Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence day project--or where I learned to have my machine make ruffles for me!

When you live in an apartment, there's not that much you can do as far as exterior decorating without impeding traffic that passes your door. Which is one reason I enjoy table-runners--it's a great way to give some oomph to your living quarters. So as I listen to "Spirit of America" by the MoTab, here goes.
This is essentially a variation on the Easter table-runner I made a while ago, but cooler for reasons that are hopefully apparent :)

Forage through the fabric pile (Incidentally, a great way to have random fabrics in your fabric pile is the scraps bin at places like jo-anns or even walmart. Cheap half yards of random fabrics are the best way to stock up on material for projects like this. I haven't actually bought ANY new fabric for this project--I had just picked it up when I saw some potentially useful scraps. Oh, and they typically cost under a dollar--not too shabby!)

1) Start by cutting out strips the about a foot long and varying widths (between about 2 inches and 5/6 inches.) in red white and blue patchwork-type fabric. Don't make any wide white ones, just do those in red and blue. Make more thin strips than wide ones. Then cut as many 1 1/2 inch white strips as you did 5/6 inch red and blue ones. These white strips will be the ruffles, so make them about 1 1/2 times longer than the other strips (so about 1'6'' give or take).

Mine is the size of a long place mat, since I have a mini kitchen table, but you can make it as long as your heart desires-- just keep adding strips.
Also cut one big piece of fabric about one foot 4 inches wide, and about 4 inches longer than you want the runner to be (this will be your base). Blue is probably the best color to use, since it won't show dirt/dust as badly as white or red. Set this aside since you'll add it last.

2) Sew your strips together (lengthwise) interchanging widths. You'll use less white strips since there are the white ruffles to add later. I'm lazy, but you really should iron the seams out before adding the ruffles (next step) 

3) Now for them ruffles. This is the coolest part, because you essentially don't have to do anything except adjust your machine. If you want the machine to gather the fabric, simply set it to a longer stitch and maximum tension (tension is the little wheel at the top)-- it does all the gathering for you!

Don't cut the thread too short-- leave a nice long tail so you can adjust the ruffles if they're too close or not close enough together. To tighten the ruffles, pull on one of the threads (not both!) and adjust. For this project, tighten the tension to the maximum and make the stitches longer but not the longest setting--they'll be way too tight. (The top number is the thread length on my machine-- it's probably indicated by something like this design - -- --- ---- ----)

You might want to play around with scraps before doing the real thing so you can get a hang of it.
Sew down the middle of your white thin strips to make the ruffles. They should end up the same length as the other strips, so pull on the string/loosen to get the desired length.

4) Now you're going to sew these ruffles onto the middle of your wider sections. Just sew straight down the middle again. It's ok if it flattens down a little--that's the point.

5) We're getting there! Now let's add on the back. Sew it onto one length of your strip concoction.

Now for the other side, but instead of making the two pieces of fabric flat against each other, make the solid side longer by about 3 inches. Only sew the long sides at this point.

6) Turn it right side out. Because the Blue side is wider you have a blue edging now-- pin it flat.

7) Now for the ends (short sides). Fold over the ends twice to get a blue edge that is the same width as the long sides. Pin it flat too.

8) Now for the fun part: You can either sew this edging down with thread the same color as your base (blue here--boring) OR you can do an embroidery stitch in one of the other colors-- I chose white since the ruffles are white--keeps the accents consistent. And I chose hearts because "I heart America"
(ok that was cheesy but come on... it works :)

Incidentally, if you happen to also have French heritage, this works for Bastille day (July 14th) too since the french flag is... blue white and red-- how perfect!

The best thing about the embroidery stitch is that it does the same thing on the other side too:

One note for going around the edges:  instead of picking up and doing the next side when you get to a corner, lift the foot but leave the needle down into the fabric and turn your fabric so you can keep going down the next length from where you were.

It doesn't look perfect, but it does make it more continuous and you have less loose ends.

And voilĂ : you have your finished table-runner!

NOTE: this would make a really fun throw pillow too: just do steps 1-4 and then sew the back to front flat, without making the blue side wider, and then close it after stuffing. I'd make one myself but I'm afraid I'm out of fabric!

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