Upcycled Tuxedo Pillow

It’s Family Day in Ontario (Saskatchewan and Alberta, too, I think) so that means it’s the first long weekend of the year. I was trying to think of something that I could share today, and while I don’t know that I’d really call the following a tutorial, I have a this is “how I made it” pillow to share (a new category :)). Feel free to scroll to the bottom if you’re just interested in the “upcycle” part :).


There have been a lot of pillows out there in blogland lately and, along with that inspiration, our youngest son is getting married this year – so Tuxedos seem to be top of mind. When I was thinking about this project, I did a quick search for “tuxedo pillow” to see what else was out there. Nothing is exactly the same as mine, and I wasn’t working with a pattern, so I’ll share “how I made it.” I’ll try to explain as well as I can because I did not take detailed photos. But in reality, this pillow is fairly simple so these general instructions should cover it (but leave a comment if you want to make the pillow and have a question).

First, you need a white rectangle measuring about 2-inches shorter than your total unfinished height by your total unfinished width – your pleats will reduce the overall width by 2-inches when complete if you make four pleats on each side; if you want to make more or less pleats, you will need to adjust your measurements accordingly – just allow about a quarter-inch per pleat.

For example, I want my pillow to finish at 20-inches square, so my total unfinished size is 20 1/2-inches (to include seam allowances) and I would cut my rectangle at 18 1/2-inches x 20 1/2 inches. You could also cut your rectangle bigger than you think you’ll need and trim it down to the correct size after you sew the pleats – this is what I actually did because I wasn’t confident that I would have the size I wanted when finished if I tried to cut the rectangle to size before sewing the pleats. Just make sure you have the pillow centred before trimming to size if you decide on this approach.

Finger crease to mark the centre of your rectangle, vertically and horizontally – this mark will help you get everything lined up later on. Measure over about 3 1/2-inches from the centre (or whatever makes sense with your dimensions) and press to mark the position of the first vertical pleat – I used my ruler as a guide to fold the fabric back (wrong sides together) parallel to the shorter edges.


Top stitch the pleat about 1/8-inch from the fold. Flip the fabric around and do the same thing on the other side about 3 1/2-inches from the centre – again, you’re creating pleats that run from top to bottom, parallel with the shorter edges of your rectangle. Repeat until you have the number of pleats that you like – I made four pleats on each side.


If you decided to cut your rectangle larger, now is the time to trim to size. I added borders because I like the way the black and white polka dot frames everything, but you don’t have to 🙂 – start with a bigger rectangle if you leave them off, though, because you won’t be adding length or width.

If you want borders, sew 2-inch strips to each side and press toward the border so that the seam doesn’t show through your white fabric. Repeat top and bottom, making sure your pleats are facing the direction you want as you sew them – I used my fingers to guide the pleats toward the outside edges on each side; the pleats to the left of the centre are pointing to the left, and the pleats to the right of the centre are pointing to the right.

Make a quilt sandwich with your pillow top, batting and backing (if you want the backing – you can leave it out if you prefer because no one will see the back of the sandwich, but I use it because I find for me it makes it easier to do the machine quilting). Quilt as desired – I quilted with a free-motion loop in the centre, along the edges and between the pleats, but didn’t bother quilting the borders.

To add the bow tie, cut a 3 1/2-inch square of black or black print. Fold the top and bottom edges in 1/4-inch toward the wrong side and press. Repeat with the right and left sides. Centre the square on your pillow top using the finger pressed mark you made earlier. Top stitch about an eighth of an inch from the edge with matching thread along the top and bottom of the square, leaving the side seams open for now.

Cut four 4 1/2-inch squares. Place two of the squares, right sides together and sew along three edges, leaving the fourth edge open. Trim the corners and turn to the right side, pressing flat. Repeat with the remaining two squares. Either baste and gather the open edges (this is what I did) or fold and pin to make a little pleat so that the open edge is about 3-inches wide and can be tucked under the open edges of the 3-inch square in the centre of your pillow (I tucked the sides in about a half-inch so that I knew they were in there :)). Top stitch the sides of the centre square making sure you catch the sides of the “bow ties” in your seam. If you’re like me, you’ll want to remove your basting (I can never get it all into the seam).

I can’t take credit for this next part – when I searched for images of “Tuxedo Pillows,” I noticed that many of them have buttons down the centre to give the impression of a tuxedo shirt. Since I only have about a billion (exaggeration?) buttons from Grandpa’s shirts at this point, I thought it was a great idea to add buttons.


Unfortunately, I only had three of the ones I wanted to use, so I placed one button above the tie and two below.

And here’s the upcycling part :)!


Either make a back for your pillow using your favourite method, or do what I did and use the front of a cardigan as the back. It’s an easy pillow back (like an envelope back without having to do the sewing) and a great way to use up an old (Grandpa) sweater. Over at Attic 24, she regularly uses “jumpers” as backs for pillows, adding a pretty crotchet edging and button holes to the bottom of a repurposed sweater. I thought this was even better because the buttons, button holes and edging is already done for me (yes – you can read this to mean that I’m a lazy pillow maker :)).

Cut the cardigan to the same dimensions as your pillow front. Layer your pillow front and cardigan with right sides together and sew all around the outside, back stitching at the corners and over the centre points where the cardigan front overlaps (the stress points). Unbutton the cardigan and flip the pillow around to the right sides, slide in your pillow form and enjoy!


Isn’t he gorgeous?

You can find directions for the other pillow over at Crazy Mom Quilts. I also used her directions to make pillow forms (at a fraction of the price of ready made – bonus!).


Happy Family Day, everyone!


This entry was posted in finish, How I Made It, quilting, sewing. Bookmark the permalink.

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