Not Your Ordinary Pillows BY CLAIRE RUHLIN Emily Newdow spent her days working at a cubicle in Atlanta and had no idea how to operate a sewing machine only three years ago. Since then, she has moved to Athens and launched Stitch 9, her own line of quirky, handmade pillows that she sells through her online shop and at local stores Community and Doma. Newdow initially ventured into the craft after she thrifted her first sewing machine from the Salvation Army for $25 and buckled down to teach herself the basics. “I had never done any sewing,” she admits. “I figured it all out myself — definitely learned some better tricks on YouTube.” With their quirky designs, Stitch 9’s pillows offer a refreshing contrast to their mass-produced counterparts. Newdow hand-crafts each piece from upholstery-grade fabric and adorns her creations with designs of high-fiving cats, anatomical hearts, vintage silhouettes and paper airplanes. She first began selling her pillows at Community while still living in Atlanta after Sanni Baumgaertner, owner of Community, took notice of Newdow’s booth at the Indie Craft Fair. “I was trying to recruit some local artists that make beautiful things that I could sell at the store, and she was one of the people that really stood out to me at the fair,” Baumgaertner says. “I think the pillows were just really beautiful, and you could just tell that she had a great aesthetic, a great sense for interior design — and it turns out later she actually is an interior designer.” Doma also sells Stitch 9 pillows, and Susanna Drennen, owner of both Doma and its sister shop, Suska, appreciates the distinctive style
and well-constructed quality of Newdow’s pillows. “I like that she’s got a combination of a very modern and a very retro aesthetic,” Drennen says. “I think the quality of the fabric and her construction technique make them special.” Newdow earned a Bachelor of Arts in interior design at UGA and worked in commercial interior design for four years in Atlanta. Her creativity continues to inform Stitch 9’s design element. “I just feel like there’s enough people in this world that we share the same design sentiment,” Newdow says. “So if I really like something, somebody else out there is gonna really like it too.” Many of her design ideas are also inspired by custom orders. She came up with the high-fiving cats silhouette after a woman called in requesting a custom pillow she could give a sick friend. “All I know is that she really likes cats and that she likes the color purple,” the customer told Newdow. Every Monday through Thursday night after she arrives home from her job as facilities manager at the Georgia Center, Newdow retreats to her sewing room– which houses spacious shelving units to hold her fabrics– and works on pillows for three to four hours. On Fridays, she typically devotes the whole day to sewing. “This is one thing that makes me feel like I’m not brain-rotting in the evenings: that I can come home and start and finish a project. I have the idea and I can fulfill the idea and I have something at the end that I can hold up and say, ‘look what I did,’” she smiles. “It’s just a creative outlet I need in my life to be happy”.