Goth Zen: DIY Yoga Bolster

Image of a woman's body from the waist down, the woman is wearing black leggings with white half moon and stars, silver flip flops, and holding a diy yoga bolster made of black cotton with dark gray cats from its handle as she stands in front of an old fashioned door
My Kitty Yoga Bolster

When gyms closed in Los Angeles because of the pandemic, I started to exercise in my living room. I figured that a couple of months of elastic bands and dumbbells would give my body a good reset before I could go back to my beloved barbells. I also wanted to incorporate more yoga into my routine, and that looked like the perfect opportunity to do so. Make lemonade, you know?

Image of a black yoga mat with two black blocks, a black strap, and a diy yoga bolster made with black fabric and dark gray kitty print on it
My Yoga Setup

It soon became obvious that gyms were not reopening any time soon. After a month of moving furniture around, I committed to investing in a gym garage. I am beyond fortunate that even though I live in a small apartment, I have a detached garage. I went all in: squat rack, barbell, bumper plates, rubber flooring. My yoga practice is now a part of my lifting routine. And to make it better, I needed a yoga bolster. But not any yoga bolster—one that I could sew myself, with special kitty fabric and stuffing made out of tons of fabric scraps. I wanted to find my zen while stash AND scrap busting.

Resources

The Internet: Ask, and you shall receive. A quick search resulted in a few very promising leads:

After watching each one, I was able to design my own plan of attack. I also needed help with sewing the square corners; the video below was a great help.

National Sewing Circle’s How to Sew a Pillow and Sewing Perfect Corners

Pattern

You are creating a pattern with three measurements: length (L), width (W), and height (H). You will create four rectangles—body front/back, sides, top/bottom, and handle. Your pattern pieces will look like this:

Image of all four pattern pieces for the yoga bolster.
Yoga Bolster Pattern Pieces

Your pattern will have four pieces, all of them rectangles. You will need three measurements: length (L), width (W), and height (H).

I did not know how big I wanted the bolster to be. I decided on a height—31 inches—and based the width and depth from there. I went with 11 inches for the width and 7 inches for the height. This is your bolster; you decide on the dimensions.

I did not add extra seam allowances to my measurements. As long as I kept the allowances the same for all seams, it did not make much of a difference how much I chose. Life is already too complicated without the need for adding or subtracting fractions, so I made all seam allowances 1/2 inch.

Fabric

I bought some cat print quilt cotton from Fabric.com with the intention to sew a skirt. The fabric, however, was just too stiff for garment sewing. When I decided to sew my own yoga bolster, this fabric immediately came to mind. It is sturdy enough for a project like this, and it has cute little dark gray kitties!

Image of back fabric is dark gray cat print
Dear Stella Monochrome Hello Kitties Black from Fabric.com

For the stuffing, I used more than a year’s worth of fabric scraps. As I was going through my bin of scraps, I found fabric from my Violet blouses and some pleather from my V Diana costume. I was a little emotional as I walked down sewing memory lane. With the exception of the pleather and a couple of pins (which I luckily located before I stuffed the bolster), everything went into the bolster.

Image of a pile of fabric scraps on hardwood floor
All My Scraps

Construction

The Body
Image of all four pattern pieces that make the body of the diy yoga bolster
Bolster Body

After cutting the pattern pieces, I sewed the four rectangles that make the body. I left a gap big enough to fit my hand so that I could easily stuff the bolster. I used 1/2 seam allowance for all seams. You will end up with a tube of fabric.

Image of the completed body of the diy yoga bolster
The Tube

To get the nice square corners, sew the body seams leaving your chosen amount of seam allowance open. This will allow the body to pivot when you sew it to the end pieces. More on this later.

The Handles

For the handles, I interfaced the pieces to make them sturdier. I had a bunch of interfacing scraps—another opportunity to do some scrap busting. I folded each handle in half, wrong sides facing, and sewed the longer side with 1/2 inch seam. Then, I trimmed the seam to about 1/8.

I used a nifty loop turner to turn the handles inside out. When pressing, the seam has to be placed in the middle of the piece. This seam will guide where the handle is to be sewn to the end pieces.

Image of a loop turner against a white background
The Loop Turner
End Pieces
Detail image matching the seam of the handle with the center of the end piece
Matching the seam of the handle to the center of the end piece

Fold each end piece and mark its center. Line up the handle seam to the center mark. Make sure that you are doing this with the end piece right side up. Sew the handles with 1/4 inch seam. I chose to reinforce this seam by sewing over it a couple of times.

Image of the finished end piece with the attached handles of the diy yoga bolster
Finished End Piece
Sewing the Body to the Ends

This was the most challenging aspect of this project. I wanted nice square corners—I didn’t need them; I wanted them. I watched a few videos, but the most useful was the one from the National Sewing Circle. Instead of sewing the body to the end pieces in one continuous seam, you sew each side separately.

The body seams were sewn leaving the amount equal to the allowance open. This gap will allow the body to be moved around. I marked 1/2 inch from each edge and placed a dot where the lines met. This is the beginning of the seam. I did the same for the end of the seam.

Image of bolster body pinned to the end piece. There is a 1/2 inch gap from the top of the body.
Do not sew the seam all the way!

Pin one side of the body to the end piece. Mark the point where you will start sewing and where you will end. Fold the seam allowance open so it will get caught when you sew your seam.

Image of bolster body pinned to the end piece. There is a 1/2 inch gap from the top of the body.
One Side at a Time

Once you have sewn your first side, you will move on to the next. Because you have the 1/2 inch gap, you can easily pivot the body to line up the edges. You will start sewing from the same point where you ended the last seam.

Detail image of the body with the corner pivoting to line up the body edge to the edge of the end piece
Sewing the Next Side

You might have to finagle your way to make the edges match perfectly, but this was a much easier way to work with pivoting. My first attempt was done without this method. The corners were bulky and just messy. This produces a much neater result.

Image of the end piece sewn to the body piece
Neat Corners
Time for Stuffing

I had a lot of muslins in my pile of scraps. When I first tried stuffing the bolster with them, it ended up super lumpy. I realized that if I wanted a nice, smooth outside, I was going to have to shred the scraps. I used my rotary cutter to cut the larger pieces of fabric. This was the most time-consuming part of making the bolster, but it made a huge difference.

Shredding the larger pieces of fabric helps get the stuffing into every little space inside the bolster. A rotary cutter is the best way to process the scraps into tiny bits.

Image of scraps of muslin next to a rotary cutter on top of a green cutting mat
Scrap Cutting

Finishing the Bolster

The last step in the process is slip stitching the opening. I am not a fan of hand sewing. I always hand sew the hems on my skirts; I do this because I like the result, but I very much dislike the process. Here, the only way to close that gap is with some good old slip stitching.

Detail of gap used to stuff the bolster sewn closed with slip stitching.
Gone!
Done!

I feel that having all those scraps hanging out together inside the cutest DIY yoga bolster I have ever seen has to be good for the soul. I am so looking forward to resting my body on this super comfortable and cat-themed bolster.

Image of a yoga bolster made with black fabric with dark gray kitty print propped against an old fashioned door.
The Kitty Bolster
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1 Comment

  1. Dawn
    October 14, 2020 / 10:23 am

    Love the kitty bolster – and the starry yoga pants! I always use scraps for stuffing, but I’d never thought about shredding them before. Maybe because so far I’ve only stuffed smaller projects. But, I will definitely keep that tip in mind – thank you!

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