Up-cycle a Tee Shirt into a Manatee Pillow Pet (Tutorial & Pattern)

I am so excited to be sharing this adorable Manatee Tutorial with you all. She’s so fluffy and is, in every essence, a pillow pet.

I’ve always loved manatees… and if you have ever seen Veggie Tales, chances are that you know who Barbra Manatee is… and this stuffed animal is based off of her!
First, things you will need for this tutorial:
-An Extra Large Grey Tee Shirt
-Grey Thread to match Shirt
-Black Felt (one small sheet is good)
-Black Thread to match Felt
-1 Bag of Poly Fill (I only used 2/3’s of it)
-Bow (optional)
-Fake Flower (optional)

After printing & cutting out your pattern pieces, you need to assemble them as illustrated above. Tape the pieces connected with blue

Next, lay them out on your tee shirt as illustrated and cut them out!

Sew the tail and flippers with a 1/4th” seam allowance together then turn them inside out.
Fill them with some poly fill.

Fold the sides up of the first layer of the body. Now place the flippers and tail on the fist layer of the body, as shown, with the openings for stuffing facing outward.

Now pin the flippers & tail in place on the first layer of the body.

Next, lay the top piece of the body over it and align & pin it. Now sew it, leaving a medium opening (to turn it inside out & fill it with fluff!)

Turn it inside out.

Fill it with lots of Poly Fill. I added a big bump to the “nose” area to give the face definition. Sew the opening for stuffing closed.

Cut your felt into a long strip for the mouth, little oval dots, for the nose, and eyes with eyelashes for the eyes.  When I sewed the eyes and the nostrils, I went back and forth between them to give them a little pucker. To see more details about how I like to sew stuffed animal eyes, go here.

Next, I added a cute grey bow on top of her head. In my opinion, she would look too plain without it!
Now to make the cheeks “pucker.” In similar fashion to how I make the eyes and nostrils indent, but using very strong thread, I went back and forth between the tips of the smile a few times. Then I pulled it as tight as I wanted it, and knotted it.
See how cute she’s starting to look! I just love those smiley dimples!
Now she need her chin. Manatees are naturally rolly polly, so you need some sort of cute rolls in there (otherwise your manatee will just look like a weird snowman!)
To achieve this “chin,” secure your thread to one of the tips of the smile again. But this time, pull the thread across the underside of the smile & then make a secure stitch into the other corner of the smile. I did this a few times to make sure it was strong.
Now obviously, if you just leave the thread there without stitching it all the way across, it won’t stay.  So I stitched a “tunnel” enclosure for the thread.  
I just had to go “over the top” and add a splash of color to her too… thus the bright pink flower.
She is so adorable!
I couldn’t resist doing a photo-shoot with my baby girl and her newest “best friend” 
Anyways, hope you love it & make one for yourself (they make really good pillows! 😉 )

thank you for stopping by!

  1. Anonymous

    May 25th, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Your posts are always lovely! Some time you should do a blog post about how to design a blog! Your new layout is gorgeous but I just have no idea where to even start to personalize a blog and make it look "professional" as you do! It would be awesome if you could show us beginners how to do it step by step! Is it hard?

  2. Hannah Hathaway

    May 26th, 2013 at 5:35 am

    You are so sweet. While it does take a lot to time, and a good share of trial and error (and lots of help from Google) once you get the hang of it blog graphics and stuff becomes "easy."

    Is there anything in particular you were wondering about?

    I will definitely do some more "developing your blog" posts! But just so you know, I'm a newbie myself and have only been blogging for a year, so if I can do it anyone can! 🙂

    Hope that helps!

    <3 Hannah

  3. Anonymous

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:44 am

    I saw the photo on craftgawker and my first thought was "Is that Barbara Manatee?!" Thank you for making my day.

  4. Hannah

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Haha! So glad you like it! 🙂

  5. Sarah @ Marvelous-Darling

    November 3rd, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    This is the cutest thing that I have ever seen in my entire life.

  6. Hannah

    November 7th, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Thanks Sarah! 🙂

  7. Karyn

    November 28th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I can't thank you enough for sharing your manatee pattern. My son used it to make a manatee for his Honors Marine Science class. We made some modification to the face because it had to look "authentic" and not "cartoon like" and I think it turned out great! I'd love to share a photo with you but do not see how to attach it here. Thanks a million!
    Karyn Tunks

  8. Hannah

    November 28th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you Karyn- you totally made my day- I would love to see a photo. Pleas post it on my Facebook page (the link is in my menu) <3

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Anonymous

    February 5th, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    How adorable! I unfortunately am not that great at sewing.. Do you have any tips?

  10. Hannah

    February 5th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Everyone starts somewhere, the best thing to do is just put yourself out there and try! Practice makes perfect! My one tip for hand stitching, is making small, non-loose stitches. Hope that helps! Have fun! 🙂

  11. Anonymous

    February 5th, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    It won't let me download it on my computer…… Do you have any idea why?

  12. Hannah

    February 5th, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Do you have all the adobe software for PDFs installed on your computer? That could be the problem. If you can't get it to work, send me an email with a screenshot of where you get stuck and I will email you the pattern. Welivedhapilyeverafterteblog@gmail.com

  13. Anonymous

    February 5th, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks! I got it figured out after a long process. I had to get on my laptop that wasn't connected to my printer, but would let me download it, email it to myself, then download it from there and print it. The things I do for my best friend. 🙂

  14. Hannah

    February 5th, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Yay! So glad you figured it out! 🙂

  15. Melissa

    March 20th, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Love this! I'm planning to include it in a roundup next month.

  16. Anonymous

    August 4th, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Awesome Idea! I'm going to hunt down a t-shirt now!

  17. Unknown

    November 22nd, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Hello! I really want to make Barbara as a Christmas gift, but I can't download the pattern. I've tried several times with different devices and browsers. Is there a way you could email it to me?

  18. Hannah @ We Lived Happily Ever After

    November 23rd, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Hi! So sorry the pattern link isn't working. I can't fix it as my computer hard drive crashed. I am trying to recover all those files, and if I do, I will certainly put the pattern up again. XO

  19. AbbyCab

    November 23rd, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Hello, I'm trying to make Barbara Manatee and I can't download the pattern. Is there a way you could send it to me?

  20. Hannah @ We Lived Happily Ever After

    November 23rd, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Hi! So sorry the pattern link isn't working. I can't fix it as my computer hard drive crashed. I am trying to recover all those files, and if I do, I will certainly put the pattern up again. XO

  21. Jens C. Kruse

    March 20th, 2017 at 9:56 am


  22. Jens C. Kruse

    March 20th, 2017 at 9:56 am


  23. Unknown

    May 12th, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    I made one last night for an emergency prop for a talent show tonight! I wish i could post a pic 🙁 it turned out fantastic! These were great instructions! I didn't sew anything but the facial features for time purposes. I used a good fast drying fabric glue to assemble the body! it worked great! Of course mine is just for looks. I won't have a toddler toting it around or anything. So, it works just fine. Thanks so much for helping a momma out last minute!

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