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Creating Our First In-House Product: Throw Pillows

Creating Our First In-House Product: Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are mostly annoying. They’re something you cast aside when you’re sitting down on your otherwise comfy couch. The ones in your guest bedroom are tossed on the floor as soon as the recipient climbs into bed. So why do we buy them? We want the cool patterns and cozy feeling, but they’re just not functional. It’s the same thing as getting a keychain on your vacation–it may make you smile for a second, but overall it’s just clutter. How do we fix that?

At Soulful Suburb, we don’t make anything that isn’t functional. We believe good design should blend so seamlessly into your life, you don’t even realize how important a product is to you until it’s missing. So when we were working on creating our first product line, we wanted to build something that wasn’t being offered anywhere else. We wanted to take something antiquated and improve on it while still retaining its traditional value.

Our founder, John, always liked those pouf-y ottomans. You know, the adult bean bag type things you can stick on the floor and sink into like a hug? The problem is, a lot of places offer those already and could probably make them better than we can right now. We’re still an emerging business getting our footing and manufacturing confidence, so we wanted to stick to things we knew best.

My background is in fashion design, so I was excited to approach the creation of textiles in the form of home goods. As I was scrolling through all of these furnishing sites with an uncomfortable throw pillow propping my neck up in a weird way, I figured I could start by making myself something more enjoyable. I popped an email into John’s inbox with the idea, and we decided on our first tangible product.

We wanted to create a mixture of a throw pillow and beanbag–something that can still rest on your couch in an elegant way, but when you kick your feet up, you can sink down comfortably and stylishly. The project kind of got pushed to the backburner until John and I went shopping  and found a great fabric. 

Indigo and shibori dyeing have been trending a lot in the past couple of years, so this inky, navy blue Tommy Bahama fabric caught our eye. We purchased a yard and a half to experiment with. 

After a bit  we returned home with fabric in tow, and I began to draft a pattern for it. This consists of rolling out a big thing of drafting paper (clearance Christmas wrapping paper in my case) and mapping out the 2D shapes that will make up our 3D object after it’s sewn together. This part was pretty straightforward–a home-made pillow is typically just two squares sewn together with some stuffing inside, but we wanted to make the best damn pillow possible. The first one I made was 2 feet by 2 feet (usually the biggest throw pillow option, but this will be our smallest), and we’re also creating a 3’ x 3’ and 4’ x 4’. No one makes pillows that large, so we have to create our own inserts with memory foam filling.

I left room for an invisible zipper and purchased additional piping, bias tape, and down pillow inserts. I placed the two squares of fabric on top of each other, with the outer sides together. Then, I set to work carefully pinning my piping and invisible zipper pieces in place on the outer edges. Finally, I was able to sew the squares together, save for a little hole in which I pulled the fabric through to bring the pillow right-sides out after I clipped the curves around my corners. I stitched that hole closed and checked the 


It opened with ease, and I was able to slip my down insert inside the casing. That’s a finished pillow, and a great one at that! The piping on the edges combined with the watercolor blue fabric finish gave it a refined nautical look that we could see as a perfect fathers day gift.

I noticed some minor changes I wanted to make to the fit–mainly making the squares slightly smaller so the insert filled it out better–so I figured this was a good time to start drafting a tech pack.

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A tech pack is what we use in the fashion industry to communicate with factories about making a garment. You aren’t going to be there to tell them what pieces get sewn where, or how you did a certain technique, so you have to give them a HIGHLY detailed package of papers that makes the product creation process foolproof. It’s also used to record changes during the fitting process so you have a map of exactly each millimeter that is being moved around. I wanted to get in the habit of creating this for all of our samples so we could stay organized and easily pass it off to our seamstresses for production.

I started by looking at a few of my existing tech packs. I’ve never had to make a template for a company before–they usually have established ones already–but because this is new for Soulful, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. Many companies use special software for management of bulk tech packs, but our operation is still small enough that everything can be recorded in sheets.

I mapped out the areas we needed to cover, and eventually made pages for CAD sketches, our bill of materials, construction instructions, colorways, cost, specs, fit changes, and pattern. This means I made a detailed flat sketch of the finished product, then illustrated any super-specific steps that need to be done in a certain manner. I then measured everything and wrote in the size down to 1/16th of an inch. I recorded every material used, where we bought it, the cost, the color, and where each piece goes. I also made a page full of the construction instructions, then a list of any changes made and what date they were on. Lastly, in order to virtually share our pattern, I had to digitize it using a software called Seamly. 

So that’s how we created our first pillow. I’m now typing this article with proper neck support. We laid the infrastructure for rapid product expansion by setting up our tech packs and processes for each part of the creative timeline–now, we’re focusing on creating our own prints to make these even more tailored to our liking. Stay tuned.

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