Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Upcycled T-shirt Throw Pillows

A little more than two weeks ago, my husband says to me "we need to buy some throw pillows for the couch." I say, "Bump that-- I'll just make some. I have some old t-shirts I want to use for a project, so I don't even have to buy fabric. This will be easy."

And it started off easy. I went through the t-shirts and picked out a few colors that would look nice in our living room (left). Initially, my plan was just to cut, stuff and sew. But then, I decided that making covers would be better so they could be easily washed. After I made that change, I got to looking at the one shirt with a design on it, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat if I could make the other pillows coordinate with this design?" The wheels of creativity were set in motion, and my project got considerably cooler-- and a heck of a lot more involved.
- T-shirts (at least one for each pillow you plan to make... avoid spandex blends as much as possible)
- double-sided fusible interfacing for appliquéd pieces
- single-sided fusible interfacing for backing the base fabric
- Velcro (if you want to make removable casings... I used iron-on but sew on would work just fine)
- fabric for inner pillows (amount varies based on number of pillows)
- stuffing (I prefer the silky Poly-fil)
- an iron
- sewing machine
- thread and notions 

I began by cutting the shirts off under the armpit to create roughly rectangular shapes with one raw, open side and one finished, open side. I designed my appliqué patterns using the scraps left from cutting the t-shirts (right). I know from experience that sewing with t-shirt material would be kind of a pain. It's stretchy, so it tends to bunch and move when sewing appliqué. Stitched t-shirt to t-shirt doubles the bunchy factor. So, I ended up breaking down and trying some fusible interfacing. By accident, I only got one-sided fusible, but even that helped the stretching on my designs tremendously. If were ever to do this again, I would also get some interfacing for the back of my base fabric to get some more stability there as well. You live and you learn, right?

 Here I am sewing on my appliqué designs (left). As you can see, I normally straight stitch around the edges before finishing with my zig-zag stitch. Had I gotten double-sided fusible interfacing, I probably could have avoided that. This is normally how I do all of my appliqué since I am too lazy (cheap? set in my ways?) to buy interfacing. Although the appliqué was the most time consuming part of this project, it also gives a lot of character to the pillows. If you don't have the patience to do this, it is very optional-- do what works for you!

Next, I sewed up the raw edges on the pillow casing from where I cut the shirt under the armpits. On the finished edges, I ironed on some Velcro designed for bonding to fabric (right). This creates an outer, washable casing for the pillows.

With the casing all ready to go, it was time to work on the stuffing. I cut the fabric for lining materials to match the casing, thinking that this would leave enough seam allowance (below, left). In reality, I should've cut the lining with an extra half inch around the edges. This would've helped to fill out the final product more.


 With the lining sewn and stuffed (above, right) I was able to finally complete my throw pillows. Here are the final products in all their glory (left)! My 3 year old has already claimed them for herself. They are comfy and super soft because of the t-shirt fabric. You can more easily see here where I tried to play off the one t-shirt design with my appliqué.

Overall, I am really happy with my final product, but as always, there are things I would change if I were to do it all over again. I hope this helps you find some inspiration in your closet now!

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