to or want to add buttons on the ends, then either put a buttonhole on each end piece or cut a tiny slit to pull the cords through. Attach the buttons and pull tight.
Try It, Youíll Like It
This monstrous pillow is surprisingly easy and doesnít take much time or fabric (if you can railroad it.) Making the form yourself saves money, and also it can be done quickly if you are pressed for time. Most folks can usually get their hands on batting locally. I did call to get a price for a pillow form, which was around $50 (which I think is a great price.) If the finished product were going somewhere it would be used daily, I certainly would spring for the form.
At any rate, skin the cat however youíd like. Chances are if you make the pillow this way, youíll stumble across shortcuts that you like or find that pieces and parts of these methods will work on other projects. Donít be afraid to try projects like this just because theyíre big or circular or because you think you donít have all the gadgets available. Jump in and trust yourself to figure it out.
Allison Reid is the owner of Allison Reid Designs (www.allisonreid.com), a home-based workroom in Wake Forest, NC, serving designers and the occasional retail client. Reid graduated with a degree in Theatre Education from the University of NC at Greensboro. She is an instructor at the Designer & Workroom Conference produced by Draperies & Window Coverings. In addition to her skills as a fabricator, she has written articles for the Custom Home Furnishings magazine, is a member of WCAA, and is a charter member of the Workroom Association of America, where she serves on the Speakers Bureau.