Sunday, June 17, 2012

Insert Punny Napkin Post Title Here

Try as I might, I was lacking on the post title inspiration today. So sorry.

For my brunch that I had, I decided to give some homemade napkins a go. They're cute, save on paper waste, up the ante fancy-pants-wise, and are a great excuse to learn how to sew mitered corners. In my usual thick-headed and stupid kill-as-many-birdies-with-one-stone-as-possible-even-if-every-time-you-do-it-you-say-next-time-1-new-thing-at-a-time fashion, I added on binding to that equation. I found a tutorial that said it was for beginners, so I figured "Hey...I'm a beginner!" without batting an eye...I recommend learning mitered corners, and then binding, and then combining the two together, but I digress.

The inspiration for these napkins came from this photo I came upon at the Purl Bee:

Cute right? I loved the simple main napkin with the fun border, and they just looked so pretty all together. Now, I certainly wasn't about to go and purchase a "spectrum package," so I took a different route with mismatched-but-matching patterns all tied together with the same binding. Here is what I came up with:

Now, I know that those don't look much like the inspiration napkins, so here's the story. After reading through the tutorial, I headed to Joann to see what I could find for fabric. Now, let me preface this by saying I'm cheap. Ok, got that out of the way. It just so happened that fat quarters were on sale that week, and since you can only use one coupon at a time, I decided the coupon was going toward the bias tape maker I needed to purchase for nice even binding. Some (extremely cute) high end fabric was on sale, but even at 30% off, it seemed too pricey, especially for a project that involved new sewing adventures (read: could go horribly wrong and end up with a mess of chopped up and sewing-machine-eaten fabric), so I opted to go for the fat quarters. It was more fun that way since I could choose a bunch of different fabrics! It took a while to settle on 6 I liked, but I finally narrowed them all down. Since the napkins were busy, I chose to go with plain edging, and I'm in a gray phase at the moment (especially a love for gray and white, hence the starting fabric with the modern botanic pattern that was the base for my selection), so I found a nice mid-tone gray that went with all 6 fabrics. I originally picked up matching gray thread, but later changed course and opted for a contrasting color since (again, in my dumbness), I decided to add another item to the newness list and try out a new decorative stitch for each napkin. That ended up being Ok, but seriously, I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.

Next up, I gathered my tools:

  • 1 fat quarter per napkin
  • 2 yards of fabric for the trim (the width is mostly irrelevant; by using 2 yards of fabric, you can create binding that does not need to be pieced together to go around the entirety of your napkin if you keep them to 17" square--finally used my noggin on that one)
  • 1-inch bias tape maker (or whatever you'd like your trim width to measure)
  • thread of choice
  • a measuring implement
  • a cutting implement (and mat)
  • pins (not pictured, but extremely helpful)
  • an iron for pressing the binding (possible to do without but...probably really hard)
  • a sewing machine (unless you prefer to sew by hand, in which case, feel free to show me your napkins next century--I'd love to see)

For the vast majority of this project, I referenced this tutorial by Molly at The Purl Bee, which was mentioned above. She has lots of step by step pictures. I'll keep it basic.

First up, I ironed all my fabric for easier measuring and cutting. (It's recommended to pre-wash, but I was lazy and didn't. My napkins are permanently a little rumply since washing due to uneven shrinking, but I don't mind. If you think you'll mind, toss 'em in the wash, and consider using Shout Color Catchers if mixing different colors, especially brights and whites.) Then, I cut everything to size. It took me a while to figure out that (at least my) fat quarters were not all exactly the same size, cut exactly square, etc. so be careful in your chopping. Then I cut my bias strips.

In case you don't know what measuring looks like, here is a photo for reference.

Next, I ran the strips through the little tape maker and pressed 'em as I went. I'll admit, I was a bit intimidated by that little bugger, but it's quite simple once you get the fabric through the little opening. I found that pressing as close to the opening as possible made my strips more even. So then I was left with this nice neat pile-o-napkins-waiting-to-be-born:

Up next is pinning your border to the napkins. This is where I started to hit some bumps. Pinning along the edges isn't too bad (although, it did take a little practice)...but it was pinning the corners that was hard. Molly sort of skipped right over it in her directions (probably because she can do it with her eyes closed), but I found this to be the most difficult part of the project. I'm not sure if I can offer many words of wisdom as I'm still not a pro after doing 24 of them, but feel free to share if you have any tips.

Next, it's sewin' time. Like I said, I opted for fancy-shmancy decorative stitching, which I think actually helped to cover up my still developing sewing-in-a-straight-line-skillz. However, it was a nice sampler exercise and resulted in some extra cuteness. The more intricate stitches made pivoting at the corners a bit more difficult (because of all the layers of fabric?), so they needed some yanking/prying coaxing to start down the new side, but aside from some extra thread buildup, it wasn't a horrible result. Sewing the binding together evenly at the end definitely took some practice and re-re-re-re-reading of Molly's instructions, but once you understand what to do, it's not too bad--just takes some wrapping your head around it. Promise. But consider having a cup of Pomegranate Patience on the side just in case.

So here they are all finished and ready for face-wiping. I think they came out pretty well! I think these little shark fins are my favorite. But I actually like all of them, and I purposefully matched certain stitches with certain prints by choice. I definitely recommend sewing on a scrap beforehand because there is a lot of variety within each stitch due to height and width adjustment, so make sure you get it right before you start; seam rippers are fun, but I had to use one for plenty of other mistakes on corners and binding finishing that I didn't want to have tooooo much fun. 

If binding seems (or should I say seams? har) a little intimidating, there are lots of other tutorials out there that just teach you how to finish edges with a simple mitered corner on the main piece of fabric, such as this one and this one.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole sewing business. What about you all? Have any beginnerish projects you've tried or recommend? Let me at 'em!

Note: original Purl Bee image found here.

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