Bus Pillows from Old Guard T-Shirts!

| November 28, 2012 | 3 Comments

Last month I promised a guard-themed craft or crochet project per month.  I almost let November run away from me… but just under the wire I’m back with craft project #2!

And this one I LOVE!

Bus Pillows made from Upcycled Guard T-shirts with Crochet Edgings

Before I start with the step-by-step let me just say that my own kids love these – so all you guard coaches who are also moms with kids outgrowing some of their school or activity t-shirts… this one is great for your own kids too!  The t-shirt fabric is so soft that they just love using these pillows in the car.  I love getting a little glimpse of these old show t-shirts too because these two particular shows bring back many happy memories for me.  These would be great as gifts and they were super easy to make.

Here’s how I did it (instructions below are for the pillows with a crochet edge – you could certainly do a simple version of these by just stitching the 2 sides together with a sewing machine and stuffing them):

Step 1: Choose a t-shirt and cut out the size/shape of the pillow you’d like.  

  • Leave yourself some room on the side of the designs (I left about 3 inches around the design) to give space for poking holes (or sewing a seam if you don’t crochet) and to allow for some width so that after stuffing the pillow the design doesn’t totally wrap around the edges.
  • A rotary cutter and ruler makes the cutting WAY easier and neater although it isn’t necessary.  I cut with scissors for my Spin for a Cure pillow and with the rotary cutter for the purple pillow.  The rotary cutter is my preference.
  • Make sure to peek over to the front side because if you have a pocket design and a back design you may want to include both.  I was careful to make sure I wasn’t slicing through that pocket design on the underside.

Step 2: Poke Holes

I did this two different ways to see which I prefered.

First, on the “Spin for the Cure” pillow I used the “Sharp Crochet Hook” which I heard about on a crafting blog.  This is a small but pointed crochet hook that is designed to poke through fabric for creating fringed edgings.

On the second pillow I decided to try an ice pick for poking the holes instead.

My preference?  The ice pick.

While I was super hopeful for my sharp crochet hook, the t-shirt material was just too hard to poke through the fabric.  My hand and elbow were really hurting by about half way through the first side.  It was also a small hook and I had problems with my yarn separating with each stitch.  The size of this hook would have been much better with crochet thread rather than yarn.  While the holes are decidedly smaller and neater it just took too long and caused too much pain for my elbow/wrist.

The ice pick produced much larger holes and those holes were a little harder to “control” in terms of size (I was occasionally worried about ripping the fabric) but overall I was able to poke all of the holes around the entire pillow in less than 15 minutes and move on to the fun part – crocheting the edging.  

Some tips for using the ice pick:

  • It helps to have a surface to place the pick against – I used my cutting mat.
  • I placed the t-shirt on the cutting mat with the pick pointed straight down.  I held the pick still with one hand and pulled the fabric upward to create the hole with the other.  This helped me to control the size of the hole and be consistent from hole to hole.
  • Make sure to keep both layers of the t-shirts lined up throughout.  I poked the holes through both layers at one time.  Just be careful not to let the bottom layer shift.
  • Make sure to give yourself enough space between holes and from the hole to the edge so that you don’t accidentally tear the fabric from the hole to the edge of the shirt or tear the fabric between holes.  I didn’t have an issue with this but it could be a problem.

Step 3: Choose Hook and Yarn

For the Spin for the Cure pillow I used my sharp crochet hook for the first round and then swiftly changed to a nice sized hook (I think it was F) for the remaining rows of the edging.  The reason was that the sharp crochet hook is tiny – better suited for crochet thread really.  It kept separating my yarn.  For this pillow I used a baby weight yarn.

For the Purple Pillow (from a 2004 show about community service) I used a size G hook and Caron One Pound Acrylic Yarn.  The holes from the ice pick were much larger so I wanted to make sure the yarn filled up the space of the hole so no stuffing would come peeking out when the pillow was used.

Step 4: Crochet your edging

The edging is really up to you – whatever you think looks nice will work!  I will share the two edgings I created for these pillows.  Here goes:

Spin for the Cure – pink ruffled edging

  1. Starting about ½ of the way along one side, single crochet in each hole around the pillow.  At each corner do 3 single crochet stitches in the corner hole to create a nice rounded corner.  When you get to the final corner stop and fill the pillow lightly with stuffing being careful not to overstuff (less stuffing means a softer pillow).  Then continue stitching around to close the hole.  Join with slip stitch to first sc.
    1. Remember I was using the sharp crochet hook so my holes were close together.  I could single crochet in each hole without any fabric bunching between stitches.  If you are using an ice pick with holes farther apart you may need to fill the space between holes with a chain stitch or two as I did with my purple pillow
    2. I actually started my pillows at the corner BUT… after finishing both I think that starting ½ of the way down a side will make it easier to get stuffing evenly into all four corners at the end.  Otherwise you can’t stuff the final corner and instead end up trying to move stuffing into the corner after it’s stitched shut… which just doesn’t work quite as nicely.
  2. Chain 3 (counts as first dc), dc in same stitch.  2 dc in next stitch and each stitch around pillow.  Join with slip stitch to top chain in original ch 3.
  3. Chain 5, skip next dc, *double crochet in next dc, ch 2, sk next dc, dc in next dc*, repeat from * around when you get to the final stitch ch2 and join with sl st to 3rd chain of original ch 5.  It’s possible your stitches won’t match up perfectly depending on how many holes you are working with.  If you end up with 2 dc at the end don’t worry – just skip the last 2 and ch 2 and join.  No one will notice 😉
  4. chain 5, *dc in space created by ch 2 on the row below, ch 2, dc in next ch 2 space*, repeat around, after final dc chain 2 join with sl st in 3rd chain of original ch 5.  See note in step 3 for what to do if it doesn’t end up perfect.  Let go of perfection 😉
  5. *chain 4, sc in dc*, repeat around to final sc stitch.  ch 4, join with sl. st in first chain of original ch4.
  6. Finish off

Purple Pillow with Simple Edging

  1. Starting about ½ of the way down one side of the pillow join with slip stitch in one of your pre-punched holes.  chain 1.  sc in same hole as joining.  For mine I found that I had spaced my holes a little too far apart to simply sc in each hole.  So I found that one chain stitch between each sc was adequate to span the space between holes without fabric bunching.  If your holes are closer together you could sc in each hole.  If they are farther apart simply add as many chains as needed to span the space between holes.
    1. I did: sc, ch 1, around.
    2. Make 3 sc in each corner hole.
    3. When you get just past the final corner stop and lightly stuff the pillow.  Remember less stuffing means a softer pillow.  After stuffing continue with sc and chains around to close pillow.  Join with sl st in first sc.
  2. For this row I used a contrasting color.  I pulled up the contrasting color in the ch 1.  Sc in same stitch (making sure to stitch over the tail of both colors for the first 5 or so stitches) and each sc and ch st around.  join with sl st in first sc.
  3. For this final row I went back to my original color.  I pulled up the original color in the ch 1.  sc in same stitch and each stitch around.  join with sl st in first sc.  Finish off.

So there you go!

This is only my second time sharing a crochet pattern so if you try this and have any edits or suggestions for me in making the pattern more clear please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will make the changes here.  This was a fun project for me and it makes me so happy to see these old t-shirts that I couldn’t part with but couldn’t wear anymore put to creative use.  My girls randomly tell me how much they love their soft new pillows and the memories of these shows make me smile.  One day I will make a quilt from the large stack of shirts but for now this quick little project was a fun way to use a couple of the shirts I had “doubles” of.  And they’re just adorable!

[Note: this pattern is also posted at my personal blog: www.catinaanderson.com]


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Category: "DIY", For Fun!, Travel

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

Comments (3)

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  1. Sara says:

    I love this idea! I can see making one of these in the very near future :)

  2. Jocelyn says:

    These are great! I might make them at some point with old drum corps shirts. I’m not a sewer. So, I think the cut and tie method would work just as well and give a nice edge. I’d just have to cut the shirt a little extra around the picture.

    • I’m working on a tutorial with the cut and tie method… just FYI my first attempt was a disaster! lol… you have to cut much larger of an area than the size you want the pillow to be (first mistake) and then I would recommend using a pillow form instead of stuffing because I had stuffing popping out between the ties. Couldn’t seem to tie them tight enough for stuffing not to come out. So – purchased a pillow form and now just trying to find the time to try again :)

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