DIY Recycled Dress Shirt “Pillow Daddy” Cuddle Cushions

DIY recycled dress shirt throw pillow cuddle cushions

Pillow daddy (or momma) cuddle cushions!  These easy-sew envelope throw pillow covers made with salvaged shirt materials are perfect for a special virtual cuddle. Our DIY recycled dress shirt pillows were made for our dogs to have virtual snuggles with their Dad, but the same DIY idea could be used with any special fabric and memory or relationship. Or just for general fabric recycling. Free crafts? Yes please!

Daddy's (Very Good) Boys

No matter how many walkies we take or treats I bake, Daddy is our dogs’ favourite human. When he is away for work or other travels, they miss their Dad. I’ve been known to tuck one of his worn shirts into their nests for snuggling. This was actually the inspiration for our t-shirt quilts. You can see the DIY details for making patchwork t-shirt quilts on our partner blog, Green in Real Life. Next up? Cuddle cushions.

When he recently sorted through his old dress shirts, I could feel a new project coming on. Many new projects, actually. The shirts that were unsuitable for charity donations were kept for my cutting table to be trimmed into usable parts, usable fabric, and 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. 

Happy 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.

Envelope Style Throw Pillows and Cushion Covers

Safe, Soft, and Snug

Since these are for cuddling, I opted for soft envelope style 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.

Simple Sewing

Making a basic envelope cushion cover takes just a few minutes. They’re a snap to sew and a great way to add a little custom personality to your home décor. You can see the full instructions on making easy envelope style throw pillows in our archives. 

Design and Style for DIY Recycled Shirt Pillows

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 off-cut pillow matching our dog bed covers. With a recycled shirt, it’s even easier if you are able to use the existing bottom hem as one of your flap edges. One less hem to sew! Alternatively, you may need (or want) to piece fabric together for size or for design. Piecing can be as simple or as complicated as you like to suit your sewing abilities and imagined pillow look and style. In this post, we’re sewing two different DIY recycled dress shirt pillows. One is a super simple single fabric, and the other is pieced from multiple shirts.

Making throw pillow cases with recycled dress shirt materials

Our dogs don’t rip their pillows or bedding, but some dogs might 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.

Making DIY Recycled Dress Shirt Pillows and Cushions

Supplies and Materials

To make a basic envelope style pillow case or cushion cover, you will need suitable fabric, coordinating thread, and basic sewing supplies including cutting supplies and a sewing machine. A rotary cutter and board are handy (especially if piecing), but not essential. Since these are DIY recycled shirt pillows, we’re not shopping for fabrics. We’re using old shirts to source our fabric instead.

  • Pillow insert
  • Dress shirt(s) for repurposing fabric
  • Complimentary coloured thread
  • Sewing machine and general cutting / sewing supplies
  • Iron and ironing board 

Since we’re reusing dress shirts for these DIY recycled shirt pillows, we already know that the material is washable. The shirts are old and well-used, so preshrinking the fabric isn’t an issue here, but the shirts should be clean and dry.

Sizing a Cover for a Pillow Insert

The finished cover will need to accommodate the bulk of your pillow insert, not just flat dimensions. Depending on the type of insert and how plump you’d like the filled pillow to look or feel, you may need to include an allowance for loft. In most cases, however, a tight fit makes for a full plump pillow. A decorator’s tip is to size the cover slightly smaller and squeeze in the fuller insert for a super plump pillow. A sneaky way to do this when sewing is to cut your fabric based upon the insert dimensions without adding an extra allowance for the edge seams.

Envelope cushion covers have overlapping rear flaps. How much overlap to include in the design is a personal choice. For a secure envelope, I like my covers to have a back flap that is almost the full size of the pillow plus an overlapping closure that covers between 1/2 (minimum) and 3/4 of the back. Sometimes I use more depending on the shape and intended use. With our dog’s pillow Daddy cushions the overlap is almost the full backing for added security. We want to make sure that the insert stays tucked inside during nesting and resting.

Quick and Simple Single-Piece DIY Recycled Shirt Pillows

The black and white envelope pillow case was made using the back panel from a shirt as a single piece of fabric. It’s super easy! I have to confess that I really like the plain yet tailored look of the black check in the finished pillow. I’m almost tempted to keep it for general use. But the dogs need their cuddles more than I need another throw pillow. Hehehe. Oli has already laid claim to this cuddle cushion.

Making a throw pillow cover by recycling fabric from an old shirt

Measuring and sizing the materials:

  • Measure your insert and determine your required case dimensions (see notes above).
  • 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 a seam allowance for finishing the cut flap 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.

Sewing the case:

  • 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)
  • Sew to secure the hem.
  • With right side facing in, fold the fabric to form the envelope at the desired height for the finished case. Ensure that the flaps are positioned to invert in the right order for inside/outside on the finished pillow. Pin to secure. Double check the flaps, just in case.
  • 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.

Completing and using the case:

If using a ravel-prone fabric (dress 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.

  • Trim excess fabric if/as needed.
  • Inverse through the rear flap gap to right-side (pattern) out.
  • Iron (optional) and insert pillow.

Need a helping paw in the sewing room? You can find additional information on making envelope pillows, including diagrams, in our post on how to make easy envelope style DIY cushion covers.

Patchwork DIY Recycled Shirt Pillows from Multiple Shirts

The striped pillow was made using joined pieces from multiple different shirts. The 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. 

Creating a Patchwork of Materials from Old Shirts

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.

Piecing together old dress shirt fabric to make a pillow case

Sewing the Pillow Case

Dress shirt fabrics are prone to ravelling when cut. 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 make 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.

Making a throw pillow cover using materials from old work dress shirts

Using the DIY Recycled Shirt 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. Yes, we sent Daddy pictures to make sure he was missing his boys extra hard, too. It’s a lot cuter (and less crazy looking) than having random shirts scattered about the house! 

The pillows are kept on a shelf in the closet with hubby’s clothes when not in use. They only come out for cuddles when he is away. This is just random preference, but not using them all the time helps them to stay special. It also reduces the risk of special Daddy smells being overtaken by wear, wash, and dog smells over time. 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 stink boost. After all, the dogs are all about the smells.

The cases are easily removable for washing. It’s also useful to use a washable pillow insert as well, especially with dogs. Senior Oli has gotten some pee on Pillow Daddy during snoozing snuggles, but everything is easily cleaned and scent refreshed as above. 

DIY recycled dress shirt throw pillow cuddle cushions

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