Thursday, November 18, 2010

Easy Reversible Placemats

Well, Thanksgiving is almost here. Are you ready? Most of you are probably way ahead of me. Luckily (and also unfortunately) we won't be hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house year. But I still wanted to put some things together for years to come, and to maybe help you along with your last minute details.

So here we are. A table setting, fit for a feast...a small one at least. My table only seats four people. Hopefully, yours is a little bigger to accommodate all of your guests.

And what good is a Thanksgiving feast without a little color? Looking for an easy fix to spruce up your bland white table linens? Try these super easy reversible placemats. All you need to know is how to sew a straight line. Easy as pie.

You will need:

Two coordinating cotton prints

Sewing machine




To make one placemat, you will need two pieces of fabric. I made 4 placemats, so I started with 8 rectangles; 4 of each print. Each rectangle is 13x19 inches.

Pin front and back pieces of the placemat right sides together. 

Sew around the entire edge of the placemat with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, BUT leave about a 4 inch opening on one side.

Snip each corner. This helps to reduce bulk in the corners when you turn it right side out.

Using the opening, turn the placemat right side out.

Using a pointy object, something like this (or a pen will work too)...poke out all the corners to a point.

Iron the entire placemat flat.
 Tuck in the opening edges and press. 

Pin in place. Topstitch close to the edge around the entire place mat, sewing the opening closed.

Ta da! What did I tell you? Piece of cake! Or pie...

Now you have a double-sided placemat for more than one occasion! Now put it to the test. Add some flowers, candles, pumpkins, whatever you see fit. And look how great your wall art from this post compliments your table!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now go make something, and enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DIY Autumn Wall Art

I may be a little late in the game, but I finally decided to do something about the lack of autumn decor in our house. It's not too late though! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I need some pretty things to jazz up my boring walls and to help give my house a little holiday face-lift.

So, yesterday I woke up and decided to paint. I haven't painted in ages, but I always keep my old art supplies around. I went digging through my closet and came up with the essentials to make a colorful painting for my bare dining room wall. 

Now, before you run away from the word "painting", take a closer look at the simple elements that make up this piece. We are entering the realm of abstract art, where there really are no rules, no standard technique. What happens on the canvas is between you, your creative mind, and your paintbrushes. The possibilities are limitless.

Even as I take you step by step through this one, I think you'll find that art is not as foreign or difficult as you might think.

Have I convinced you yet? Want to try it out? OK, if you're still with me, here are some things you'll need:

1 Canvas - any size you want

Acrylic paints

Various brushes

Cup of water to rinse brushes

Leaf stamps

I have a beginner's acrylics kit that would be perfect for occasional uses, or to get you started in your own painting endeavors. It includes several different brushes, a palette, palette knife, paints of many colors, and even an artist smock. 

Make sure your work area is clean and well prepared for paint spills. Since I don't have an easel, I covered my kitchen table with paper grocery bags. 

To get this painting started, I knew I wanted to use classic autumn hues: mostly oranges, browns, and yellows. Starting with the background colors, I used a sponge brush to cover more surface area and to help blend the colors together better.

Start by brushing on a dark brown from the bottom to about 1/3 of the way up the canvas. Be sure to paint the edges of the canvas as well, since this painting will not be framed. Next, add a second color (I used orange) to cover another 1/3 of the canvas. Try to blend the two colors together where they meet. The best way to blend is by using long and whispy brushstrokes in a back-and-forth motion to pull each color into the other.

Don't worry about perfection. Painting is all about layering. The top layers will hide any imperfections in the bottom layers, and paintings are not always about being perfect. If you have more texture, you will have more depth in the end.

For the top 1/3 of the canvas, I brushed on a yellow. I then went back over the other colors with that same yellow, blending all the colors together and creating a sort of sunset backdrop.

Next, take a fan brush. A fan brush looks just like a fan: round and flared at the top. Use a metallic gold or copper paint.

Starting from the bottom, dab the paint up the canvas and into the corners.
Dab dab dab. That's as technical as it gets. Keep dabbing...

There is no right or wrong here. Go wherever you see fit. Up the sides, down the middle, don't worry about it. Just have fun dabbing away.
Go back in with a different color, and define a couple different areas. I took brown and dabbed in the middle. Then I took a little green and yellow, and went back over it again.

Still dabbing? Good. Keep going.

Continue dabbing away until you come to a good stopping point.You can cover the whole canvas if you want. It's completely up to you. Once you're done, step back and take a look at what you have so far. If you see something you don't like, you can go back in and fix it. Now is the time to do it. Remember, paint goes over paint. If you make a mistake, you can cover it up.

All done? Alright, let's finish it up.

Find your leaf stamps. You can have more than one, or just one that you prefer. I chose this one. You can find plenty of stamping materials at your local craft store. Look in the sale bins. You never know what you'll find.

Using the same basic paint colors as before, brush a little paint on the stamp. Don't worry, these wash off easily and acrylics are water-based, meaning easy clean-up when you're done.

Start stamping away.

Switch up your colors, and keep on stamping.

Stamp until your crafty heart's content.

Now take a step back and look at your creation.

Satisfied? I know I am. Now hang it on the wall so you can admire your work.

Congratulations, you are an artist!

What does yours look like? I think mine looks like a forest of trees with leaves caught in the wind. Others may see something different. But that's what's so great about an abstract piece. The art is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone sees something different.

Thanks for braving a painting with me! I hope you enjoy it, and have fun showing off your artwork to friends and family.

Now go make something, and enjoy the day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Pumpkin Party: Part 2

I have been excited to show all of you the rest of the decor details I put into my sister's pumpkin themed baby shower!
To see other pumpkin party ideas, check out my previous post here.

I left off by showing you these beautiful pumpkin floral arrangements.

To add some interest to these centerpieces, I found leafy autum garland at the craft store and placed it along the center of the tables. I loved how this immediately brightened the room with orange and red hues.

And check out those cute and unique party favors! Baby food jars filled with candy corn and pumpkins. I came across this idea here, and it was perfect for our pumpkin themed baby shower. And it was a great way to recycle all those baby food jars I had laying around.

I created a personalized "food label" in Photoshop, and attached them to the jars with a little glue. What a fun way to say thank you.

 Now, when planning a party (especially a baby shower) there are several important details. Food, decor, favors, games. Games. Don't forget the games!

Looking for some fun pumpkin baby shower games? Here are some of the ideas we used. We also played a little nursery rhyme Jeopardy that my sister worked on so diligently.

The games were a huge hit. But you can't have games without prizes! And why not put a little effort into wrapping up those prizes in a pretty, hand stamped fall bag?

These pretty prize bags were made from plain white paper bags. Dress them up with some metallic tissue paper, hand stamp leaves in a nice arrangement, and viola! I used copper ink and a little pink to add a girly touch...(it's a girl!)

Overall, I think this theme came together beautifully.

Remember, it's the little details that can make a party a party.

But the most important detail is for everyone to have FUN!

Next time you have a party to plan, don't get intimidated by all the details. Relax, enjoy yourself, and focus on one thing at a time. Anyone can have a beautiful party, so why not make it one that your guests won't soon forget?

Now go make something, and enjoy the day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Pumpkin Party: Part 1

Well, as you all know, I have been slacking big time when it comes to keeping my blog updated . But, I have a good excuse (I think). I was out of town for 10 days to surprise my sister at her baby shower. The surprise was a success, and so was the shower. 

I was in charge of decorating. Oh, the fun I have making things look pretty.
My other sisters (I have three) chose to have a pumpkin themed shower since it took place on Halloween weekend. I have to admit, I was a little unsure of how this was going to work at first. But I quickly started looking for pumpkin decor and ideas, and the visions started pouring into my crafty little mind.
Want to see what I envisioned? Here's a little taste...and it came out even better than I could have imagined.

Pumpkins, leaves, and bright orange flower arrangements made this baby shower full of fall elegance.

Let's start by taking a look at the cake. Look at that cake! My incredibly talented oldest sister recently found a new hobby: baking. She made this ganache filled chocolate cake, with a buttercream filled spice cake on top, right in our mother's kitchen. Mmmm....chocolate ganache... This cake was full of yummy goodness. 

And it doesn't look too bad either, does it? My sister enlisted my help, as well as my younger sister's, to give the cake a pretty finish. She made the fondant from scratch, following this recipe. Do you know what fondant is made from? I didn't...but maybe you can guess. :)

That's right. That soft, smooth and chewy icing has a scrumptious marshmallow base. Who would have thought?

Combine it with a little powdered sugar and shortening, and you've got yourself the most popular finish on professionally made cakes to date.

We mixed and colored the fondant, then rolled it out and placed it over our pre-iced cakes. 

Then the fun really began. I cut out a pumpkin shape with an Exacto knife and placed it on the top tier. Taking a paintbrush handle, I made indents in the pumpkin to give it those dividing ridges that make pumpkins pumpkins. I then added a green stem, some fun swirly vines, and simple letter cut-outs to finish it off.

We added orange circles and rings to give it a little flare, and place a green border around the bottom of each tier to hide any blemishes at the base of the fondant.

Have you ever seen such a happy pumpkin cake? Maybe I'm biased...and partial because we stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing the little details. I guess I put a little heart and soul into this cake, but it was totally worth it! Don't you think?

Ok, moving on. Want to know what my favorite decor detail was?


Look how fun these pom pom hangings are, floating over the table like big sunbursts.

These were so easy and fun to make. I used this tutorial to get me started. What a great way
to add a burst of color in an unexpected way.

Another important element of decor were these beautiful pumpkin flower arrangements.

We purchased lots of silk flowers from Joann's and Michael's. The great thing was, a lot of the fall decor was on sale since we are now coming up on the Christmas season. So, I carved three medium sized pumpkins and arranged the flowers as I saw fit. Very simple, but the impact was amazing. I spread these pretty pumpkins all throughout the house, and they quickly gave it the fall feel I was going for.

These arrangements were fantastic centerpieces for the party tables. And they went perfectly with the other little accents I added...which I will get to in my next post.

I hope you find a little inspiration in my party planning. Once I start, I can't seem to stop. So I have many more details to share another day.

Now go make something, and enjoy the day!