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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

How to Make Hot Rod T-Shirt Pillows


My name is Jess and I have an irrational attachment to my hot rod shirts.

(Hi Jess.)

“What’s the big deal? It’s just a t-shirt.” One hundred percent correct. And I should be able to turn them into shop rags. Until I run across the one of my dad’s race car. Or the one from our first trip to the HAMB Drags when I raced a ’34 Sedan at the Mokan Drag Way.

So clearly, I can’t just get rid of them. Alternate uses for these beloved t-shirts have become a must in my house. So please ignore all the t-shirt totes in my basement marked KEEP. I’ll get to them some day. As for now, here’s a great use for some of your favorites.

Guys, I’m the first one to roll my eyes at too many pillows. But it turns out, they make excellent gifts and are super washable in a house full of slobbering, shedding, fuzzy beasts.

In 2011, the USFRA included my dad’s newly retired streamliner on their event shirt. My mom made it into a road trip pillow for me. This one happens to be a sweatshirt, so it’s nearly indestructible and super soft. It fits a regular washable bed pillow and it goes with me on all my long road trips. I LOVE this pillow.

The t-shirt pillows I make are super simple and allow for the removal of the pillow insert from the back, which makes caring for them easy.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • T-shirt of your choice
  • Pillow insert from your local sewing store
  • Standard sewing supplies: scissors, fabric chalk, ruler, pins, sewing machine, etc.

Step 1: Measure and Cut

I chose pillow inserts that would complement the size of the designs. The Speedway Heart Vintage T-Shirt will be a 12” square pillow and the Model A Coupe T-Shirt will be a 16” square pillow.

Lay the t-shirt flat and pin the bottom hems together. I designated the center of the design with a line and then measured from the center outwards to get my final width. The final markings will equal the measurement of the pillow insert.

The back of the pillow will use two overlapping shirt pieces, which will allow for the easy installation of the pillow insert. They also utilize the existing hem on the bottom of the shirt. These will be marked as the same width as the pillow insert and a few inches more than half of your height measurement.

I cut along my measured lines. You’ll end up with two pieces for the back, and one piece for the front (design side). Since these were white shirts, I went ahead and cut two pieces for the front and will basically double the front of the cover. White t-shirts tend to show what’s behind them, and I don’t care to see the pillow insert inside.

Step 2: Secure and Sew

Lay the larger design face-up on the table. Then place one of your back pieces on top of it, right side down. Place the second back piece, right side down, with the hems overlapping each other towards the center. Pin the four raw edges and then sew. I put an extra stitch along the sides where the fabric will be stretched to insert the pillow.

Step 3: Insert Pillow

Turn your pillow cover inside out and stuff in the pillow insert. The back will open and then fold back over itself when done.

And there you have it! Super easy custom t-shirt pillows.

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