One of my most meaningful projects recently was a custom order of 10 pillows. I am a graphic designer with an engineering background so I ‘solve problems’. This is my approach to sewing and creating.
After an article about me and my business was featured in the local paper, I received a call from Holly. She read that I had created some pieces from a loved ones’ clothes and wanted to meet. Holly came over and we talked. Her mom had recently passed away, she had a garbage bag of clothes that she couldn’t part with but was unsure what could be done with them. My first thought was a sweater coat. Then we looked through the clothes. To Holly they were sacred; to me they were just random old worn clothes, some even pilled and stained.
The more we talked; I realized I needed to make something for her. I suggested pillows as she wanted to share these pieces with her sisters, nieces and nephews. The longer we talked the idea evolved.
There would be 10 pillows, each having a piece of a polyester housecoat/robe. Next there was a dark green wool cape from Ireland, which she wanted on her pillow and her two daughters pillows. A black t-shirt with 3 wine glasses on it, one glass would go on each of the 3 sisters pillows. One sister lives in Pittsburg; so she would get the Pittsburg is Home t-shirt. The other sister would get the ‘I survived hurricane Floyd’ t-shirt. Her niece, the Slippery Rock Alumni Fleece, as she too went to that college. A nephew would get the Pittsburg Steelers T-shirt. Etc.
I took detailed notes. It was August and Holly wanted to give these as Christmas gifts. I explained that I had so many fall shows that I wouldn’t get to this for awhile but I would do it. So off went Holly and I moved the clothes aside with my notes pinned to them. Time flew, my shows came and went. I had picked up supplies for the soon to be ten 16” square pillows. In early November I did the laundry and looked through the clothes. As always I wish I took a photo of the original housecoat and t-shirts. I began planning and cutting. Wow, these were going to be great. I was able to incorporate the housecoat in all ten and still have some left. Each pillow became my favorite.
My husband came home and saw the first 3 finished… he was amazed. His comment was priceless, ‘I cannot believe these beautiful pillows came out of that laundry basket!’ I knew I had succeeded.
I called Holly and told her I was finished. I didn’t send her photos because I wanted to see her face, I felt like I knew her mom.
Holly walked in and was speechless; I was worried? I pointed out the housecoat, then the t-shirts, and she got teary. She told me her first thought was, ‘how much do I owe her for that great fabric?’ She was talking about the housecoat! Holly was expecting patchwork pillows you kept out of sight. I never thought of that, I was making pillows you kept in sight to remember ‘Mom’.
Holly was so excited; I too couldn’t wait for each of the ten to receive their pillow.
After the holidays I received a card from Holly.
‘Dear Diana, There are truly no words to express my gratitude for the beautiful pillows you crafted from my mom’s clothing. To say that my family loved them is an understatement. EVERYONE was very touched and apparently, everyone cried when they opened them. My nephew, the marine, even sleeps with his pillow! I was able to give my oldest nephew (the first-born grandchild) his pillow in person this week, and he instantly recognized some of the fabric in his pillow! Thank you, Thank you, thank you for your amazing work and thoughtful design. Plus, you were kind, caring and so much fun to work with. I’m glad you felt like you got to know Mom – she would have liked you.
This was not the first custom pillow job I had done but definitely the most rewarding one.
I will continue to create my wears and meet wonderful people along the way.