Sweater Pillows! – A DIY Tutorial

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Hi there Thursday readers!


I found something that I thought was super cool, and easy to do if you have a little bit of sewing skills. It’s also a great way to re purpose your old wintertime sweaters to have new use, or if you’re looking for a great way to give a unique kind of gift, this may be an answer. You don’t need a lot of materials, but you do need some basic sewing know how and a sewing machine.

There is a full tutorial at the Tidbits website here, including lots of photos of the finished products and the process, but I’m going to give you the short version and perhaps some ideas for twists on the idea.  Your materials are simple: an old sweater – preferably one with texture, and one that’s knit. though you can turn any sweater you would like into one of these beauties.  You’re going to need a pillow form of a size that is smaller than your sweater or pillow stuffing. You can buy pillow forms at any local craft or sewing shop.  You will also need some iron on (fusible) interfacing – preferably a light weight.  Interfacing can be found at any fabric store, though you may want to ask an associate for help to find the type that you need. Remember: Fusible and lightweight. You may also want to pick up a piece of fabric chalk so you can draw on the fabric and know it will come out. You’ll also need an iron to heat the interfacing.

If you are using a pillow form, you will need make sure to leave enough extra room for the fluffiness of the pillow when you cut the sweater.  So make sure that you have a little extra room on your sweater to be able to add seam allowance which – for those who aren’t sewers – is the amount of fabric that you will be sewing inward from the edge.  You will be marking the outline of the pillow on the sweater, so when you do this, you will be wanting to leave a minimum of 1/2 inch extra all around. If you have an extra fluffy pillow, you may want to leave a little more. Keep in mind though, sweaters are stretchy, and though you’ll be using interfacing, there should be enough stretch left at the seams that you will still be able to put your pillow inside, even if it’s a little small.

So like I said above, your first step is to lay your old sweater out flat, and place your pillow form on top of it. If you’re going to be using stuffing, you won’t need to do this step as you will be filling it as opposed to stuffing with a form. Using a fabric marker, or some fabric chalk you will need to trace around the pillow for size. Remember to allow an extra 1/2 inch minimum for sewing space.  As pictured above (and below) if your pillow reaches the sides of your sweater, you don’t need to cut them out. You can leave them closed, if you’d like.

Remember you will be using both sides of the sweater, so if you’re keeping the sides together that is an extra seam you don’t need to sew.

Your next step is to cut out two pieces of interfacing that are the same sizes as the pieces of sweater that you cut (see above picture). This is an extremely important step as this will keep your cushion edges looking sharp and square. When you are ready, crack out your iron and iron these two pieces to the WRONG sides of the sweater. These are going to sit inside the pillow to keep it square.  Follow the directions on your interfacing packaging for how to sew it to fabric. This is going to stick to the sweater, so make sure it’s placed accurately. This will keep the fabric from unraveling and moving when you’re trying to sew it, which is key to having this DIY turn out well. See below for the alternative.

Because sweaters are a knit as opposed to a regular cotton fabric, if you don’t have some kind of stiffener, they will collapse in on themselves like some kind of horrible cotton black hole, as is evidenced by the photo above.  To avoid black holes… interfacing.

Take your sweater pieces with the interfacing fused on, and line them up right sides together.  Pin all around and note a space to leave open for the filling or pillow form.  If inserting a pillow inside, you will need a larger opening.  If simply inserting stuffing, you can leave a smaller opening. Keep in mind, if you’re going to want to have your pillow to have a zipper, then this is the point when you would install it. I recommend this step for more experienced sewers. For less experienced sewers, you can continue on.
Sew all around all four sides, except for the hole that you are leaving for your pillow or your stuffing. Remember that if you’re putting a pillow form inside, you will need a hole that is almost the full length of one side (leaving maybe 2 inches from each corner if you’re planning a zipper. The hole can be a little smaller if you’re not planning to leave an opening).  Trim the edges when you’re done, so that it’s neat and tidy and a little easier to flip inside out.
When your sewing is done, all you need to do is turn the pillow case inside out. You will need to make sure to form the corners so that they have a pointy edge, but you should be able to do that with a finger. If you need a tool, pick something that has a rounded end to push the corners out like the end of a toothbrush or a pen with the cap on. Something that won’t rip through the knit or the interfacing.

Your last step is to pin your opening closed and do some hand sewing to seal that last end.  The only disadvantage to this is that you will not be washing or changing this pillow out. A great alternative to this, if you’re going to be making a number of these, would be  to leave one edge on one side of the pillow about 4 inches longer than the rest.  If you finish the outisde seams that would be left open, you can fold this extra flap over the back of the pillow like an envelope and add some velcro, or some buttons or even some toggles to seal your pillow in. You have lots of different ways this can be done.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I think they’re a really cool winter idea either for your home or for a gift that doesn’t have to be holiday related, and can be done in an afternoon. It also saves old sweaters that you don’t wear anymore from the trash, so what a great way to recycle!


Happy sewing!


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