We all miss Grandpa…
In August of 2017, I received a text from the mom of the female offspring’s classmate. She is active in our community and I have helped supply her with flags and Girl Scout cookies, and she has referred me to other clients. She has a huge heart, and I watch her adventures on Facebook as she gives her time to a local mission called Outreached Arms in Pittsburgh. Her enthusiasm is contagious on projects, and I was glad to hear from her!
She had found the idea of “remembrance pillows” on Pinterest and wondered if I could help her out with making it a reality. Her father-in-law had recently passed, and there were quite a few grandchildren that were of various ages and physical locations. He had a huge impact on those children and she had found her niece had even squirreled away a flannel shirt of his in her grief! My client acquired 5 of his flannel shirts and we started a Pinterest board together to exchange ideas.
Pinterest is a wonderful platform for me to use with clients when we are less in a rush and more interested in sharing a visual idea. We don’t have to schedule appointments with each other, and we let the ideas sort of “marinate”. I started the board for us and found some tradition and non-traditional ways to honor a missing family member in pillow form. “Remembrance” has a sweet but sad tone to it for me, so I decided to refer to these creative endeavors as “Memory Pillows”.
We found pillows made from flannel shirts, dress shirts, wedding dresses and uniforms. We found footstools covered in silk ties. Some folks wanted words of remembrance in the form of embroidered poems and names. Some upcycled their jeans into pockets for a wall, and others created bears from beloved clothing scraps. Others have done patchwork shams of fabric scraps and Girl Scout vests. I even found a pillow wearing a pair of red suspenders! If you want to see other ideas, please feel free to follow my Pinterest Memory Pillows or Pinterest Memory Ideas boards at Solutions By Tatiana!
My client wanted a simple memory – the shirts themselves, complete with tiny marks of wear and tear, an odd bleach spot, and one that still smelled (in a GOOD way!) of time with Grandpa. We decided to go with using the body of the pillow, and one or two pockets if I could center or offset them to work. Most shirts were either a size L or XL, and I found this yielded easily to a square pillow form that was 14” or 16” square.
My Joann’s has a large foam department, and so I educated myself on pillow forms from Fairfield Industries. There are various densities and grades such as Value, Basic and Premier, and the options in size start around 12” and go up to 24” square. There are also some odd sizes like 14” x 28” for decorative bed pillows, but these seem to vary. I found that if someone wants a smaller pillow, we may need to make our own insert or do straight Polyfil stuffing and stitch it shut. With the intention of using the button placket of the flannel shirts as the closure, we opted for premade forms. This way, the flannel shirt acts as a sham and can easily be removed for washing. I then waited until Joann’s coupons and sales brought the pillow forms down to 50% off, and we stocked up for the project.
The simplest way to proceed for an assembly line of shirts was to use a steaming iron to smooth, cut off the sleeves and shoulder/collar area, measure a square in the body of the garment, and cut the square. Flip the right sides of the square together so the wrong sides face out, pin (if needed), sew the perimeter at 5/8”, unbutton the front side, flip the casing to see the right sides out, and sew a 5/8” seam again. Stuff your sham with the pillow form and button up the flannel shirt! This method gave me a nice border around each sham, and the size was just small enough to make the pillow stuffed without wrinkles or gaps.
Once I got the hang of how to place the pillow (each one is unique depending on button and pocket placement, and blemish marks to preserve or omit), the project speeds up and became a labor of love. It was so wonderful to provide these custom-made cushions of comfort, especially in time for some of the grandchildren heading off to college for the first time.
She was absolutely thrilled, and the children had fun with a good natured debate over who should get which pillow. She actually referred me to a friend of hers in a similar predicament, and I managed to get 12 pillows completed for that family for the holidays, and then several more for my original client when a few more nieces and nephews discovered what was possible. Since developing and researching this idea, I have several new “memory” projects in the works that I can’t wait to share with you. Stay tuned for future blog and Instagram posts!