make your own bobbin lace pillow: bolster pillow

I took on bobbin lace-making while living in Korea, out of all places. Far away from home, the Internet became both my teacher and companion.

Inspired by this Russian website (text in English), I made my first bolster pillow using nothing more than a Coke bottle filled with water for weight, batting from an old pillow, and some leftover curtain fabric.

Though it ended up being less than perfect – the amount of batting I had was only about two thirds of what I needed and as a result, the pillow was at places bumpy and soft – I learned many a valuable lesson on it. It also taught me that there is no reason why bobbin lace-making should be an expensive hobby. So far, I have been able to make  all that I need (be it bobbins, two bolster pillows or a smaller cookie pillow) with either household items or widely available craft supplies.

I have been using the bolster pillow I made to replace the one I had left behind in Korea for almost a year now, and I love it! It gets its weight from a muslin sack filled with 5 pounds of sand. The core is covered with a single layer of upholstery foam, the edges of which are sewn together. [Had I had more of this foam, I’d have used two layers to end up with a “chubbier” pillow.] The whole thing is furthermore wrapped in 5 layers of black, denser foam sheets. To protect the foam and to provide a washable working surface, the final layer is made out of black knit case, ends of which are firmly tied together.

While the sand makes this pillow really sturdy and stable, it needed a stand that would prevent it from rolling over. Back in Korea, I was using a stiff wine set gift-box and loved it so much that I made my new pillow fit a shoe box I wrapped in some leftover fabric. The box provides just enough support, and stays put not only because of the weight of the pillow, but also thanks to non-slip drawer liner attached to the bottom of it.

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To make your own bobbin lace-making pillow, you will need:

  • thread, needle, safety pin, sewing machine
  • muslin
  • 5 lb of sand
  • 0.5-inch upholstery foam
  • artistic foam sheets
  • knit fabric
  • string or ribbon


  1. Sew a muslin sack to fit a shoebox you want to use. Leave a small opening in one corner.
  2. On the opposite end, fold both ends over and stitch them together to create a flat bottom.
  3. Place the sack flat-side down in a mug to keep it stable. Through the opening in the seam, fill it with sand.
  4. When the sack is packed full, stitch the opening shut.
  5. Create another flat end by sewing the corners on this side together.
  6. Measure a rectangle piece of upholstery foam big enough to wrap around the sack. Sew its edges together.
  7. Wrap the upholstery foam in several layers of denser foam. Test the thickness by pushing a pin through the layers – you should not feel the sand even if the pin is pushed all the way in.
  8. Sew a knit fabric tube that fits snugly around the pillow. Fold the fabric and create casings on both ends.
  9. With a safety pin, insert a ribbon through the casings. Tie the ribbon on one end firmly into a knot. Insert the pillow, and tie the other ribbon into a double bow (use this end to wash or replace the cover, when necessary).
  10. Use your bolster pillow supported by a shoebox. For increased stability, staple or glue a non-slip drawer liner to the bottom of the box.

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17 responses to “make your own bobbin lace pillow: bolster pillow”

  1. rodprjonar says :

    I am just coming back from a trip to Asturias (north of Spain) where I bought a set of bobbins and a couple of books. My plan: learn how to make lace (which sounds almost impossible but I will give it a try :)

    I have been looking around on the net and I your blog came across… BEAUTIFUL things you make!!

    I didn’t buy a pillow because I didn’t have enough space to bring it back home but now that I found your tutorial I am definetely going to try to make it myself!

    Thank you for sharing this!
    (I am going to follow your blog to keep track of your fantastic work!)

    Greetings from Iceland :þ

    • Jana says :

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel flattered – and excited to have another reader :)

      Ironically, I picked up bobbin lace making in South Korea and like you, eventually faced the dilemma of “how much will fit into my two pieces of luggage” – That’s what I brought to Korea when I moved there, and that’s how much I was planning to take from there once I left 15 months later. I knew I couldn’t take anything the size of a proper pillow with me – and therefore I knew I shouldn’t spend money purchasing it until I am “home.” And since I still haven’t found my home and plan to move across continents once more in the near future, but also because they have been working so well, I have been promoting the value of handmade tools and equipment ever since.

      My bobbins are really amazing despite being made of nothing more than skewers and beads. The bolster pillow couldn’t be any more perfect, making long pieces on it has been a joy. But despite it’s compact size, I know I won’t be able to take it with me – but that doesn’t bother me. What I have been using most consistently is a cookie pillow that I made of three layers of craft foam circles that I mounted on a lazy Sue. Seriously. The pillow hasn’t been “picture-ready” ever since I temporarily attached it to the frame with random strings a year ago :) I’ve been planning to make it more appealing to the eye. But other than for a single shot for the readers or this blog, making it prettier would make no difference to its purpose. It works just fine the way it is – and I use (and love) it every single day!

      I sincerely hope that you find same passion for bobbin lace making – whether you end up buying your tools or decide to make your own. And please – do share your experiments! Your blog is adorable and I certainly will stop by to check your new knitting adventures :)

  2. kb7640 says :

    HI, I’m currently living In Mexico and have recently taken up needle lace. Lately though, I’ve been looking into bobbin lace. I don’t have access to straw or sand for the filling of the pillow, are there any alternate materials that I could use? Would thinly cut up pieces of fabric work? Does it have to be muslin or can it be any other material? Can I hand sew it? (I don’t have a sewing machine)


    • Jana says :

      Hello! Or, better yet, Hola!
      Muslin is usually recommended because it’s tightly wound and as such contains sand, straw dust or sawdust well. But, if you aren’t going to use no of these materials, any fabric would do. Just keep in mind that the top coat should be removable so that you can wash it. I hand-stitched my first one, too – so I say, Go for it!
      As far as the inside is concerned, I guess pieces of fabric (not even especially tiny ones) would work just fine if you cram them in. The pillow needs two basic functions. First, it needs to be heavy enough so that it doesn’t move when you tighten up your bobbins (that’s why sand or sawdust are traditionally used). In addition, it needs to be uniformly stuffed to create a smooth work surface. You want as densely stuffed a pillow as possible to stick your pins into: you don’t won’t them to wobble at every tuck on the bobbin. Moreover, a bumpy surface might make pinning the pricking down more difficult. Not to mention, it’d look all pimply and sad :)
      Good luck in your bobbin lace adventures – I’ll be sure to visit your blog again. I am intrigued by what you have done so far in terms of needle-lace and am eager to see your first bobbin-lace creation!

      • kb7640 says :

        Thanks, I’ll definitely try that =D and thanks for visiting my blog! I already have yours bookmarked. It’s amazing what you make out of wire. =D

    • Lois Kiger says :

      I used wool blanket material to make the bolsters for my bobbin lace work and it really helps hold the pins in place.

  3. smorita says :

    i’m reading over your directions and I wasn’t clear whether you also sewed together the layers of denser foam. This looks much more approachable to me than straw packing or cutting up old coats.


  4. Alhana says :

    Thank you for this little tutorial. I didn’t think making my own pillow could be this easy. I will give it a try as soon as I get the materials. ♪

  5. Marny CA says :

    My friend told me to bring my bobbins when visiting her in Germany. Well, how exciting it was to learn the basics of bobbin lace – using her pillow on a stand.

    Since coming home, however, I’ve not touched my bobbins – still enjoy looking at the little bookmark I made while at my friend’s house in her kitchen.

    Now, tonight, I find your pin and how to make a pillow! Thank you so very much.

    I’ll see how long it is before starting …

  6. Marny CA says :

    Glad I found you, too. Thank you for sharing of yourself.

    I always wanted to learn how to do bobbin lace – and even bought a few bobbins and a friend gifted me with a few, too.

    Then I met online someone who lives in Germany and 10 years later I visited her and took my bobbins. She showed me how and I made a bookmark, which looks very strange but to me is beautiful.

    That was back in 2010 — and I have been home since then and have yet to touch my bobbins.

    I tell myself that I need a pillow – but they are so expensive ’cause I want a really fancy one. LOL

    You have taught me it’s not the pillow that makes the lacer, it’s the doing of the twisting and enjoying that process.

    Perhaps I can proceed now, thanks to you.

  7. Marny CA says :

    LOL … I see that I found you back in 2014 … and now it’s 2016 and nothing has changed for me. LOL

    I still thank you.

    • Marny CA says :

      Well, well. Here I am – it’s now 25 April 2020 – and I still love seeing and watching but have not gotten back to my bobbins.

      Now I’m paralyzed about making a face mask – it must be something to do with my mom telling me ‘if you can’t do it perfect, don’t bother.’

  8. Greta says :

    I have been looking for a collar pattern to do in bobbin lace and came upon your blog. Nice to find other people who are making lace. We are a small group here in South Africa and always like to read about other lacemakers.Go well.

  9. Kathy Simkins says :

    Thank you for sharing the bobbin lace pillow how to. I have been needing one of those for about 20 years. My mother-in-law had a wonderful collection of bobbin lace that her Slovenian grandmother and aunt had made. Imagine 30 feet long lengths of 10 inch wide bobbin lace with all the tools to be able to make it. When mother-in-law died the trunks that held these treasures were given to my daughter-in-laws. I was forbidden by my husband to look in the trunks before they were given away. My heart sunk when I found out that the contents of the trunks were thrown away and burned because the trunks reeked of tobacco. ( My mother-in-law used tobacco to keep the moths from eating the fabrics that she wanted to save.) I tear up every time that I think of those precious family heirlooms being lost to the family.

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