Handmade: Decorating project inspires home business

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Decorating their newly renovated living room in their Rochester Hills home led Monica Parker and her spouse to the idea for a family business.

She and her Nigerian-born husband had a rather large collection of vintage African textiles that she wanted to work into the decor as possible wall hangings and ornamental pieces draped across upholstered seating. But, once she discovered she couldn’t find pillows to match their sofa, Parker, 42, decided to use the exquisite textiles to make decorative art pillows with the help and sewing skills of a childhood friend. In the collection were pieces of Aso Oke (handwoven) and Adire (hand-dyed) cloths, dating back to the 1950s.

“Friends and family liked them, so I decided to start selling them,” recalled Parker, whose enthusiasm grew once she began learning the historical significance behind the Nigerian fabrics. In fact, she became so intrigued that, in June of 2015, she and her husband started an online handmade textiles and home decor business called UpCountry Textiles Collections (, which caters to helping its customers enjoy “stylish and well-curated global textiles and goods for modern living.”

Today, Parker, self-described as someone with a “really good eye for decor,” designs the many African-inspired fabrics used to create the company’s one-of-a-kind pillows, now made by Detroit Sewn in Pontiac. “It started with the vintage fabrics, but now we are working with weaving collectives in Nigeria,” she said. “I come up with modern and traditional motifs, and we combine the two.” The textiles are then produced with hand-weaving and/or hand-dying techniques, using mostly hand-spun cotton.

The pillows are priced from $90-$215, depending on the fabric. Custom-sizes can be ordered, and most ready-made pieces measure 20-by-20 inches, 22-by-22, and 24-by-24. Lumbar cushions are sized 12-by-24. “Our goal is to make a luxury product like this affordable and accessible. We see our product as a piece of art with a rich history,” said Parker, the company’s president and creative director.

UpCountry Textiles Collections has exhibited its product line inside the Resource Center (Suite #84) at the Michigan Design Center (1700 Stutz) in Troy since February.

“A lot of people go online and order it after seeing it at the Michigan Design Center,” said Parker. “The more we show it, and put it in front of people, the more the demand. And when they find out about the history of the fabric – the more they like it. Right now, we are just designing fabric for pillows, but we want to grow into table linens and fabric by the yard.”

Parker recently returned from Nigeria where she curated more vintage fabric to be offered for sale either as decorative cloths or framed wall hangings to compliment their unique pillow collections. A piece of vintage fabric starts at $275, and for an added cost, it can be put in a “shadow-box-type” frame, provided by an outside vendor.

Asked to describe persons who buy their goods, Parker said, “Our customers, right now, are well-traveled with an appreciation for handmade products, and vintage and unique textiles. They want a unique product in their home that’s a conversation piece. The pillow could be one of many global artifacts in their home.” However, she noted, their customers also include individuals who simply want to “collect things from different parts of the world.”

And, with an eye on the future, Parker added, “Our goal is to sell to the public, but also to interior designers, as well, for residential and commercial applications.”

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact UpCountry Textiles Collections at (248) 205- 8464 or