FARGO — Many college graduates carry fond memories with them from their school days, but some members of the marching bands at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota are literally throwing them on the couch.
Emily Brooks, a Fargo-based artist, is producing decorative throw pillows out of old band uniforms, and they're proving more popular than a John Philip Sousa march.
"They're selling so well, I've had to start a waiting list," Brooks says. "I'm working about two months out."
Brooks runs Taea Made, a home decor and accessory business specializing in embroidery, painting, jewelry and memory pillows. She says Sigurd Johnson, the director of NDSU's Gold Star Marching Band, contacted her after hearing that she worked in upcycling projects — converting outdated or discarded items into something new, beautiful and useful.
"He wondered if we could do some kind of fundraiser for the Gold Star Marching Band with all of the retired band uniforms they had in storage," she says.
The answer was yes, and there's been no looking back. Brooks' sewing room is surrounded with clothing racks full of the green-and-gold uniforms from the past few years. It takes her about four to five hours to turn one uniform into a pillow.
"I try to utilize as much of the uniform as possible," she says. "I like to take the interesting features like the embroidery and the buttons."
The result is a pillow that looks just like the uniform, complete with game-worn memories — except for the sweat.
"They are all dry-cleaned," Brooks says with a laugh. "But some of the uniforms still have marks on them from being used. It tells a story about where they've been. I wouldn't want to take that away."
Shortly after the Gold Star Marching Band pillows started selling, Brooks decided to offer the same product to fans of UND's Pride of the North Marching Band. She has dozens of the green-and-white uniforms awaiting transformation on racks and in boxes in her sewing room.
Brooks says her favorite part of making both versions of the pillows is hearing sentimental stories from the people who buy them.
"One of the pillows went to a couple just getting married. They met in the Gold Star Band and their friend, who was also in the band, bought it for them as a wedding gift," Brooks says. "Another was a gift this Christmas for a man who marched at UND. It's always so nice to hear the stories."
The pillows come in a large 18-by-18-inch size, which sell for $75, and a smaller 12-by-12 size that sells for $40. They've become popular among gift-givers who want the sentimental choice.
"One of the really cool things about the newest uniforms is that some of the students are able to buy pillows made from their actual uniform," she says.
Fans of the pillows are putting them in game rooms, offices and even bedrooms. Just don't sleep on them.
"Oh no, not that," she says.
Marching band pillows, yes. Button marks on your face, no.
To contact Brooks' Taea Made business, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-353-5445.
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