Bolster Pillows or Cushions

Whether these are called bolster cushions or bolster pillows can depend what country the person lives in and also where the cushion or pillow is used. 

A cushion can be used when sitting on a chair or settee and a pillow is usually kept on a bed. Some countries use the word "cushion" for all of these soft furnishings while other countries use the word "pillow".

They are all the same and these cushions or pillows were in fact the beginnings of the modern day pillows and scatter cushions.

A brief history

Many many years ago resting and sleeping was done while leaning against an object and not in the lying down position.

The first pillow used were made out of stone or wood and were used to keep the head off the ground so insects and bugs didn't get into the ears.

In Ancient Europe softer pillows were used by the romans and greeks as they used straw, reeds and feathers inside. Pillows and cushions were also used for kneeling on while saying prayers in church.

In earlier years they were stuffed with straw or horsehair the same as a mattress. The straw or horsehair gave a firm cushion.

During and before the industrial revolution softer fabrics and better pillow or cushion making items were evolving and becoming cheaper.

What is a bolster pillow or cushion?

They are elongated tubes with rounded ends to give a cylindrical shape. Originally they were used mainly to give support to the head when sleeping so were bolster pillows. This pillow provided a firm base and usually covered the whole width of the bed. Then softer pillows were placed on top. 

When using these sitting on a chair or settee or along the sides of wooden chairs, they provide added comfort and support to areas of the body.

Although nowadays these have a much softer filling of down and feathers or polyester fibre.

Overall these were used mainly as decoration and some could be quite ornate made from heavy fabrics with tassels and other finishing touches such as embellishments.

A room can be transformed by the finishing touches a cushion can bring. By varying the shape, colour and even texture will add to the look of the room.

Children's cushions are often this shape if the cushion is pretending to be an animal or a reptile. These are a great shape to hug and play with.

Different Designs of Bolster Cushions

These cushion styles are making a comeback as they can be fitted into the back and sides of chairs or settees to give extra support. Also they look good placed on top of the bed.

Another good way in using these cushions is at the back of a wooden garden chair as these can be too upright in their design and not enough support for the lower back. By adding an elongated cushion extra comfort is given.

These may be available in different sizes to suit the chair or settee where it will be placed.

The ends can be varied with either:

  • Straight edges
  • Gathered around the seam or just in the middle of the end.
  • Pleated from the side to the middle.
  • Made with an elongated end and then tied closed.
  • Using a buttoned look.
  • With a piped edge

This design is usually bought as a whole cushion so it is worth checking that the fabric and the insert are washable. 

These elongated cushions are great to take out and about as they can easily fit into a bag. They can be used while resting in a park, sitting on a beach, camping or just relaxing in the garden. 


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