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?
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.
The Internet: Ask, and you shall receive. A quick search resulted in a few very promising leads:
- Best Fabric Store‘s Rectangular Yoga Bolster
- DIY Danielle‘s How to Sew a Yoga Bolster Pillow
- KatiaYoga‘s DIY Bolster
- Practical and Pretty‘s DIY Yoga Bolster
- Spoonflower Blog‘s How to Create a Colorful DIY Yoga Bolster
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.