Bobbin Lace Pillow:
Types and Construction

by Baroness Briana Etain MacKorkhill


Dating from the mid-1500s, bobbin or pillow lace became increasingly popular. In order to create this delicate art of plaiting, one must first have a pillow on which to work it.

Pillows vary greatly in both size and shape according to the country of origin.

Simple flat square straw-stuffed pillows or rectangular desk pillows supported on a stand were utilized by the Belgians.

The Italians and Germans preferred a round cylinder bolster-shaped pillow, supported on a stand.

The English tended toward a round ball pillow supported on a stand.

My particular favorite is a French style pillow with a revolving bolster and a large apron on the front and shorter apron on the back. Although some French pillows have no apron on the back.

This is the pillow that I will be discussing.



A piece of 1/4-inch plywood for the base

Scraps of 1-inch pine board (6 inches long, 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide) to make the box that will hold the bolster

1 piece of 1/2-inch dowel, 6 1/2-inches long, for the bolster

Wool or wool-like fabric to wrap the dowel for the bolster

Stuffing for the pillow, either:

a piece of 3-inch thick polyurethane foam


a 1-pound package of polyester fiberfill


a sheet of 1/2-inch thick polyurethane foam

1 yard of unbleached muslin for the first, or under, covering of the pillow

1 1/4 yard of a plain, dark-colored fabric for the finish covering of both bolster and pillow

1 1/2 yards of decorative braid for finishing edges

A piece of felt the size of the base


Small nails

Wood and/or hot glue



Prepare the fabric into 5-inch strips. Old wool blankets would be ideal for this, Just tear it into the strips. Other kinds of materials can be utilized as long as it is loosely woven. Overlap the ends slightly and tack together into one long strip.

Attach one end to the dowel, tape will work, and wrap tightly around the center of the dowel. Keep winding until the bolster is about 12 to 12 1/12 inches around. Stitch down the last strip to make it secure.

Make a cover for it out of the material intended for the outer covering of the pillow. I made a simple tube for it and constructed drawstring openings to pull it tight on both sides of the bolster.



I chose to make my pillow an rounded trapezoid, but other shapes - oval, square, rectangle, round, oblong - may also be utilized.

Overall size can vary from 18 to 22 inches depending on the shape you choose. Sketch out your chosen shape on your base and cut off the excess. Determine at this time which will be your front and back.

Utilizing the pine boards, construct the box that will support your bolster. Allow an extra 1/2" on the long sides of the bolster. Make indents (semi-circles) on either end that your dowel ends will fit into. Once the bolster box is put together, affix it to the base with the nails.

Begin placing the stuffing on your base. Once placed to your liking, cover it with the muslin (including over the bolster box) leaving several extra inches over the edge. Carefully turn it over and, smoothing as you go, adjust any lumps out. Staple the muslin covering onto the base. Then cover the pillow with your outer material and also staple it to the base. Spread the glue over the bottom of the base and put the felt on. Use the thumbtacks the secure the edges.

Turn the pillow right side up and cut an X over the open area of the bolster box not quite from corner to corner. Fold the excess material back and glue down the inside of the box. Take extra material and cover the inside of the box. Use the trim to decorate the outside edge of the box.

Take some scrap of outer material to cover a wedge that can be used to keep the bolster from turning as you work. And if you have enough scraps you can even make a little pincushion for the excess pins.



Bobbin Lacemaking, Doris Southard, Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY 1992. Originally published, Bobbin Lacemaking, Charles Scribner's Sons, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, c. 1977.

Pillow Or Bobbin Lace: Technique, Patterns, History, Elizabeth Mincoff and Margaret S. Marriage, Dover Publications Inc., 1987. Originally published: Pillow Lace, New York: Dutton, 1907.

1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  Briana Etain MacKorkhill (Sheryl Knight)
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