Monday, 26 August 2019
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Recycled Dress Shirt "Pillow Daddy" Cuddle Cushion Covers

Dalmatian dog cuddling with DIY pillow case made from owner's old shirts.

No matter how many walkies we take or treats I bake, Daddy is our boys' favourite human. Over the years, when he has been away on work or other travels and they miss their Dad, I've been known to tuck one of his worn t-shirts into their nests. This was the inspiration for our patchwork t-shirt quilts (still in use) and when he recently sorted through his old dress shirts, I could feel a new project coming on! The ones that were unsuitable for charity donations were kept for my cutting table to be trimmed into usable parts, usable fabric, and workshop rags. Less waste, more use, more creative recycled crafting fun! I have some awesome recycled shirt crafts to share in future posts, but first up are our "Pillow Daddy" cuddle cushion covers in honour of Father's Day in our part of the world this coming Sunday. These pillows were made for our dogs to have virtual snuggles with their Dad, but the same easy DIY could be used with any special fabric and memory/relationship.

Pillow cases made with fabric from old dress shirts..


Making Easy Sew Envelope Pillow and Cushion Covers


Since these are for cuddling, I opted for soft envelope cushion covers with no zippers or fasteners. You could use the button placket on shirts as a repurposed pillow closure, but for dog safety (and squishy softness), it may be better to avoid the small buttons.  Depending on the size of your shirt and your pillow insert, you may be able to use a single piece of fabric to create an envelope, like our recent off-cut pillow matching the dog bed covers, or you may need (or want) to piece fabric together for size or for design. A basic envelope only take a few minutes, and is even easier if you are able to use the existing bottom hem as one of your flap edges. Piecing can be as simple or as complicated as you like to suit your sewing abilities and imagined pillow look/style.


The materials and craft supplies used in making the recycled dress shirt cushion covers shown are:


  • Fabric (from used shirts, pre-washed and ready)
  • Pillow Inserts
  • Scissors (a rotary cutter and board are helpful, but not essential)
  • Sewing Supplies. Can be fully hand sewn if you wish, but will be much quicker/easier if you have a sewing machine. Basic sewing skills are needed - nothing too fancy or difficult!

🐾 Our dogs won't rip their pillows or bedding, but some dogs rip at their bedding or even worse, try to eat the pieces which is doggone dangerous. As with all things, bought or homemade, know your dog before giving him or her anything new, whether it is a toy, a bed, or a daddy-scented cuddle cushion. You can read more in our safety post.


Quick Single-Piece Recycled Dress Shirt Envelope Covers


The black and white check envelope pillow case was made using a shirt back panel as a single piece of fabric. Making an envelope for a pillow is the same as making one for a bed cover, but we use a large overlap on the rear to hold the insert snug inside without the need for zippers, Velcro, or other fasteners. You can find a detailed how-to post about making envelope-style pillow covers on our partner blog Creativity Unmasked, including diagrams.

Step-by-step DIY instructions for how to make an envelope cushion cover using old shirts.
  • Measure pillow insert. The finished case will need to accommodate the bulk of your pillow, not just flat dimensions, so either measure your actual insert with a slight squeeze for a snug case, or add an allowance for loft to your flat/package dimensions. 
  • Using the bottom hem as your starting edge (will become the pre-finished edge for one of the rear closure flaps), measure the required height of your case plus the two rear flaps. Add seam allowance for finishing the cut edge. If your hem is rounded, you will want to centre the curve. Alternatively, you can cut and finish both edges instead of reusing the existing hem. Cut fabric.
  • Iron the raw edge of what will become the rear closure flap to form a double-folded hem (or other finished hem of your preference) for and sew to secure. 
  • With right side facing in, fold the fabric to form the envelope at the desired height for the finished case, ensuring that the flaps are positioned to invert as you wish them to be for inside/outside on the finished pillow. Pin to secure. 
  • Measure for desired width and mark or pin where the side seams will be positioned. If using a curved pre-finished hem on one of your flaps, remember to centre the curve. 
  • Double check all measurements and ensure your folds are square.
  • Sew the sides together along the side seam markings. 
  • Inverse through the rear flap gap to right-side (pattern) out. Trim excess fabric/if as needed. 
  • Iron (optional) and insert pillow.
✂️  If using a ravel-prone fabric (shirt material often is when cut), you may wish to overlock or use an alternative finish on the internal raw edges to help hold up stronger over repeat washings

Patchwork Recycled Dress Shirt Envelope Covers from Multiple Shirts


The striped pillow was made using joined pieces from multiple different shirtsThe rear panels, front panel backing, and striped elements all came from a variety of different dress shirts. Strips were cut from the sleeves to create the striped face and matching rear flap binding. The strips were cut to the same width and pre-ironed prior to sewing. I laid out my pattern (and changed it around several times) before joining the strips by sewing. The strips were then stacked in order next to my work space to reduce the risk of mix-up, and sewn together incrementally face-to-face to form a striped panel. The panel was then ironed to flatten the seams, trimmed to remove excess and shed threads, and the raw edges trimmed to ensure they were squared.

DIY instructions for sewing and piecing fabric from old dress shirts.

To avoid loose ravel and thread shed inside the finished pillow during use/wash, I decided to back the pieced panel with an additional piece of shirt fabric (red stripes, as you can see below). The required measurement for the panel was slightly smaller than the pieces strips, so I decided to use the off cut to create a matching binding to finish the raw edge on the visible outer flap of the rear closure panel. Cute and easy! The rest of the assembly is the essentially same as the single piece envelope above, just with extra sewing to join the front and rear panels instead of folding. You can find a detailed how-to on our partner blog Creativity Unmasked for assembling an envelope from separate panels, including diagrams.

Step-by-step DIY instructions for how to make a patchwork envelope cushion cover using old shirts.

Using DIY Snuggle Dog Pillows for Virtual Cuddles


Our Pillow Daddies were made several months ago, and the dogs took to them straight away during Daddy's first trip away. :) They're kept on a shelf in the closet with hubby's clothes and come out for cuddles when he is away. Not using them all the time helps them to stay special and reduces the risk of special Daddy smells being overtaken by wear, wash, and dog smells over time. If needed, we can also give them a scent refresh by having him give them a cuddle and/or adding a bit of his cologne for a Daddy boost. The cases are easily removeable for washing washable and it's also useful to use a washable pillow insert as well, especially with dogs. 

Happy early Father's Day to all of the Fathers, Dads, Daddies, Grandpas, Poppies, and other father figures celebrating Father's Day this coming Sunday! We hope you have a great day of special memories and fun.

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