Home owners love pillows, too. Lots of pillows on the bed creates an aura of luxuriousness. The same can happen with floor pillows scattered on the living room or den floor. Today, many more pillows are made using pillow forms. Historically, pillow forms were used only in show pillows. Not so anymore. With pillows so popular now, and only getting more popular, I thought it would interesting to explore the world of pillow forms.
A lot of different companies make pillow forms. There are as many different ways to make the pillow forms as there are companies making them. As far as what goes in the pillow forms, there are two broad categories: synthetic and natural. Synthetic fibers consist primarily of polyester. Natural fills include down and feathers as well as silk derivatives.
Polyester is by far the most common fill for pillow forms. It also is the cheapest. Polyester, however, suffers the reputation of being a fiber that lumps with use. But new advances in technology seem to have solved that dilemma. Rowley Co., Gastonia, NC, makes pillow forms out of fiber the company processes itself. Rowley says this fiber will not lump over time and adds that it is extremely popular these days. The secret is in the machinery used to make it.
Rowley has a huge machine that processes the polyester fiber. The fiber that is used is extremely fine and hollow, a combination that makes for highly consistent pillow forms. That means pillow forms made from polyester will retain their original shapes over time. If you place a large enough order, most companies will customize a shape and size for you. Among those that Rowley produces is a neck roll pillow form.
As mentioned previously, polyester is the cheapest option for pillow form fill. A 10-pound bag, which can stand over six feet tall and yield as many as 15 16- by 16-inch pillows, will cost around $25. Now that's a deal. Of course, it costs more to purchase the forms already made, but it still is much less than purchasing down and feathers.
Rowley Co. also offers templates workrooms can use when creating slipcovers for its pillow forms. The template lays over the fabric. Marked off for squares, rectangles and circles, the templates enable workrooms to quickly produce slipcovers for the pillow forms.
The most common type of polyester used for pillow forms is Dacron holofil. A benefit of using holofil, and polyester in general, is that it is machine-washable. This may seem like a minor benefit, but it really is important for people who suffer from allergies. According to Sandy Ryan, of Mrs. O'Ryan's Pillow Factory, Teeswater, Ontario, Canada, people who are allergic to pillows are allergic not to the pillow stuffing, but to the house dust that accumulates on the pillow. Because you can machine wash the polyester-filled pillows, you can remove more contaminants more often than with down or other natural fibers. Ryan recommends dry cleaning down pillows at least once every three years.
Polyester is not the best fiber for all pillow forms. It is perfect for throw pillows and floor pillows, where the primary concern remains the look. But it shouldn't be used for upholstered items such as seat cushions. It also presents problems in the bedroom. As a show pillow, a polyester pillow form is perfect. But for sleeping, you'll need to make some allowances. Polyester is a buoyant fiber. For this reason, Rowley recommends using something in the center of the pillow to give it some resilience, then wrapping the polyester around that.
As usual, technology is sprinting ahead. Soft-Tex Mfg., Cohoes, NY, offers a variety of pillow inserts that promise increased comfort for a fraction of the cost of down. The Popinjay insert series features Sofloft®. Composed of millions of hollow core, highly slick spiral fibers, these inserts create much softer pillows than other synthetic fibers. Like other polyester fibers, these fibers won't lump or compress and are machine-washable. Soft-Tex offers a full range of sizes in four different shapes: roll, boudoir, square, and round.
A step up from the Sofloft is the Microfil[TM] pillow insert. These inserts offer near-down softness combined with the resilience of polyester. It costs more than the Sofloft, yet not as much as down.
Natural fills are, of course, the oldest pillow form stuffing. Natural fills today cost more than synthetic fibers, but generally offer greater versatility and comfort. Down is perhaps the most widely used natural stuffing. Synthetic products, despite their increasing sophistication, still cannot match down for warmth per pound, durability and comfort. Like your skin, down breathes. It releases excess heat and moisture, so your pillow does not become clammy as you sleep on it.
As a pillow form fill, down creates more options for the designer. By regulating the amount of down in a pillow form you can create thicker or thinner pillows. This allows you to be more creative in deciding what shape you want. Lodi Down & Feather, Lodi, NJ, has taken this versatility and run with it. They make a full line of down/feather throw pillow forms in a variety of shapes including square, Turkish corner, rectangle, neck roll and basketball (fortunately for your children, down does not bounce).
For show pillows, down cannot compete with synthetic fibers' shape retention. But synthetics can't hold a candle to down's dominance for sleeping pillow forms. Down does require greater care than synthetic fibers, if for no other reason than its cost. It is important, as Ryan mentions, to regularly dry clean down pillows.
Soft, natural fibers offer the best covering for down pillow forms. Be sure that the material is tightly woven to prevent the down from sneaking through the pillow.
Another natural fill is kapok. Lodi Down & Feather offers throw pillows made of these silky fibers. Kapok comes from the pods of the ceiba tree, which grows in porous, volcanic soil in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ecuador, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. It is used as stuffing in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, life-saving equipment and insulation. This amazing substance supports 30 times its own weight while being seven times more buoyant than cork. Obviously it is ideal for flotation devices.
Unfortunately, unless chemically treated, it is highly flammable. It certainly makes for an interesting throw pillow, though.
So, pillows are popular these days. They'll probably get only more popular, and knowing about your pillow form options can only enhance your ability to make the right pillow choices. So stop lounging around on all those pillows and get out and sell some.
Cheryl Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery School, Swannanoa, NC, and is an internationally acclaimed speaker with 20 years experience in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional drapery workrooms. Strickland also is the author of A Practical Guide to Soft Window Coverings and the Designer's Sketch Pad, which are available through Draperies & Window Coverings magazine.