How to Make a Memory Pillow from a Button-Down Shirt

The past few months have been ridiculously busy for our whole family. From grad school, teaching, raising an energetic toddler, and the holidays, I didn’t find as much time this year to make handmade Christmas gifts like I normally do. I did, however, make sure I had time to make one particular gift – a memory pillow for my grandmother using one of my grandfather’s old flannel shirts.

My grandfather was a carpenter and had a slew of flannel work shirts that he kept hanging in his basement. In 2012 when he passed away, my grandma gave me these shirts in his memory. I frequently wear one of the flannels that was his, but I have kept the rest tucked safely away in my wooden chest in my bedroom so no harm would befall them. I have tried to think of something to do with these shirts for years, and finally I came up with an idea for one of the shirts.

Here’s a picture of my grandfather on his 90th birthday <3

What I Did

I started by purchasing a square pillow from the craft store. The pillow I used was 12″ by 12″. I used a needle and thread to sew up the top of the shirt underneath the collar so my stitches would not be seen. Next, I turned the shirt inside out, leaving it buttoned up, and laid the pillow on top, centered where I wanted it to line up. I made a small mark on the inside of the shirt to mark the edge of the pillow on each side.

With a sewing machine, I sewed a running stitch straight down both sides of the shirt where I had made my marks. The plaid pattern made it easy to keep the lines straight, but a ruler could also be used. I then flipped the shirt so the right side was facing out and inserted the pillow. This gave me a general idea of where I wanted the bottom to be.

Finally, I flipped the shirt inside-out again, and sewed one last running stitch along the line where I wanted the bottom of the pillow to be. I unbuttoned the shirt and flipped it right-side-out again. I carefully folded the sleeves and the extra pieces of the shirt flat into the back of the shirt, in order to maintain the integrity of the shirt. I then laid the pillow into the opening and buttoned the shirt up.

To add an extra personal touch to the pillow, I cut out a small heart from a piece of cream felt. My husband then helped me by copying my grandfather’s signature from a Valentine’s card that he wrote my grandma years ago. With black embroidery floss, I embroidered over the signature for a finished look. I then hand stitched the heart onto the shirt using black embroidery floss.

My grandma loved the finished gift, although she did say she was a little mad at me for making her cry on Christmas. I also surprised her by tucking in a few old greeting cards my grandfather gave my grandmother into the shirt. She has since kept the pillow front and center in her bedroom, and I can tell it means the world to her.

If you decide to take on the task of creating a memory pillow, I would love to hear about it or see pictures! Please comment below or tag me on social media using @onecraftatatime on Facebook or Instagram!

Happy crafting!

~ Candace 🙂