I’m probably among the few people who consider March to be one of their favorite months. I like it for the promise it holds – there’s a hint of spring in the air, plants are starting to pop, farmers are prepping their fields, lambs are being born, the March Madness basketball tournament begins and it will soon be time to change out my throw pillows, or better yet, buy some new ones.
Yes, I’m one of those people who is obsessed with throw pillows. I have a large closet that is filled with them. Sometimes I’ll just go to HomeGoods or the Prussian Street Arcade and wander around the pillow displays. Wherever I travel, scoping out throw pillows is on the agenda. Even the internet is aware of my obsession … ads for pillows constantly pop up on my social media feeds.
Two years ago, I hit the holy grail. I would be spending Fourth of July weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. My son, Charlie, asked if there was anything in particular I wanted to see or do while we were there. There was only one place I wanted to go – Sewing Down South. For those of you who don’t follow reality TV, Sewing Down South is owned by Craig Conover, who stars on Bravo’s Southern Charm. Craig, who is from Fenwick Island in Delaware, landed in Charleston to attend law school. He exorcized the stresses of studying for the bar by sitting at a sewing machine and making pillows.
Granted, his initial efforts were kind of sad; even the grand dame of the show, Patricia Altschul (whose house I found during last summer’s trip), poo-pooed them (maybe because she was in the process of launching her own line of pillows).
He also received pushback from his girlfriend at the time, Naomie, who was growing concerned that he seemed to be devoting more time to the sewing machine and less time to the books. It became obvious she was feeling trepidation at the prospect of marrying a guy who sews as opposed to one who practices law. Craig’s whiny tagline became, “What’s wrong with my sewing?” (You have to hear him say it to get the full effect.) Despite Patricia and Naomie’s dismissive attitudes, Craig thought his pillows had potential. And, so, he sewed on.
Female fans of the show felt sorry for Craig and began asking if they could buy his handiwork. The growing demand for his pillows prompted Craig to launch a lucrative online business that constantly sold out of products. Two years ago, he opened a gorgeous store on King Street in Charleston. Since then, Sewing Down South’s signature fabrics appear not only on pillows, but on pet items, blankets/throws, towels, aprons, oven mitts and more. Craig has also expanded into apparel (including items with his signature saying on them) and home fragrances. He has partnered with Thomasville Furniture, HSN and Fred Meyer to create special pillow collections. Last summer, Sewing Down South pillows debuted at select HomeGoods stores. (Thus far, no dice in Lancaster … I keep my eyes open!) He also wrote a book, Pillow Talk.
Prior to leaving for Charleston, I called, texted and emailed the store (numerous times) to make certain it would be open July 4. Late that afternoon, Charlie and I walked in and were like two kids in a candy store. It was the day Charlie experienced a genetic transference and became obsessed with pillows. It was as if lightning struck! It was a bummer Craig wasn’t there, but we didn’t care. We were in pillow heaven and had to touch everything. We made our selections and headed off to join family and watch the fireworks over Charleston Harbor.
A few months later, I was in North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Charlie and his wife, Jen. The sofa overflowed with pillows. One afternoon, I noticed a UPS truck in the driveway and asked Jen if she was expecting a delivery. “It’s probably one of Charlie’s @#$% pillows,” she responded.
She was right. When he arrived home, he ripped into the box and proudly displayed a new addition to the Sewing Down South collection. When she questioned why he bought that particular pillow, he reported it was on sale plus who wouldn’t want a pillow with a palm tree wrapped in holiday lights for their very own? Jen says she is giving up on decorating and letting Charlie have full control.
Last July, I was back in North Carolina. On our way to Bald Head Island, Charlie said we had to make a stop in Southport. He had found the most darling shop that carries pillows from a company called LuckyBird, which is based in Mississippi. Their pillows are genius! They are dotted with four strategically placed buttons onto which decorative “swaps” can be attached. There are hundreds – heck, maybe thousands – of possibilities. Of course, I had to have one. Thus far, I’ve ordered three swap attachments for it.
Then, in August, we went to the farmers/makers market that is held at the Avon Pier on Hatteras Island. We oohed and aahed over a maker’s coastal-inspired pillows. Naturally, we had to inspect and discuss each one. The maker just kind of stood and stared at us. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “I’ve just never met a guy who is so into pillows.” We bought several and told her to check out Sewing Down South’s website.
Last fall, I did two Best Kept Secrets tours with friends. Of course, I was on the lookout for pillows. I restrained myself but made notes in the tour booklet of shops I need to return to. Oh, and I’ve also been perusing LuckyBird’s website for spring swaps. I also bought a commemorative Poppy the Groundhog pillow (hey, it supports a good cause).
A friend suggested that I buy a sewing machine and make my own pillows, but I have bad memories of home-ec class in high school. I was so lacking in sewing skills that I would sneak projects out so that one of my aunts could make them presentable.
Besides, as Craig would probably say, “Sew what! It’s much more fun to shop!”
— Suzanne Starling-Long