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Friday, July 8, 2016

Keepsake Pillow from a Favorite Shirt

The kids are home for the summer and that means they're hanging around and "helping" me with projects more often. I'm sure you know the routine.  Well one of my kiddos somehow dug out one of his favorite shirts from a couple years ago, which I had stored in a safe place because it's one of my favorites too.  He was super excited to see it but then there wasn't much else to do with it -- so it gave me an idea!  

Fun, right?  The cool pocket was already part of the shirt, but now you can see why it's one of our favorites. I might even have to design a zipper shirt one of these days -- wouldn't that be awesome?!

But for today's tutorial, I will show you how I made the pillow itself. It's super easy with just a few tips! 

First, find the shirt you want to use. That's probably the easy part. 

(I might have to do this with some of my kiddo's first CKC items I designed. How fun would those pillows be on display in my sewing area?!)

Ahh I just love that pocket! 

Make sure the shirt is clean. I also ironed mine -- it's not perfect but it's much better than before.

Turn the shirt wrong side out and flatten all the edges with your hands.

In the next few steps we're going to be sewing all the openings of the shirt closed; the sleeves, the neck, and the bottom of the shirt.

I used a 1/4" seam allowance, to leave as much of the shirt detail as possible. Here's what it looks like on the sleeves - I did the outermost line of stitching. 

Important: If you are using a t-shirt made out of knit like I did, the fabric has stretch to it so you will want to sew it a little differently than you would with non-stretch (woven) fabric. A few tips:  

1- Use a ballpoint needle if you have one.  If not, universal is fine.

2- Lower your thread tension to a 2. 

3- Use a stretch stitch to sew.

 I prefer the lightning bolt stitch. If you don't have that, my other choices would be a double stretch stitch, or at least a standard zigzag stitch. You can make it a narrow zigzag if you want. If you don't have any of those stitches available, you can use a regular straight stitch, but you will want to increase your stitch length. This will prevent puckers as you sew and allow the fabric to stretch as necessary.  Because this is just a pillow and not to be worn, the knit tips are mostly just for a neat appearance. 

When you're ready to do the neck, you will probably notice that the front of the shirt is lower than the back. You could handle this a couple different ways probably, but I like to just even them up so they're flat at the top all the way across. See photo below. 

I simply brought the front and back together and pinned them in place.  Not hard at all. 

Sew the neck together using a 1/4" seam allowance again.  I like having part of the contrasting band there below the stitching. 

Then on to the bottom!  When you sew the bottom, just sew straight across through both layers, but be sure to leave a 4-5" opening in the center. You will need that hole for turning it right side out and for stuffing the pillow. 

When you're done sewing, turn the shirt right side out.  Use a creaser tool to make the corners nice and crisp, as shown above.  The goal is to make it retain the shape of a shirt. 

Now the fun part -- stuff the pillow using the hole at the bottom!  You can use any stuffing you'd like. In fact, I ran out of polyfil partway through and ended up using fabric scraps.  (It's a little lumpy, eh.) 

You can stuff it super full or just enough to retain its shape. 

When it's all full, sew the bottom opening closed, either by topstitching close to the edge with your sewing machine, or you can use a needle and thread like I did. 

And that's it!  Now you get to show off your new keepsake pillow!  I was super excited to hand this over to my kiddo and see the big smile on his face, but he somehow fell asleep before I was done. I guess he can be excited tomorrow instead! 

There's that cute pocket again!  Now he can play with it and snuggle it, or even just put it on his dresser. Either way, that's better than hiding in a box up on the shelf. 

It's your turn!  You can use this tutorial for lots of other clothing too.  Maybe some favorite shorts, a tiny onesie, or a little jacket.  We would love to see what you make so please share when you're done. 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 


  1. Hand made pillows are great, but they're not so great enough to care about my health properly. So, if you want to have pretty pillow to work for you health, just utilize a small, travel-ready neck pillow. Enjoy it!