How to Make an Easy T-Shirt Pillow They’ll Love Forever

Quick and easy t-shirt pillow that hugs you when cuddled. Make great gifts from their favorite t-shirts.

Lazies, Sewing something for a young man is intimidating, especially when your status as Favorite Auntie hangs in the balance. I needed to turn my nephew’s treasured t-shirt into something better than a boring, square pillow. In the past, I’ve made tons of pillowcases and travel pillows for him. But he didn’t expect what I did with his favorite t-shirt – I made a pillow that hugs him back.

Soft T-Shirts Make Amazing Pillows

Here’s the legendary t-shirt! The picture is Tinsel, my nephew’s cute standard poodle.

The shirt is a short sleeve cotton t-shirt with a crew-neck opening.

pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

My nephew has outgrown this shirt, but that’s such a great picture of his sweet doggie that I can see why he wants to keep it.

The easy thing to do is to cut two big pieces from the shirt and make a square pillow.

Did you hear the voice in my head?

“I am Super Aunt Joanie and I can do better than that!”

I’m an out-of-town aunt, too, so I use my mad sewing skills to beat out the other aunts for top billing.

Make a Pillow That Hugs Them From Out Of Town

Here’s the surprise – I used the whole t-shirt. But not the way you’d expect.

I made a super soft pillow that hugs him when he cuddles it. It’s the next best thing to a real hug from me.

Follow my sewing tips and tricks to make this quick and easy project. Here’s an overview:

  • Close the armholes and neck hole
  • Secure the bottom opening
  • Stuff with the softest fill you can find

pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

Did you notice the crew neck area on the finished pillow?

It’s not all scrunched up and stitched closed. I have a secret sewing tip for making this area look perfect!

I used magic to ‘borrow’ a few inches at the bottom edge of the shirt to fill in the neck hole perfectly.

I’m getting ahead of myself – we need to prep the shirt.

How To Prepare The T-Shirt To Make A Pillow

  1. Wash and press the shirt if needed.
  2. If it has an iron-on transfer like this shirt, press from the wrong side and protect the image with a pressing cloth between the layers and the pressing surface.
  3. Turn the t-shirt wrong side out, flatten and straighten.
  4. Cut a few inches off the bottom a little bigger than the neck hole. I cut below Tinsel’s picture.

pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I may make a commission when you buy through those links.

Stitch Settings For Sewing A Knit Fabric

Stitching on knit fabric might seem scary, I know, I’ve been there. But the right stitch and a stretch needle will make this a breeze.

Here are the stitch settings I used for this project on my BERNINA 740. The fabric stretches, so the stitches need to stretch, too.

  • #2 zigzag stitch, set to 1.2 width and 2.25 length.
  • A narrow zigzag like this will allow the stitches to stretch when the t-shirt does.
  • Use these settings for all stitching on this project.

zigzag stitch settings for pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

A Needle Can Stretch?


Use a ‘stretch’ needle, made for sewing through stretchy fabrics. A stretch needle has a rounded or ball-point tip that allows the needle to find its way between the fibers, not cut (or puncture) the fibers.

Using the wrong needle can create skipped stitches or break the fibers of the knit creating a hole.

Hello SCHMETZ Needles, I used size 75/11 for this project. SCHMETZ – I can always count on you and you never let me down.

special stretch needles for sewing on t-shirt
TIP: So far we haven’t done any sewing. Use a bit of the cut off the bottom of the shirt to test your stitches.

Filling In The Pothole, I Mean Neck Hole

Everyone knows you fill a pothole before smoothing so it’s even with the road.

My super-secret tip is to patch the hole first, then fill.

Sounds easy enough, but the neck opening is a tricky, unstable area. We’re going to ask a roll of tape for some help.

  1. Leave t-shirt wrong side out.
  2. Arrange the t-shirt so the neck hole is flat.
  3. Scrunch up the rest of the shirt as needed to prep the neck.
  4. Optional, add some double sided sewable tape to the neck ribbing.double sided sewing tape on t shirt neck hole
  5. Use the cut-off portion from the bottom edge of the shirt to cover the neck hole.
  6. If the cut-off piece isn’t large enough to cover the hole, sew pieces together to make it big enough or use a complementary piece of fabric.pillow made from a recycled t-shirt
  7. Add a few pins on the right side of the project.
  8. Stitch around the neck hole from the right side close to the edge of the ribbing.
  9. Remove pins as you sew.
  10. After stitching, trim away excess fabric from the wrong side.

pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

Stabilize The Bottom Edge With Ribbon

Sewing the bottom edge of the shirt closed will create a long straight seam and I don’t want it to stretch or break open. Here’s an easy way to stabilize the seam.

  1. Work with the shirt wrong side out.
  2. Flatten the shirt again focusing on the bottom edge.
  3. Add a piece of narrow grosgrain ribbon.pillow made from a recycled t-shirt
  4. Pin along the bottom.
  5. Stitch through all layers, remove pins as you sew.

stitch ribbon into seam to help stabilize a stretchy knit on a pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

Leave The Sleeves! And Stitch Only One Sleeve Closed

A pillow is square so we need to cut the arms off, right? No way! By keeping the sleeves and stuffing them, the sleeves become arms that pull in and hug you when cuddled.

  1. Turn the t-shirt right side out.
  2. Flatten the sleeves and stitch one of them closed.
  3. Stitch close to the edge, through the hem.
  4. I did two rows of stitching to be on the safe side.


pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

Finish T-Shirt Pillow – Stuff and Sew Closed

Do you have an old once-loved pillow sitting around and neglected? Rip it open and use the stuffing to fill the t-shirt pillow.

  1. Add stuffing through the remaining sleeve.
  2. I used poly-fil to stuff the pillow
  3. Make sure to use a filling that won’t beard or work its way through the fabric.
  4. Stitch the sleeve closed as we did for the first sleeve.

The pillow looks done, but there’s one more step. I might be silly, but I gave this pillow a huge super-aunt snuggly hug before shipping it off to my nephew. I wanted to make sure the pillow arrived loaded with a hug from me.

Enjoy the soft, cuddly, pinchy, lovable goodness of your t-shirt pillow. Here we are – snuggle pillow and super aunt – taking a selfie. Tinsel left me out of the picture.


pillow made from a recycled t-shirt

My nephew LOVES his t-shirt pillow and Tinsel sleeps on it at night – a double win which might help me retain my super aunt status.

More Recycled T-Shirt Projects

Looking for more ways to use your favorite old t-shirts? Check out our Becca Bag project here.

That’s Pinterest-ing!
Join me on Pinterest here, remember to ‘Follow’ me there, and pin this post and pics to your Pinterest boards to save this idea.

Pillow made from a boys t shirt

Subscribe to receive emails for my blog and newsletters about new patterns and project ideas.


Joan’s Sewing Group | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter

Like and share this post with your stitchy friends.