Laura and Annie write to each other via their blog across the Atlantic ocean. Laura lives in Bristol, England and Annie lives in DC. I love their blog name Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows – The phrase comes from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and it describes Madame Defarge, who knitted “with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows and said nothing”.
Recycled Shirt Cushion Cover: This is a great way to recycle an unwanted or thrifted shirt. The shirt buttons form the cushion fastening, so all that’s required is some simple sewing and as much (or as little) appliqué decoration as you like. Our final cushion was 18in x 18in (46 cm x 46cm) but you could vary the size depending on the size of your shirt and/or cushion filler.
You will need:
- an unwanted shirt (ours was a man’s cotton suit shirt)
- a cushion filler
- assorted scraps of fabric
- buttons and embellishments as required
- sewing thread
- sewing machine (optional), scissors, ruler & pencil
- paper (or print out the pattern with the house templates)
- hand sewing needle, pins, iron (optional)
Step 1 – Preparation: Cut the templates for the pattern on the front of the cushion. Remember that there is an extra 0.5cm (1/4 inch) boarder around the pieces for tucking under to leave a neat edge. You can check if they fit on the shirt and the cushion by placing them roughly before you begin sewing.
Step 2 – Cutting the fabric: Pin the templates (see below) to the scraps of fabric of your choice (we used fabric in shades of blue and green to match our shirt, but you can use whatever you choose). Cut the shapes out.
Step 3 – Sewing the windows to the houses: Pin the rectangles you cut out for the windows onto the rectangles you cut for the houses. Sew on the fabric for windows using slip stitch (to be neat and to give it a more hand made look, I like to go around the piece with slip stitch one way and then back around the other way – this creates little crosses) and sew on the buttons for door handles.
Step 4 – Placing the Shapes on the Cushion: Lay the shapes out onto the back of the shirt near the bottom and arrange as you like (remember don’t worry if they overlap as 0.5cm will be folded under. Fold under the edges of each piece by 0.5cm (1/4 inch) pinning to keep them in place. Make sure that once you have pinned the pieces on you are happy with the look of the design. This is how it will look once you have sewn it all together. Sometimes it helps to press your pieces with an iron – this keeps the folds neat and secure.
Step 5 – Securing the Houses: Hand sew the shapes in place using slip stitch and using the crossing technique if you wish. Then add the buttons for door handles. Be sure to only sew through one layer of fabric.
Step 6 – Centre the cushion: Place your cushion filler centered over the finished design and draw roughly around it, leaving a few centimeters seam allowance. Cut out the cushion shape from the back of the shirt. Pin it to the front of the shirt with the right sides facing, ensuring that the shirt buttons run straight down the middle of the shape. Cut out so that both pieces are identical in size and shape.
Step 7 – Sewing the Cushion: Using a sewing machine (or by hand, if you prefer), sew all the way around the cushion shape. Trim any excess fabric from the edges and corners, being sure not to trim too close to the stitches. If you are very keen you can even iron out the inside seam before Undoing the buttons and turning right-side out. Insert your cushion filler and button up at the back. Your cushion is complete!