Q: Last year, I purchased some fairly expensive throw pillows filled with feathers. Since then, they have become compressed and won’t hold their shape once someone leans on them. Should I add to the filling, or is it best to have a professional revive them?
A: You can do it yourself or seek help from an upholsterer. Either way, the feathers are almost certainly encased in an insert, rather than being stuffed directly into the decorative cover.
If the covers have zippers, take out the insert and decide either to replace it or add to the stuffing. If there are no zippers, evaluate your sewing skills and decide whether you want to turn the job over to a pro or are confident you can open up the seam, change the insert and get the seam closed again in a way that will satisfy you.
If you want pillows that spring back into shape on their own, the best solution is to abandon the existing filling and switch to inserts with synthetic stuffing. But be aware that you’ll sacrifice some of the cushy feeling. If you want to keep that, you can add stuffing, which serves to boost bulk and to adjust the mix of feather types, or buy firmer inserts that have a greater proportion of feathers to down.
“Down in a bird is the really soft component closest to the skin,” said Evelyn Cannon, who with her husband, David, owns Cannon Upholstery in Bethesda (301-654-0090; cannonupholstery.com). “There isn’t much down in a bird, and it takes a whole lot to fill a pillow. So that’s why it’s most expensive.” Adding feathers reduces costs and also serves a practical purpose: The feathers are stiffer, so they don’t compress as much. Cannon usually recommends 25 percent down and 75 percent feathers for throw pillows. Some other shops recommend 50-50.
If you want to add feathers on your own, you will need to open the insert cover by picking out stitches along part of one edge. A seam ripper, sold at fabric stores, is the best tool, but a pin and scissors work, too. For the stuffing, since you mention having multiple pillows to fill, you might want to buy a bed pillow or two and raid those, adding several handfuls of fill to each of your throw pillows. Two Puredown standard-size bed pillows, each with 29 ounces of fill (95 percent duck feathers, 5 percent down), cost $29.99 on Amazon . You can also buy feathers by the pound. A mix of 90 percent feathers and 10 percent down is about $16 on Amazon, but per ounce that comes to about twice the price of the bed pillow option.
Keeping the down from flying around the room and out of the seam as you stitch the insert closed is the biggest challenge. It’s okay to mist the fill; just allow drying time before you put the pillows back in use.
If you opt to replace the inserts, rather than add to the existing ones, you can feel the various options at stores such as Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. Some fabric stores sell only synthetic inserts. You’ll also find lots of options on the Web. Pacific Coast Feather Cushion sells an 18-by-18-inch insert with 95 percent duck feathers for about $12 on Amazon. But with an online purchase, it’s hard to tell whether you are getting more or fewer feathers than you have now. One solution is to weigh one of the current inserts and then make sure any new insert weighs more.
Or you can turn the job over to a pro. Cannon adds feathers to existing inserts for about $35 for an 18-inch-square pillow. If you want new inserts with 75 percent feathers and 25 percent down, the cost would be about $40 to $50 for an insert 21 inches by 21 inches, depending on how difficult it is to access the insert. (Cannon recommends using an insert that’s bigger than the outer cover to ensure a plump look.) Cannon can also make new covers and stuff them for about $75 per pillow.
I have two Quaker Lace tablecloths that are beginning to wear through. They are at least 10 to 12 years old, possibly much older. I think they are 100 percent cotton. I would like to get them repaired. Does anyone repair lace these days?
Parkway Custom Drycleaning in Chevy Chase (301-652-3377; parkwaydrycleaning.com) repairs lace tablecloths. But whether the job is worth the cost depends on the extent of the damage — and, of course, whether these tablecloths have sentimental value or whether you’d come out ahead by buying replacement tablecloths.
Marina Trech, the seamstress at Parkway, and Jon Simon, the owner, looked at the pictures you sent. Simon noted two types of damage. In one picture, there is a straight, horizontal gap several inches long where the vertical threads are missing. Repairing that would cost about $10, he said. In the other picture, a couple of small areas have opened up. Fixing those would be about $5 each.
“It’s not a lot,” Simon said. “But if there are 50 places to repair, it adds up quickly. And if there are too many, we might not take the job.” It generally makes sense to fix up to 10 to 15 problem areas, he said. “But not if it is dozens and dozens. It would take hours and hours, and it’s a question of spending six hours on this versus helping 20 other customers.”
Quaker Lace was always machine-made. A Philadelphia company that started out by importing lacemaking machines from England in 1894 changed its name to Quaker Lace in 1911. Its first products were lace for clothing and windows. The company began making tablecloths in 1932. Those eventually became the company’s sole product line until it went into bankruptcy in 1992. Lorraine Linens then took over the brand until it, too, filed for bankruptcy, in 2007.
Today, it’s still possible to buy Quaker Lace tablecloths — but only through stores, garage sales and online businesses that specialize in vintage goods. The tablecloths are primarily 100 percent cotton. But advertisements from the 1950s also note the availability of tablecloths made of Orlon (a DuPont trademark for acrylic fiber) and cotton-rayon.
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