Last Saturday was Swap-O-Rama-Rama here in Vancouver. It’s a massive clothing swap, complete with sewing machines and screen printing so you can alter new-to-you clothes right at the event. It’s one of my favourite events of the year. I try to bring two full bags of clothes I need to get rid of, and come home with no more than one full bag.

I didn’t have superduper mojo this year, but I did score an unexpectedly awesome floral top[1. Floral! Very bold for me. It’s only partly black.]. And I took home this panda t-shirt thinking I’d make a toy for Owen out of it.

Now, I’d never actually sewn a toy from a t-shirt before. Nor had I ever sewn with knit jersey fabric before. But I figured the shirt was free and we’re on a tight budget so upcycling is key and I’ve been super busy, so I’d think it through for about five minutes and then just go for it. It turned out great, and I will certainly make more plush toys from old t-shirts. Perhaps you will, too. It seriously took me about half an hour, including the few minutes of thinking. Here’s a brief how-to:

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  1. Grab a t-shirt.
  2. Turn the t-shirt inside out and lay it flat. Pin the hell out of the section you want to make into a plush, securing the front and back of the shirt so they won’t shift out of alignment when you sew. Jersey fabric stretches very easily, so seriously, use a ton of pins. If the design doesn’t show through the fabric clearly, use chalk to define the outline. Mark the opening you’re going to leave for stuffing (I use two pins on either side of the opening to remind myself not to sew there; see top left of panda).
    Pin the area you're going to sew.
  3. Cut excess fabric away, leaving about an inch around all sides. This makes it way easier to sew, and less likely the weight of the t-shirt will pull the fabric out of whack.
    Cut excess fabric away.
  4. Sew around the edge of the cut-out, leaving about a 1/4″ seam allowance (I left more, but it’s unnecessary). Let your feed dogs do the bulk of the work, since the fabric is very stretchy and if you tug you’ll get a wrinkly seam. Remember to leave an opening so you can stuff it! Trim any excess fabric so it doesn’t bunch up when turned right-side out.
  5. Turn right-side out.
  6. Stuff!
  7. Using an invisible stitch, sew the opening closed. I used a bunch of pins to keep the fabric from stretching.
    Sew it closed.
  8. Et voila: instant gratification. (I’ve been making pillows and the like out of small amounts of stash fabric and scraps, for flop-around toddler funtimes.)
    Finished plush
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A note to other readers/future incarnations of this project: When you’re sewing a knit fabric, you should use a sewing machine stitch that will stretch, like a zig-zag or a “lightning bolt,” or your seams are in danger of popping under stress. Obviously not as important for a toy as a garment, which stretches habitually, but I remember childhood and a well-loved plushie can get into some *serious* scrapes!


Wonderful idea! I love it.


This is fabulous – and such a great example of what swap-o-rama-rama is all about – giving things new life where they will be loved!  Owen must love it!

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