How to Turn a T-shirt into a Pillow Sham

When I was checking to make sure these things are actually called "pillow shams," I discovered they are also known as "cushion covers." Whatever they are called, I'm talking about making something to put over the little square pillows on chairs/beds/couches that always seem to be more about decor than about comfort.

I'm not a big wearer of T-shirts, but the boyfriend is really attached to his collection of band T-shirts. When I moved in, he valiantly cleared out half his closet, but couldn't bear to part with his old riddled-with-rips-and-holes band T-shirts. I am not a brute--I understand nostalgia (even if it's around a T-shirt... I guess...); I didn't make him throw them out. But they were not wearable, and therefore had no place in our closet. Then again, my slightly ugly throw pillows didn't have much of a place on the couch. So! A compromise: I turned the most ill-fitting of the boyfriend's T-shirts into pillow shams for our slightly ugly pillows (the riddled-with-holes ones became patches for his messenger bag).

Before I show you how I did this, I want to let you know that I am not a seamstress. I have no idea how to use a sewing machine, I don't know the names of stitches, I can't even sew or cut a straight line very well. But these pillows are so easy and forgiving that as long as you know how to wield a needle and thread without hurting yourself (often), you can make them.

A throw pillow
A T-shirt (size Medium or larger, for a normal-sized square throw pillow)
A crayon or piece of chalk
Needle and Thread
two buttons (optional)

Put the pillow on top of the shirt, right over the graphic you want to preserve. With the crayon or chalk, trace a line around the perimeter of the pillow, adding an extra inch to each side (up to two inches if it is a very puffy pillow).
Cut out this square; this will be the front panel. You'll notice I don't cut straight. It's okay if you don't, either. Now, turn the shirt over, so you see the back. Instead of a square, you want the back panel to be a longer rectangle that you later cut into two uneven sections. Use your front panel as a stencil; place it about 5 inches above the bottom hem of the T-shirt, and trace around it, extending the bottom lines to go all the way to the hem.
You should end up with pieces like this. Now, cut across the back panel to create two uneven sections. You want the section with the hem on it to be half the size of the pillow, approximately 6-7 inches for normal 12-inch throw pillows. You can measure this by lining up the rectangle halfway down the front panel, then cutting where the front panel ends.
I always find cutting the material to be the scariest part. So the scariest part is over! Now to create your pillow. Take the front panel, and lay it face-up in front of you. Now, lay the back panel section with the hem faceDOWN over top of the front panel, lining up the corners. Finally, take the back panel section (the one without the hem), and lay that across the other half of the front panel, lining it up at the corners. It will overlap the hemmed back panel.
It is ready to sew! Pin everything in place, and sew up each of the four sides, keeping your stitches about half an inch in from the edges. (If you can sew straight lines here, it will totally make up for a raggedy cutting job!) If you have a machine, this will take you like 2 minutes. If you're low tech like me, this will take you an hour and a half or so by hand, so do it while you watch a movie. I advise NOT watching Full Metal Jacket, as I did for one of them, because it will make you all teary, and it's hard to sew when you're all "SOB SOB EVERYTHING IS AWFUL." Try rounding the corners slightly as you go; it isn't necessary but it looks nicer. Once you're done, turn the pillow sham right-side out via the pocket created by the back panels.
The front, Full-Metal-Jacket-induced wobbly stitches and all! Don't worry, wobbly stitches aren't noticable once the covers are on the pillow (At least not on our lumpy pillows.) That's why these are so fool-proof!
The back. See how cute the hemmed panel looks? This pocket allows you to get the pillow in and out of the cover. You can leave it as is, but I find if I go a long time between washings, the back panel gets a little saggy, so I like to sew in buttons:
I think these pillows are so adorable with buttons. I now understand whence the phrase "cute as a button."

Anyway, buttons or no, you're done!
See how the sides don't look wobbly once the pillow's in the sham?

These covers are easy to take care of. When they start getting misshapen (as well-used pillows are wont to do), just take them off the pillow, toss them in the washing machine and dryer, and they're back in shape. Because they're made from T-shirts, they are totally machine washable.

Note: This isn't the best way to preserve a shirt with a large graphic on the back, since you'll end up cutting the image in half. If the image is 6 inches or shorter, though, you can use it in the top back panel, like this Haujobb pillow.
If the front image is small and the back is large, you can reverse the sides in the above steps.

By the way, Happy New Year! I don't do resolutions, because I try to make short-term goals for myself all year round. But I love hearing others' resolutions! Anything you want to share?


panda with cookie said... Best Blogger Tips

Awesome! I wish i had some old t shirts to do this. Perhaps a trip to goodwill.