We all want keepsakes of our loved ones even when, or especially when, they are gone.

My father died four years ago.

I can’t believe it still and I know it happened.

Sometimes I smell his cologne around the house, sometimes it is pipe tobacco.

But I also wanted something tangible of his to hold. That’s when I saw shirt pillows.

pillow chairYou take a loved one’s shirt and convert it into a pillow. To make it easier to wash the insert or replace it, a zipper is placed at the bottom of the pillow.

I took one of Dad’s favorite shirts, with Mom’s permission of course, to make into a pillow. The patterns I saw called for a 16″ pillow. But Dad was a big guy and we came to realize that an 18″ pillow was going to work much better.

Making the pattern was the easy part. I cut out an 18″ square out of newspaper. Originally I thought I was going to make a 16″ pillow and created that patter piece in the same way. But we quickly realized the pockets would be cut on the ends. Mom didn’t want that so I went two inches bigger.

pillow pattern cut outOnce I placed the pattern on the shirt and pinned it down, it came for the really hard part.

I had to cut the shirt.

In cutting the shirt I had to admit to myself just how real this all is. Dad is not coming back. He is not going to come around the corner quacking at me or the kids. He is not going to say “It’s too damn hot” or “it’s too damn cold.”

The door to the house will not open and he will not walk through. Cutting the shirt seemed more final than when we spread his ashes.

I had to wait until I was back home before I threw out the remains of the shirt. I couldn’t do it at Mom’s house where I made the project. All in all, it took me an hour to get the courage to cut around the pattern, giving it a half inch seam allowance.

pillow front stitch downAs I began to work on the shirt, I followed the good advice of my friend, Steve. It was tempting to simply leave the shirt able to open at the buttons. But puckering was a concern. Steve suggested that I sew down the button over lap, making it look like top stitching.

Another great suggestion was to put in the zipper before I created all of the side seams. That way the zipper is in before trying to make it fit. Once the zipper was in, all I had to do was create the side seams with a traditional 5/8 sewing line.

To be safe I did a zigzag stitch along the edges just to make sure there would be no raveling of material. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the pillow form to come from Amazon. Once it did, all I had to do was fluff the pillow form, bend it in half, and zip up the closure.

pillow finished

If I had to do it again, I would top stitch along the zipper for less gap. I can always go back and do that.

I might have used a 19″ pillow to fill out the corners better and to have a more pop of pillow fluffiness.

Otherwise, this went well. It only took a few hours in real time. I did have to take a while since it was the first time I made this project. Steeling your courage without alcohol takes time.

While I have some of his other shirts in quilted flannel, they are not going to get the shirt treatment. They are too warm to cut up.

Still, it makes for a great memory keepsake, especially when you need a little warmth or hug back.

pillow supplies

 

Supplies

1 Shirt

Matching or coordinating thread

Zipper – I had a 16″ zipper because that is what I planned initially. I would go with 1-2 inches shorter than the form size you plan to use.

Pins

Pattern

Pillow Form – On inch bigger than your pattern for a bigger fit.

Seam ripper – for all necessary unsewing