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Recently, I’ve become a fan of using t-shirts for various fabric crafts. We usually donate most of the tees my family outgrows but using them to create a rag quilted project like this pillow is another great way to recycle/repurpose clothing and create a fun project too.
I started my pillow project by choosing a pillow form (20 inches square) and drawing a grid on paper to plan out the design. You can do a basic 9 piece grid or you can design different sized patches for a more unique arrangement – mine has 13 patches of various sizes arranged in 4 rows. I drew the original design with 4 rows of 5 inch squares (adding up to the 20 inches for the pillow form), then combined and changed the sizes from there.
Next I chose 12-14 t-shirts that my son had outgrown. They weren’t particularly special for any reason other than he liked them for a favorite design or they were especially soft. He was happy to know that we would repurpose them to create a fun pillow. I chose several so that I could use each shirt once, but you can certainly maximize the fabric of each shirt and use just a few to make the same size pillow. I plan to use the remaining fabric for other t-shirt projects.
Once you determine the size of the patches for your pillow, add 2 inches to each fabric patch. For example, for my 5 inch squares I cut the fabric into 7 inch squares (front and back pieces). For the 6x10 funny car patch I cut it to 8x12 pieces. This will give me a 1 inch border to fringe on each side of each patch.
Note: I placed the tees on the Cutting Mat and used the Rotary Cutter and Acrylic Ruler to cut both front and back at the same time together.
Now cut each piece of batting to the original patch size in your design– 5 inch square batting for the 7 inch fabric squares. Sandwich the batting in the center of the 2 fabric pieces for each patch. Pin the squares and batting in place.
Next, quilt each patch as you wish. You can do a simple X in the center of each patch or outline designs on the fabric or stitch waves and other designs as I did. Be sure that the quilt stitching stays within 1 inch from the border on all sides. Thread loose thread ends to the back of the patches and trim off excess. Use the Seam Ripper to remove stitching for any mistakes.
Once all the patches are sandwiched and quilted, start joining them to create rows. Place back sides together and pin edges to prepare for a 1 inch seam. Stitch along the edge leaving a 1 inch space at each end. Remember, the seams will show on the top side so that it can later be fringed for that rag quilt effect. Build the row by adding each patch one at a time.
When you’ve completed each row for your pillow, then start joining the rows together. Again, position them with back sides together, pin and stitch across – this stitching will meet with the seam stitching you did earlier when creating rows.
Note: I first joined the top 2 rows then the bottom 2 rows. Then I joined those 2 larger pieces together in the same fashion to complete the front of the pillow.
From other fabric cut a back for the pillow to the same size as the front piece. Or if you want both sides of the pillow to be rag quilted, then you can repeat the above process for the back as well. I chose to use a piece of fleece that is very forgiving and does well with fringing. Next, pin them together (right sides out) and stitch a 1 inch seam around the outside, leaving an opening on one side (the bottom) that will be large enough to fit the pillow form. Put the pillow form inside the quilted pillow and pin the opening closed. Stitch this closed.
To give the pillow the “rag” effect, use a sharp pair of scissors/shears and fringe the seams around each patch as well as the outside edge. Take your time and avoid getting too close to the seam stitching. When you’re done fringing the seams, shake out any excess lint, fluff up the fringes and the pillow is ready to enjoy!
Pillow form (20 inches square), quilt batting and several t-shirts