People all have their own unique ways of commemorating a loved one after death. You might throw yourself into an activity once shared with the deceased. You may find comfort in sharing memories about someone who has died with your family and friends. You may seek creative outlets like crafting or making art to process your feelings.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What You'll Need to Get Started on Your Memory Pillow
- Steps for Making a Memory Pillow with a Collar
- Memory Pillow Ideas and Inspiration
Today, we’ll explore one kind of memorial craft in particular. Specifically, we’ll break down the steps that go into making a memory pillow with a collar — a collared shirt. You can accomplish this simple task if you have basic sewing skills — the result is an item you will treasure.
What You’ll Need to Get Started on Your Memory Pillow
It can be hard letting go of a deceased loved one’s belongings, especially items that you strongly associate with their memory.
If the item that you treasure is a collared shirt, you can turn it into a memory pillow. If you have fairly basic sewing machine skills, you should catch on relatively quickly. We’ll break down the supplies a project like this requires with as much specificity as possible.
A collared shirt that belonged to your late loved one
This tutorial is specifically for collared shirts. This could include a polo shirt, a woman’s blouse, or a man’s dress shirt. Incorporating the collar into the pillow gives this memorial DIY craft project a distinctive look.
When you choose a shirt to transform into a body pillow, you’ll usually make that choice based on your emotional connection to the shirt. But there are some other factors you should also take into consideration.
Try to pick a shirt without any seams or darting, as that can make it difficult to work with. A shirt that hangs straight down without tapering in at the waist is best for this project. You should also make sure the shirt doesn’t have any rips or stains that you might need to compensate for.
A square pillow insert
Most craft stores carry plain square decorative pillow inserts for DIY projects like this. You can also order pillow inserts online through retailers like Amazon. They come in a wide array of sizes, so the size of the shirt you’re working with will dictate which pillow you use.
If the shirt is small or medium in size, a pillow that measures 18 inches by 18 inches should be a good fit. If the shirt is large or extra-large, you may find that a 20-inch by 20-inch pillow is a better choice.
A sewing machine
This is a relatively simple craft project, so there are no real requirements when it comes to your sewing machine. Whatever you already have on hand should do the trick.
You’ll need to use thread to stitch your memory pillow closed. Make sure to pick one that will either complement the fabric or at least blend in with it.
Anyone who sews even casually should invest in a good pair of fabric scissors. With their sharp angle and lack of serration, they cut cleanly and precisely through the fabric.
Tailors’ chalk, pins, and a ruler
These tools will all help you mark your project along the way.
Steps for Making a Memory Pillow with a Collar
Now that you know what materials you’ll need for this DIY memorial gift, it’s time to learn how to put it all together. Just follow these simple steps to make your own collared memorial pillow:
1. Set up your workspace
It’s a lot easier to be creative when you set yourself up in the right work environment. You’ll need room to spread out, so if you have a big table, you can get set up there. In a pinch, you can also spread out across the floor.
It’s always good to have plenty of light, so be sure to position yourself near a window or light fixture. Finally, gather all the supplies listed above and lay them out in your chosen workspace in an orderly fashion.
2. Measure twice, cut once
Lay your shirt out flat over your work surface and place the cushion insert inside. This will help you to better visualize how much of the shirt you’ll need.
Cut off any excess fabric at the bottom of the shirt. If you’re not sure how much to cut, err on the side of caution. You can always cut more fabric off later, but you can’t uncut it. Leave the removed fabric off to the side for now, as you’ll need it later.
Next, cut the sleeves off of the shirt. Locate the shoulder seam, then move about an inch past them before you cut, so that the seam and a small amount of fabric remain. You can discard the sleeve fabric or save it for another project.
3. Pin down the collar
Your memory pillow shirt will look much neater in the long run if the collar is sewed in place. If your shirt doesn’t already have a tacked-down collar, you affix it in place yourself. Use some of your pins to position the collar the way you want it, then stitch it into place with your sewing machine.
4. Prepare to close up the neck
Take the fabric you trimmed off the bottom of the shirt earlier and cut off a large square. This will seal up the hole in the collar. An 8-inch by 8-inch square will generally work, but you may have to adjust, depending on your shirt. Put a rough hem on all four sides of the square to keep it from eventually unraveling. Don’t worry about making it perfect, as the edges will be hidden
Unbutton the shirt so you can pin the fabric square to it. The bottom of the square should line up just under the hem of the collar and extend over the top of the shirt. Once you’ve placed it, turn the shirt over and sew the rectangle, removing the pins as you go. This will create a kind of flap.
5. Mark and sew
Button your shirt back up and then turn it fully inside out. Lay it flat across the table and use tailors’ chalk and a ruler to draw straight lines down each side of the shirt. You can use the arm seams as your guide for a starting point.
You can use pins to keep the front and back sides of the shirt tightly lined up. Sew along these lines to create side seams for your pillow.
6. Close the bottom
Once you’re satisfied with the side seams, put the pillow insert inside the shirt through the open bottom. The pillow should fit snugly. Use chalk to mark where you’d like to sew the bottom seam and remove the insert before sewing the bottom seam.
7. Complete the cushion
Once your three seams are closed, unbutton the shirt and turn it right side out. Place the pillow insert inside and fold the rectangular flap down to cover the hole. Button the shirt back up and enjoy the finished product!
Memory Pillow Ideas and Inspiration
Making a memory pillow out of a special shirt is a great way to transform it into something meaningful. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can personalize this treasure even more. Embroidering a short message onto the pillow further customizes it.
You can have the message stitched onto a patch and then affixed to the shirt for simplicity’s sake. Choose memory pillow sayings that remind you of your loved one. Here is some inspiration:
“Life ends. Love doesn’t.”
This is an abbreviated version of a Mitch Albom quote. It reminds you that even if your loved one is no longer alive, her memory lives on.
“Holding you in my heart.”
Memory pillows are special in part because they give you something tactile to hold onto when you miss your loved one. This message would be beautiful embroidered on the left lapel of the shirt, near where your heart is.
“All that we love becomes part of us.”
This is a shorter version of a Helen Keller quote. It signifies that your loved one lives on through your actions and deeds.
Crafting Your Way to Inner Peace
Art has long been known to have therapeutic benefits. When you’re dealing with difficult and complex emotions, an art project can serve as a distraction.
Having a specific task to focus on can help you regain a sense of control. Creating something beautiful can have a healing and restorative effect on your psyche. Creating memorial crafts in honor of the deceased keeps your loved one’s spirit alive in a small but meaningful way.
- Aspinall, Mike “How to Turn a Shirt Into a Cushion Cover.” Thecraftygentleman.net, The Crafty Gentleman, 29 April 2018, www.thecraftygentleman.net/2018/04/29/how-to-turn-a-shirt-into-a-cushion-cover/.