Memory Pillows from Grandpa's Shirts

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A couple weeks ago, a woman posted in our local Facebook group looking for someone to sew her grandpa's shirts into pillows so she could gift them to the family at Thanksgiving. I knew it would be a meaningful project, so I agreed to do it!

Pillows from men's button up shirts
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I've enjoyed making memory projects in the past, so I was really looking forward to this one. You can look back on the memory quilts I've made from clothes here, here, here, here, and here.

We met at a QuikTrip parking lot, and she handed me a garbage bag. She said her grandpa had passed away two years ago, but she had wanted to make the shirts into pillows ever since. She said she was going to wash the shirts before bringing them to me (they'd been in the bag for two years!), but when she opened it up it still smelled just like her grandpa so she couldn't. 

Bag of shirts

I promised not to wash them and took them home to sew.

Men's shirts

In the bag were eight men's button-up shirts. There was a mix of Hawaiian print and plaid, as well as one fishing shirt. All but the fishing shirt were cotton.

Cutting shirts for memory pillows

She had already purchased 12" pillow forms, so I used my 12 1/2" square ruler to cut the pieces. I just smoothed out the shirt on my cutting mat, then cut around the ruler through both the front and back of the shirt. I made sure to get the buttons and the pocket on each shirt.

Cutting pillows from shirts

Then I clipped the two pieces right sides together.

Sewing pillow covers from men's shirts

I used a straight stitch on my machine and stitched all the way around using 1/4" seam and 50wt Aurifil thread. I did reduce the stitch length to about 1.5 just to give the seam a little extra strength. 

Sewing pillows from men's button up shirts

When I got to a corner, I stopped with the needle down 1/4" away from the edge.

Sewing pillows from men's button up shirts

Lifted the presser foot...

Sewing pillows from men's button up shirts

...then turned the fabric to line up the next side for sewing.

Sewing pillows from men's button up shirts

Then I just lowered the presser foot and sewed to the next corner.

Sewing pillows from men's button up shirts

Once sewn all the way around, I unbuttoned the shirt, turned it right side out, then buttoned it again. 

Memory pillows from men's button up shirts

They were super quick to make!

Memory pillows from men's button up shirts

The only one I did slightly different was the fishing shirt. It had two pockets on the shirt, and I didn't want to cut through a pocket. So I first cut the square just from the back of the shirt, then I buttoned the front of the shirt very lopsided. I put the bottom button in the hole just under the right pocket. That allowed me to cut the square like the others with just one pocket on the right.

Memory pillows from men's button up shirts

One of the shirts was oversized, so I actually was able to cut two squares from it! So I made nine memory pillows out of eight shirts.

Memory pillows from men's button up shirts

After I finished, I met the woman again at QuikTrip to give them back. She was so excited to have them to share with her family this Thanksgiving.

Have you ever turned shirts into memory pillows? 

Now it's your turn to share what you've finished this week! I'm hosting TGIFF this week! Link up a recent post so we can high five you for finishing!

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  1. You were very kind to make the pillows for the lady. I'm sure the pillow brought a lot of joy to her family this Thanksgiving. Happy stitching!

  2. I bet the lady was very appreciative of the pillows you made. They turned out great.

  3. These look great! I have not, but I have a friend who makes both pillows and bears from shirts.

  4. This is perfect!! and perfect timing - I want to make them out of my Moms Shirts - and I wasn't sure where to start - so Pillowforms first haha! Thanks for the tutorial!!

  5. To get the best costs most printers propose that at least 20 shirts should be printed at a time.franato

  6. Sweet little project, love it. Do you just unbutton the shirt to stuff the pillow form in?


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