Bolster pillows are long, narrow pillows whose name comes from Old English. They are normally found at the head of the bed (in Western countries) and can be covered with just about any available material. The filling can be made from cotton, down, or any other type of fiber (natural or synthetic). While westerners usually use them for head or neck support, those living in Asian countries have a different use.
For Asians, a bolster is a ‘hugging pillow’. The Japanese name for this type of shaped throw pillows translates to mean ‘bamboo wife’. This is left over from older, traditional times when a wife would make her husband a pillow to carry on his travels away from home. These items were actually made from bamboo (if you can imagine that!). It was supposed to act as a surrogate the man could hug while spending nights away from his mate.
In China, the name ‘bao zhen’ literally means ‘hugging pillow’. In Tagalog (Philippines), they’re called ‘tandayan’, which is the name of a fruit which resembles bolsters in shape. The more common Filipino name is ‘hot dog pillow’, again, owing to the similarity in shape.
As with most things, the Internet is rife with sites offering this type of pillow for purchase. A wide assortment of designs and materials is available and you can either choose stock items or custom design your own creation. Covering materials are varied and some manufacturers even give you the option of sending your own material to them, from which they’ll make your custom pillows.
Bolsters can be found (or made) for either outdoor or indoor use. Choice of covering material and internal filling will be dictated by the environment in which the pillows will be used. Adding bright, colorful pillows to your outdoor recreational areas (deck, patio, etc.) is an inexpensive and easy way make them classy and distinctive.