Family heirlooms make great holiday gifts that can be proudly displayed throughout the home. When I wrote about a friend’s sister who had pillows made from her late father’s plaid flannel shirts to give to her siblings for Christmas, the idea resonated with Homestyle readers. Some even shared their own creations that were featured in a later column.

I, too, was inspired by the concept and I wanted to do the same with a shirt that belonged to my father. Unfortunately, all of his clothing had been donated by then, including the one flannel shirt he wore that I kept for a while.

So, when we lost my stepfather, who lived to be almost 101, my mother let me have his favorite sweater to make into a pillow for our sofa. I still have some old photos of him wearing it while holding our daughter when she was a baby.

When I asked a friend to make a pillow from his wool sweater from New Zealand, she did even better by taking the leftover fabric to make a smaller one too. The pair of pillows has since become our border collie’s favorite place to rest his head. We like to think it’s because he’s a herder and the sweater has a sheep motif.  

I was also inspired by some heirlooms I saw a few years back at the home of Michael Isabella, president of MI Marketing in Farmington Hills, and his wife Joan Cherry Isabella that was featured in a previous column. His grandfather, who came to the U.S. from Italy, opened Isabella Brothers Bakery in Cleveland, Ohio with some other relatives. The landmark would become known for its delicious bread.  

“It was a great family business and we saved a couple of bread wrappers,” says Michael who had one framed to display in the kitchen of his Farmington Hills home.  

He also found a way to work the bakery logo into creative takeaways for his relatives that pay homage to his family who used to get together for Sunday meals. As time went on, they would only gather on Christmas Eve.

“I wanted to create one more occasion, so I started hosting an annual family reunion at my house in the summertime. My wife helps a great deal. I couldn’t do them without her,” he says. “I like to do something fun every year, so I make something with the bakery logo like t-shirts, dishtowels or poker chips and playing cards.”

The coffee mugs are his favorite. “When I go visit my relatives, my favorite coffee cup is there waiting for me. It’s a nice bonus,” says Michael about the personalized mugs he helped design for family members.

The T-shirts, dishtowels and coffee mugs were made by Gary Shalogian who owns Adver-Tees in Melvindale and the artwork was created with Michael’s direction by Karl Crafton.

These innovative ideas have inspired me to take my father’s clothing store logo that featured my sister’s first name and my brother’s middle name (I wasn’t born yet) and add it to some coffee mugs and other home décor. In fact, it might just inspire another pillow.

For information, contact Adver-Tees at 313-381-1001.  

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at




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