The Japanese Shirt that Inspired a Little Flurry of Pillow Making


The thing with shopping at garage sales is that A. you never know what you will find and B. you never know where what you find will lead you.
I like to call it creative shopping.

This summer I snapped up a lovely pillow with a Japanese theme of a pagoda and a scooter. A few months later I found this shirt, full of lovely geishas.


Now it just so happens that I have a little collection of Japanese fans, that grace the mosaic I created of Birds and Geishas, that I posted about last year.



A few years ago I’d created another Japanese themed mosaic that also resides in our bedroom. I titled it my Marriage Mosaic. Just to quickly explain, it turned out that after I had put this little tableau together, I found out that, in Japan, the pair of geese or ducks are symbolic of a long marriage. And although I am nothing like the shy little bride on my mosaic, I love the idea that this little mosaic symbolized our long marriage.


Now it also just happened that, being someone who hardly ever throws anything out, I still had a few shirts stashed from our holiday in Hawaii that I’d found at garage sales there. All with Japanese themes and all just waiting to be recycled.


All that was needed was to play with the material and come up with some pieced fabric designs. Almost  like making a mosaic but with fabric. A little trick I like to use when making pillows from old shirts is to use the button front as part of the design. Much easier to undo buttons and insert the pillow than to have to sew in a zipper.



Also a good way to recycle most of the whole shirt, buttons and all. But just a word about my kind of sewing, it’s pretty fast and loose, I cut things out by eye, not one for measuring much. In fact, I just piece things together til I like the look and then cut it all to size.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just one. This lovely shirt with its gorgeous picture of a Japanese fishing scene just had to become part of another little pillow.


And that’s it, pillow making is over for now. All the little scraps still left over will be saved for another day and another inspiration. But there’s nothing like creating something new to look at and enjoy.


12 thoughts on “The Japanese Shirt that Inspired a Little Flurry of Pillow Making

  1. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Helen, Your Japanese inspired cushions are indeed very pretty. Such an excellent use of garments that are no longer needed or wanted and such a creative transformation. Several of these cushions piled on a bed or sofa would look exotic yet remarkably comfortable and welcoming. I don’t think that you should stop at two. But, who am I to speak since making one would be a lifetime’s work!!!

  2. Helen at Summerhouse says:

    Hello Edith, Thank you for your kind words about my pillow making. Glad you enjoyed them. I may make some more one day. I may find another shirt or bit of material that will spark using up the scraps I have left. I never know…

  3. Jen says:

    I love the idea of using the buttons on the front. It gives the pillows a certain little unexpected joy.

    It’s wonderful how everyone is starting to share their ideas on how they use and recycle. Very inspiring.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  4. Helen at Summerhouse says:

    Hi Jen, Using the button fronts of the shirts is a great way to be able to open the pillow cover and insert the pillow without having to put in a zipper. You’re right, it really is great that more and more people are getting into recycling. For us, it’s second nature now, even my mosaics are all about recycling old dishes. And hey, it’s fun too.

  5. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove says:

    Helen, the pillows are amazing, and so clever using the buttoned front like that, I hate putting zippers in. You are inspiring me to start checking out Goodwill, I think garage sale season is coming to a close here, a bit chilly in the mornings now.

  6. Marianne says:

    Hi, Helen – so inspirational!!! The images on the pillows are so exotic and the colours are like jewels – eye candy!!! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Helen at Summerhouse says:

    Hi Deborah, Don’t remember where I heard of that little trick of using the button front, but I like it. Goodwill is full of the most amazing shirt fabrics, I’m sure you will be inspired to do something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *