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How To: Up-Cycle A Military Uniform

It's Memorial Day! Today is the day to pay respects to fallen soldiers.

My partner is one of those service men who did make it back from combat. He served in the Marines Corp and has several uniforms lying around. I decided to give them new life and pay proper respect to his service.

Today I'm going to show you how to up-cycle a military uniform into a functional pillow.

Materials needed: 

- Pillow insert (any size - max 21" by 21")

- One uniform shirt (I used both a medium and large)

- Fabric scissors 

- Seam ripper (or small scissors)

- Pins

- Long ruler or tape measure

- Marker/ pen


- Invisible zipper (length depending on your pillow size)

Step 1: Cut the shirt along the side seams and up and around the armholes

Step 2: Using your ruler and marker, draw a straight line right underneath the top button of the front of the shirt

Step 3: Cut along the line. You should now have something like this:

Step 4: Measure the size of your pillow using your ruler or tape measure

Step 5: Add 1" to the length and width of your measurement (i.e. the pillow measures at 21 x 21" - add 1" to make 22 x 22")

Step 6: Remove all the buttons from the shirt panel using your seam ripper or small scissors

Step 7: Pin the right side of the shirt over the left, overlapping at the center front, where the buttons were. However, you want to make the top wider to compensate for the armholes. So you want to overlap at a diagonal; the top should just barely overlap.

Step 8: Sew the shirt panels together, following the stitches already along the lapel.

Step 9: Square off the shirt. Using the measurements you calculated in Step 5 - mark the shirt with your pen.

Step 10: Cut along the lines with your fabric scissors.

Step 11: Prepare the back of the shirt by cutting off the side seam and sleeves.

Step 12: Repeat Step 2: using your ruler and pen - mark a line straight across right underneath the label.

Step 13: Cut along the line you've drawn.

Step 14: Repeat Step 9: square off the back of the shirt using your tape measure. Draw the lines using your pen.

Step 15: Cut along the lines you've drawn.

Step 16: Pin the front and back of the shirt together right sides together. Pin along the top and both sides.

Step 17: Sew the top and sides, leaving the bottom open. Finish the edge with a serger if desired. IF serging the edges, serge the bottom panels separately.

Step 18: Sew both panels together about 2-3" in from both side seams along the bottom edge. This is to ensure that the corners of your pillows are stable and fully closed.

Step 19: Although optional, I prefer to add an invisible zipper to my pillows so that I can easily take them off and wash the covers if needed. If you're adding an invisible zipper, it is best to use an invisible zipper pressure foot.

Attach the invisible zipper starting from the point you just sewed.

You should end up with something like this:

Step 20: Slip your new cover over your pillow insert.*

*If you did not choose to add a zipper, you can hand-stitch the bottom closed at this point using a needle and thread.

TA-DA! You've just up-cycled and made a keepsake for years to come.


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