Shirt Pillow Tutorial

For me, a big part of decorating for the holidays includes changing out pillows in nearly every room of my home. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to do that infuses the house with the Christmas spirit. When the season is over, I simply remove the holiday pillow cover and put a different cover on the pillow form. Storing pillow covers takes up little space and allows me to continuously change up the look of my rooms.

Last year, I made holiday pillow covers from a place mat, sweaters, a skirt, a flannel nightgown, and even a velour bath robe. This year, I added to my collection with a pillow cover made from a flannel shirt.

I found this bold red and black buffalo check men’s flannel shirt at the thrift store and knew the print would be perfect for my holiday decor. Here’s how I transformed it into a pillow.

  1. Measure first. This shirt was exactly 20″ across and my pillow form measured 20″ X 20″ so I was able to use the existing side seams without having to cut or sew them.
  2.  Button the shirt completely and spread it out on a table so that it lies flat, making sure there are no wrinkles on either side. 
  3.  Cut straight across the top of the shirt just under the sleeves. Then, cut straight across the bottom so that the total length is approximately an inch larger than your pillow form. If your shirt is larger than your pillow form, cut 1/2″ larger than your pillow form on each side. This shirt’s checked pattern made cutting a straight line rather easy.

4. Now, turn it inside out so that the right sides of the fabric are together. Pin across the cut edges and then sew the edges together.

5.  Unbutton the shirt and turn it right side out. Ironing the seams open before turning creates a more professional look, especially if your fabric is stiff. With the tip of your scissors, poke out the corners so that you get nice sharp points on all four corners.

6.  Insert your pillow form, button it up, and ta-da–you’ve just made a pillow from a shirt!

Would you believe this pillow only took about 15 minutes to make? It’s a fun, easy way to recycle old shirts. When the season is over, I’ll remove this cover and put on a different one, but right now I’m enjoying the cozy look it brings to my living room.

Do you have any old shirts that would make great pillows? If so, I encourage you to give this project a try. It’s easier than you think.

8 thoughts on “Shirt Pillow Tutorial

  1. Hi, Kathy:

    I surfaced again late last night — and am just now reading your interesting blog. Not that I would be clever enough to to make my own pillow slips, but I have in my travels discovered that buying them — sans pillow — is an inspired way to bring home colorful, ethnic mementos that lie flat in one’s valise. In my last house, we had a circular beige leather couch on which we displayed a host of eye-catching smallish pillows — and it became something our kids kept an eye out for during their travels, too.

    Anyway, I am back in town — if not yet back in harness. Hope to see everyone soon.

    1. Glad you’re back. Pillow covers do make great souvenirs. They can represent the place you’ve visited in such a meaningful (and useful) way!

  2. I love this idea. 🙂 And it has me wondering …

    My bed is a traditional Japanese futon … which I adore and wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had. But of course finding sheets for it can be a problem because American stores just don’t carry them. Futon sheets are like pillow cases. You put the shikibuton (mattress) inside and zip up the side. The sheet will stay in place no matter how you move around at night and when you fold it away in the morning. The sheet usually comes with a matching pillowcase for Japanese-sized pillows (which are smaller than American ones), and a kakebuton cover (which is the comforter-like quilt that goes on top). There is no flat or fitted sheet.

    Well, most of my futon sheets have bitten the dust since moving back to the states, so I’ve been seeking a place to buy new ones. Meanwhile, the sheets themselves are still good. It’s those long zippers down the sides that have busted. I’ve tried snaps and velcro, but they always come undone while in use. I was going to try ties next, but this has me wondering if buttons might be worth a try? Making ties seems tedious, but I guess so would making button holes. Since you’ve made a lot of pillow cases, any ideas? Like I said, the shikibuton sheet is basically a big pillowcase, but it must stay shut during use, or it would be like sleeping on a flat sheet that moves right along with you all night.

    1. I think I get the picture. I would think it would take many, many buttons to give you a secure cover. I have a duvet cover that has buttons about every 12″ and I find it doesn’t stay in place very well. You know, you can buy zippers on a roll that can be cut to length. Upholstery supply stores carry them and I’m sure you can find them online. I think that might be the best solution (which is what the original was, right?). The Japanese would most definitely know best on this!

      1. Yeah, one button every 12″ doesn’t sound at all like it would work. I had no idea zippers could be bought on a roll, though! Hm, thanks! I’ll try shifting my search. I gave up on zippers because finding anything long enough was impossible. I even searched Japanese bedding shops in America for alternate ideas because zippers haven’t always been around, so what was traditionally used before zippers? I never found an answer, but I get the impression either it was ties or they just didn’t make sheets to be changed as frequently as we do these days. In other words, they stitched up the shikibuton, then stitched up another case to cover it, but sewed it shut. But I honestly have no idea what the alternative to zippers ever was.

        I did finally find a place that imports shikibuton sheets, but if I could salvage the ones with broken zippers that still have good material that would be better. Out of all the sets I have, only one pillowcase has actually been threadbare enough to tear after all these years.

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