Friday, March 2, 2012

DIY Pillows Made from Daddy's Shirts

Want a little insight into what my husband signed up for when he said "I do"?  I've had a box squirreled away in the bottom of the closet for the past three years.  Every time my husband has announced that he's going to sort through his clothes and get rid of old items, I'd hover over him like a ravenous vulture circling a horse carcass.   I would wait on baited breath for an old button-down shirt to hit the "give away" pile, swoop in, nab the shirt with my sharpened craft talons, and hastily slink off to the box in the bottom of my closet.  I hope your mental image of me doing this involved drooling and a hunchback. 

So what, pray tell, could possibly evoke such strange behavior?  I had the idea (yes, three years ago) to make a quilt for the duckling out of his dad's shirts.  Aw, that's so sweet, except for two details - I don't know how to quilt, and I don't own a sewing machine.  Holding onto the hope that those two facts would shift in my favor one day meant holding onto a musty box of discarded J. Crew shirts for 1,095 days and counting. 

With no change in sight, I decided to curb my hoarding habits and do something with my secret stash of shirts before a family of squirrels decided to make a home in my closet.  Enter my new DIY project...daddy inspired throw pillows for the duckling's room.

Supplies for Shirts

- clean, ironed button down shirts (one per pillow)
- pillow forms or old pillows you want to cover
- sewing machine or handheld stitcher (I used a handheld stitcher)
- scissors
- fabric pen (optional)
- pins

The links above and in the supplies list for the felt accessories link to our Amazon page where you can purchase the craft supplies we use in this and other projects.  We offer this so that you can "one stop shop" for your supplies, and there's no additional charge to you.  All of these items are also readily available at your local craft store. 

Instructions for Shirts

As a disclaimer, I'm not a seamstress, so I just "winged" it with a handheld stitcher.  Real sewing avids will probably shutter in horror as I decribe how I made my pillow shams, but for those of you who are in the same boat as me, hopefully it will be helpful to see that as far as it relates to this project, the sewing part isn't an exact science.

1. Start with a clean, ironed shirt.  If you hate ironing like me, you can skip the sleeves because you're just going to cut them off anyways.  (Feel free to wear these like She-Ra cuffs.  You know I did.)

2. Here's my Eastbound & Down inspired sleeveless button-down.  I feel like I'm back in Virginia.

3. Turn your shirt inside out (this is important hence the bold + italics for all you skimmers/photo instructions only people) and place your pillow form/insert inside your shirt.  Finagle the pillow until you have it in the position you want.  If you'll be using the pockets, like I did, be sure they are positioned in a place that makes you happy on the pillow.

 Time for our pins!

4. Pull together the bottoms of the shirt tight and pin into place beginning at the center (where the buttons are) and working your way out.  The good thing about using patterned shirts is that you can use the pattern as a rough guide as you pin. 

5. Trim the excess fabric leaving at least an inch margin from your pins.

6. (Before we start stitching...if you are indeed using a sewing machine, now would probably be the time to repeat steps 4 and 5 on the other three sides and remove the pillow.  Sew away!) For the handi-stitcher folk out there, this is where the "not an exact science" part comes into play.  Keeping everything as is, I just started running the stitcher as close as possible to the pins, removing the pins as I went along.  Once you get to the end, follow your stitcher's directions on how to secure the seam so it doesn't unravel.

7. Once you finish the first side, pick up your shirt and give the pillow a little shake, encouraging it to nestle down against your new seam before moving to the opposite side to begin pinning.

Like my striped pajama pants?

8. Repeat steps 4 through 6 on the other three sides, starting with the opposite side (the collar), then moving to the sides under the arms. 

Also, I probably should've mentioned this earlier, but I also made a variation that includes the collar.  It's not as cute, but my thought was that as the duckling gets older, this would be more of a "play pillow", encouraging him to button and unbutton, add a bow tie or even pop the collar as he sees fit.  Here's a picture for reference if you're interested in making a similar one. 

9. Back to our collarless pillows - now that you've done all four sides, trim any excess fabric.

10. Unbutton your shirt.  The one on the table, that is.

11. Remove the pillow insert and turn your shirt right-side out.

 12. Put the shirt back on the pillow and button.

You're done (unless you're adding felt pocket accessories like mine, in which case the instructions and a few more pictures are below) !

Here are a hefty bunch of pictures of the finished project.

Below are directions for the felt accessories, and below that are some gratuitous Duckling + Weeb shots playing with their new pillows. 

Supplies for Felt Accessories (Optional)

- felt sheets in assorted colors
- batting (or just use the scraps from your shirts)
- scissors
- embroidery needle and thread
- fabric glue suitable for felt (preferably clear)
- string of some kind (I used yarn because I have oodles, but you could use twine or shoelaces or anything you have laying around)
- fabric pen
- puffy paint (or fabric pens) in colors of your choice

Instructions for Felt Accessories

1. Decide what accessories you want to make.  I narrowed it down to a pocket watch, a blackberry, a heart and glasses (ruling out a baseball, cup of coffee and my husband's bronzer...just kidding).  In my humble opinion, my most inspired idea was the glasses.  When I was scoping the felt section, I came across an alligator print brown and decided on the spot to use it as a stand-in for my husband's ever-present (and adorable) nerd specs.  He singlehandedly keeps Moscot in business. 

2. Draw or trace your objects onto felt, being sure to cut out a front and a back for each by folding the felt in half and leaving a margin for glue.   Just be sure that the final size fits in the pocket of the shirt you plan to use.

3. Cut a piece of yarn (or string) and some batting (or shirt scraps) to go inside.
4. Place a line of glue around the perimeter of the object and across the center.  The line across the center is where you will place your yarn.

5.  Place the yarn then the batting inside the object, and place the other side on top.  Press firmly.  Allow some time for the glue to set and then stitch closed.  For my heart, I wanted a little "zhuzh" because hearts are awesome, so I did a blanket stitch (click for instructions) around the edge.

6. Once the pieces are set, accessorize them as you see fit with your puffy paints, more embroidery or glitter, since glitter makes everything super awesome. 

7. Once your felt accessories are done (and dry), place a little fabric glue on the inside seam of your shirt pocket (or in the case of the glasses, place glue on the back of the felt glasses and glue securely in place). 

8. Push the yarn (or whatever you're using for string) firmly into the glue and hold in place.  Allow to dry before fiddling with it.

Don't you just want to smother your new pillows with hugs and kisses?

What's this I see?

Woah.  Daddy's. Phone.

Hello? The reception on this thing stinks.

I'll just send an email instead. 


  1. I really adore this DIY tutorial. For the day I have a child or children, I think this will be a great one to make to think of "dad" (or mom!).
    nancy @ adore to adorn

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I remember having a Punky Brewster doll with zippers and laces and buckles and buttons all over her outfit when I was little, so I thought my little one would enjoy practicing buttoning the shirt when he gets older.

  2. This is so cool! Love it. Your blog is awesome. New follower! :)

    1. Thanks, Jo! YOU are awesome. You just made my day :)

  3. So cute. I love this, especially the pockets!

    1. The pockets are my favorite! I can't wait to hide notes in them for my son to find. That is, once he can read. :)

  4. this is so freaking cuuuute, and fun for the lil one. love to see your craftiness unbound!

    1. thanks! i'll keep 'em coming just for you ;)

  5. What a great idea! Now I know what to do with all the shirts my husband no longer wears :-) Also, I'm sure you meant "shudder in horror" not "shutter"; darn fingers hit the wrong key.

  6. Thanks, and yes! Thanks for catching that haha

  7. Great idea! My husband coaches my son's teams and I hate to throw out his coach t-shirts but I had no plan for what to do with them, now you've inspired me to turn them into pillows!

  8. I love that, Abby! So clever....send pics when you finish!

  9. Your pillows do look fabulous and I have this linked to my pillows post too today, well done!

  10. Very cute idea!
    If you take the pillow form out before you sew, you'll get a much better/tighter/more even fit. Just measure the pillow size and make it about the same size as the pillow, or maybe 1/2" larger all around. Then PRESS YOUR SEAMS to one side!!!! Will make those look way better!

    1. thats a good suggestion! thanks for sharing!

  11. I really adore your this tutorial and it looks very interesting and fun sharing to make a feather pillows covers from a shirt. I can't believe that we can use unused shirts in such a fine way.
    Thanks for the wonderful share!!!

  12. I love this tutorial...I am a quilter and I love the idea of a quilt from daddy's shirts (I am going to start hoarding now!) But I love this tutorial more because of how you write, it makes it easier to get into a project when you are cracking up just reading the instructions! I am headed to my sewing machine now to make my little girl a pillow from her great grandpas signature button snap western shirts so she can cuddle it when she misses him! Thanks so much for this great DIY project!

    1. oh yay! that makes me so happy. send me a picture when they are done. I'm sure you'll make quick work of it as a quilter. I hope my rudimentary techniques weren't too offensive :)

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  14. I would wait on baited breath for an old button-down shirt to hit the "give away" pile, swoop in, nab the shirt with my sharpened craft talons, and ...

  15. Love these pillows! Such a great idea. Will you have a tutorial for the pillow with collar?


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