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Tagalongs are for everyone

Idea from granddaughter reaps hobby, sales

Staff writer

She’s known to most of Marion as a high school teacher and director of too many musicals and plays to count.

Janet Killough has another talent. She designs and makes pillowcases.

These aren’t any ordinary pillowcases. They are designed to help the sleeper relax and well, go to sleep — particularly young sleepers.

“The idea came from my granddaughter who couldn’t sleep without rubbing a soft tag,” Killough explained, like one found on a stuff animal.

It is therapeutic and relaxing even for adults, to rub soft material between the fingers, forgetting the cares of the day and drifting to slumberland.

So, being an attentive grandmother, Killough made a special pillowcase with soft, silk tags for her granddaughter. She then started making the special pillowcases as gifts, using a particular pattern or theme of fabric and matching silk tags.

“People started asking me to make some for them,” Killough said, and Mimi’s Tagalongs was born. (Mimi is the name her grandchildren call her.)

Killough and her family sold a few at last year’s Art in the Park in Marion, but the weather wasn’t the best for the debut.

“I decided in August (last year) to do this in September, so I spent a lot of time sewing during that month,” she said.

Knowing this was something she wanted to continue to do, Killough spent the winter months shopping for fabric and ribbon, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

“I guess it’s the saleswoman in me that makes me like to choose fabric and sell items,” she said.

Killough’s roots are deep in retail sales with her parents, Wayne and Dorothy Varenhorst, owning and operating Van’s clothing store for decades in downtown Marion.

“I love looking at fabric. I can remember picking fabric when my mother had the store,” Killough said.

She grew up sewing, making doll clothes at a young age. Killough used to sew her own clothes but when she had her own family and career, she didn’t have the time. Now being semi-retired, she finds the hobby to be fun and relaxing.

So far, Killough has made 222 pillowcases, 125 in the past two weeks, specifically for the Marion craft show.

The basement of the Killough house has become a sewing room and assembly line for the product.

Each pillowcase is for a standard-size pillow and has three silk tags on an end. A specific theme is carried throughout the case and are as diverse as there is fabric in a store.

Diego, High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Mickey Mouse, KU, K-State, fire department, jungle animals, airplanes, Strawberry Shortcake, motorcycles, sports, Mary Engelbreit, Star Wars, angels, pirates, clouds, Precious Moments, cowboys, dinosaurs, Winnie the Pooh, puppies.

The themes go on and on.

For instance, the pillowcase with cowboys has two plain-colored tags that match the fabric and one tag that has horseshoe marks.

Killough has plastic drawers filled with ribbons that are neatly organized by color. Fabrics are neatly folded and in a stack for easy picking.

So, how did she find such a variety of fabric and ribbon? Killough hits the sales at various variety, craft, and fabric stores.

“I don’t buy anything on-line because I prefer to touch the fabric,” Killough said.

She and her family had always enjoyed Marion’s Art in the Park and Craft Show because it was slow-paced and in the park. Killough enjoyed being a vendor last year and has her family’s support.

This year may be a little bit different for Killough because she has two grandbabies due in the next few weeks.

“I can’t miss their births,” she said, so she may have to find a substitute saleswoman to operate her booth at this year’s fair. “We’ll just have to wait and see how it works out.”

Regardless, Mimi’s Tagalongs will be for sale at the craft show and Mimi is willing to take special orders.

Marion’s Art in the Park and Crafts Show is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 20 at Central Park, Marion.

Last modified Sept. 10, 2008

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