16 August 2011

DIY: dining room linens

Check it check it, you guys! It's the triumphant return of DIY posts! It took me a little while to get back into DIY after the timesuck that was the laundry room redo, followed by last week’s dual dramas of cankles and committee meetings, but here we are! Back in the saddle! Or rather, the ironing board. With hem tape.

I am never going to learn how to use a sewing machine, am I?

Well, anyway. My dining room couldn’t wait for me to learn how to use a sewing machine. It needed help in a bad way.

Let's back up. For the first year of our marriage, Mr. P and I ate dinner every single night at... dramatic pause... the coffee table. With our laptops in front of us and the TV on. Yeah. I’m not super proud of it. I admit that I often felt ridiculous bent over at the waist to shovel food in my face at knee-level, and every once in a while I felt pathetic enough to move to the dining room table, but it was often covered in crap that I’d have to shove aside. And then Mr. P would be all “Don’t you want to eat with me?” Yes. Well. I sort of hoped maybe someday we would eat at the table, and maybe Mr. P did too, but we got in the awful coffee table habit and that was that.

Until a few weeks ago. Mr. P suddenly, without preamble, started eating at the dining room table! I did not question. I just took my plate in there and happily joined him. And we’ve eaten at the table ever since.

The problem? Our dining room looked kinda like this:

Well, that’s a bit dishonest. AWFUL, yes, and dishonest. It looked like that before Mr. P moved in. The dining room set is hand-me-down, the shelves are hand-me-down, the things on the shelves are hand-me-down, the curtains and paint color were there when I moved in. About the only thing I bought new was the light fixture, which was previously brass and frilly. An important, but overall insignificant, improvement.

Anyway, then Mr. P and I got married, and we moved in his aquarium, chose different shelves and curtains, and replaced our kitchen countertops, which meant the dining room looked like this:

Why YES, I AM shamelessly showing you a terrible “before”, mid-kitchen-renovation, because I want to make the after more striking! You caught me! But still. I don’t have a more recent “before” shot, so that’s the one we’re going with. You can see the new curtains and shelves, at least.

Anyway, after the countertop overhaul, I painted over the green walls, so that they are now tan. But the curtains were brown and the shelves and table were brown and basically the room just sort of sucked in its blah-ness. I wanted to eat dinner in a prettier place. It was time for some color!

But what colors to use? Well, the only thing the room had going for it were these cloth napkins in the corner – the turquoise more hand-me-downs, the green we picked with wedding store credit to spend:

Plus, Mr. P’s aquarium – which you can barely see in the above photo – has turquoise rocks and green plants. Boom, color scheme!

So I headed to JoAnn’s and found these outdoor Waverly fabrics:

Why outdoor fabrics? Well, for one, they’re thicker and slightly more stain-resistant. And for another? SALE PRICE, baby!

That’s right, outdoor fabric for $8/yard! Normally $20! I felt like an all-star.

After purchasing two yards of the stripes and about two and a half of the lattice (it was the end of the bolt, and I got suckered into buying the rest), I spread the fabrics out on my living room floor and starting cutting them up based on some sketches I mocked up with Illustrator, to make sure I didn’t waste any fabric. I wanted to get eight placemats and a table runner out of each pattern. The stripes were easy:

But the lattice? Oh mah gahhhh. The pattern repeat was 12” square, which did not work at allllll with my 13.5” by 18” placemats. Plus the pattern needed to run down the middle of the runner, not off to the side all wonky. I spent forever trying to figure out how to cut it up so that the pattern would be centered and the same on each placemat without wasting too much fabric – or running out. Thank goodness I’m a sucker after all, because there is no way I could have done it with just two yards.

When I closed my eyes I saw that pattern for the rest of the day. It was awful. But I eventually got it. Eventually like two hours later.

Once I suffered through that roadblock, I started making my double-sided placemats! For each of the sixteen rectangles – eight of each pattern – I folded over the edges and ironed them down. I worked with one of each pattern at a time, so that I could make them work together – reasoning that was more important than making sure each placemat was precisely the same size.

Then came the hem tape! I used good old-fashioned Stitch Witchery this time.

I just made a little sandwich of the fabrics with the hem tape in the middle and pressed away. After ironing them together, my placemats and table runner all had this lovely finished edge:

Maybe some day, if I ever learn how to use a sewing machine, I’ll run a stitch around the edges to secure them and make them machine washable. But for now, they work!

And since it wouldn’t be the triumphant return of DIY without an entryway mirror pose with one of the finished products:

What’s that? You’d like to see them on the table? Well, you will! But not now. For now? The breakdown:

Time spent:
2 hours to cut fabric, only because I was determined to have the pattern consistent (otherwise it would have taken maybe thirty minutes)
~6 hours to iron them all together, done here and there for several evenings

Fabric: $37 (sale price; would have been over $90)
Hem tape: $5
Total cost: $42 for eight placemats and one table runner

Not the cheapest in the world, for sure. But for double-sided, and Waverly fabric, and custom? I adore them!

I’ve got more dining room updates, and I’ll feature them tomorrow and the next day. Come back for them, it’s quite a lovely finished room that I can’t wait to show you the rest!