Holiday Table Runner Tutorial

Long ago when I was in fifth grade art class we made burlap place mats.  We pulled out threads and wove in yarns. I thought it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever made.  Mine was white burlap with lime green thread...beeautiful!

  I decided to make a table runner that's a grown up version and create a little tutorial for you.  Mine is made out of burlap but coarsely woven linen could also be used for a more sophisticated version.  This looks great as a Christmas runner but would also work well for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Make another one in a pastel color for spring holidays.

Materials and supplies:
3/4 yard burlap
matching sewing thread
1 skein size 5 Perle cotton either matching or contrasting
Fray Check
sewing machine
blunt end tapestry needle

***Please read through the entire set of instructions before beginning.  If you are confused by anything feel free to contact me in the comment section.  I'll respond promptly!

When you buy burlap, undoubtedly the edges will be crooked and fraying and it needs to be straighten it.  Pull on a thread that runs the width (in this case the longer edge) of the fabric and pull it out. It will leave a ditch in the fabric.  Cut along the length of the ditch.
cutting in the ditch created by the missing thread

My runner is 14 inches wide plus 1 1/2 inches of fringe on both edges for a total of 17 inches.  From the edge that was just cut, measure 17 inches and similarly, pull out a thread to mark the other edge.  Cut along the ditch left after pulling out the second thread.  Put the rest of the fabric aside.  We will only be working with the 17 inch width of fabric from now on.

On the short edges of the runner is the selvage.  The first thread on these edges need to be cut off because otherwise it will be impossible to fringe.
Cut off first thread along selvage edge
Measure 1 1/2 inches in from each side on all four sides and pull out the thread

at that mark.  You will pull out a total of four threads, two the length and two the width of the piece.
Threads pulled out showing where the "ditches" intersect.
When the threads are pulled all four corners of the fabric should look like the photo above. Now you need to make sure the threads don't fray like crazy! Using a sewing machine and matching thread sew along the ditch that has been made from the missing threads.  ***Important*** when you get to the place where the ditches intersect STOP!!!  Leave the sewing machine needle down, turn the fabric 90 degrees and continue sewing down the next ditch.  If you accidentally sew all the way to the edge of the fabric it will be difficult to fray it.

Now that the fabric has been secured with machine stitches it's time to make the fringe.  Pull out the threads from the outside edges and stop at the sewing machine stitches. It should look like this when you are done.

fringe on all four sides
Next I made two rows of pulled embroidery, one on each side of the length. For each row measure in 1 1/2 inches from the corner of each edge and mark with pins.
measure in from corners and mark with pins
Pull out about an inch of threads from the inside corner of the pins.  To do this, carefully cut the long threads along the short side of the runner until you have clipped about an inch. See photo below.  Pull on one of the long threads in the middle of the group of cut threads and follow it the length of the runner.  Clip this thread 1 1/2 inches from the other edge.  Repeat this until an inch of threads have been removed the whole length of the runner.
threads removed

To prevent the threads that were clipped from coming loose, put a small bit of Fray Check along the edge. Test this on a scrap to make sure it doesn't discolor the fabric.
Fray Check the clipped threads
After the Fray Check has dried it's time to embroider.  Measure a length of Perle cotton 2 1/2 times the length of the pulled threads and thread it on a blunt end tapestry needle.  This amount of thread can get a little tangled and out of hand so working on a cleared table space and pulling it very slowly can help keep it straight.  Tie a knot in the end of the thread and come up from the back a few threads away from the clipped edge.  My runner uses matching Perle cotton but I used a contrasting color in the stitching sample.
pulled thread decorative stitching
Put the needle under 5-7 threads and loop the thread under the tip of the needle as shown in the photo.  Carefully pull the needle and tighten up the Perle cotton which will pull the burlap threads into a little group.  Continue across the whole length of the pulled threads.  Here is a link for a bit more on pulled thread embroidery (also known as drawn thread and hem stitching)
Happy Holidays!  Enjoy your runner!


Bird Dance

Bird Dance
The other day we had a fresh dusting of snow and I came upon a record of a little bird dance. Winter.  Here it is.  I'm wondering what is inspiring you in this new season?


No Candy Fun!

There are so many great non-food treats for Halloween.
Halloween is supposed to be fun for kids, right?  What's not to like?  You get to dress up your child in crazy costumes, go out and meet your neighbors and the kids come home with a full sack of goodies.  Except it isn't always fun for everyone and often candy is the culprit.  I haven't given out Halloween candy for quite a few years for several reasons.  I used to be a fourth grade teacher and it was fun to plan the Halloween parties with the kids and parents !!!BUT!!!!  the week after Halloween was crazy town.  The kids were working down their piles of candy and would come to school all sugared up only to crash and be grumpy a few hours later.  It was nearly impossible to get anything really accomplished.  If you've experienced one child going crazy from sugar, well, multiply it by 20.  Eeeeeek! That set me on the path to thinking about other sorts of treats.

Now, add into this mix the children that have allergies to peanuts, wheat, dairy, soy or corn, the five most common food allergens.  It is pretty hard to find a candy that doesn't include one or more of these foods so those kids probably have a pretty hard time enjoying the revelry. Another added benefit to skipping the candy is I don't eat half a bag before the big night.

So, what do I do instead?  I've never had any trouble finding Halloween pencils, erasers, bouncy balls or other little give-aways.  My parents haven't given out candy for many years and instead give nickels, that's easy and probably a lot cheaper!  This year, because I knew I was going to write about this I went to three stores, Target, Shopko and the Dollar Store to see what I could find.  I came up with all sorts of things as you can see in the photo. Everything I already mentioned as well as temporary tattoos, drinking straws, bubbles, little notepads, whistles and my favorite, glow-in-the-dark rubber duckies!  I spent about 20% more, but in my mind, well worth it.

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has developed a campaign to help kids with food allergies have a safer Halloween called the Teal Pumpkin Project.  FARE is encouraging treat givers to offer non-food treats and let trick-or-treaters know by placing a pumpkin that has been painted teal and/or a sign, that is provided on their website, outside of the house.  Please go check out their site and think about having some no candy fun!

If you are worried about disappointing the kids, don't be!  They are pleasantly surprised to get something different.
Downloadable poster from FARE


Rosemary Chocolate Chip Wonderfulness

For the last few weeks I've had the blahs.  Some of that is the long winter (which, happily seems to finally be at an end) but also lack of sleep has contributed.  So today I decided to do something to get cheery.  There is a recipe that I found in one of my new favorite cookbooks that I've wanted to make for some time.  The cookbook is Isa Does It by Isa Chanda Moskowitz creator of Post Punk Kitchen and Vegan chef Extraordainaire and the recipe is for Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies.  If you have read my blog you might remember that I brought in six rosemary plants to winter in my dining room and I'm happy to say they are flourishing, so a very interesting way to use some of it.  Now you may think this is an odd combination but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how good they are. Chocolate chip cookies for grown ups, I say!  
 Isa also has a video showing how to make the cookies if you dont have the cookbook and you can find it here.


Design in Vegas

Last month we took a warm weather vacation to Las Vegas.  If you know me you would think Las Vegas is the last place you would find me but we met some friends and it was extremely entertaining ... a true escape.  I was the only one that did any gambling and that was for about 10 minutes because I'd nearly doubled the $20 my dad gave me.  I was leaving there a winner!!

We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon which scared the crap out of me, although it was beautiful.  One of the highlights of the trip for me (besides the amazing sangria we had at the Wynn) was the Neon Museum.  It is an open space filled with the cast off signage from hotels that either upgraded or went out of business.  It was an artist's dream filled with beautiful rust and flaked paint.  There were so many interesting things to photograph that I didn't really hear much of the tour guide's information.
If you ever find yourself in Vegas and want to see something other than casinos check this out.


Dreaming of Spring

On the eve of the next big winter storm I worked on a little pencil drawing.  I can't wait for this to be a reality.  Enough said.


To New Beginnings

Happy New Year everyone!  I'm glad to welcome the new year because the old one ended in a technology tangle!  About a month ago our printer died (I tend to have perpetual issues with hp printers) and then a week before Christmas I dropped my laptop and kaboom!!!!  I lost everything.  I was limping along with an old laptop that about 8 years ago was my husbands, then it was mine, then his, and then back to me.  Sort of a hot potato laptop.  It could do the basics but I was leery of it being able to go for the long haul.  Enter a suggestion from an old friend.  Why not get an Ipad?  I've never worked with Apple products except for my Ipod, which I love.  I started asking other Ipad users, reading and researching and decided that it would probably work pretty well.  So, on Tuesday I made the leap (read that as investment) and purchased one, along with various accessories.  So, on this first day of the year I am writing the first blog post in awhile on my new Ipad. I have to say, I really am enjoying it.  So here's to a new year, new learning and new technology!  Happy 2014!