Sewing Project

Chill Out Cushion

Recycle old T-shirts into a very personalised cushion

Turn a couple of old T-shirts into a chill out cushion that will become a firm favourite with both girls and boys following Julie Bonnar’s easy steps Boys  in particular love their T-shirts with images and they quickly become favourites, which they can’t bear to part with even when they no longer fit. Here’s a great solution that will keep them happy and also satisfy us up-cycling sewers too!

Old T-shirts are a great source of cotton jersey. For this cushion, we’ve used two T-shirts that have nice designs, and were in reasonably good repair – any frays, fading small stains, holes on sleeves and outer edges can be discarded. We used a motorbike design from one of the T-shirts as one side of the cushion and from the other T-shirt we used the design as an applique. You could choose to applique both if you preferred.


  • 2 old clean T-shirts
  • 1 cushion pad (ours was 45 cm/18" square)*
  • Paper-backed fusible web (such as Heat n Bond Lite)
  • Thread contrasting or complementary
  • Ballpoint machine needle
  • Chalk pencil and ruler

The cushion size will be determined by the amount of fabric you can salvage from the T-shirts. We used two T-shirts aged 10-11, which are big enough to take a 45 cm square cushion pad. Alternatively you can use loose cushion filling for different size cushions.

Steps to makecutting line

1. Press T-shirts and lay one with design on front, right side out on flat surface. Pin the back and front layers together so they stay in place when marking and cutting. Mark the cushion shape and size using a chalk pencil and ruler, making sure the image is central within the marked lines. Cut out carefully. There are now two pieces  – one with design and one plain black. (NB: We’ve shown two marking/cutting options).

HANDY HINT: If using new T-shirts, wash and press before starting.

2. Lay the second T-shirt on flat surface and draw around the design to be used as an applique for the back of the cushion. If the design is shaped, cut out roughly in a square or rectangle. If circular, use a dinner plate to draw and cut around. Bond applique in place

3. Place a piece of Heat n Bond paper side up on the WRONG side of the applique piece (see tips on bonding appliques below). Press in place with iron on low-heat and without steam. Leave until completely cool before cutting out required shape (if applicable).

Applique the back with another T-shirt motif

4. Peel off backing paper and place applique sticky side down in the centre of the RIGHT side of the plain T-shirt piece. Using a pressing cloth, press and hold until pieces have bonded together. Allow to cool.

NB: If cushion shape has been cut utilizing the side seams and thus both back and front are together, place a piece of cardboard between the T-shirt layers to ensure they don’t bond together.

5. Insert a ballpoint needle and using a decorative stitch, sew around the edge of the appliqued design to further anchor it in position.

 Zigzag stitch around the edges leaving turning/stuffing gap

6. Pin back and front cushion pieces, right sides together and sew around the edges with a stretch stitch or small zigzag stitch, taking a 6 mm (1/4") seam allowance and leaving a 20 cm (8") opening in the bottom edge to turn through and insert the cushion pad.

7. Turn cushion right way round and push corners out. Insert cushion pad or filling and hand stitch opening closed.

Tips on bonding appliques:
  • Cut out around the applique shape roughly, in a square or rectangle initially.
  • Cut paper-backed bonding web very slightly smaller in size than applique.
  • Pre-heat iron to a low setting (without steam).
  • Place iron on the paper side for 8-10 seconds, lift iron, reposition and repeat until the whole surface is fused to the back of the applique. Always leave to cool completely before continuing.
  • Check how long to leave iron on to fuse bonding web in place. We found that to make the adhesive stick completely, we needed 10 seconds rather than a couple of seconds as instructed on the packet.
  • Draw shape or design on paper backing and then cut out. Peel off paper and place applique, sticky side down on right side of main fabric.
  • Use a pressing cloth and bond the two fabric layers together. Allow to cool before continuing.


Make personalised cushions for other members of the family

Use plain T-shirts and add your own design of applique cut from scraps of fabric.

Use all of the T-shirt, adding a contrast inset stitched in the neck opening of the T-shirt front before stitching back to front all around the T-shirt shape (remember to leave gap for turning through and stuffing).

Add a pocket cut from part of the cutaway T-shirt to hold remote controls etc


Stockist information

Heat n Bond by Therm O Web can be purchased from Hobbycraft and all good craft stores.
Cushion pad from Fabric Warehouse.

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