Throws Pillows Made from Upcycled Clothes

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


photo of the completes pillows from upcycling clothes

Pillows can be a bit deceiving. They are small and since they are typically square, they look like they should be really quick to make.

While they can be, when we start looking ways to make our pillows more decorative, things can become very involved! Patchwork pillows, applique, shirring and ruffles. These things can make a pillow amazing, but they come at a price; they can take a lot of time. I do enjoy spending the time making pretty pillows, but most of the time, I'm making one that I know is going to be temporary decor and I just want to get one done quickly. I've found that by using articles of clothing that have decorative details as my fabric for my pillow, I can save a whole lot of time.


Photo of tank top used to make one of the pillows in this project


For my first pillow, I chose this tank top. I loved the texture of the chenille dot fabric and the wide shirring along the bottom.


Photo of tank top with text on it showing where to cut and stitch to make a pillow


I flipped the tank top upside down and used the shirring at the top of my pillow. I stitched along the topmost stitch line through both layers to close the top of my pillow. I added a very basic applique to the front of the pillow. The bird was made using the bird die for the Fiskars Fuse.  I then slipped a pillow form inside the tank top and determined where I needed to cut for the bottom. I knew I wanted the fabric to be loose and have a lightly shirred look to it so I made sure to not cut the fabric too short. After cutting the tank top to create the bottom, I slipped the pillow form in and slip stitched the opening closed, making sure to bunch the fabric up a little as I progressed so I didn't end up with a really wide base and a smooth seam. I also could have run a basting stitch along the bottom and pulled the strings to bunch the fabric up and create a properly sized opening before slip stitching it closed.


Photo of a long sleeved shirt used to make the second pillow


For the second pillow, I used this shirt. Again, I liked the texture of the fabric and the little wooden buttons on it. And, again, I flipped it upside down! Originally I planned to use the shirring along the collar line, but as I tried to work with it, I found it was so narrow that it just bunched up and made the top of the pillow look funny. So I eventually just cut a square from the front and back of the shirt and eliminated the collar. I was able to use the side seams of this shirt as the side seams of my pillow, as well. I turned it inside out and machine stitched the opening at the collar line closed. I flipped it upside down and used the row of buttons as a pole for my simple birdhouse applique! To finish the pillow, I inserted a pillow form and slip stitched the opening closed.

If you're anxious to start and can't wait to get started on your own pillows, don't wait on trip to a thrift store to find clothing with unique details. Go raid your closet. It's a lot of fun to give new life to an old favorite article of clothing!

Supply List

Old clothing, thread, scraps of fabric for appliques (optional), pillow forms.