By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
20 years, Anniston, Alabama, native Clyde Gregg lived in Alaska where she braved the cold and raised her two daughters. Her career field included spending 40 years as an orthopedic trauma nurse, which was both fulfilling and frustrating. However, Clyde has loved searching all her life for fabrics, antiques, and thrift store finds that just about defy one’s sensibilities as to their quality and value. For example, on the east wall of the Pillow Peddler, which is located at 607 ½ North Jefferson in Athens, is a cobalt blue multi-beveled framed piece of glass that sends light and color dancing all over the front of the shop. She told me that she found it in a thrift shop, and as someone who worked in an antique shop around 40 years ago, I have great admiration for this woman’s ability to go on what antique lovers call “the hunt” and come back home triumphant. With regard to the building itself, Clyde told me that it was actually picked up and moved there to its present location decades ago, and the small size of the lot is why it has 607 ½ for its address. In its “former life,” the shotgun house had been quarters for workers on Wheeler Dam when it was being constructed from 1933-1936.
Clyde moved to Athens from Albertville 17 years ago, and owned and lived in the pink house that is located right next to what is now Revive Café on North Clinton Street. That location had wonderful antiques, as does her current shop on North Jefferson. However, the “pink house” did not have the focus of Clyde’s life-long love: fabrics. This place, which is also pink and is also considered to be a historical building, is filled with pillows, all of which have been sewn by Clyde herself. It also has antiques of all kinds, and everything is for sale, everything however, except for the iron bed that sits squarely in the living room, and is the first thing you see when you walk in. The ornate bed is on loan from a friend, and is a perfect way to display the pillows.
In the 1970s, Clyde went on a fabric-finding junket to Europe and especially Germany, with the intent of purchasing inventory that would serve to supply her “someday shop.” The quality of German fabric is quite remarkable, and she came home with wools, tapestries, antique linens with tatting, whimsical patterns of cats and other animals, and more. She collected but never sewed them into anything until one day someone came into the shop on North Clinton and made what she said was “an offer I just couldn’t refuse,” to buy her pink house.
The sale of the shop on North Clinton freed up Clyde to begin designing and sewing her creations. Clyde’s plan had been to open her shop far sooner than this past summer, but COVID and other family health adventures put a crank in the works for a bit, however, she prevailed. To date there are more than 100 pillows from which to choose at the Pillow Peddler, and Clyde is just getting started. Some of the pillows are simple, some have ornate fringe, some are large, and others are dainty. Each is one of a kind, and carefully made. Many are reversible and can signal the change of the seasons. Clyde describes her style as “Boho eclectic,” and I think that is an apt description.
For those of you who sew, you will know what I am talking about when I say that the seams that you will never see because they are located on the interior of the pillow have all been ironed flat after sewing them so that the edge is completely smooth. This attention to craftsmanship and detail is not something you see anymore, and was a joy to both behold and discuss with someone who could have been an “A” student in my mom’s Home Economics class.
Clyde has survived COVID twice, and her husband has had his own health challenges. However, her creative and entrepreneurial spirit have emerged undaunted, and she loves the opportunity to do what she describes as “looking at something, and not seeing what is, but rather what could be.” You can most definitely see that in her creations, which also include taking things like curtains and completely deconstructing them and using every bit of fabric to make a masterpiece of a pillow.
The Pillow Peddler is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday each week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. There is a pleasant sitting area and all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore, and Clyde will be happy to tell you her story, and listen to yours. Stop by today and see what she has carefully created, and then be sure to take something home with you, because the chances are high that you won’t get another chance to purchase that particular pillow at The Pillow Peddler!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner