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. 


93 comments:

  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!).
    xo,
    nancy @ adore to adorn

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    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.

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    2. My Dad is in a nursing home. I love him and know he won't be around much longer. My daughter has always called him "Papa", so when I saw your pillow with the notation "This is a shirt I used to wear..." it made me cry. I think this is a beautiful idea. I think your tutorial is wonderful and your humour makes it even more heart-warming. Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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    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. :)

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

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

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  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.

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

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  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!

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

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

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  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!

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    1. thats a good suggestion! thanks for sharing!

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  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!!!

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  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!

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    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 ... button-downshirt.blogspot.com

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

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  16. As a dressmaker, interior designer and softgoods specialist, my one suggestions is the remove the pillow before you sew it up. Makes it much easier to handle and also choose a pillow form 2" bigger than the finished size of the pillow case, makes it much fluffier and fills the corners also cut off the sleeves and collar and sew the openings up, turn it right side our and then put the form in. Again much, much easier...Very, Very cute idea!

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  17. This is great. I'd love to do this for the kids.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com/

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  18. Thankyou. My Dad has advanced cancer. I will be making cushions from his shirts for my Mum, my sister, our kids, and I.

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  19. My Dad just passed February 1st. I'm going to ask my step mom for his denim shirts. I know he had a lot of them.

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  20. Thank you! I know what I'll be doing tomorrow - making shirt pillows from my son's shirts for my 2 daughters, my grandson and myself. He passed away a year ago and I saved all his shirts and t-shirts for quilting, but will gladly use 4 for this. Thank you, thank you!! I may even combine the hug pillow and the shirt pillow on one of them. This will give us smiles every evening when we head to bed. :)

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  21. This is super duper cute! I am going to do this for my grandson. We live 4 hours away and he adores his Papa.. This is a definite for his easter basket!

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  22. This is an awesome and wonderful idea not only for children but for adults that are missing someone too!

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  23. My husband passed away nearly five years ago and this is a great way to give my children and grandchildren a memento they can keep! Thank you for sharing this great idea!

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  24. Great idea! I am thinking that spraying some of the shirt owner's cologne or aftershave on the pillow will heighten the memories.

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  25. I love this idea. I just bought my daughter a T-shirt that is too small. I am gonna turn it into a pillow, but instead of sewing, I'm gonna cut strips and tie them in knots so it has a fringe. Of course, I gotta make the time to do it!

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  26. This would also be a great idea for your returned missionaries using one of their old shirts and making a felt name tag. Love the idea!

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  27. I love this, but I thought I saw one with a verse from a grandpa...I can't locate it again. Do you know where I can find it?
    Thanks!

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  28. I love this Idea and plan to make some using my dads shirts...I thought I saw a verse on one pillow using a verse from grandpa, however I can't locate it now. Do you know where I can find it? Thanks!

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  29. I love your pillow idea...I know there was a grandpa verse on one of the pillows, but now I can't locate it...I am wondering if anyone knows where it is, as I'd like to use it on a pillow....Thanks!

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  30. This is a shirt I used to wear whenever you hold it know I am there. Love Pa Pa

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  31. This is a shirt I used to wear whenever you hold it know I am there. Love Pa Pa

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  32. Thank you for sharing. I'm thinking about making some of my blouses into memory pillows to leave my children and grandchildren. What came to mind first was to make a pillow from a shirt that belonged to my dad. He passed away 29 years ago. This will make a great visual to go along with the wonderful memories that come to mind everyday.

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  33. I'll be making this for my mom... My dad passed away a few years ago and she would love to have one of his old shirts on her bed. Thanks for the idea!

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  34. I'll be making this for my mom... My dad passed away a few years ago and she would love to have one of his old shirts on her bed. Thanks for the idea!

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  35. Your description of yourself as your husband goes through his clothes is HILARIOUS! :D Almost got me in trouble at work with my giggling ;) I'm going to make one of these for my college-age daughter using one of her Buppa's (my dad's) shirts; she'll love it!

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  36. I am so thankful for the chance to make a lady happy she lost her husband she is so lonesome
    I am going to make her one tomorrow I got one of his shirts
    Just wanted to say thank you so much

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    1. So sweet, glad you have a use for the tutorial!

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  37. Hello I just want to say how much I love this project! Do you have any ideas for the same thing but using men's slacks? �� thanks!

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    1. Hi! Not a clue actually, but I think ther may be other tutorials online for it. Good luck! :)

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  38. The project is neat but the Facebook picture showed a custom embroidery patch with wording that was wonderful. Anyone know how to source that?

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  39. Wonderful tutorial and idea. May you be blessed for sharing it with us. As a GriefShare leader this will be a wonderful idea to help some of my grieving people with their grief journey.

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  40. I have seen the sleeves of shirts used to make baby's pants. The buttons with the sleeve cuffs are at the ankles and these are adorable.... In case you needed a use for the sleeves..

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  41. I have seen baby's pants made from sleeves of shirts. The cuffs are at the ankles ad the buttons run up the side of the pants. They are adorable, but I would think it would require reinforcing the buttons so they could notbe removed and some talent...

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  42. Hello,
    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your craft ideas and instructions. I'm so excited! the way you described everything oh my goodness you got me laughing! I have no idea who I making me for but I can't wait to try.
    Blessings, Missy

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  43. For those that dont sew, an 18 x 18 form takes a 17 x 17 square of fabric.

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  44. What a wonderful Idea, this would be great way to have a keepsake of someone who is no longer with us as well. Thank you so much for this ..

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  45. I have a shirt that I made for my dad years before he passed away. He wore that shirt until it was thread bare (even though I made him a complete replacement one, same color, same fabric, same size etc) Mom would hide it in the back of the closet and he would go through the closet until he found it again. That shirt became a joke between us, and my dad has now been gone 22 years. I miss him every day. He LOVED when I would make him shirts for work. My mom gave that shirt to me when my dad died, knowing the "love" that was in that shirt both by me making it for dad and dad wearing it until it was thread bare, so she wanted me to have it. This will be a PERFECT idea to use for that shirt that is folded and stored in my bottom dresser drawer!! I have an embroidery machine so I can even embroider a patch like the one on the western shirt shown! thanks for the awesome idea!!! I can't wait to make it!!

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    1. That is so cool, share a photo when you're done!

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  46. My father recently passed away. This is a great idea! I will be making pillows for all my sisters and my mom with the flannel shirts that he wore often.I am going to use the rest of the fabric from the shirts to make a memorial quilt with pics of my dad and family on the small wall size quilt that my mom can put on her sofa. Thanks for the wonderful idea and may God Bless!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear of your loss. He was obviously very loved and I'm sure your mom will love it

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  47. Use the sleeves, cut into 4" or 5" squares and sew together in a patchwork quilt. They really make cute quilts.

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  48. mama duck-my husband recently passed and i would love this shirt for my 5 grandchildren. the only problem is i cannot sew a stitch. i would love it if i could send you his shirts and pay you to sew them for me. just the way it is. they would be a great present for them. thanks, stephanie

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  49. mamaduck-sorry if your getting this multiple times. my computer is crazy. in a nutshell my husband recently passed. i love the pillow just the way it is. cannot sew a stitch. i would be interested if you could sew it for me for my 5 grandchildren. i will send you his shirts and pay you for them. thanks, stephanie

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    1. Hi Stephanie! I am honored you'd think of me but this is shared so that anyone can do it. I'm sure a local seamstress could whip up something amazing for you!

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  50. How did you do the lettering from Dad on your shirt? I love this. I too, have a stash of fav shirts.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  51. OMG This is so adorable! !! I think even I cud make this, yes ME!!! Me, myself, and I !! That is saying a lot for a girl that knows NOTHING about sewing and has NO DESIRE to learn. My husband works for a funeral home, this wud be great gifts for the families. Question: where did u get the patch about "papa's shirt"?

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  52. Love, love, love this idea AND your instructions. I do have one question. Did you do your own embroidery or did someone else do it. I have an old embroidery machine and have never tried something written this long. Thanks for posting. My brother in law just passed and I think his three girls would love one of these pillows.

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    1. Did you do your own embroidery or have it done?

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  53. These are adorable! I loved your tutorial for we the sewing challenged and your sense of humor.

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  54. This is awesome! It's good for someone who passed away as well. I am going to do this for my grandmother (who raised me) who passed away last year with a shirt she wore all the time! :')

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  55. This is so wonderful. My grandpa passed away and I was given one of his shirts. I might do this for a college throw pillow, but I'm a little hesitant on cutting it.

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  56. Looooove this tutorial and now on the hunt for one of my husband's shirt :D

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  57. My mom, "Mammaw", to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, passed away this year. Great project for a final Christmas gift for them from her. I can see this being done with other clothing as well. Thank you for the idea!

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  58. I made 18 of these pillows from the shirts my hubby wore. I found it much easier to just buy your pillow forms, say 18" forms, using a measuring stick, simply measure 1 - 2" larger square on the shirt, mark and cut out. Turn right sides together and sew. I have a serger so it was much easier than using a regular machine. But a regular machine is good too. Just be sure that if you are sewing the square with the wording on to sew that on before sewing pieces together. Needless to say my family was very happy with their pillows.

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  59. My precious husband passed away the day after Thanksgiving last year and when I saw this post I just knew I had to do this for my family. I made 18 of these pillows using all his shirts and used the top of the sleeves to make smaller ones for the Great Grandchildren. I found it easier to just use a measuring stick to measure on the shirts the size needed for the pillow forms. Then I just cut them out and turned right sides together and sewed them on my serger. I had the patches with the wording made and sewed them on before sewing them together. My family had a wonderful Easter when I presented them all with their "Easter Baskets". Many tears of happiness were shed. Thanks for the awesome idea.

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  60. My daughter-in-laws dad just past away on the 3rd and would love to do this for my grandson from his pappa and his wife and my daughter-in-law also so they will always have it with them. Great idea thanks.

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  61. Really love this idea, my mom just passed away going to make one for all her 10 kids, and grands and great grands

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  62. My boyfriend/best friend/soulmate passed away the day after Christmas. I have several of his shirts. Some fit me, but the rest can now become memory pillows!!! They can sit on the couch or bed and remind me of him instead of hiding away unseen in the closet. Thank you for this great idea!

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  63. Love the shirt idea wish I had seen this sooner. I had a pillow made from my deceased husband's ties but I needed something like you put on yours with the saying but using "ties" instead - how did you do it or how can I do it? Need some help please.

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  64. My 22 year old son just left being deployed overseas in the military I as his mother am a wreck but I think I will use one of his shirts that I have put in my pillow case and make me a pillow out of it!Great idea!Its even smells like his Axe body spray I just couldnt bring my self to wash it and I am glad I didnt now.Thank you for sharing this idea.

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  65. My 22 year old son was just deployed overseas and I am a wreck,proud but a wreck!Thank you for this idea I have not washed a tshirt because it smells like his body spray.I have been keeping it in my pillow but now I am going to make it a pillow.Thanks again and keep our soldiers in our prayers home and abroad young and old.!!!!!!

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  66. This is a precious idea. And a pillow made from Mom's or Grandmom's pretty blouse would be sweet!

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  67. Just a safety reminder...make sure the buttons are securely sewn and perhaps glued on to prevent choking hazard. Love the pillows. Wish I would have know about these 20 years ago when my dad passed away. These would have been a perfect treasure for all the grandchildren.

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  68. This is a very cute idea for people to be able to hold something close to them if they no longer have them near,I'm gonna have to make me a couple or so.Thanks for the Idea.

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  69. I love this! As my kids ( and grandkids ) are grown, it can also be expanded to remember a favorite pet through his/her favorite blanket with a toy, maybe a photo transferred picture or two...the possibilities are endless. Oh dear, the sewing machine over there hasn't been used in 3 years, I lost my Pirate a year ago....WILL the cover come off????

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  70. A friend just sent this to me, love love love!
    Not only a fabulous idea but the way in which you chat to us, makes it feel like we are all friends having coffee, sharing ideas - well done my lovely ��

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  71. What a wonderful idea ! Thank you for such a great tutorial ! Definitely going to make this ! :-)

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  72. Love it! This is an excellent idea. My kids are grown up. But my husband works shift work. I would make these pillows as throw pillows for my bed. I can cuddle one when he isn't home. I would spray a bit of his cologne on it as well. Would help me sleep better.

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  73. This is a valid style of pattern drafting called "draping". I had never thought to do it on pillows, but it worked brilliantly!!! Typical a draped pattern is done by draping material over the model, pinning, cutting, sewing with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then try it on and repeat the process until you have a perfectly fitted garment. This is an amazing idea!!! I have a shirt from each of my grandparents and have been trying to figure out what to do with them. Awesome idea and they turned out great! Thanks for the inspiration!!!!!

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