Monthly Archives: November 2012

Guest Room Glamour

When I visit my twin sister Diane in Atlanta, there’s usually a home decorating project in the works. During my current two-week Thanksgiving stay (nearing its end, alas), I made a new bedskirt and window treatment for her downstairs guest room.

When Diane and her husband Ed moved into their present home 10 years ago, I made simple tab curtains for the windows:

The ruffled bedskirt, which I had made several years before, was a carryover from their old house:

This time around Diane wanted a tailored bedskirt and some kind of window treatment that could be raised and lowered. She wasn’t happy with the idea of Roman shades or any variations on that theme, so she came up with her own design: a simple pointed panel in the “down” position that folds and buttons into a valance in the “up” position.

She made a sketch of what she had in mind:

Here is Diane’s vision, transformed into reality:

She had the bright idea of adding tassels on the sides of the panels to disguise the brackets holding the curtain rods. Clever sister!

In the “down” position, the panels just cover the tops of the plantation shutters on the bottom half of the windows, completely blocking outside light:

In the “up” position, natural light floods the room:

The panels measure 34½” wide and 36½” long and are lined with blackout fabric. Five inches from the top of each panel are five self-fabric loops enclosed in a seam. About 21” down from the top are five ¾” buttons covered in the same fabric. The loops and buttons blend into the background so well you barely see them. A deep pleat is formed when the buttons are raised to meet the loops.

Here is a close-up of button and loop:

The fabric is a screen print by Mill Creek Fabrics that Diane found at Frugal Fabrics in Norcross, Georgia. The new pleated bedskirt is made from the same fabric:

The reward for my labors? I’m going home with the castoffs! I’ll probably be able to use the old tab curtains in my own home, and I’ll cut the bedskirt apart and add the ruffle fabric to my stash.

Here are a couple before-and-after shots. First the windows:

And now the bedskirt:

Let’s finish with a view from across the room:

Another successful collaboration with my twin!




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Tiles in Style: A New Scrabble Bag

Scrabble is on the daily agenda at my sister Diane’s house in Atlanta where my husband and I are visiting. During our two-week visit over Thanksgiving this year, we will probably play at least 20 games. The three of us are pretty evenly matched in skill and extremely competitive — unless one of us has the possibility of a seven-letter word, in which case the other two jump in to help.

The bag that holds Diane’s Scrabble tiles was in pretty sad shape so I decided to make her a new one. I found some soft sueded fabric at JoAnn’s the other day when Diane and I were picking up notions for the home dec projects I’m working on while here (subject of a future post).

It took a mere half hour to make the Scrabble bag. Instead of making a casing at the top for a drawstring, I sewed Velcro strips.

We went from this:

to this:

Quite an improvement, wouldn’t you say?




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Make Mine Mitered: A Tutorial on Table Napkins

This tutorial is for a 19″ square napkin with a ¼”-wide hem and mitered corners. Here’s a look at the corners from both sides:

For two napkins, you’ll need ⅝ yard cotton fabric 42-44″ wide. Wash and iron fabric.

acrylic ruler with 45° angle marking
sewing stiletto (I use a bamboo skewer)
removable marking pen or pencil (I like the Frixion pens)

1. Trim selvages from fabric. Cut a 20″ square.

First Light Designs tip: trim ¼” from one of the sides that is parallel to the selvage. This reduces the crosswise width by a quarter inch. Why this step? The crosswise grain has more give than the lengthwise grain. With repeated use and washing, the napkin will relax along the crosswise grain. Trimming the fabric at the beginning compensates for that bit of stretch. To identify the crosswise and lengthwise grains, give the square a gentle tug in both directions; you should be able to tell immediately which side has more give. (Of course, you can cut the napkins 19¾” x 20″ initially but somehow I find trimming a 20″ square easier.)

2. At the ironing board, align 45º marking on ruler with top right edge of napkin as shown below. With a removable marking pen or pencil make a mark 1½” in from the edge of the napkin (not the edge of the ruler):

See the pink dot I made with the Frixion pen? It’s exactly an inch and a half in from the corner.

3. Bring point of fabric in to meet the mark and press:

4. Fold raw edges ½” down and press all the way around. The pressed edges form a miter at each corner:

5. Bring the raw edge in to meet the fold and press about 2″ in from the corner:

6. Fold again, forming a ¼”-inch miter. Press fold in place, again about 2″ in from the corner. Repeat for all corners. Do not press all the way around. Do not insert any pins yet.

7. Open up folds at each corner and trim a ¼”-square from the point of fabric. (You don’t need to use pins to hold the folds open before trimming; I did it here for photography purposes only.)

8. Place a pin at each corner to hold the miters in place:

9. Starting in the middle of any side, bring raw edge in to meet fold, fold again to form ¼”-inch fold, and finger press in place. The finger-pressed area is at the left edge of the photo:

10. Move to the sewing machine. Set stitch length at about 12 stitches to the inch (2.4 on computerized machine). Insert needle right next to the fold and begin stitching. Stop every couple of inches to make the two folds that form the quarter-inch hem.

11. As you approach the corner, remove the pin and use the point of a stiletto to hold the fold in place as you stitch toward the corner. Pivot when the needle is at the point the two folds meet. Remove second pin and continue stitching. When you get to the starting point, change stitch length to almost zero. Stitch three or four tiny stitches. Bring threads to the back and cut close to the line of stitching. Give the napkin a final press to set the stitches.

Add a pretty napkin ring, and you’re ready to set the table!





Posted in mitered corners, table napkins, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Very early tomorrow morning, at a time I would much rather be sleeping, my husband and I are boarding a plane for Atlanta, Georgia to spend two weeks with my twin sister Diane and her husband. I have no doubt we’ll have a wonderful time. We always do!

As a hostess gift, I made Diane 12 table napkins:

A Dozen Table Napkins for Diane


The napkins, which measure 19″ square, will look good with Diane’s everyday white dishes from Pottery Barn and the beautiful Spode china in the Rosalie pattern that her mother-in-law gave her many years ago. The fabric is Heavenly Peace by Verna Mosquera for Free Spirit Fabrics. It’s been in my stash for a couple of years.

My plan was to make 16 napkins but I didn’t get them all done, so I’m taking four with me that are cut but not sewn. I can finish them while I’m there. Diane usually has a crowd at Thanksgiving, and I want to make sure there are enough to go around.

We use cloth napkins all the time at the Portland White House. Over the years I have experimented with mitered corners and have finally come up with a method I really like. In the next few days I will post a tutorial on how I make mitered corners for my table napkins. I hope you will come back for a lesson!

My Mitered Corners





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An Apron for Sandy

Sandy’s Apron

I recently spent two delightful days in Kirkland, Washington with Sandy, my best friend from college. We met the first day of fall term our freshman year, when we discovered we were in two classes together, Survey of English Lit and First Year Italian.

That was over 40 years ago, and though there have sometimes been long gaps in our contact with each other, we’ve always picked right up where we left off.

Sandy is a professional book club facilitator, a gifted poet, a quilter, and a gourmet cook. I was the beneficiary of her culinary expertise, so when I came home I decided to make an apron for her as a thank you gift. I think it will look right at home in her French country kitchen.

Timtless Treasures fabric




The fabric, ‘Blue-C’ from Timeless Treasures, has been in my stash for two or three years.







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Are We Having Fun Yet?

Oh, yeah! Since giving myself permission a few days ago to spend part of my sewing time playing with fabric (and not fretting too much about projects set aside for the time being), I’ve been sketching out ideas, making sample blocks, and washing and ironing the fabrics I have (ahem) recently acquired.

I even finished a quilt top. It’s a small top, but it’s still a top. Remember that Northcott fabric line called Ainsley that I was swooning over a couple of posts ago? I made a large kaleidoscope block out of the Jacobean floral border print:

22″ x 22″


One block, eight 45° triangles. Very simple. Since I was making only one block, I fussy-cut the triangles rather than stacking eight layers of fabric. I added the narrow black and green strip and the outer small geometric — both part of the Ainsley line — to the triangles before sewing them together. Here’s the back:

Back of Block


I haven’t decided yet which fabric to use for the binding on this little table topper. Once I do, it shouldn’t take long to finish it.

This project barely put a dent in the fabric I bought. Not to worry. You’ll be seeing plenty more of it. I already know what I’m going to make next.



Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 4 Comments

An Apron for the DH

If my Dear Husband were reading this post, he would look perplexed and say, “An apron for the Designated Hitter?” No, dear. Not even close.

I made him an apron today because his old one was pretty worn out. Here’s what his new apron looks like:

Carrots and Onions and Peppers, Oh My!


It’s a basic cobbler’s apron made from a Simplicity pattern dating back to the 1980s. I’ve probably made him a dozen aprons over the last 30 years using that same pattern. He wears one in the morning when he makes breakfast and in the evening when he cleans up the kitchen after I’ve made dinner. (You can see why I’m happy to keep making aprons for him.)

My DH is the gardener of the family so the veggie fabric, Metro Market by Pickens Design Studio for Robert Kaufman, was the perfect choice for him. I found it at cool cottons in SE Portland. It was the selvage that sold me. Look how the colors are printed on the selvage:

A Peck of Pickled Peppers?


Speaking of veggies, we had a bountiful crop of tomatoes this year, including some that continued to ripen during our unusually warm and dry October. My husband harvested all of the remaining green ones and decided to preserve them. He started with five alternating layers of sliced green tomatoes and onions . . .

Tomatoes and Onions, Sliced

. . . and ended with six pints of green tomato pickles and six of green tomato relish:

We Relish Green Tomatoes




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