Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Sew A Custom Bolster-Cushion Cover

I have always found sewing anything round kind of tricky - but I've finally found a formula for sewing bolster cushion covers that works really well!


- 1 Meter of fabric
- 1 Meter of piping material (I prefer to use the non-plastic type)
- 1 bolster pillow form
- 1 zipper (just slightly longer than the length of your pillow form)
- Thread
- Sewing machine
- Scissors
- Straight pins
- Iron
- Seam ripper
- Pencil
- Carpenter's Square (optional)


STEP 1: Measure your pillow form

Using a soft measuring tape, measure the length of your pillow form from seam to seam and add 1" onto your measurement to determine the length of the body of your pillow cover. (In my case, my bolster pillow was 14" long, so with the added 1" my working measurement for the length of my pillow cover was 15")

Now measure the diameter (length across the middle) of the end of the pillow form (again from seam to seam) and add 1" onto that measurement as well. (In my case the diameter of the end of my pillow form was 6", so with the added 1" my working measurement was 7").

To find the appropriate width for the body of your cushion cover, take the diameter of the end of the pillow form + 1" (in my case 7" total) and multiply it by 3.14 (otherwise known as Pi - who knew math had a practical application?).  In my case this turned out to be 19.84".

STEP 2: Cut your fabric

a) Cut the body of your pillow cover according to your measurements (for me: 15" x 19.84")

*Tip* I have found that using a carpenter's square to help me measure and mark my fabric has provided me with greater accuracy in cutting, which helps to avoid problems later on.

b) Cut 2, 2" strips from your fabric for the piping just slightly longer than the width of your pillow body (in my case I cut them about 21" long), and 2 pieces of piping material the same length as the width of your pillow body (19.84" in my case).

c) Cut 2 circular end pieces with a diameter in accordance to the measurement of the diameter of your pillow form + 1" (in my case 7").

*Tip* Use a compass or perfectly round object of some kind that you can trace the circle onto your fabric and then cut it out.  In my case I rummaged through my kitchen until I found a pot that I had with a 7" diameter. 

This is what your pieces should look like:

STEP 3: Install zipper

a) Take the body of your pillow cover and fold it in half right-side to ride side along the length (15" side in my case).

Pin along the edge and sew a basting stitch across the length with a 1/2" seam.

*Tip* A basting stitch is just a temporary stitch used to hold things in place for the time being.  Use the longest stitch length you have on your machine (in my case 4) and do not secure the beginning or end.

b) Open the right-sides of the seam, and iron flat.

c) Place the zipper face down across the length of the pillow cover body with the teeth of the zipper right against the edge of the basting-stitch seam.

*Tip* Leave the zipper head hanging off the edge of your fabric so it doesn't get in your way.
Pin the upper edge of the zipper to the upper edge of the fabric and sew in place using a zipper-foot on your machine (try to get as close to the zipper teeth with your seam as you can).

Pin the bottom edge of the zipper to the bottom edge of the seam (make sure you don't go all the way through to the body - just get the seam) and sew in place.

d) Zig-zag the edges of the zipper to the edges of the fabric for extra strength.

e) Push the zipper-head down so that it sits about 1" away from the edge of the fabric.  Secure the end of the zipper about 1/2" away from the edge of the fabric by going back & forth over it with your sewing machine a couple of times.

You may need to rip a couple of the basting stitches in order to push the zipper-head down.
Secure the end of the zipper by going back & forth over it with your sewing machine a couple of times.

Secure the end of the zipper in the same way.

e) Trim off the zipper excess and turn the pillow cover body right-side out.

Use a seam-ripper to cut the basting stitches and open the zipper.  Pull out the basting stitches.

STEP 4: Sew the piping

a) Fold one end of the piping strip over about 1/2" and iron flat.

Fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise (right-side out) and iron flat.

Open the fabric, and place the piping material inside, against the fold, starting just before the folded over edge.

Fold the fabric over the piping and pin in place as snug as possible.

Sew along the length of the piping using a zipper-foot on your machine, getting the seam as close to the piping as possible.

b) Trim off the raw edge of the piping, so that you have about 1/2" of fabric next to the piping.

Snip the 1/2" edge of fabric (being careful not to get too close to the piping) at 1cm intervals along the length of the piping.

STEP 5: Sew the piping onto the end pieces

a) Mark a starting point on the edge of your circular end pieces (right-side up).  Starting with the folded end of the piping, pin the piping around the outside edge of the end piece, placing the end of the piping material at the starting point marked on the end piece (the empty, folded over edge should extend past the starting point).

Starting point is placed at the first snip.

b)  Trim the raw end of the piping so that it matches up to the starting point.

 Tuck the raw end of the piping into the folded end of the piping and pin in place.

Sew the piping in place using a zipper-foot on your machine (try to get the seam as close to the piping as possible - this can be a little tricky).

Repeat for the other end piece.

STEP 6: Attach the end pieces to the body.

a) Place the zipper half-way down the length of the body and turn the body inside-out.

b) Position the end piece right-side in, and match the zipper seam on the body to the starting point on the end piece.

Pin the outside edge of the body to the outside edge of the end piece all along the circumference of the end piece. It should match up precisely (this is why I find using the carpenter's square to measure and mark my fabric before I cut important).

Repeat on the other end.

Sew the ends to the body using a zipper-foot on your machine, getting the seam as tight to the piping as you possibly can.

c) Turn the pillow cover right-side out and check your seams along the piping.

If it's not tight enough, turn it inside out again and give it another go (this can be tricky to get right tight on the first go).

When you are satisfied, zig-zag the edges for added strength.

STEP 7: Stuff the pillow

Turn the pillow cover right-side out and hold your breath while you insert the pillow form. It should be snug, but you shouldn't have to struggle to do up the zipper.  Fluff and smooth the pillow form inside the cover until you are satisfied with the shape and enjoy your new bolster pillow!


  1. Thanks very much, very good tutorial.

  2. That has to be the best instruction I have ever seen. Fabulous!

  3. I have just made a bolster cover using this guide and it looks great! Your instructions are really clear and the photos are very helpful. However I did make a slight change to how I did the end pieces, which made the (im)precision of my measurements less of a problem.

    Rather than pin the piping to the circle, I pinned it to the tube, and tacked in place. Then I tacked a circle about 1/2 inch in around the edge of the circular piece as a guide and pinned it in place (putting pins at 3/6/9/12 o'clock to line it all up neatly) - this has the advantage that I could increase or decrease the diameter of the end piece without being constricted to the circumference of the piping I'd already applied.

    I wouldn't say the end result is perfect but I've not been doing much sewing and I'm a bit out of practice, but I'm happy with it and I didn't need to unpick anything and re-do - a big result for me!

  4. love this fabric!! Who makes it?

    1. You can buy it here:

  5. What a great tutorial. Thank you.

  6. I like this's great! But I'm a little confused about one part. I can't figure out how you came up with your width of 19.84. The instructions say to multiply the diameter of the end piece, 7", by pi, 3.14. But that total is 21.98. I am hesitant to cut my fabric until I understand exactly how this works. Should my width be 19.84 or 21.98? (My insert is the same size as yours.) Thanks for your help.

    1. Cut your fabric at 21.98. I messed up a little on this and multiplied the diameter of the pillow end 6" x 3.14 and then added 1" (total 19.84). It worked, but it was a little tight.

    2. Ok, I get it. Thank you so much for your quick response. Here I go!

  7. My measurement is 31.4 width...what is the .4? 31 inches but.4 on a measuring tape?

    1. .4 would be just under 1/2 inch? So your measurement would be just shy of 31 1/2" (31.5") - does that make sense?

  8. Hi and thank you for your tutorial, however, your calculations for body length are incorrect. Above you state to "take diameter (6") add 1" =7" and then multiply by pi (3.14)" to arrive at body length. It should instead read as follows:

    Diameter of pillow (6") multiplied by pi (3.14) = 18.84" + 1" for zipper = 19.84" cut body length

    Otherwise your finished body circumference will be larger than your end piece and you will have a lot of easing to do to get that body to fit that end cap.

    Just an FYI.

    1. Can someone confirm which method is correct? Firm believer in measure twice, cut once.

  9. Great tutorial, my first time making a bolster cover and it was an exact fit. Thank you.

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  11. Brilliant tutorial, just about to make one out of purple fabric from Spotlight

  12. Awesome tutorial! Learned how to use pi, insert a zipper and do piping! Thank you!

  13. Excellent tutorial! I'm making a bolster pillow and want to add piping. Thanks to your tutorial now I am able to with ease. Thank you!

  14. Really useful.. All finished and not at all bad for a first go :-)

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  21. Abby, Thank you for such a wonderfully written pattern and pictures were very good also. It really helped me. I make stack covers for tractor pipes. My memory is awful and I have a hard time remembering how I did the diameters. I could remembering xPI, but I couldn't remember the number. LOL This has helped me immensely. I wish my printer was working so I could print out the pattern and put it with the rest of my pipe covers.....Thank you so much for excellent instructions.

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