Family tree pillow

Once upon a time, there was a couple in New York who thought “let’s start a family.” If only they knew what they were getting themselves into.

Of Loretta and William’s 10 kids, 9 survived to adulthood. Eight were girls. All 8 girls, along with one son, had a total of 46 children between them. Because there were so many girls, each family has a different surname and we refer to ourselves as such. For instance, my grandmother was Anna Mulvaney so I’m of the Mulvaney family.

One of these names is not like the others.

Many of those 46 children are grandparents and some are even great grandparents. We still get together for family reunions and at our most recent reunion, my aunt brought along some family reunion tshirts from previous years that we had left over.

Now, I don’t wear tshirts. I have a square body type and tshirts only accentuate that. Plus these were white tshirts and no woman with 4 children bothers to wear white. I made a quick joke about wondering what project I could blog about with the tshirt and my cousin Cathie said, “you could make a pillow.”


I was surprised they could fit all of Aunt Betty’s kids on the shirt.

Step one — cut out the part of the tshirt you want to use. I ended up with a pillow a bit bigger than I wanted so I recommend using a square form as a guide. Or just wing it and be happy with whatever you get.

Step two — pick a coordinating or contrasting fabric. I have my color expert husband to help me choose from my fabric stash. This fabric was from my random remnant package from

Step three — cut strips from the coordinating fabric. Decide width and length and all that jazz.

Step four — lay it all out.

When you lay it out, work in parallels. Either have both sides be under both top-bottom pieces or vice versa. As you can see, I have overhang but that will all come off in the end. I decided to have my top-bottom piece overlap my side pieces.

Step five — You are going to sew all coordinating fabric strips to the tshirt square — not to each other. Working in parallels again, right sides together, sew the top strip to the square. Then sew the bottom strip. Then sew the side strips. Leave a little room for the strips to overlap each other. If you end up with too big of a gap, you can always fix it later. If you have too little of a gap, you and your seam ripper will be making friends.

Step six — Let me give you the picture first.

My photoshop skills know absolutely no boundaries.

Do you see those black lines? I promise, I can sew straighter than I can draw in Photoshop. Anyway, basically what you do is fold the bottom and top so that the right sides are facing the right side of your project. Then, using the seam that is already there, you will extend out to include the side strips. This is how you join the entire project into a single square. Or rectangle since someone didn’t use a template and really should have. Ahem.

Step seven — An optional step. I took my square back to the machine and zig zagged my biggest zig zag all the way around the tshirt square to give an applique look.

Step 8 — Cut off any overhang and square off your pillow. Add the back. I used the same coordinating fabric but you can use the leftover back-of-the-tshirt. Or any other fabric you would like. Stitch right sides together, leaving a small hole. Pull the pillow right side out and stuff with stuffing. Whip stitch the hole closed.

It’s really an easy project full of straight lines but if you prefer a no sew tshirt pillow, check out this blog post and video.


4 thoughts on “Family tree pillow

    • Thank goodness for Lars. I had a bunch of fabrics that I knew weren’t right being that the shirt is green and brown, but I can’t always figure out why they aren’t right which makes it hard to find one that is right.

  1. Great idea! The little I know about my family history – I could make up awesome stuff. Eg my mother is Hungarian, so surely we’re related to Dracula. That would be a fun conversation piece on a cushion 😀

    • Yes! Just make it up. I do know my family history and I’m still pretty sure that at least 50% of any story is embellished. 😉

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