It’s not quite spring yet, but it’s so warm in the Bay Area that it feels like time for a little spring cleaning anyways. So why not turn some of your shirts that are unfit for humans to wear into fun pillows? The amount of time you will need varies based on how many pillows you want to make, but one weekend is probably sufficient to get through 5-8 of your old favorites. These spare shirt pillows are an easy project that only requires some simple machine and hand sewing skills.
- Sewing Machine
- Fabric Scissors
- Straight edge (or carpenter square if you want really straight corners)
- Hand-stitching needle.
- Old shirts. T-shirts, pullovers, sweaters and button-downs can all be used.
- Matching thread(s)
- Stuffing. I used polyfill and discount poly “snow” left over from the holiday season.
Step One: Select & Cut your T-Shirts
Start by cleaning out your closet and selecting the shirts you’ve worn out and want to turn into pillows. T-shirts, sweaters and even button down shirts will all work for this project. Tops with plunging necklines may be tricky, but you can cut smaller pillows out of them or do some creative stitching around the necklines. Opt for shirts too worn to give away, but not actually hole-y or totally threadbare. Don’t worry about armpit stains. We’ll be cutting around those.
Once you have selected your victims, lay the first shirt out flat and mark a rectangle using the chalk and straight edge. This is the point at which I like to line up designs on my shirts to make sure they will be visible on the final pillow. Size the rectangle to match the available surface area of the shirt; we’ll be making a set so small pillows are fine. You can be as accurate or not as you wish. These pillows are totally casual.
Be sure to avoid including the neckline (difficult to sew) and the armpits (yuck). Cut out.
Step Two: Sew Edges Together
Turn the cut out pieces so they are right-sides together (if they aren’t already) and pin the edges. Sew together with a straight stitch about half an inch from the edge. Leave a small space open so you can stuff the pillow later. If the fabric is stretchy, you’ll want to sew slowly so the shape doesn’t distort too much.
Step Three: Stuff
Trim off the corners and excess seam and turn your pillow right-side out. Fill with the stuffing of your choice until you’re happy. I used fake snow batting, which was cheap, but it compresses too readily. If I went back, I’d opt for all polyfil that is intended for stuffing pillows.
Step Four: Finish the Edge
Once your pillow is stuffed, all you need to do is finish the edge. If you’re not sure about your hand-sewing abilities, you can pin and machine sew the open hole as close to the edge of possible. This will strengthen the edge. Tuck your seam in and slip stitch the edge in a matching thread. Plump up the stuffing that probably got shifted around. Your pillow is complete! Go make the next one.
Addendum: Try Some Variations
Spare shirt pillows are fun to sew and can be a varied as your wardrobe. Try different shapes: long rectangles, squares, circles, no sharp corners, etc.
You can also use different types of shirts. If you have a button down shirt, use a zipper foot to carefully sew the front of the shirt closed with matching fabric and then proceed as above. For plunging necklines you want to preserve, sew an insert into the front to fill the space and then cut to preserve the detail.
Have fun, and if you make some, share them in the comments.