Making Your Own Traditional

Straw  Lace Pillow


A straw pillow can take some time to make, especially for the first time of trying so don't expect miracles - it doesn't happen instantly.

I personally think that the best size of pillow to start with is a 16 inch round domed pillow. Once you have mastered this one you will be able to try different sizes and shapes to better accommodate the type of lace it is you wish to make. If you use or have used only a 'poly' (styrofoam) pillow, you will be pleasantly surprised and pleased at the difference you will find in using your own straw pillow.

Please don't misunderstand me when I say this. I actually use poly pillows sometimes myself, as well as straw. I also usually suggest that beginners to bobbin lacemaking should start with a polystyrene pillow, for the simple reason that they may decide somewhere along the line that it is "not for them". So, therefore, it is best to find out if you like it first and then make the straw pillow!!!

Before you start to make your pillow you will need the following things:

A piece of plywood or similar material which is 16 inch diameter - be a bit careful if you choose something other than plywood because you don't want your pillow to be too heavy, especially if you are using it on your lap (chipboard for example is very thick and would make a very heavy pillow and something softer like fibreboard for example would not be satisfactory as it could not take the pressure put on it by hard straw packing)  A local joiner or someone who cuts wood would probably make a 'round' for you for a small fee (or chat up your husband/wife, boy/girl friend or whatever).

1/2 yard/metre of strong dark-coloured cotton fabric which is approximately 36" wide for the pillow cover (dark blue is a good colour but I have also used burgundy and also a medium-dark soft red very effectively) A lttle tip here - if you purchase one yard / metre of the fabric it will be sufficient to make you a couple of matching cover cloths as well - and possibly a pincushion as well!!

Barley Straw - don't ask me how much - just have more than you think you will need!  If it is difficult for you to get barley straw, you can obtain a pretty good result by using 'wood wool'.  You can usually get this from a shop that sells good china or porcelain.  It is something like extremely thin wood shavings and a bit curly. The china comes packed in this and my local china specialist used to give it to me for nothing to get it out of his way.  so......Worth a try!

Before starting on the pillow it is really important to make sure that the "filling" is BUG FREE.    Straw has to be cut, broken or chopped into small pieces 1" - 2" long so it is really a good idea to do this first and then disinfect it using an appropriate proprietary powder.  Leave it in there for a while before you want to use it, to make sure that you eliminated any possible future 'problems'.

In the meantime, cut two 16" circles (I add on only a very small seam allowance to my circles because as the pillow is filled the fabric will 'stretch' and if it too loose or has to have too much straw put in it will not be as satisfactory.  The cover should end up fitting firmly and smoothly over the finished pillow.

Put the right sides of the fabric together and machine stitch halfway round the circumference of the circle. Turn the pillow cover the right way out and insert the plywood  round inside the stitched half - it should fit really closely with no loose fabric.  Stitch around the rest of the cover by hand,  leaving a gap of about 6 inches or so for filling.

Once you are satisfied that your straw is bug-free, starting putting it bit at a time into the pillow cover on top of the plywood round.  Be sure to pack it in very firmly as you go (I use a wooden mallet handle) working slowly from one side to the other as evenly as possible.   Just keep on packing it in and packing it down. The aim is to make the pillow both firm (by firm I really mean hard) and smooth - flat on top and sloping towards the outer edges.   Try to ensure that you do not have any 'pits' or 'bumps' as they will become most annoying when you start to work on your pillow.

Persistent bumps etc can sometimes be 'bashed about a little' (or a lot, depending on how mad you get with it) from the outside to make them behave. 

When you think you have enough straw in your pillow - PUT SOME MORE IN and yet again some more !!   Most folks who make their first pillow almost invariably DO NOT PUT IN ENOUGH STRAW!!  

Then, when you are absolutely convinced that you cannot put in any more and the pillow feels firm and smooth, flat on top, nice slope towards the edges (stick some pins in to see how they stand up and how they feel going in) you can sew up the gap, pat yourself on the back and enjoy a nice cup of coffee!

If you would like details on how to make a tradtional lacemakers pinchushion just send me an email and I will let you have the information.





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