Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turning Shirts into Pillow Covers

An embarrassingly long time ago, I posted a thrift shop haul with a couple of button-up shirts from the 4th Ave Salvation Army and coyly teased that I was going to be undertaking a project with them soon.

Well that was over 2 months ago, sooo.... the actual definition of the word "soon" can go eff itself.

The important thing is that we're here together now with this project that I finally completed - turning a couple of thrifted button up shirts into small pillow covers. Best part:  No sewing skills or sewing machine needed!

Turning Shirts Into Pillow Covers

When I saw this floral shirt on the rack in Salvay earlier this summer, its bright blue coloring and seemingly unworn print really stood out to me. Knowing that the shape and fit were nottt cute for actually wearing (it even had shoulder pads, for god's sake), it struck me as a perfect shirt to grab and use as a pillowcase for one of the two Ikea pillows that were back at my apartment, waiting to be covered.

Then I spotted the striped top and it was just bright and new-looking enough to convince me that it would be a good buddy for the floral shirt. Thus, my two future pillow covers were purchased and brought home to..... chill for a couple of months until I finally got around to doing anything with them.

Here's what I used to turn my shirts into pillow covers:

- two kråkris pillows from Ikea ($1.99 each)
- two complementing button-up shirts from Salvation Army ($5.99 each)
- fabric glue (I used Aleene's Fabric Fusion, 2 pens in a package for $5.99 from Michael's)
- scissors
- ruler (optional)
- pins (optional)

I ended up making each pillow cover differently - you learn as you go, after all! Or I do anyway, since I was almost entirely wingin' it. #IDoWhatIWant. Here's how I made the first one:

Step 1: Separate the bottom half of the shirt from the sleeves/collar half of the shirt by cutting across from about armpit-to-armpit. You can use your ruler here if you want to make sure your lines are extra straight, but they don't really have to be. Depending on the size of your pillow, you may need to cut higher up on the shirt to include more of the "chest/upper back" area. Unbuttoned, this will leave you with a long rectangle of fabric:

Make a pillowcover out of a shirt

Step 2: Fold over and glue all four of the rectangle's rough edges to form pretty hems:

Hemming a homemade pillowcase

Step 3: Once all 4 sides of your rectangle have prettier hems, spread the fabric out length-wise - patterned side down/hem sides up - and lay your pillow into the center. Fold the left side's hem over the pillow, lining the button holes up in the center of the pillow:

Making a pillow cover with a shirt

You can pin the top and bottom hems together if you'd like - it may make the next glueing step easier or less messy for you:

Homemade pillowcase
Step 4: From here (focusing for now on just the left half of the fabric), pipe a line of fabric glue onto the bottom hem of the side that's closest to you, and then press the top and bottom hems together to seal the layers. Repeat this on the side of the pillow that's further from you. This should leave the entire left half of your pillow sealed into the case (as sort-of shown in the picture below Step 3).

Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with the right side of your pillowcase fabric - making sure that your buttons line up with your button holes in the center of the pillow. 

And voila! Now you've essentially glued your pillow INTO your pillowcase, with the ability to unbutton the fabric to take the pillow out if you ever want to re-cover it or wash your pillowcase.

Turning shirts into pillow covers, homemade, DIY
So that's how I did the first one... but I found a slightly easier way to make the second one. So I do hope you've read this far ;)

Step 1: With your shirt still buttoned, lay out your shirt flat, buttons side up. Cut across the chest of the shirt through both layers, approximately armpit to armpit. Keep the shirt buttoned together for all of the following steps.

Step 2: Separate the front of the shirt from the back of the shirt by cutting upwards along both of the side seams.  

Step 3: Create pretty hems on all four sides of both your top and bottom pieces of fabric by folding over the edges and glueing them with your fabric glue. Check as you go to make sure you're not making your fabric too small to cover your pillow!

Step 4: Lay out the bottom half of the shirt, patterned side down, and place your pillow into the center. Now lay the top half of the shirt atop your pillow, patterned side up, and make sure your buttons are straight down the center of the pillow.

Step 5: Begin glueing all the edges together, until your pillow is once again glued into the fabric with the ability to unbutton the fabric to remove the pillow. I took breaks between glueing each side, to give the glue time to dry and strengthen.

Turning shirts into pillow covers, homemade, DIY
And there you have it! A totally bootleg but effective way to make your own pillow covers using some button up shirts!

Pillow covers made from shirts

Shirts made into pillow cases

Shirts made into pillow cases

So now when you see a shirt with pretty fabric or a cool pattern, but a terrible cut/fit, you can totally buy it and make your pillow wear it instead. Hoozah!

Have you ever made your own pillow cover? Are there any shirts you've been eyeing at thrift stores that would be great for this project? Let me know if you give it a try ~> you can tweet me a picture at @akaBailey!

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{Linking up at Funday Monday, Tell Us TuesdayCraft Frenzy Friday, 
The DIY'ers, That DIY Party, and What I Learned Wednesdays}


  1. I love this idea! Those two pillows also look great together!

    1. Thanks, I like the way they look together too :)

  2. This is so cute! I love that you kept the buttons on and I love the patterns that you picked out. I think fabric glue is right down my alley since I can't sew for peanuts.

    1. I knew I wanted to have those buttons go right down the center of the pillow - both as a little aesthetic detail AND as a way to take the pillow in and out of the case :)

  3. Amazing!
    Love your blog<3

  4. This is such an awesome idea, and I absolutely love the patterns of your shirts!


  5. what a cute idea- love those patterns and colors!


    Christina, Esq.

  6. Oh I love this, such a great idea, I have a few shirts crying out for a DIY project so this is perfect. Just popping over from Funday Monday linky :)

    Laura x

    1. I hope you'll send me a picture if you try this out yourself!! Thanks for stopping by :)


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