I have a whole bunch of school shirts that I love, but they got too small a year after I got them (plus, who wears a shirt supporting the grade below you?). Never let it be said that I wasted a good t-shirt! I thought of it like a scrapbook, but with cloth. Any favorite t-shirt will work in this project.
Step 1: Materials
- T-Shirt (be warned - you cut the sleeves off and could cut of fabric to just below neckline, so any designs there will be cut off)
- Sewing machine (or you could hand sew, but that takes forever and isn't as consistent)
- thread (as close to the color of the shirt as you can, or a contrasting color)
- chalk (for marking)
Step 2: Mark Lines
Turn your t-shirt inside out and look at it closely. With most shirts, you can see the pattern through the shirt fabric. With your chalk, draw a box around the area you want on your pillow. Give your self at least an inch of clearance on all sides so you can clearly see the design. Leave a gap in the chalk where you will stuff the pillow later. I forgot to do this and had to rip out stitches, which is annoying and messy. This chalk line indicates where you will be sewing. The chalk won't show on the final pillow, as this is the wrong side of the pillow.
Note: If you want to see a border on your t-shirt, for fringe or a decorative border, don't turn your shirt inside out.
Step 3: Pin
Smooth out you t-shirt and make sure there are no wrinkles on either side of the shirt. Then carefully pin the shirt at least a half inch INSIDE the chalk mark. If you pin on the chalk line, your sewing machine will get hung up on the pins. Too many pins is better than too little, because if the material moves, you might get wrinkles sewed into the pillow, which looks good when it's done intentionally, but otherwise it doesn't look good at all. When you finish pinning, double check the back to be certain there are no wrinkles.
Step 4: Sew
Starting at the beginning of the gap for stuffing, sew around the t-shirt on the chalk line, trying to stay as close to the line as you can. When you reach the end (right before the stuffing gap), you can either lock your stitches or turn around and sew back over what you've sewed already, for more strength. If your t-shirt is old, or thin, this is an especially good idea. Try to sew as close to if not on top of the stitches you made in your first pass. Don't forget to leave a gap for stuffing later!
Step 5: Cutting
Take your t-shirt off your machine, finish ends, then cut the fabric around the stitches, leaving AT LEAST a half inch border between cutting and the stitches, because if you accidentally snip the thread, you'll have to go back over that area with your sewing machine so a hole doesn't develop. If you're doing fringe, leave at least an inch, if not more.
Step 6: Stuffing
Turn your pillow right side out and stuff, starting in the farthest corner from your stuffing gap. Make sure to push the stuffing into the corners! Also try to even the stuffing out so the pillow won't be super lumpy. Don't forget to stuff the area your stuffing gap is in. The pillow's stuffing will even out with use, but it's easier to do when you can stick your hands in it. If you're doing a fringe, cut before you stuff, making sure not to clip down too far and snip the thread, creating a hole.
Step 7: Close Stuffing Gap
If you don't have a border: Using your needle, thread, and the whip stitch, close the gap in your pillow, making sure to overlap the start and end of your sewing with the machine sewing at the beginning and end of the gap.
If you have a border/ fringe: You still use your needle and thread, but use the running stitch to close the gap, as it will blend in better with the machine sewing. Try to keep the hand-sewed stitch size as close to the machine sewed stitch size as possible.
Step 8: Enjoy!
There are multiple ways to adapt these pillows. You can also cut just the sleeves off, sew the bottom closed, and after stuffing through the neck hole, sew that too, for a bigger pillow. I once tried to tie the sleeves closed, for tassel-like things, but that would only work on a really big t-shirt. If you have other ideas or adaptations, please comment with a picture of your pillow!