Nuclear Pillow-feration

nuclear pillowferation

[Yes, I know the pillow is upside-down. -L.]

One of my hall’s annual traditions is an event called Cruftmas, which is an ordinary Secret Santa exchange with one additional caveat: you cannot purchase anything to make the present for your recipient. Everything must be made out of salvaged parts (“cruft”) and materials you already have on hand. It’s tricky, but I like the challenge of figuring out how to make something personal out of found parts.

My recipient this year was a nuclear engineering major whose room is really nicely decorated, so I decided to make a reverse-appliqué throw pillow to coordinate with the table of nuclides poster and giant pride flag in his room. I had dark blue and light blue cotton fabric in my stash, but no other useful colors — black and grey do not a rainbow make — so I scavenged enough t-shirts to create a proper rainbow.


In order, top to bottom: Career Fair Volunteer 2014, East Campus Rush 2011, Hack Punt Tool, SaveTFP/Love Your Beaver, ESP Splash 2014, and an AthenaHealth shirt from Career Fair.

I used a template to trace a stripe onto each of the t-shirt scraps, then marked a 5/8″ seam allowance and cut the stripes out.


I pinned the stripes together and sewed them up, then attempted to iron them flat. That proved spectacularly unsuccessful, so I just clipped the seams very short instead. Obviously that’s not what you’re supposed to do with seams, but with such limited materials available (my kingdom for more colors of cotton!) I figured it would have to do. In the spirit of Cruftmas and all that…I certainly wasn’t about to hot-glue the seams flat.

Once I had my rainbow stripes put together, I moved on to making the top layer of the pillow. I cut out two squares of dark blue cotton, then made a paper stencil of the radiation trefoil and used that to transfer the trefoil design onto one of the squares.


I cut out the insides of the trefoil shapes, leaving about 5/8″ seam allowance on all sides, and then notched the curves and corners, folded the edges, and ironed the whole thing flat. (There’s a really good how-to video on reverse appliqué here for anyone interested.) I laid the dark blue square over the rainbow stripes, pinned with a vengeance, and sewed along the edges of the trefoil to attach the two fabric layers together.

Shown: pinning with a minor grievance.

Shown: pinning with a minor grievance.

After that, I took my second square of dark blue fabric, pinned the squares with right sides together, and stitched around the outside of the pillow cover. Once I’d flipped the cover right side out, I stuffed it with the guts of a different throw pillow and hand-sewed the last inch or two to close it up. Not bad, for a couple hours’ work!


Full disclosure: I cheated a tiny bit and bought dark blue thread and sewing pins while working on this present, because I had lent out my pins and couldn’t find my thread. I haven’t had any visits from the Ghost of Cruftmas Past, so I think I’m in the clear on that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s