Needlepoint Pillows Are Coming Back All Over the Country, But They Never Went Out of Style in the South
As a kid growing up in the South, a visit to your grandparents' house was an adventure for many reasons—you might get to play a favorite game, eat a snack your mom didn't let you have, or get to spend time with your cousins. And, for some (me included), it was also a chance to explore a home full of family antiques and figurines and things so interesting you couldn't help but ask for the story behind them.
In that time, needlepoint pillows were often among the treasures found in the well-loved homes of the older generation—mostly because they were bright and colorful and, while an inanimate object, they somehow seemed to show personality and a glimpse into the quirks of your grandparents that maybe you didn't quite know at a young age. Even in recent years, I've asked my friends with needlepoint pillows—seen carefully placed in their Manhattan studio apartments and vanities at home in Georgia—why they love them or have a few of their own, and there's a story behind every answer: "Oh, my grandmother always collected them," or "We're a needlepoint family," or "I just learned to needlepoint during quarantine—aren't they kinda fun?!" among them.
And, honestly, my friends and I are not alone. It's official: Needlepoint pillows are making a comeback! A playful play to the nostalgia of decorations past, retailers and boutiques like Jonathan Adler, Furbish Studio, The Well Appointed House are stocking up on a creative array of uniquely crafted pillows featuring vibrant prints, geometric designs, and iconic sayings from the likes of Cher ("Mom, I am a Rich Man") and Patrick Swayze ("Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner").
While new and popular, this idea of a cheeky needlepoint pillow isn't original. After all, we saw these in our grandparents' homes decades ago, so the style didn't just "come out of nowhere." According to Town and Country, interior designer Mario Buatta is said to have created the OG pillow when he added a bold touch to a bedroom bolster, embroidering it with "Tonight" on one side and "Not Tonight" on the other in the mid-1900s. (Honestly, hilarious.)
Today, the sayings are just as genius. On a recent shopping trip to Favor the Kind, an eclectic home and clothing shop with locations in Dallas, Houston, and Crested Butte, Colorado, I found the perfect gift (a needlepoint pillow) for my sister, who I'd been living with in Dallas through most of the pandemic. The quote on it? "My favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations." It was an instant, impulse purchase for me: After months of take-out and Uber Eats, I was sold on the premise alone, but it helped that it matched her blue-and-white living room perfectly. While not in her pretty blue-and-white palette, I also secured a mini one, proudly emblazoned with her new home of "Dallas" in the state's signature burnt orange color, for her collection during my stay. Sure, I'm biased, but I think the two pillows, both personal for different reasons, make her place feel more layered, cozy, and like her home.
Celebrities are even enthusiastic about the needlepoint comeback, as Jenna Bush Hager recently shared on Today With Hoda & Jenna in February. After selecting needlepoint pillows as a Galentine's Day gift idea for the audience, the host revealed that friend Savannah Guthrie gave her a "I Literally Can't" pillow from Furbish Studio, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based boutique, for her birthday (shop it here). She also said her grandmother had a needlepoint pillow that said "Reading Is Sexy," further evidence that these pillows are a timeless treasure here in the South.
Want to jump on the bandwagon? We pulled a few favorite needlepoint pillows below that would make a nice gift for Mother's Day, a friend's birthday, or even a treat for yourself. And you have our word: We won't tell anyone if you order one (or a collection) for your own home. After all, who can put a price on the joy a little throw pillow may bring you?