Sewing an Imperfect Pillow: A Very Unhelpful Tutorial

Finished pillow strip(click on pictures to see a larger image)

One of the challenges for the One Little Word workshop is to make your word visible by choosing a symbol or having your word somewhere that you see it each day.  I decided that for my word Choose I would use the ampersand symbol…because i'm choosing between this & that. :) 

I was purging my closet of old sweaters (I'm talking 10 years old…getting pretty raggedy looking) and I got, what I would consider, an inspired idea to use some of them to make a pillow with my symbol. 

One of my goals this year is to embrace imperfection, another is to finish projects that I start…what better way than to sew a pillow, right!? My plan was to avoid looking at other people's projects or looking at any patterns/tutorials…basically I wanted to fly by the seat of my pants (this is not my strong suit), make mistakes, forgive them and just do it. I didn't even measure…not even the distance between my button holes. I know… 

(If you are a seasoned seamstress or perfectionist you may want to stop reading…haha)

My thoughts: 

The edges of the sweaters are already finished so it takes out one of the steps…even if they are completely warped and uneven, it helps me embrace the imperfection from the get go.

If I totally mess up, it's not really a huge loss 

It's good practice and gets me sewing

Some of these shirts have some pretty cool memories attached to them so its nice to keep them around

Here's how I did it:

Step 1 – I chose two shirts with contrasting look and feel.


Step 2 - I chose which section of the shirt I wanted to use and cut off the sleeves and excess material…I left as many "finished" edges as possible. (While I didn't measure my cuts, I did take a good while deciding where to make the first cut and what edges would make the best pillow shape. I measured from hem to hem of the sweater to check if it was "square"…it wasn't…I stopped measuring and moved on.) 


Step 3 – I decided to leave the little "V" cut that was originally in the neckline to add a pop of color to the back of the pillow. I cut out an appropriate sized, non-measured, chunk of the watermelon colored shirt, pinned it in place then sewed it into the negative space. Once that was complete, I sewed that side of the pillow closed and cut off the excess material.

V cut sewing

Step 4 - I printed out the shape I wanted to use and pinned it onto my shirt where I wanted the bright color to show through. I cut around the paper as closely as I could. I was hard to get a perfect cut with how stretchy the fabric was.


Step 5 - I placed the watermelon shirt under the negative space and pinned the two shirts together.


 Step 6 – Next I sewed around the ampersand shape in black thread…I like the texture this created. I sewed around a few times to make the stitching stand out then sewed on the sweater pieces to finish the ampersand. (at this point I only had one side of the pillow open and it was definitely a little tricky.)


Step 6 – Because of the sweater material being knit and pulling in places, I needed to use a pillow form instead of stuffing it myself. I found a pillow form that was a little big so I could stretch the case around it nicely. I chose to finish the pillow with buttons and create an "envelope" pillow case. Button holes were the hardest part for me. I knew I would hit a wall at some point and consider quitting…this was it, but I'm so glad I didn't! I DID have to look up how to use the button foot on my sewing machine…cool little contraption if you ask me! This material was not the best for learning to make button holes but I went with it and since I made the holes on the black section, it was pretty forgiving. Once I had my holes made (they are not even close to evenly spaced) I pinned the bottom flap up and put a pin where I should sew on the buttons so they would line up with the holes. I'm sure there has to be a much better method for doing this but like I said…I wanted to fumble my way through this and be free to problem solve creatively. 


Step 7 – This material had so much pull to it that my buttons didn't hold the material in place how I wanted so I just "tacked" the edges in place with black thread, which you can't really see. So while this looks like an envelope pillow…it's stuck this way forever, which is totally cool with me. 😉

_03_02_2014_1046 TADA

So there you have it! While this tutorial is probably the most unhelpful that you've read in terms of exactly how to do something, perhaps it will inspire you to create something and embrace imperfection! It was actually quite freeing and I'm pleased with how it turned out! 

Sweater pillow square

A little note about this black and white sweater…I wore it a lot…it was one of my favorites.

I wore it living in Chicago, feeling empty, lost, depressed and like my life was going no where…and I was wearing it about a year later, the night Nate proposed to me…and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

I'm pretty happy that a piece of this shirt is sticking around. 🙂

Thanks for reading!





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