Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pillow talk ...

It’s apparent to me that men only want to own one pillow – the one on which they lay their head. Go figure! This is another striking example of how the sexes are different. I think I can speak for most women when I say, “we salivate at the mere thought of a grand sofa or luxurious bed embellished with oodles of plump, decorative pillows.”

These gorgeous designer pillows really enhance the striking Julian Chichester sofa.

In recent years, pillows have become far more lavish and ridiculously more expensive – really too costly to be within the reach of average buyers. But, that’s because designers have incorporated some of the most ornate, antique textiles into the manufacture of new, decorative pillows, and those old embroideries and rare tapestries can set you back $500 on the low end to over $4,000 on the upper end of the pillow price scale. But, if you shop smart and can sew even the simplest of seams, you can duplicate the look for a whole lot less.

These pillows cost $2,800 (left) and $3,400 (right)
from Melissa Levinson Antiques. Photos via her


Lavish textiles for the home have been around since the Middle Ages. In her book, Antique French Textiles for Designers, June Laval notes that, “In the history of textiles, embroidery was a very prestigious art. In the Middle Ages, real gold and silver thread [began to be] embroidered onto altar hangings…and other religious articles.” An entire cottage industry has grown around the production of pillows combining old ‘galloons’ and antique fabric with new materials.

From the M. Nicholas Collection at $1,250.

Olde World Pillows sells this beauty for $1,450.
Those old ‘galloons’ – the decorative embellishments found on ecclesiastical garments, military uniforms and fraternal order sashes, were often sewn onto velvet and trimmed with metallic cording. The aged, metallic threads used in the galloon embroidery have taken on a rich patina over time, making them in high demand.

The galloons, as well as antique velvets and silks, make their way into auctions, antique shops and flea markets. So, if you’re a savvy shopper, you can create the same quality pillow for a fraction of the designers’ retail cost.

I found a richly aged, ceremonial ‘galloon’ on Vatican-Red velvet with tarnished gold thread for $15 at an antique shop in Gruene, Texas and combined it with coordinating ribbon and braided trim on a quilted, taupe silk fabric remnant.

Viola! In less than 30 minutes there is more eye candy for my little casa (to be part of a guest bedroom redecorating project) and more confusion for the man in my life.

What can I say? Women are from Venus, the pillow planet!

And my finished pillow? Well, it has all of the rich detail of designer goods (with all of its antique wear and imperfections of age) for about $25.

1 comment:

Pam Zimmerman said...

Your pillow turn out awesome. Your creativty and talent always amaze me. Not everyone can take a piece of fabric and make a pillow that looks like a professional semstress created it.

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