Who doesn’t love a Halloween T-shirt? But what’s one to do once your frightful favorite gets too small, stained, stretched out, or ruined? Never fear Kbatz is here to help you turn discarded October shirts into fresh Fall pillows!
1) Be brave and snip snip! Once you’ve selected your T-shirt retirees, cut off the sleeves and necklines, leaving the front and back of the shirt as your new pillow fabric. If there are out of the way soiled spots or extra bottom length, consider cutting those, too. We want to save the fun Halloween designs, so the prints we’re preserving dictate the size or shapes of the pillows. Many will be straightforward squares, but others with wide across designs can be smaller, lumbar sized pillows or a left logo becomes a memorable mini. Go with what your facade allows. Do remember though, that the pillow fabric may seem big when ironed flat, but consider how much room there will be once it is a stuffed three dimensional object. Give yourself a few inches of room or seam allowance to keep your Halloween swag centered. You don’t want any fun phrasing running off the side!
2) Turn your fabric inside out and get sewing! Your two “good sides” should face each other, pinned or basted in place with a quick stitch. Go around your material perimeter and sew three sides closed. The biggest mistake you can make here is getting carried away and sewing the whole pillow closed, but that’s totally fixable! If you are going to use a pre-made pillow form to stuff your new Halloween cover, leave the bottom completely open. If you are using other stuffing means, then you can sew the bottom partway if you desire – just leave enough for your arm to do the fillings. Matching thread works best on your final stitching, but if you need help seeing your basting stitches and want to use a zany color, well that’s fine, too. Try using pins or chalk marks if you need guidelines while you stitch. When hand sewing, a basic running stitch will suffice, the smaller the stitch the better. There is, however, no formal or right way to do it! This is just a pillow. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s no cheat, either – this is basic sewing for you and the kids to practice and have a good time. When you’ve done your three sides, turn the pillow right side out, make sure your design isn’t off the edge, unsightly, or crooked. If you have to break in a seam ripper and do a side again, that’s no problem.
3) Know your T-shirt or tool needs. T-shirt materials are often stretchy knits, so if you are sewing on a machine, check your thread, tension, or stitch, for a zig zag setting may be better on some fabrics than a straight line. If you intend to use your Halloween pillow year round or expect it to earn a lot of bed or pet rough and tumble, reinforcing your seams with more than one machine pass provides strength compared to a quick hand stitch line for an October occasional. As your handling your fabric – especially if it is already something older, stretched, or delicate, be careful not to tug and pull against the machine and create any uneven bunching. Knowing my machine gets tension issues with thicker fabrics, I sewed a former Halloween sweatshirt turned pillow by hand, first with a basting stitch and then going back around with a nicer, straight line finish. If you have trouble hand sewing, use a thimble or consider your needle size or thread weight if your thread keeps breaking or you poke your fingers. Remember this is a great way to learn some sewing basics if you’re interested in advancing to more ambitious projects.
4) It’s stuffing time! How you stuff your pillow is entirely up to you – soft, firm, overstuffed, whatever your comfort needs. A tired throw pillow can be revitalized as new Halloween innards, store bought pillow forms come in a variety of sizes, and natural or organic alternatives are available, however Poly-Fil is probably the most fun. A seasonal pillow that isn’t for sleeping or bedding use can be stuffed firm with plastic bags, disused towels, or fabric scraps, especially if you are light on real Poly-Fil or want to spread it around in combination with other materials. Heck, even dryer lint! My Halloween pillows were for decoration, so an outer layer of Poly-Fil smoothed the shape but within the interior of the pillow were plastic bags and recycled denim insulation from food deliveries. Don’t want to admit you are cheap and calling it recycling (like me)? As a pillow flattens with use or as you purchase proper stuffing, one can always refill or change a pillow later. The more advanced seamstress might even add a zipper closure to the pillow bottom so it can be continually stuffed with more fabric cabbage. Who’s going to know what’s inside the pillow anyway?
5) Don’t toss the leftovers! Remember those cut collars and excised sleeves? Use ’em for that stuffing! The sleeves from the T-shirt pillows on our game room bean bag became Stuffed Pumpkins, and long sleeves can become arm warmers. That extra shirt bottom can become its own plain practice pillow or be folded over to make a mask. Two of my Halloween shirts had small vampish designs, so I made these masks instead of pillows. Initially, they were way too big for my face, but I went around the edges again and folded the sides to make a channel for the ear elastics. I think I was overcompensating in trying to preserve the Halloween statement by trying to shape the mask to the design, which turned out to be unnecessary. Maximize every inch of your materials when possible. Get into outside the box thinking habits and ask yourself, “What else could this be? How else can this be useful?” Use these scrap materials to practice more easy sewing projects!
Halloween pillows are one of the most popular October items today. Toss one in any room and your decorating is done! Even when they aren’t super elaborate, however, designer seasonal pillows are pretty expensive. If we don’t even spend $25 on a bed pillow used every day, why are we spending just as much on some kind of beaded burlap decoration? For the same price, you can buy the Poly-Fil for two or three homemade Halloween pillows – and you get to control the comfort, use, style, and sentiment. Preserve a bemusing T-shirt as a Halloween pillow and get the whole family involved in the sewing skills and stuffing fun.
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