Thursday 30 June 2016

Make a Cushion from Pre-loved Shirts ~ Tutorial

Whether you call it a cushion or a pillow, it's easy to take a bunch of old shirts and repurpose them into an item that will enhance your home decor. What's even better, this tutorial will show you just how easy it is to have a secure button enclosure on the back, by using an existing shirt placket.

How to make a cushion from men's old shirts. The button placket forms the back closure, so this pillow is quick and easy to sew. Tutorial ~ Threading My Way

Last week I showed you my Shirt Quilt. With a lot of shirting left over, I decided to make a cushion to match. Here's how I made mine, to fit a cushion insert 15¾" x 15¾" (40cm x 40cm)

Be careful when you buy cushion inserts. Some give the measurements of the insert, while some give measurements for covers. I've been caught before.

I prefer 100% cotton shirts, but they don't have to be. Men's or women's shirts are OK. This cushion just has men's shirts, but the shirt quilt has fabric from two women's shirts, in amongst the men's.
  • 24 x 2" strips, cut to a length of 18". You can see from the photos below, that I didn't worry too much about the lengths, as long as they were at least 18".
  • 1 x button placket from a shirt
  • batting (wadding) - 1 piece 19" x 19" for the front, 2 pieces 19" x 11" for the back
  • backing fabric - 1 piece 19" x 19" for the front, 2 pieces 19" x 11" for the back
  • cushion insert
The backing fabric and batting need to be larger than the sewn shirt strips. I allow a fair bit extra, so there is room to move.

Cushion Cover - Front...

  • Stitch strips together with a ¼" seam and using a small stitch - I make mine 1.9
  • Press seams - whether you press seams open or to the side is a matter of choice. I press to the side.

Cushion Cover - Back...

  • Stitch 6 x strips together with a ¼" seam and using a small stitch.
  • Stitch joined strips to the raw edge of one side of the button placket.
  • Repeat the two steps above with the other side of the button placket.
  • Press seams.
It's a little hard to see in the photo above, but the two sides are sewn separately.

Quilt Cushion Cover - Front ...
  • Layer backing fabric (face down), batting and cushion cover front (face up)
  • Pin baste, using curved quilting safety pins.
  • Attach a walking foot to your machine - or the foot for FMQ if you are going to FMQ.
  • Increase stitch length - I set mine to 2.8
  • Quilt horizontal and vertical lines about 2" apart - or quilt in the design of your choice.
  • Remove curved pins as you quilt - you do not want the presser foot, or the sewing machine needle, to come in contact with the pins.

Quilt Cushion Cover - Back - the side of the placket with the buttons 

  • Place the back of the cushion cover (face down) on the table
  • Place the batting on top of the cushion cover.
  • Place the backing fabric on top of the batting (face up)
  • Push the batting and backing fabric underneath the button placket.
  • Baste (large hand stitch) the button placket to the layers of fabric and batting.

  • Flip to the right side.
  • Smooth out any creases.
  • Pin baste, using curved quilting safety pins.
With walking foot still attached...
  • Reduce stitch length to a normal length and sew the button placket down. As you are sewing from the front, you may need to check that the stitching is catching the placket on the back.
  • Increase stitch length to be the same as the front of the cover and quilt - stop the vertical quilting well short of the buttons, as this will be hidden under the other side of the placket. If you find your buttons are in the way, it's easy enough to take them off and sew back on again when finished.
  • Remove curved pins as you quilt.

Quilt Cushion Cover - Back - the side of the placket with the buttonholes ...

  • Place the back of the cushion cover (face down) on the table.
  • Place the batting on top, about ½" below the buttonholes.

  • Place the backing fabric on top (face up), so the buttonholes are just covered.

  • Fold the backing fabric underneath the batting.
  • Baste (large hand stitch) in place. You may need to pin before you baste, but MAKE SURE you remove all pins before you flip to the right side and sew.

  • Flip to the right side.
  • Lift up the flap and baste (large hand stitch)
  • Quilt as for the other side.

Trim Front and Back...

  • Trim front to the desired size. 
  • Do up the buttons on the back.
  • Position so the buttons are not in or near the seams.
  • Trim back.
For a 15¾" x 15¾" (40cm x 40cm) cushion insert, I trimmed to 15½" x 15½". With seam allowances of ⅜", that makes a cushion cover of 14¾" x 14¾", 1" smaller than the insert. If I were to make a cover without batting, I would make the cover smaller. It all depends on how plump you want the cushion to be. See my post on cushion inserts for more information on sizing.

Sew the Edges of Each Piece...
Note, this is not sewing the cushion together, but neatening the edges BEFORE you sew them together.
  • With a small stitch, sew around the outside of the front, about ⅛" - ¼" from the edge. This is to secure the quilting stitches that you have just cut by trimming.
  • Repeat with the back.
  • Remove walking foot.
  • Attach regular foot - must be a foot suitable for zig zag.
  • Zig zag around the outside of all pieces - reduce the stitch length and increase the width. Alternatively you could use bias tape or overlock  the edges.

Sew the Cushion..
  • Attach walking foot.
  • Undo the buttons - or you won't be able to turn the cushion right side out later on.
  • With right sides together and using a ⅜" seam  sew around the edges. The stitch length should be your normal sewing length - for me, 2.4
A lot of sewists like to trim the corners before turning. If I am using batting, I prefer not to trim the corners.
  • Turn right side out. 
  • Push the corners out - a chopstick is good for this
  • Insert cushion insert.

My cushion is nice and plump, so there's a bit of strain on the buttons. I suppose I could take out a bit of stuffing, but I like the look of a full cushion, and I know my buttons are sewn on securely. With time, the cushion will flatten a little and there'll be no pulling on the back.

Instead of the regular polyester inserts that I normally use, this time I've gone for a recycled PET cushion insert, from Innergreen. As well as recycled PET, this Australian company makes products from corn fibre. Custom size cushions can be ordered, along with the standard size cushions already in stock. As well as the obvious environmental benefits, the cushion inserts have a zip in one of the seams, making it super easy to remove, or add stuffing if required. I'll definitely be buying my cushion inserts from Innergreen from now on. No, I'm not being sponsored.

How to make a cushion from men's old shirts. The button placket forms the back closure, so this pillow is quick and easy to sew. Tutorial ~ Threading My Way

The idea of using a button placket is not new. There are lots of cushions, with the button placket as a feature on the front, floating around online. However, I've never seen one where the button placket is cut off and attached separately, to become a closure on the back. I was inspired by Vicky Myers Creations' toddler shirt dress. As soon as I saw Vicky's toddler dress, my mind jumped to the idea of this cushion.

Does you mind work like that - see one idea and leap off at a tangent to a completely different project?

I'll be adding the shirt cushion to the Pillows & Cushions link party, here at Threading My Way, and to Ho Ho Ho and On We Sew. Fiona, from Celtic Thistle Stitches, is hosting a link party every month this year, encouraging us to get a head start on our Christmas sewing. 

Someone is going to win those gorgeous screen printed fabrics from Summersville, just for adding Christmas makes to Ho Ho Ho and On We Sew this month. Hope it's ME!!!

My shirt cushion is a present I'll be very proud to give. It's, of course, going to be living in the same home as the Shirt Quilt. Not sure if I'll be able to wait till Christmas to hand over the cushion, but I'll try.

... Pam

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  1. Another great idea for those set aside shirts Pam! I used the placket from a shirt as a closure for an embroidered cushion a while ago, it was so much easier than making buttonholes myself!
    Thanks for linking up to Ho, Ho, Ho and on We Sew too, good luck in the giveaway draw :)

  2. I like your idea for the use of the button placket. I try to use them in the quilt, but their thickness does interfere with quilting. So now I have a collection of plackets. Thinking maybe a whole pillow of Dad's button plackets?

  3. Your cushion looks gorgeous Pam, and that is a fabulous idea to use the buttons from the shirt as the cushion cover closure!!

  4. Using the button placket ... oh MY that is cute, and such a cute closure! I don't think I've seen that done before - or if I have seen it, I didn't notice! I haven't started cutting my shirts yet so I'll make sure to keep them - even if I use the shirts for a quilt, it would be cute to include the buttons as is :) I have elebenty bazillion tiny white buttons so I wouldn't bother cutting them off to save as buttons, but now that you have me thinking outside the box, they'd be adorable as embellishments :)

  5. Love the idea of using the button up bit as the opening for the cushion! I will look at my husbands shirts very differently now!

  6. Love the way you used the buttons, what a great idea, and so perfect with the quilt too.

  7. What a great idea. I still have some of my dads shirts since he passed away, it would make a great remembrance to always have.

  8. Pam, thank you so much for this great tutorial and idea! I have just finished making 4 shirt pillows for a sweet friend whose husband passed away last month. She has 4 children and these pillows will be Christmas gifts for them. Even though my shirts weren't as colorful as yours, they turned out really great! I'm so happy to have found your post!


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