By Patricia Belyea
WAUCONDA WA My sister-in-law Priscilla died right before Covid took over the world. At the time, I offered to make a quilt from her clothes for my nephew Michael.
Over two years later family and friends finally gathered to celebrate Priscilla’s life. At that time, Michael handed me a plastic bag stuffed with an eclectic assortment of garments.
The collection — mostly rayon and polyester clothes plus a few work shirts and one cotton t-shirt — was not the right stuff for a quilt. So I changed my offering to a pillow.
I wanted the gift to bring happiness to Michael who’s bereaved at the loss of his mother. So I paired the t-shirt from Bali—a place of sunshine and sweet pleasures—with a yard of bright yellow linen.
Making a pillow involves sewing two pieces of fabric together along the edges while leaving a hole for the pillow form, and then hand-sewing the opening closed. Right?
To honor a life with a pillow, I felt that the project needed to be more: I had to make the best pillow I could possibly muster.
For the pillow top, I included some of the delightful graphics from the t-shirt: stabilizing the cotton jersey with a lightweight interfacing, fussy-cutting three details from the Balinese design, and stitching them together in a row.
To make the linen less flimsy, I cut the fabric into 3 1/2" strips and sewed it back together — pressing the seam allowances to one side. I pinned the pillow top to white cotton and stitched-in-the-ditch along the seams.
Time to work on the pillow back! I decided on a closure with a button placket and bound buttonholes.
After watching four YouTube videos on making bound buttonholes, I tested the technique. I proceeded to make three bound buttonholes with their signature straight lips and three matching square holes in the facing flap.
Again I fortified the linen fabric for the pillow back with seams, white cotton lining, and stitching-in-the-ditch.
From Priscilla’s royal blue striped shirt, I gleaned 4 1/2 yards of bias strips. It seemed amazing to yield such a long length of strips as Priscilla’s shirt was a size Small!
I used these bias strips to finish the edges of the button and buttonhole plackets, and the final seams.
Now I had another touch of Priscilla included in the pillow project!
To finish, I needed to sew on three buttons. Luckily I had three big octagonal buttons from my mother that I’d brought home from Ottawa almost ten years ago.
(My mother came from a generation where buttons from old clothing were kept for future sewing projects. I loved how all of her butterscotch buttons were strung together with a loop of heavy-duty blue thread.)
So now the Priscilla Pillow had a touch of Michael’s grandmother as well!
The pillow cover was ready to be stuffed.
The 20" organic cotton pillow form by The Futon Shop of California was like a little futon—not soft like a down pillow but firm like a supportive pillow. That sounded about right!
The Priscilla Pillow is now complete and on its way to Michael—created with fabrics that hold precious memories. I hope this small gift brings Michael comfort and cheer.
ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.