Lois Plowman is about more than just pretty pillows. Her showcase at Slate Interiors in Plaza Midwood is just a cross-section of her creativity, which spans custom draperies and window coverings for local designers and retail clients alike. We sat down with the seamstress to unravel her past and talk about the future of her business, Devereaux Designs.
When did you start sewing?
I sew all the time. I love to sew more than anything. My grandmother taught my mother, and then I learned from both of them. I started making doll clothes and then I made my own clothes when I was about 12 years old.
Twelve is young! Did you have any other training?
I went to UNCC and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for two semesters. I was doing fashion design, but I wasn't very good! I could sew better than I could design.
In 1985, I opened up an alterations place on Seventh Street, but I didn't really like doing alterations. A fabric store contacted me about making custom window treatments, and I didn't know how to do it, but I taught myself and took some classes. Shortly thereafter, I started selling blinds and shutters and shades.
So you do more than just pillows—how did you transition sewing into a business of all-inclusive window treatments?
I was going into people's houses and making draperies for them, and they would say 'Oh, I need some blinds,' so it just sort of spun off of that. Honestly, it has become a big part of my business—that, and the woven woods, like bamboo shades. It's a good thing, because when that part of the business slows down, the drapery product will be really busy, or vice versa. So, it's good to have all of it. And with the pillows, I'm set to go! What do you look for in the fabrics you choose?
I try to follow trends and see what other people are doing, then do something with my own little twist. A lot of pattern and geometrics are really popular right now. I like mixing textures: silk, wool, linens, all kinds of trims. I try to maximize whatever cut I can get out of the fabric I have. I've been saving and collecting fabrics for over 30 years.
Insider tips? Where do you get your fabrics?
I get a lot of my stuff on e-bay, and I have a private fabric dealer that I work with in Concord. She'll call me when she has something she thinks I might like.
What do you love most about what you do?
Just taking a piece of raw fabric and making something really beautiful. That somebody loves. That is the thing that I enjoy. Just rolling out a bolt of fabric and seeing what the possibilities could be.
What does the future hold for you?
I thought about retiring last summer, and just working part time, but then I realized, there is nothing else I'd rather do. This is the thing that gets me up every day. I feel very lucky.