Introduction: Up-cycled Sweatshirt Pillow

What great results! I am not sure why the idea to turn two, outgrown sweatshirts into pillows, but I am glad I did! They'll go great in the dorm or if not wanted there, will be nice in my family room. It is also a nice way to commemorate a road race, vacation place, etc. with an old sweatshirt. I think a sweatshirt offers a thicker fabric and better, more sturdy, cover than a T-shirt; although this same procedure could be use for a t-shirt.

This is a great introductory sewing project and hits all the basic skills: measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, etc. It only requires straight seam stitching and is very forgiving to mistakes. As an experienced maker, this project took less than an hour.


For this project you need:

1. An old sweatshirt or T-shirt in decent condition (The two sweatshirts I use in this Instructable were outgrown by my daughter. I hung onto them to donate to someone else, but then I got this idea.) . You will be cutting either a circle, square or rectangle for this project, so the design on your item may lend itself to a certain shape.

2. A pillow insert OR polyester stuffing. (This could be an old pillow too.) I usually have a few of these on hand for pillow making. Bargain shops often have inexpensive pillows with suspect designs that are great for stuffers.

You should choose a size that works with your desired outcome. In my examples, I used a rectangular pillow that complimented the sweatshirt design, and a square that was better for the design with crest.

3. Sewing Machine (could be hand sewed - but not as sturdy)

4. Straight Pins

5. Thread

6. Scissors

7. Needle for hand sewing

8. Iron and ironing board (optional)

9. Water-soluble marking pen

Step 1: Step 1: Press Your Shirt With an Iron to Remove Wrinkles (Recommended But Optional)

Using an iron to press your work when you sew improves the quality of the finished piece immensely. In this instance, it helps flatten ripples in the appliquéd letters so the piece is flatter (and better looking), and also presses out any wrinkles that would alter the size of your cut piece. Notice, I turned the sweatshirt inside out, since the high heat setting could possibly damage the material used for the lettering appliqué.

Step 2: Step 2: Lay Your Shirt Out Flat, Design on Top and Pin Around Design

This step will result in two matching size pieces of fabric. One with your design (front of pillow) and one without (back of pillow). Pinning them together in this step just keeps the two pieces from moving around during cutting and ending up different sizes.

Step 3: Step 3: Measure the Pattern and Cut

Using the measurement of your pillow insert, use your water-soluble marker to draw, in this case, a 12X16 rectangle for a pattern. Measure and mark to center the sweatshirt design in your dimensions. Notice that the pins are inside the cutting line. If pins are on your cutting line, move them to the inside of your lines. Cutting into pins will ruin your sewing scissors!

Step 4: Step 4: Remove Pins, Turn Right Sides In, Stitch and Press

In order to have invisible seams, you must turn your "right" sides (the right sides are the surfaces that others would see if you were wearing the sweatshirt) to the inside and pin for stitching. You need to leave about 6" unsewn in order to have a place to insert the pillow. It's customary to make this at the bottom of the pillow so that the hand stitching is hidden. I like to mark the stopping spot on the bottom of the pillow with double pins at the start and finish of the seam.

Stitch using a .25" seam allowance. Remember to go forward and backward with your stitching at the double pins so that the seam is reinforced and strong under stress when you insert the pillow.

Once sewn, remove the pins and trim a little off each corner (don't trim too close to your seam - it will weaken it and may break). By trimming a little off the corners, you remove bulk and the corners look more crisp. Turn your pillow inside out.

Pressing the pillow seams now can make a big difference! At the opening for pillow, turn under .25" on each of the front and back of the opening and press. This will make it easier to do a hidden stitch when you finish the pillow by hand.

Step 5: Step 5:Stuff and Hand Stitch the Opening Closed

Stuffing the pillow can sometimes feel like wrestling a cat. Squeeze the pillow to condense its size and stuff it into the opening. Keep stuffing until all the corners are situated where they belong. Alternatively, you could stuff the pillow with polyester batting.

Use straight pins to close the opening. Thread a needle with a color that matches your pillow for best results. Double the thread and tie a knot in the end. Hand stitching to create an invisible effect is not difficult. There is a great and brief tutorial here which will explain, better than I can, how to finish your pillow.

Step 6: Step 6: Enjoy or Gift Your Pillow!

Way to go! You now have a great gift, keepsake or fandom object!