With the 2016 Pillow Sewing Challenge in full swing, I thought it would be fun to share this recycled-garment pillow project. I call it the Lumberjack Pillow, though you could make this from a loved one’s shirt and sew a memory pillow as well. The technique used to fit the shirt around the pillow form allows for many shirts and pillow sizes to be created easily.

Click here for more information on the 2016 Pillow Sewing Challenge. Brainstorm, browse, design, plan, and stitch your favorite pillow. Enter my 2016 Pillow Sewing Challenge by emailing me your image (info@ziemanproductions.com). My staff and I will add it to the link tool. It’s easy!

Make a pillow to showcase your sewing talents. Entries may be for any occasion, any color, or any size (that fits on a sofa or comparable household furniture). Sew a pillow using as much imagination as you like. You may enter ONE pillow; it must be completed within the last year and not entered in the 2015 challenge.

For this challenge, my staff and I will upload your pictures. We’ve listened to your feedback and know that having larger, clickable pictures would be ideal. We’ll make that happen. Simply email a photo of your completed project and project name to info@ziemanproductions.com. Deadline for photo entries is March 20, 2016.

Pillow Sewing Challenge Guidelines

  • Select or create your design.
  • All sewing, quilting, serging, machine embroidery, and embellishment techniques are eligible!
  • Grab our Pillow Sewing Challenge blog badge to let your friends know about this fun Pillow Sewing Challenge.
  • Remember to share your progress and projects on your social media sites using the hashtag: #NZPillowChallenge
  • Email your photo by March 20, 2016, to info@ziemanproductions.com.
  • Online voting begins March 22, 2016.
  • Voting closes on April 3, 2016.
  • Elected winners and one randomly drawn winner will be announced April 5, 2016.


Go Social with Your Pillow Sewing Challenge

Nancy Zieman's 2016 Pillow Challenge
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If you have a website, copy the code above and paste it into your website editor to have the Pillow Sewing Challenge badge on your site.

If you are on social sites like Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, or Facebook, let all your friends know you are working on the Pillow Sewing challenge by tagging your post with the hashtag:   #NZPillowChallenge.

The hashtag is a searchable “word” associated with an event or activity, which, when searched on popular social websites, like Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook, shows every single post using that hashtag. Even if you don’t personally know that stitcher, you’ll see her/his progress and a photo. Hashtags are a fun way to network and connect with people who share similar interests.

Inspiration: Lumber Jack Pillow


Cutting Instructions:
  • Unbutton shirt and turn wrong-side out.

  • Working from the wrong side, button the lowest three to four buttons. Secure placket lower edge with double sided basting tape.

  • Follow manufacturer’s directions to apply tape.

  • Edgestitch the lower center front placket.

Note from Nancy: Our plaid flannel shirt had a back pleat. To avoid puckering, we topstitched the entire back pleat closed. 

  • Center pillow form inside shirt. (Notice the shirt is still wrong side out.)

  • Button the shirt completely.

  • Pin shirt parallel to the pillow form edges along the right, left, and bottom edges.

  • Pin through the sleeve, closing the armhole area.

  • Cut along the marked chalk line.

  • Keep the pins in place.
  • Mark the pinned line with a marking pen.

  • Use a straight stitch and 1″ seam allowance to sew right, left, and bottom edges.

  • Try the shirt on the pillow form.
Note from Nancy: Fine tune the fit of the shirt around the pillow form. A loose shirt may look sloppy and it is quite easy to turn the shirt wrong side out to remark/stitch a tighter fit.

  • Cut a 13” x 10” square of contrasting fabric to fill neckline area. Press under ½” along the 13” sides.

Note from Nancy: If the flannel shirt size is XL, it may be necessary to use a larger rectangle of fabric to cover the opening in the shirt. 

  • Pin the midpoint of one 13” side to the center back of the neckline seam where the collar is attached to the shirt.

  • Continue to pin approximately 3” from each side of the center back.

  • Edgestitch the rectangle to the shirt where pinned along the collar or neckband seam line.
  • Trim excess seam allowance from pillow sides and lower edge.

  • Fold the seam allowance to create a “wrapped corner” at the lowered edges. Stitch in place.

  • Turn the shirt right side out.
  • Insert the pillow form.
  • Button the shirt and tuck the contrasting fabric in place.
  • Use an invisible hand sewing stitch to secure the contrasting fabric along the shoulder and center front.
Ta-dah! The pillow is finished!

Additional Inspiration—Pillow Tutorials

From Indygo Junction: Pocket Pillow

From June Tailor: Charming Circles Pillow

From Baby Lock Sewing: Pillow Projects
Simply type Pillow into their search bar to find pdf directions to these and many more pillow projects. 

From PellonPillow Projects
Find these and many more pillow projects on the Pellon Projects website


Over $1,300 in prize packages from our generous sponsors:

Baby Lock Sewing: Anna Sewing Machine, value of $399

Assorted Product Bundle (patterns, books and fabric) from Amy Barickman and Indygo Junction, case and props not included, value of $200

Assorted Product Bundle from June Tailor, value of $185 

Clover Assorted Nancy Zieman Product Bundle, value of $165

Sewing With Nancy DVD Value Set from Nancy’s Notionsvalue of $164

Pellon Product Bundle from Pellonvalue of $87

 F+W Media Two-Book Package, value of $55

Hobo Tote Template and Notions bundle donated by Nancy Zieman, value of $50


2016 Pillow Sewing Challenge Schedule

  • March 1: Pillow Sewing Challenge kick off TODAY!
  • March 20: Entry Deadline
  • March 22: Voting Opens
  • April 3: Voting Closes
  • April 5: Winners Announced

Share your comments below about the Pillow Sewing Challenge and send us your project to join!

Get Stitching!

Nancy Zieman The Blog

Email challenge questions to info@ziemanproductions.com. Challenge not open to sponsors, employees, and immediate family members. Photos and techniques may be featured in future promotions, blog posts, videos, and/or TV shows.
Nancy Zieman—author, pattern designer, businesswoman, producer, and national sewing authority—is the host of the popular show Sewing With Nancy, which appears exclusively on public television stations across the United States and Canada. Follow Nancy’s blog at nancyzieman.com/blog and sign up to receive Nancy’s E-News for the latest news in sewing, quilting, creating, and block of the month updates.

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