Project: Turn an Old Favorite T-shirt into a Cushion

Craft & Design Home Yarncraft

By Pam Olney
What do you do with your children’s clothes when they outgrow them? Most are given away to someone else who can use them. But what about the clothes that you just can’t bear to part with – a favorite piece of clothing, a special gift, or an article of clothing that evokes fond memories? Usually, they are carefully wrapped and packed away in a cupboard, where no one sees them. Here’s how to turn a special T-shirt into a decorative cushion, which can be put on show for all to see. Please note that this is a decorative cushion – not a pillow.


, for the cushion. 1 yard if the fabric has a width less than 50″;
3/4 yard if the fabric has a width of 50″ or greater.
Tape measure
Favorite old T-shirt
Double-sided fusible webbing
Old cloth
Sewing machine
Cotton or polyester thread for the sewing machine
Embroidery floss
5 buttons
Polyester thread for attaching buttons
14″x14″ cushion insert

Note: Your tee will have been washed many times, so will not shrink any further. But wash the fabric to be used for the cushion, to prevent shrinkage at a later date. Pre-washing will also prevent dyes from running. Ironing both the t-shirt and cushion fabric will make both cutting and sewing more accurate.


Step 1: Cut your fabric according to the following measurements:
2 pieces – 15″x15″
1 piece – 15″x8″
1 piece – 15″x13″
Step 2: Figure out what part of the T-shirt you’d like to use as the appliqué, and then roughly cut it out a little larger than actually needed. Cut the fusible webbing slightly smaller than the T-shirt piece, but larger than the finished appliqué.
Prepare your appliqué. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the rough side of the webbing to the wrong side of the T-shirt piece. Basically, you are fusing the webbing to the fabric, by ironing. Set the iron to the correct setting for the fabric you are using, and don’t use steam. To iron, press rather than slide. Use an old cloth both under and on top of the fusible webbing and fabric to prevent glue from getting on the iron and the ironing board.
You will now have your T-shirt on one side and paper (of the fusible webbing) on the other side. Trace the exact appliqué shape that you want onto the paper (when it is cool), and cut out the appliqué. Peel off the paper, leaving a thin film of glue on the wrong side of the T-shirt fabric. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the appliqué to the front of the cushion. Use an old cloth.
Step 3: You can hand or machine sew the appliqué to the center of the cushion front. This will prevent it from fraying. I use an appliqué foot on my sewing machine, because it makes it easier to see the stitching, but it is not necessary. Set your machine to a zigzag stitch and experiment with the width and length of the stitch. I used a width of 4 and a length of .8. Because the tee is stretch fabric, I used a longer length than for non-stretch fabric.
If your machine has a knot stitch, begin with that. Otherwise do a couple of straight stitches and backstitch before you zigzag. If you need to adjust the material as you sew the rounded corners, stop the machine, with the needle in the fabric, on the outside of the zigzag. End the zigzag with a knot stitch on the machine or do a couple of straight stitches and backstitch. Take the cotton through to the wrong side and knot securely. Thread the ends through the zigzag stitch on the wrong side of the fabric.
Step 4: Time for decorative stitching. Using 3 strands of embroidery floss, sew a running stitch around the appliqué, about 1/8″ away from the edge. Choose a decorative stitch on your machine and sew another line of stitching, about 1/2″ outside the first. Then, using 3 strands of embroidery floss, sew a running stitch 1″ from the edge of the cushion on all four sides.
Step 5: Securely sew 5 buttons in a row across the cushion, 1 1/2″ below the appliqué’s embroidery.
Step 6: Place the second piece of 15″x15″ fabric onto the first 15″x15″ piece, wrong sides together. This will make the inside of the cushion cover neater. Baste around the edges to hold the pieces together.
Step 7: Using the 15″x8″ fabric, turn under 1/4″ on one long side, press, turn under 1/2″ and sew. Using the 15″x13″ fabric, turn under 1/4″ on one long side, press, turn under 1/2″ and sew.
Step 8: Place the cushion front with the right side of the fabric facing up. Place the two back pieces on top of the front side of the cushion. The two back pieces will overlap and form an envelope. Stitch all the way around the 4 sides. Clip the corners, being careful not to cut the stitching. Finish the edges with a serger or zigzag. Turn the cushion right side out.
Step 9: Slip the pillow insert into the pillowcase you have just made, and you now have a new cushion to show off your old, well-worn T-shirt!
About the Author:
Pam Olney spends most of her time sewing and blogging about sewing, over at Threading My Way. When not sewing, she can be found out in her garden.

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