Around the house

Tutorial Tuesday #8 - Sewn Silk Velvet Pumpkins

 

A few of you have asked how I made these silk velvet pumpkins so before I move on to Christmas (you know it's coming) I thought I'd do a really quick tutorial here.

First off you guys, I love this silk velvet from prismsilks.com! If you like the luxurious look of these I definitely think this fabric is worth the splurge. Look at their iridescent velvets. So yummy! You will need at least an 18" square of velvet for this size pumpkin so their fat quarters are perfect for a pumpkin like the one below with enough left over for acorns. Get 10% off your order with code "prism16".

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I've learned a lot this fall while making so many pumpkins and wanted to document it here.

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Any size works so use all your scraps and make various sizes. A seven inch round makes those tiny pumpkins like you find in the grocery store.

Using super heavy thread or dental floss, gather 1/4" from the raw edge of your circle. 

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You can fill it completely with pellets if you'd like. Experiment.

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Then finish off with fiberfill.

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Pull your thread tight and sew the opening closed. Knot thread and cut.

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I used a doll needle to sculpt my pumpkin - just pulling the stuffing up toward the top. This is optional since they are cute just as they are.


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Apply hot glue to the dried pumpkin stem and hold it while it dries.

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That's it! It takes about thirty minutes to make one and with the beautiful array of colors of silk velvet that's available, you can make them to match your decor. Because you're using real pumpkin stems, no two will look alike. So fun!

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Don't forget to save your pumpkin stems from this years jack-o-lanterns for next years elegant velvet pumpkins.

Encourage one another,

Suzanne


Tutorial Tuesday #7 Part Two - How to Make No Sew Velvet Pumpkins

Back in 2014 we made fabric covered pumpkins as a make-it take-it at Strawberry Patches during a fall shop hop. We went though cases of toilet paper (yup, that's the secret ingredient) and hundreds of fat quarters. To this day that was probably the most fun free project we ever did. 😍

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This year I decorated our main floor for fall using lots of velvet pumpkins

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but when I needed just a few more and our local gift shop had sold out, I remembered the cotton print pumpkins we made four years ago. Could I use that same technique using velvet?

The answer was yes! But I did learn a few things along the way that I wanted to share with you here just in case you want to make some.

Fabric:

Probably the single most important contributor to the success of your project is your choice of fabric. Because you will be building your pumpkin around a roll of toilet paper, and because you have to tuck the fabric into the opening of the cardboard roll, your fabric cannot be too heavy. If you are having trouble shaping your pumpkin or if you are struggling with getting all the raw edges into the paper core, your fabric is probably too heavy. You'll just need to experiment but go with the lightest weight fabric that you can.

Because I wanted my pumpkins to be in muted decorator colors (not fashion colors) I found the selection to be very limited. I found the pink blush velvet at Joann Fabric in the home decor section as well as the grey/dotted fabric shown in this post. They worked well but not as well as the white crushed velvet below.

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The white crushed velvet is called Panne by Glitterbug also from Joann. Real velvet is expensive and again, colors are limited so the search is on for next year for lightweight velvet with a slight stretch. For now, the Glitterbug Panne was the best choice. 

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Whatever fabric you decide on you will need about a 24" square of fabric (2/3 yard) to cover what I'm calling a large pumpkin. All the fabric that I used for this post was at least 58" wide so I could get two pumpkins from 2/3 yard. 

Stems:

I, by far, prefer natural dried pumpkin stems on my velvet pumpkins. The nice people at our local pumpkin patch just gave them to me. As I stated in the previous blog post I cut the stems from pumpkins that had been accidentally smashed in the field. You could also cut the stems from the pumpkins you purchase this year and store them for use next year. You must use dried stems only because green stems will mold and ruin your fabric. To dry the stems that I gathered this year I simply cut off all the flesh then baked them in a warm oven for a few days until they were totally dry. They will turn light brown and be very light and hollow sounding when tapped once the moisture is removed.

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I plan to store my left over stems for next year when I hopefully have a better selection of velvet to work with. One other good source for free natural stems is at the bottom of those big boxes that pumpkins are sold from. Usually merchants will give you broken off stems since they end up throwing them away.

If you don't have access to natural pumpkin stems you can use sticks, cinnamon sticks, twisted craft paper or sculpt stems from air dry paper clay.

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Embellishments:

This is where you can go just as crazy as you like. I've decorated some pumpkins for this post with milliners flowers

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as well as artificial flowers and berries purchased from places like Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics. (The stem below was made from air dried clay then painted).

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With the right stem I think they are beautiful just plain.

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One manufacturer sells 6" natural stem velvet pumpkins embellished with feathers for $80 each. Make no mistake about it, they are gorgeous, but way too expensive for my budget so making them myself was definitely the way to go for me.

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The photo above and below is of my mini pumpkin. (Directions below).

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Joann Fabrics has a wonderful selection of inexpensive feathers. My feathered velvet no-sew pumpkins cost less than $5 each to make and took only a few minutes to do.

Here's how:

Cut the corners off your 24" square of fabric. No need to make a circle since the edges will be stuffed into the cardboard core of the toilet paper. You just want to reduce the bulk a bit.

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Prepare your toilet paper roll by unwinding it a bit then re wrapping it loosely with the tissue you unwound. As I rewrapped the roll I twisted the paper every once in awhile to create volume. By adding the tissue back just to the very center of the roll you will be shaping it slightly, taking away the look of flat square sides. 

Sit the roll in the center on the wrong side of your fabric and add a few handfuls of fiberfill. I like to add a little to the bottom of the roll to create a nice round bottom. 😂

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Then add more fiberfill to the sides and top, leaving the hole open on top.

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At this point I fill the paper core with stuffing beads to add weight. You could also use rice or beans, but remember we are going to enjoy our velvet pumpkins for years and don't want any critters munching on their insides. 😱

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Now you just start bringing the sides up and into the core. If you pick the roll up just slightly, the stuffing beads will fall to the bottom of the soon to be pumpkin and give you more room to stuff the fabric into the core. Continue poking the fabric into the core, all the way around, shaping as you go.

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Use chop sticks (I used kitchen shears) to poke the fabric into the hole and to shape your pumpkin.

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Once you are happy with the shape add the stem and embellishments.

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Here's and idea for smaller pumpkins. Just cut the height from a nearly empty TP roll. (I won't tell you where I was when this idea came to me). 😂Then wrap it with more paper and some stuffing. It makes darling smaller pumpkins. 

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I'll thinking a paper towel roll would work too for a really huge pumpkin, you'll just need lots of fabric.

This technique is perfect for all ages and skill levels because there is absolutely no sewing involved and except for the embellishments, no gluing. I hope I've given you some fresh ideas and that you will share your creations and ideas with us here. Also I'd love for you to comment below if you know where I can find lightweight crushed velvet in home decor colors.

Until next time,

Encourage one another,

Suzanne

 


Tutorial Tuesday #6 - Playing with Paper

If you've been following me on Instagram (suzanne_zingg) you've probably noticed that I've been a bit obsessed with decoupage as of late.

It started with apples

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moved on to pumpkins

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then graduated to ice cream cups.

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My inspiration for these projects was from my favorite Halloween decorations by Nicol Sayre. I have cherished these two boxes for years and always look forward to displaying them at Halloween.

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So I picked up some plain paper mache boxes at Hobby Lobby and tried decoupaging them in Bethany's style.

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(The boxes are on sale this week at Hobby Lobby).

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I cut circles slightly larger than the boxes from chipboard (Michael's) for the bases

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and covered all the surfaces with paper by Tim Holtz (Michael's) using Mod Podge.

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I found the toppers at Hobby Lobby for $6.99 each. They only had two styles and they were intended to be ornaments so I pulled off all the ribbons and gave them new fancier, more vintage looking collars and hats.

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I think they make fun treat boxes for my Halloween table.

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The added paper appliques are also from Tim Holtz and found at Michael's (on sale this week). Of course I added vintage mismatched buttons and some doodads that I had in my stash.

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I used my sewing machine to gather the tulle and crepe paper streamers to make the ruffles.

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When  I found this witches hat at Hobby Lobby

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I thought, why not? So I covered it the same way

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and added ric rac, more buttons, black feathers, ribbon and tulle.

Did you know that witches sew? 

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Yup, they do and this one is a milliner. 

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Here's the back

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and a look at the inside. This one is just for decoration since unlike the boxes it doesn't hold anything.

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 Here are a few more shots of my ice cream cups. So fun.

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Instead of a base I cut a ring to go at the top of the cup.

Here's what the ice cream cup looked like before I started.

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After the top ring was glued in place, I decoupaged the whole thing inside and out (love this tissue paper from Hobby Lobby), added a crepe paper ruffle along with some vintage tinsel, then filled it with vintage looking mini ornaments.

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Once you've gathered the supplies, these are simple to make and take very little time to put together. You can bet I'll be on the lookout for toppers for Christmas treat boxes. In fact, my next project is to make the toppers myself using paper clay. I'll let you know how that goes.

I hope this inspires you to dig out the Mod Podge and give these a try.

Until next time... Hearts

...love you more than Mod Podge,

Suzanne


Fall Home Tour Part 1 - The Basement

I've been busy decorating our basement for fall and thought it would be fun to take you on a bit of a tour to see what I've been up to. As much as I love decorating for fall, I love decorating for Halloween too. I have such great memories of Halloween as a kid. We dressed up in cheap dime store costumes and ran from door to door, covering a two block radius of our neighborhood without the accompaniment of parents. As we passed groups of our friends we would share the locations of the houses that gave out the best candy. I can still remember our next door neighbor inviting my friends and me in for homemade white cake with chocolate frosting. Halloween in the fifties was such a different time.

Back in late July I was wandering around Michael's one afternoon looking for Halloween inspiration when I spotted this.

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When I first saw it I literally gasped out loud. Not because it was well made or well priced, because it was neither, but because of that text ribbon! I immediately went on a hunt for craft ribbon with text. (It's harder to find than you'd think but I did find some on Etsy).

 I knew I wanted to carry out the text theme in areas beyond my ribbon so I decoupaged a few cheap garish orange pumpkins.

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I used tissue paper from Hobby Lobby for this one along with a French stamp from some old documents I purchased several years ago on our travels

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and used pages from old brochures and magazines for a bolder, more creepy look on this one. 

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 Then I incorporated them into a tired tray, along with pumpkins, black crows from Michael's and some creepy Spanish moss.

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My crow plates are two years old from Nell Hills and I like how the twig placemats (World Market) and slices of wood add to the texture and rustic woodsy feel of the table setting. 

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I carried out the text theme in my table linens from Pier1.

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Originally I thought I'd do our mantel with skeletons but when I found this sign at Hobby Lobby I felt it was more me

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and I love how my Mackenzie-Childs canisters look with the muted colors and black and cream ribbon.

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Speaking of muted colors, I wanted to show you some before and after photos of the mantel garland.

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I purchased the garland last year at Crate and Barrel and loved it, but this year I wanted a softer look so I just scrubbed the leaves with a super dry brush of off white paint. I love how it looks more like crispy fall leaves. I think this is a cool technique for those inexpensive leaves from the dollar stores. For some reason they always seem so garish and orange.

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I also antiqued my Hobby Lobby sunflowers just slightly with brown wax from Annie Sloan and glued in some additional petals cut from the tissue and old papers that I used on my pumpkins.

Before

After

I added some off white gauze cloth for a bit of creepiness and added texture.

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The coffee table got an arrangement with a skeleton hand popping out of it along with a beaker of candy corn.

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Another tiered tray...yes I do seem to have a tiered tray problem.

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I found this cool Styrofoam skull at Michaels along with the beakers that I filled with snacks and added to our bar.

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Notice that the regular candy corn has been picked out from the chocolate ones. (Me no likey chocolate candy corn).

Here's the same vignette  with some mood lighting.

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 This next spot is our little low table with yet another tiered tray.

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This is a perfect spot for some of my Lori Mitchell Halloween figurines.

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Even the swym got a touch of the spookies

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Well, I hope this tour has given you some ideas and perhaps has inspired you to try something new. Next time we'll go upstairs for a fall tour of the mantel, tables and kitchen area.

Love you more than candy corn,  Candycorn

Encourage one another.

Suzanne

Please let me know if you have questions. I'd love to hear about your holiday décor in the comments below.


Welcome to My Swym and a Few Things I've Figured Out Along the Way

When we moved to Kansas two years ago I doubted I'd ever want to sew again. My entire life had been surrounded by creativity but I thought that was all behind me. I was ready for a change.

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The small room at the bottom of the stairs in our new home would make a wonderful sewing room but I had no desire for it to be anything other than the gym that the previous owners had designed it to be. So before we moved we sold my sewing room furniture and loaded up the treadmill. Goodbye California, hello a whole new life in Kansas City.

Umm...ya...well, not exactly.

Many of you know that my progressive idiopathic peripheral neuropathy is the reason we relocated to KC. Not knowing where this medical condition would lead, we felt it best to be near our son and his family. I am so thankful for that nudge. I'm sure Bill and I would still be working if it hadn't been for my health issues. I mention this only to explain the importance of that beast of a treadmill.

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It has become an important part of my wellbeing. Although doctors can't tell us why I have neuropathy, I have figured out on my own that I feel better when I eat "clean" and move. I also have figured out that I truly enjoy the comforts that air conditioning and heat can bring, so the treadmill needs to stay right here, in the house.

One morning while walking on the treadmill I got to thinking that perhaps I could incorporate a sewing room into the gym, a "Swym", if you will. It wouldn't be perfect - there were no windows or natural light. There was carpet instead of my preferred hardwood floor and no storage in this oddly shaped, mirror lined room. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could make it work. 


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I started researching sewing cabinets but couldn't find anything that I thought would work. About that time I received a catalog from Ballard Designs. I knew their office furniture because I had used it in my office at Strawberry Patches.  I loved it because I could configure it however I wanted, they offered the corner unit that I was looking for, it came preassembled and it was all 25% off.

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After running my ideas by Bill I ordered it and it arrived five days later.

Welcome to my swym...

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The wooden Cathedral arches are from Kirkland's and helped break up the mirrored wall. 

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Both of the inexpensive lamps are also from Kirkland's and help a lot with the lack of light.


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My comfy adjustable chair is from Pottery Barn

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and I found that cute Fall pillow at Kirkland's too.

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There was a small closet in this room that housed a radon detector (?) and the electrical panels for the house. After relocating Bill's golf clubs I had room for a storage cart to hold most of my fabric boxes

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and over the door storage units for my doodads - all from The Container Store.

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Is it perfect?

No.

But, you know what?

It's perfect for me, right now. It's organized, cozy and most of my stuff is right here at the ready.

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One more thing I've figured out along the way. It's important for me to stay positive and to look to the future with excitement, enthusiasm and optimism.

As my sign says, nobody said it would be easy. I think sometimes what is easy is to sit back and wring our hands and say, "Why me"?

I prefer to ask, "Why me? - how did I get so stink'n blessed"? 

Now, except for that one hour a day on the treadmill I have all day to do what I have always loved to do in a fabulous redesigned space - 

Create

Encourage one another,

Suzanne

 *Please feel free to ask questions about any of the items mentioned in this post. I was able to find discounts above the discounts advertised in the current Ballard Catalog and Kirkland's offers daily discounts through their app for regularly priced merchandise. Hey, all the more money to spend on new fabric. Right?

 


How I Store My Stuff

When we started shopping for a new home in Kansas we noticed something about the homes here that we weren't used to seeing in California.

Basements.

Some homes had completely unfinished basements that were just big open areas, as big as the house above, with concrete walls and floors and exposed pipes and support beams. Others had beautifully finished basements with bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, fireplaces, gyms, game rooms, wet bars and wine cellars. Then others were a combination of both, partially finished but with large open unfinished areas for storage. The common thread was that all the houses we looked at had some kind of basement and some kind of a storage area.

The house we ended up purchasing was perfect for our needs; a finished basement with just the right amount of unfinished storage. My philosophy has always been that your stash should not exceed  your given storage space, so not having a huge storage room would hopefully help keep my stash in check.

I must add here that in our home in California, Bill and I shared the massive built-ins that lined the walls of the garage. I kept extra dishes and seasonal decorations out there along side his lawn chemicals, car wax and whatever else men think they need. Smiley
When we bought this house we agreed that Bill would take the little storage there was in the garage and I could have the small storage room in the basement. Knowing that I needed to be able to fit the entire contents of my previous sewing room plus overflow dishes and seasonal decor into that small space forced me to carefully evaluate what was making the move. I purged heavily before moving, bringing with me only the things I loved. Once we got moved in we purchased six industrial shelving units to line the walls of the storage room and I started organizing.

My hope with this blog post is that you might get an idea or two that will help simplify how you store the things that you don't use everyday. I am by no means an expert. This is just what has worked for me.

Just off the main media room in the basement is a door leading to my storage area. I kinda think of it as my girl cave because it's mostly mine although I do share it with two AC/heating units, a hot water heater, media equipment and a few fishing poles.

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I love that it's tucked away behind the bar and under the stairwell because I can shut the door and nobody knows that it's there and that it sometimes looks like this (insert scary music here)

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This is how it often looks after a party or major decorating spree - or both.

So the other day, while tackling this room I decided to snap a few photos and show you how I store my stuff.

Below is a photo of the wall to the left as you walk past the heating units and water heater. On this side I keep all my extra dishes and linen. Across the top shelf are clear storage bins with Christmas decorations.

Tip #1: Buy MATCHING CLEAR storage bins when possible. It looks neater. Although most of my bins are labeled, being able to see at a glance what's inside is so helpful.

Tip #2: Measure depth, height and width of your shelves and space before purchasing storage bins to maximize storage space.

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My shelves are not arranged neatly but I do try and keep like things together.

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Mason Vista dish collection

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Valentines and Easter dishes

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Place mats and table linens.

On the opposite wall I store my fabric, again in mostly matching, labeled bins.

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I put like fabrics together, stripes, solids, dots, etc and label each box.

Tip #3: Label the boxes

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This really helps me keep organized and helps since I sew upstairs so it's easy to grab a box of fabric I think I might need and take it up to the machine.

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Across the top of the sewing and craft supplies are more big bins with seasonal decor. More Christmas, fall, spring and patriotic. Since I tend not to decorate the same each year I don't label the bins for areas (mantel, kitchen island etc). I just label and store them for the season and recreate each year.

Here's a view of the area under the stairwell. I keep luggage and oversized items in here - small fully decorated trees, a couple of big Santas, my big tiered tray from the kitchen island. It's dark and the ceiling is low so big things that we don't use often go in there.

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Yes, we have a skeleton in our closet. I'm pretty sure every family does.

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Probably the best thing that I did was

Tip #4: Hang wreaths and garlands

 

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I had Bill insert long screws into the studs so I can hang my wreaths and garlands - four deep. This keeps them from getting crushed, I can see what I have at a glance, and they are up out of the way. If I had to put them into tubs I never would have had enough room to store them all. Also because they are in the basement there is relatively little dust.

Looking back toward the way you walk in is my eight foot Christmas tree, seasonal door mats to the right and two more wreaths hanging up out of the way on the rafters. Yes, that's fishing gear above the sound system equipment - I'm a generous wife. Smileyface


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It's certainly not pretty by any stretch of the imagination but it's functional and I know where everything is. I love that I don't have to bug Bill to get something down for me when I need it and I get my exercise running up and down the stairs. It's all good.

I hope you got an idea or two on organizing bigger storage areas. I'd love to hear about how you organize your stuff and what works for you.

Until next time - love you more than labeled matching clear boxes.

Encourage one another,

Suzanne

 

 

 

 


Decorating with Tiered Trays - Part Three

This is the third post in my three part series on decorating with tiered trays. You can find part one here and part two here.

These last two tiered trays that I have to show you are rather primitive. I like the warmth that the wood provides and that they are easy to style. This first one was purchased at Nell Hills in February ($85) to go in a corner in the kitchen under the upper cabinets. Remember that rule I mentioned in the first part of this series; the one about knowing where you want to put your tray and measuring the spot before you buy?

Yeah, well I didn't do that.

Actually I did measure the height of the cabinet and knew the tray was a smidge too tall (24"), but I loved the tray and thought maybe Bill could cut it down so I bought it anyway.

Once I got it home I decided cutting it probably wasn't such a good idea so I sat it on my stoves grill until I could decide whether or not to return it. Seeing it there, made me think it just might work right there, so it has lived there ever since. 

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I know this isn't for everyone but I love decorating above and around my stove for the seasons. I spend a lot of time cooking these days and surrounding myself with happy things makes me so, well... happy.

It all started quite by accident. I had made this LOVE banner for Valentines Day and planned to hang it on my range hood just below my heart wreath, but no matter what I tried I didn't like it there and ended hanging it behind the stove instead.

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Once I took it down after Valentines Day, the area seemed sooo bare!

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I love hanging my ADORNit watercolors  on my "clothesline" over the stove and displaying them on my tiered tray. They remind me to be thankful, brave and happy while celebrating every day.

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As I edited these photos I realized that the white film on the grill and around the lambs feet is flour! Ha I made my granddaughter a birthday cake the day before I took these photos and I guess flour fallout is real. Thankfully I dusted in the following photos. How embarrassing! (The cake was delicious by the way).

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For me, part of decorating is surrounding yourself with things you love and that have meaning.

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A tiered tray is the perfect spot to create happy vignettes.

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 Sadly I don't have a sewing room in this house but I styled the next tray as inspiration for those of you who do.

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I gathered some favorite treasures to display on the two wooden shelves. Notice that the fabric and cookie sheet extends beyond the edge of the lower tray. You can't do that with trays that have a ledge.

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 Again, this little tower of happiness doesn't take up much counter space but adds some color and charm to the space.

 

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This next tiered tray is from HomeGoods. I saw it on a trip there recently but didn't buy it (it was $99). I couldn't stop thinking about it so when it was still there a few days later I popped it in my cart.

I have never liked this spot behind my basement sectional. I've tried trays and plants there but everything seemed flat and uninteresting

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until I brought this 39" two tiered tray home. (There is 15" between the tiers!)

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I added a few stacks of books and a small collection of porcelain boxes along with some greenery. I love the height and interest it adds to the table and you can style these so that they look good from all sides.

My most frequently asked question has been, where do I buy tiered trays?

I combed the internet to hopefully find some resources for you but didn't have a whole lot of luck. This first one is called The Charlotte from Vintage Farmhouse Finds  and is $129. I like that the tiers seem further apart (although they don't give those dimensions on their website and they didn't respond to my email).  

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Here is the same tray styled and by their photo it looks like it has fairly good spacing between tiers.

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This next photo is from Pinterest - same Charlotte tray just styled differently.

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If there was a negative I'd say that the high ledge could be somewhat limiting.

Speaking of Pinterest, you might want to check out my board on tiered trays here.

Not to be too negative but I would not buy this one from Pottery Barn

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I know some of you have it and have commented that the tiers are too close together (just 6"). I also think the sides are too high. Just my opinion.

Of course check out Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Nell Hills (they ship) and your local independent gift shops. They are there,  sometimes you just have to look since they are usually used as display pieces and buried under other merchandise.  

The other question I got was do I use the stuff I put on the trays or is it strictly for display. I usually leave them alone except for the times I'm having company for dinner and wonder what I did with those soup bowls...then I'll borrow.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and have found it helpful. Next time I'll be back with another sewing tutorial.

Until then,

Encourage one another,

Signature

 


How to Decorate Tiered Trays - Part Two

Today I want to show you how I use my smaller glass and metal tiered trays. These are slightly smaller than the one in my previous post, much more portable and work in lots of different spots around the house. These first two are perfect for serving food because hors d'oeuvres  and pastries can be placed directly on the trays. When I'm not using these for food I usually do a more permanent display that I tweak for the seasons.

This first one measures 17" tall, has just two levels and is square. Here it is as the center piece on a 36" round table but since this photo was taken it has found a new, more permanent home...

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in my bathroom!

 

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It doesn't take up much space and to me, creates a spa like atmosphere while adding height, a pop of color and most importantly softness to my tub area. I love this tray here!

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Notice that the two stacks of towels are on opposite sides of one another and that pink is the predominate color repeated in the towels, candle and flowers. I tried to balance the two vintage silver vanity bottles and the two heart shaped pill boxes. A favorite framed photo and a fancy wrapped soap completes the look.  I love how the green of the flowers and faux fern adds continuity and a bit of softness. I shopped from my stash to style this corner, not buying anything but the flowers from the grocery store. I just love how this one simple, two tiered tray adds so much to this now cozy corner. I do change the colors here for the seasons, swapping the pink towels for red and adding a small poinsettia for Christmas.

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This next photo has nothing to do with this post except that I wanted to show you my Epsom salts scoop. 

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We need to talk about plate stands for a minute. You will want one or two or three like this one.

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What makes this one so great is that it allows the plate to sit on the tray, unlike those wooden ones that raise the plate up an inch or two. You just never seem to have enough room between tiers and that inch or so makes a huge difference as to whether or not a plate will fit up right. Also, because it's metal, you can bend it easily and in so doing you can reduce the depth of the stand. I bought this one at Hobby Lobby, but look carefully if you go because this smallest size (3"x3") only comes in gold - there are cool black and silver ones that are tempting, but probably too big for what you'll need.

We have a round coffee table in the basement surrounded by four swivel club chairs.

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It's the perfect spot for another tiered tray.

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We love sitting here with another couple while enjoying a glass of wine. When I'm not serving cheese and crackers on this three tiered tray I give it a more permanent look with seasonal décor. 

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Again, the tray doesn't take up too much space, is low enough to allow conversation and adds a fun pop of interest to the space. If we dissect the trays you'll see that I tried to repeat the same flowers, figurines and balance the placement of dishes. The idea is to repeat color, theme and textures from one level to the next so that your eye travels from item to item. The greenery adds visual softness and a spot for your eye to rest. The NIBBLE plate is fun and suggests that guests do just that.

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This last tray measures 27" tall and I bought it to complete my Paris nook off the kitchen. I just love this antique French bakery table (it's one of the few pieces of furniture that made the trip to the Prairie). From Paree to the Prairie. ha A long way from home.

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Here it is decorated for Valentines Day.

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Notice how the greenery softens the hard metal and adds warmth.

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And here is the tray ready for Easter...

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I try and keep the colors soft here, cueing off the pale pinks on the wreath.

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This time I've grouped antique candy jars, then added a bit of greenery for softness and a few flowers for color all while trying to maintain balance and symmetry as it tells my story.

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Faux pastries add to the look of my French patisserie.

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Note to self: I need to buy macaroons for the jars

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I hope you have found this post to be helpful and maybe just a bit inspiring and that you will try a tiered tray (or two) in your own home. Once you get the hang of it they can be really fun to decorate.

Next time I'll be back to show you my two rustic wooden tiered trays and the most unusual place where one lives. I'll also give you some suggestions as to where to buy them and answer some questions that I have received.

Until then,

Encourage one another,

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How to Buy Tiered Trays - Part One

I have this love affair going with tiered trays. They are so great in spots around the house where you want to add some height to your décor and not necessarily want to take up much table space. Today I want to start this three part series by talking about what to look for when purchasing a tiered tray. I might add here that what tray you buy is probably the most important part of having a well decorated tiered tray.

  1. Decide how you want to use it. Will you use it for serving food or will it be strictly for decoration? It is generally not safe to place food directly on wooden trays. A better option for food service would be metal or glass. Also consider the size - smaller trays are a smarter choice when serving food because you'll need to fill it. A smaller two tiered tray is great for small get-togethers filled with hors d'oeuvres or pastries.
  2. Although I tend to move my trays to different spots around the house, you probably will want to start by buying a tiered tray for a specific spot. Decide where you want to display it. Know your cabinet height if you want to put it under the kitchen cabinets. The one pictured here is huge (34" tall and 22' wide at the lower tray - purchased at Nell Hills KC). I wanted it to make a statement on my large kitchen island (5' square), but  the drawback is that it's so big that it won't work anywhere else in my house.
  3. Think about storage when not in use. All on my trays including the one in this post come apart by unscrewing the trays from the spacers, but this one, even when disassembled takes up a lot of storage space. Fortunately we have basement storage, but it's a good thing to think about should you ever need to store it.
  4. Probably the most critical thing to be aware of is the distance between the tiers. So many trays on the market are made with the tiers too close together. You probably will want at least enough room between the tiers to display a salad size plate on a stand. This one has 9" between tiers. Anything less than 9" can be challenging.
  5. Look for trays with flat tiers. This one dips down from the edges so it's hard to display things on it without things looking wonky. I've learned to work around the dip but prefer trays that are level.

In this post I'll show you how I've styled my kitchen tray throughout the year. It's kind of like a perpetual calendar that changes with the seasons and holidays from one year to the next. I never seem to grow tired of it because it never stays to same for long.

Here it is in January and the first part of February (the first photo is this year, the second is last year).

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Notice the plates on the bottom two levels. You can't put them upright if the tiers are too close together.

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If you don't have room to display plates upright between the trays you can always stack them like I did above.

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My island has two chandeliers that I sometimes hang things from. It just extends the decoration a bit and is kind of fun.

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In March and April I decorate for Easter and Spring. The next few photos are from Spring last year. (I was in my foliage phase). ha 

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Here I hung glitter eggs from the chandeliers with clear thread - you can use floral wire, fish line or bakers twine too.

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Did you notice how many candies I ate while I was hanging them? Smileyface


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Here are some close ups of some of the areas on the tiers.

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I save the candy that I use in the jars from year to year. It's expensive to buy fresh each season and it's not at all tempting when you know it's old and stale. I just empty the candy into baggies, wash the jars and refill them using saved candy from previous seasons.

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Such a good place to display treasures that make us happy. That's what this is all about. Right?

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Here is this years. Slightly more understated but the same recycled flowers, greenery and candy.

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You may also notice that I tend to hang colorful napkins over the edge of the bottom two tiers. I think this adds a pop of color while softening the hard edge of the trays. You, like me will probably come up with a formula that you like and will find yourself repeating it time after time.

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Here is last summers display. Since we live in Kansas the sunflowers seemed appropriate. I was also going for a blue and yellow French Provence vibe. 

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You might notice that the foliage is basically the same as Spring. I just pulled out the pink roses, added the sunflowers and traded the pastel napkins for the yellow French provincial ones that complemented the yellow sunflowers.

We need to talk about that foliage. I often use wreaths on the bottom tiers and candle rings on the upper one.

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In June, July and August I switched out the sunflowers for American flags and added some red dishes to the blue ones. Replaced the yellow napkins for red and white. The whole transformation took minutes.

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In September, October and November I switch it into Fall by replacing the greenery with some fall foliage and pumpkins.

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As I look at these photos I realize I need to add some more fall like linens to my shopping list.

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Then of course after Thanksgiving it becomes Christmas...

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I often add those cute little fairy lights with timers too.

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and then in January I start all over with Valentines.

Next time I'll try and go into depth about how I style my trays and show you two more smaller ones. I hope you find this three part series helpful and that it encourages you to try a tiered tray, or two, in your homes décor.

Until then,

Encourage one another

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Tutorial Tuesday #1 - Embellished Towels and Napkins

First I want to thank you so much for the encouragement you extended me on my last blog post. I so appreciate your kind words. 

Several of you asked that I do a tutorial on the towels that I showed there so I thought, what better way than to bring back Tutorial Tuesday? 

Here is the napkin I shared last time using ADORNit fabric. The same technique will work wonderfully for towels of any size (even bath and beach towels) as well as baby's burp cloths.

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My first stop in preparation for this tutorial was Home Goods for kitchen towels. I found these by SOHO, two for $4.99. 

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 Since I was working with ADORNit's Flamingo Fever fabric I took it along to match with the towels. These pineapples were so fun with the fabric group and the color was perfect. You could also, of course, use solid towels as well. I feel like I just got lucky with these.

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I'm obsessed with this black and white stripe and how it complements my Mackenzie Childs tea pot. It makes every fabric I put with it just pop. You all neeed at least a yard of that stripe!

 

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 These next towels were just so perfect that I half way expected them to say "ADORNit" on the tag. They are by CASABA and there were two for $6.99. What I love about these towels is that they are terry cloth on the back so they are super absorbent. Again, the colors and motif were just made for my ADORNit fabrics.

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The cute hibiscus plate below is from Hobby Lobby and turquoise plate is vintage. 

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Here's how I embellished my towels:

You will need:

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Ruffle fabric 3" by WOF

Ruffle band (optional) 1 1/4" by WOF

Contrast band 2" by WOF

All fabrics for this tutorial were provided by ADORNit and can be found here.

Hint: A word about cutting - when working with fabric such as the flamingos, I think it's important to center the main design on the band. Nobody wants to see a big bird with its head lopped off so plan ahead when you cut. Also on the checked ruffle accent fabric you will notice that I cut on the lines of the print so the checks are straight. Although these fabrics are printed straight, you will still want to carefully cut one layer at a time - it just looks better in the end.

The first thing you will want to do is prewash everything. The towels are 100% cotton and shrunk about an inch in both directions. You will want to get any shrinkage out of the way before you start to sew.

Trim the hem from the end you plan to embellish. This will make construction easier and will reduce bulk.

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Your best friend in this project will be a good spray starch. Having crisp edges and folds makes sewing easier and results in a much more professional end product.

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I cut my ruffle fabric 3" wide by WOF (width of fabric - about 44"). Note: Sizes of ruffle and contrast band will depend on how big your towel or napkin is. I am including measurements only as a guide for you. You can make them as wide as you'd like. When using towels with printed designs you will need to take the design into consideration. A band that is too wide might cover up the design. 

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For the contrasting trim on the ruffle I cut a strip 1 1/4" wide by WOF. This creates a nice finished hem as well as adding a bit more interest. I won't suggest going wider than 1 1/4" for the ruffle trim as a wider trim can cause the ruffle to lay funny.

Press the 1 1/4" strip in half along the length to mark the center, then fold and press each raw edge to the center fold.

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Fold and press in half to create a band. (This is kind of like making bias tape but this piece is cut on the straight, not the bias).

Next wrap the folded strip around the bottom of your ruffle piece and top stitch in place. I used my edge stitch foot #10 for this.

Hint: When working with directional fabrics it's important to pay attention to the direction the pattern is going. 

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You can also just hem the ruffle using the technique you are most comfortable with. Below I used foot #64 - the medium rolled hem foot. You could also press a double folded hem then topstitch.

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Once your ruffle is hemmed you will need to finish the two ends by folding, pressing and stitching.

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I failed to get a photo of this next step, but next you will gather the unfinished long edge of your ruffle fabric using the gathering method that you prefer. I used my gathering foot #16 and by lengthening my stitch and tightening my upper tension it ruffled to the perfect length. You could also sew two basting stitches and pull the threads to gather the strip to the desired length. You will want your ruffle to be the same length as the width of the towel. I wouldn't recommend using a ruffler for this as I think it would make the ruffle too full. You want a ruffle that is about two times fullness.  

Okay, this is important and what you may not be used to: Pin the WRONG SIDE OF THE RUFFLE to the WRONG SIDE OF THE TOWEL.

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Machine baste just slightly to the left of your gathering stitches attaching the ruffle to the towel.

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Now cut a contrasting band 2" by WOF and pin the band on top of the attached ruffle (right sides together). Hint: Pay attention to directional prints.  You should have three layers at this point - towel, wrong side up, ruffle, right side up and band right side down. I know this sounds confusing but the photo makes it clearer I hope. Flip the whole thing over and sew on top of the basting stitches that you see on the towel. Be sure and fold in the raw edges of the band at each end (see photo below).

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Basically you are sewing the ruffle and band to the wrong side of the towel and when you flip it over all your raw edges will eventually be hidden inside the band. (Well that was about as clear as mud)!

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Press your seam allowance toward to towel, tuck in raw top edge of the band and pin. Press. Top stitch.

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See how everything is finished?

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And if you match your bobbin thread to your towel it will look neat on the back.

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Please let me know if you have questions. One thing I know for sure is that I love styling my photos waay more than I like writing instructions.  Wink

Next time I'll show you how I added trim to the burp cloths using my ADORNit fabrics.

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Love you guys more than pretty dishes! Hearts

Until next time,

Encourage one another.

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