The Pillow Project
A few months ago, my sister Connie called to tell me that she had our mother's wedding gown and wondered what we should do with it. I told her to send it along and I'd think of something. After doing some research on Etsy, I hit on the idea of making keepsake pillows for her granddaughters and great-granddaughters. After the gown arrived, I took a deep breath and began painstakingly removing the floral appliques that decorated the neckline and sleeves. It felt a little sacrilegious to be taking it apart, but I soldiered on, removing 44 satin-covered buttons and the tiny seed pearl flowers from the headband that held her veil. I also removed the delicate ruching below the bustline and the gathers from the top of the sleeves.
Barbara Ann Lake and Paul Frederick Baehren, were married on December 26, 1943 at Washington Congregational Church in Toledo, Ohio. They were quite young, with my mom only 19 and dad 21. He was completing his medical degree at the University of Saint Louis Medical School, so she joined him there. After living in Toledo, Tennessee and Georgia during his internship and residency, they returned to Toledo with their three young children (Peter and David would come along later) and lived there for the rest of their lives.
I began by cutting two 13-inch squares of fabric to cover a 12-inch pillow form. Some lace, spools of ribbon and pearl trim were purchased. I decided to place a diagonal strip of fabric on the pillow top. Lace was stitched on either side and then pearl trim sewn on, attaching the strip to the fabric. Then I carefully hand-stitched the floral applique and seed pearl flower to the opposite sides. Using the venerable sewing machine with which I made my own wedding gown nearly 50 years ago, I stitched back to front, turned it right side out, stuffed in the pillow form and closed the opening by hand. One pillow got the button loops from the back of the gown on one side of the strip. Others got the ruching strips and gathers from the sleeves, topped by a round applique edged by lace and pearl trim.
Online, I found beautiful satin roses (imported from China). These I stitched in the center of each pillow atop a satin ribbon bow with long tails, the idea being that wedding rings could be tied to them if the pillow was used by a ring bearer. Soon, I'll be presenting them (in person or by mail) to Alison, Hannah, Emily, Emma, Sarah, Anna, Lena, and Jenna. I hope they will, in turn, pass them along to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren as a special memory.
My mother tended to be rather unsentimental, but I hope she would have smiled at having the gown worn on her wedding day preserved in this way. My father, on the other hand, would have cried happy tears to have this legacy passed on to his granddaughters and great-granddaughters. I'd like to think of these pillows as a tribute to their 63 year-long marriage.
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I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.