pillow talk

pillow talk

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.

Clothing collection for the Priscilla PillowWork shirts for the Priscilla 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.

Fabrics chosen for the Priscilla PillowPriscilla and Michael in Bali

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.

Interfacing for a cotton t-shirtInterfacing pressed to a cotton t-shirtPreparing to fussy-cut a cotton t-shirtFussy cutting graphics from a cotton t-shirtMaking the Priscilla Pillow

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.

The making of the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla Pillow

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.

Making the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla Pillow: Bound ButtonholesMaking the Priscilla Pillow

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! 

Making the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla Pillow

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!

Making the Priscilla PillowMaking the Priscilla Pillow

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!

Making the Priscilla Pillow

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.

Making the Priscilla Pillow

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.