Each time I begin a new design, I look at my pillow collection to see what I can do that would be very different from what I had created the time before. I want every pillow to be a unique one-of-a-kind creation, and each with their individual story. As I am very attached to the fabrics in my collection, I often find myself reminiscing about where and when I acquired the fabric and who was the weaver or embroiderer. This can also influence how I begin a new design. I like to change things up by not using the same origins of fabrics twice in a row. Often, I have only a small one-of-a-kind piece of embroidery which can take time to pair with the perfect fabric.
Sometimes it takes hours to select fabrics that work well together and complement one another. Since I incorporate three or four different fabrics into one pillow, I need to look at color, weaving techniques, imagery, weight and texture. I start with one piece that excites me and then I go to my closet and pull out fabrics I think might work. I play around with the fabrics until I feel satisfied that I have come up with a unique design. Then I leave the room for several hours or overnight and then take a fresh critical look. When I work in the evening, the lighting is different so I like to see how the fabric colors look in the day time with a natural light. Most likely I am pleased but sometimes, it’s back to the drawing board.
After I am satisfied with the fabric selection, I cut and piece them together. Often, I adhere iron-on pelon to the back of the fabric to make it sturdier or to protect the backside of delicate embroidery or fine fabric. With African Kuba cloth and other specialized textiles, I like to leave the underneath side as is so that the owner of the pillow can see the often complicated technique or process to make that piece of fabric.
I like to add beads for embellishment as the final touch. With the pillow back sewn and the finishing done and I give the pillow a final inspection. I use duck down pillow inserts for certain sizes and polyester inserts for others. Hang tags are attached which also list the country origin of the fabrics.
Before using the fabrics, they are laundered with Dr. Bronner’s 18-IN-1 Hemp Lavender PURE-CASTILLE SOAP certified Fair Trade and made with organic oils. I also use Synthrapol, an industrial strength pH neutral liquid detergent used to treat hand dyed and painted fabrics by washing out excess dye and setting the color. The fabrics are also stream pressed to set the dyes. I do recommend that pillows are kept out of direct sunlight to prevent any fading. Embroideries and other fragile accent pieces are not laundered.