Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Sewing Project: Making Napkins With Mitered Corners

Now the first thing you're probably going to say is, "Why make napkins when you can buy them at a reasonable price?"  Well, I asked myself that same question but, as with most things, I get ready to buy something and end up saying to myself, "I can make this."  Not to mention I have several old tablecloths with a few stains and worn places that I just can't part with so why not cut them up and make napkins out of them...there's certainly enough material!  Plus, sometimes you just can't find the color napkins you want.  I have been looking for some polka dot napkins for this summer and I can't find any anywhere, but I've found the material I can make them out of!  Last week I looked for some red napkins for my daughter to use for Valentine's and could only find some that were a dark, ugly red, so I just bought some material and made them for her!  Where there's a will, there's a way.  So, for all you beginning sewers, and all you seasoned sewers, this is an easy project with straight seams that I hope you'll enjoy as much as I have.  Here's how you do it!

First decide how large you want your napkins.  Most napkins are 18" square and some are 20"...for this project I chose to go with an 18" square because I think that is large enough.  You will need to cut yourself a pattern out of newspaper first.   You will be adding 3" to the finished size of 18" to allow for a 1" hem and 1/2' to turn under the raw edge so draw and cut  your pattern 21" x 21".  If you would like another size napkin, make the adjustments in your calculations and then cut your pattern.  I will say that you don't always have to have a 1" hem.  Most napkins you buy have 1/2" hem but I think the 1" looks so much nicer and has a little more formal look.  After cutting the pattern, layout your fabric and cut the number of napkins you will be making.  I'd also like to add this little bit of info when selecting your fabric.  Make sure your fabric is 100% cotton.  Polyester absorbs grease stains and you'll never get them out and cotton presses and finishes up so nice!  Linen makes beautiful napkins too!

Turn down 1/2" towards the wrong side of your fabric on each side and press.

Now, turn down 1" and press again.  Place a pin on each side where the fabric intersects.

With right sides together, fold your napkin on the diagonal so that the pins meet, having edges even.

Draw a line from the pins to where the creases meet on the fold line.  Stitch along this line backstitching at the beginning and end of the seamline.  Do this on all 4 corners.

Cut the corners to about a 1/4" seam allowance on all corners.

Open up the napkin and lay it flat so that you can press open the seam allowance on each corner.

Now, turn corners back in and press making sure your corners are sharp.

Stitch close to the edge of each side.  Press your napkin and you're ready to go!

I apologize that my photos are not clear.  I don't have one of those fancy expensive cameras that take really good close up pictures but I think you will get the idea of what needs to be done!  I hope you enjoy this simple project and let me know how yours turn out!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

B-r-r-r It's Still Cold Outside...Let's Make Soup!

During the cold days of winter I seem to find myself  in the kitchen on Sunday afternoons stirring up a pot of soup for the week.  I LOVE soup in the winter!  It just seems to warm the soul as well as your tummy.  Sometimes the soup goes back to Charleston with my daughter, sometimes it is shared with a neighbor, and sometimes I just cook up a pot to share with my friends at school.  Nevertheless, soup is never wasted in my household and it's something that is easily shared with others .... and what a treat!  I have many treasured recipes. Some I've even made up myself, so I thought I would share 2 of my all time favorites today.  The first soup is one I just made up.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Becky's Cheesy Potato Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, diced
16 oz. chicken broth
1 pint heavy cream
8 oz. Velvetta cheese, cubed
1 quart milk (you can add more or less depending on how much broth you like)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Fried bacon, crumbled

In a large stockpot combine onions, potatoes and chicken broth.  Add salt and pepper.  (Remember, cheese is salty so go easy on the salt)  Simmer until vegetables are tender.  Add heavy cream and milk.  Bring this to a slight simmer and add Velvetta cubes a couple at a time, stirring soup so the cheese doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  Once all the cheese has been added and melted you may want to make a roux or thickening for the broth.  To make a roux I melt about 2 tablespoons of melted butter and add to that 2 tablespoons flour.  Mix together well and while the soup is simmering I add a little at a time with a fork, whisking it into the broth.  When the broth is as thick as you like it turn soup down to warm.  This is not a soup that has to cook a long time.  Once your potatoes are tender, everything else is ready!  Now the best part is how to serve it.  Fry several strips of bacon (one of my best friends!  Bacon is to me like butter is to Paula Deen!).  Crumble bacon and sprinkle generously on top of each bowl of soup.'s so good!

The next recipe is one shared by my dear friend Lesli.  She is part of the Lunch Bunch Girls and this has become one of our all time favorites.  It tastes like something from a 5-star restaurant.  This is what I served at my cookie swap this year along with Garlic Cheddar Biscuits and salad! 

Tomato Bisque

2 large onions, chopped
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 stick butter
1- 28 oz. petite diced tomatoes
1 - 46 oz. can tomato juice
3 bay leaves
1 tsp each: basil, dill, thyme, parsley
1 tsp baking soda
8 oz. cream cheese, softened cut into pieces
2 cups light cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in large dutch oven.  Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and saute for about 1 minute more.  Add tomatoes, tomato juice and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in baking soda. (It will foam up!) Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add cream cheese and cream. Cook for 15 minutes until cream cheese melts.  This is sooo good with grilled cheese sandwiches!

 Now, get that soup simmerin', grab a good book, and snuggle up on the couch with an afgan for a warm, fuzzy day!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Weekend Sewing Project - Making a Tissue Holder

For all of you who may be slightly inspired by my previous post, here is a quick and easy little project that makes the cutest little tissue holder for your purse.  It takes very little fabric and maybe 20 minutes of your time.  They make nice little surcies and are very useful.  You can use fabric scraps you already have or, if you need to purchase material it only takes 1/4 yard and you can make several!!  Let's get started!

First you will need to make a pattern.  Cut a rectangle 6.5" x 7.5".  I usually use newspaper but you can use tissue paper or printer paper.

1.  Cut 2 pieces of fabric.  One is your face fabric, the other will be the lining.  You can cut both pieces out of the same fabric or use something different for the lining.  I'm using a pretty red toile for Valentine's!

2.  Pin right sides together and stitch a 1/4" seam allowance around all 4 sides leaving about a 2-3 inch opening on one of the long sides to turn the fabric.  Useful tip:  When beginning a seam and ending a seam backstitch to secure stitches.  By doing this you won't have to worry about your seams coming apart when you turn your fabric.

3.  Trim corners and trim seam allowance about 2 inches down on each side of corner.  This will keep your fabric smooth at the corners when it is turned and it won't bunch up.

4.  Turn your fabric inside out making sure your corners are pulled out and sharp.  I usually use a HUGE safety pin to help me do this.  They make a tool to help you do this but I've just never bought one.  Press your side seams and corners flat making sure the opening seam allowance is turned in and smooth.  You don't have to stitch the opening because it will be encased in your final end seams.

5.  Fold your rectangle in half along long sides and pin to mark the middle.

6.  Fold each end up to meet the middle pins having right sides together.

7.  Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance stitch each end along pins making sure you back stitch at the beginning and ending of your seam.

8.  Turn inside out and insert tissues.

You can buy individual packs of tissues but I have found the best deal is to buy them in a pack of 8 at CVS.  I get the CVS brand.  I have a tissue holder for every season.  They make nice little gifts for secret pals, ladies in nursing homes, teacher gifts, or just because I love you gifts!  Now, dust off that sewing machine and get inspired!!  Hope you all have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Stress Reliever . . . Sewing!

I have been sewing since I was 6 years old!  Yes, that's the truth.  When I was younger (a lot younger!!) my mother made all of her clothes and mine.  It was so exciting to come home from school and my mother had spent her day at the sewing machine making me several new dresses for the spring or summer. When I went to my bedroom  she would have them layed out on my bed.  After seeing everything she was able to make I naturally wanted to do that too, so, at a very young age I began making pin cushions for everyone in my family.  My mother would get up from her machine to press a seam and I would jump in her place and try to get as many seams as I could sewn before she returned.  I have always loved sewing!  I had the best teacher in the world, my mother.  I got my first electric sewing machine when I was 8 years old.  I think she was excited as I was on that Christmas morning!  It was a child's Singer sewing machine that would sew a chain stitch.  The Christmas morning I woke up and saw that machine under the tree was the best Christmas ever!!  I ventured to making aprons for everyone in my family got...and finally I gradually started making doll clothes.  Later, when I was in the 9th grade I got my first real adult sewing machine and started making all my clothes.  I couldn't afford to buy clothes from the stores so, for my birthday and other occasions my family would give me money to buy material.  I could make a whole outfit for little of nothing!  It's a gift that the Lord has blessed me with and I am so thankful.  Now don't get me wrong!  I am no seamstress!!!  There are tons of things I will not tackle, but, I have made window treaments for my whole house, and for others, made all my daughter's clothes as she was growing up and now I'm back to making clothes for myself.  I always loved sewing for Brooke when she was growing up but you know there comes a time when it's just not cool anymore to have "homemade" clothes.  Well, guess what?  Brooke is 27 years old now's very cool to have homemade clothes!!!  Only they don't call them "homemade" anymore.  They are "specially designed, one of a kind" outfits.  I started making dresses for her again about 2 years ago and she loves it.  I have made dresses for $10 that cost $350 at a "designer" dress shop where all the dresses are "homemade"!  More stories on that later...but, the exciting thing is now she wants to learn to sew!!!  Finally, my daughter wants me to teach her to sew!!!  I'm so excited!!!  As she was growning up I tried to get her interested in sewing to no avail, but this past summer she looked at me one day and said, "I wish I could sew mama."  "I don't know why I didn't let you teach me when I was younger."  (Kinda like why did she ever stop taking piano lessons because now she wants to sit down and play like a concert pianist?)  Well, honey it's never too late!  I jumped for joy when she said that and immediately started convincing her it is never to late to learn to sew!  Twenty-seven is the perfect age to don't have to make pin cushions and doll can make real clothes!  So, for Christmas we bought her a sewing machine!  It's beautiful...wish I had it...mine is so old but still sewing good...hers has a free-arm...mine doesn't, and sometimes I say bad words when I can't get my fabric to go in the right direction...but I still love it!  I know this may sound strange but sometimes my machine is my best friend!  :)  I was so happy the day I purchased her machine. During the Christmas season my mother and I went to the fabric store to buy a sewing basket and fill it with all the essentials.  She was excited too!

So, after getting the machine for Christmas we needed to go shopping for fabric and a pattern...nothing too hard, but it needed to be functional!  She opted for an apron pattern and Amy Butler fabric and a cute clutch purse pattern.  The hard part about teaching her to sew is she lives in Charleston, and that's an hour and a half away!!!  We planned for a whole weekend of sewing...she came home and I taught her how to lay out the pattern and cut the apron...she did a beautiful job!!!  She was so excited and proud...see it's not all that hard!  Next she laid out the clutch purse but was only able to finish half of it before she had to head back to Charleston.  The next weekend I went to visit her and help her finish the purse. I am so, so proud of her accomplishments!  She wants to learn and that's half the battle.  Here are the pictures of her first two projects!  She did a beautiful job!

Today she informed me she has already cut out another clutch purse and she did it without my help!  She's gonna be a natural.  Sewing has saved me so much money and, made money for me when I needed it.  God has blessed me with this gift and I treasure it.  If there is anyone out there that has an inkling they would like to sew I would encourage you to pursue it!  Be looking for a few sewing lessons and neat little gift ideas in upcoming blogs!  You'd be surprised what you can make out of a scrap of material!!!  Happy sewing!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's 2011 and I'm Back!

Well, it's been a long time since my last post and I feel so ashamed!  This is actually one of the reasons I have hesitated about even having a blog . . . I get so bogged down with everyday life I run out of time before I run out of steam!  So, to all who are followers and care to read my ramblings, I apologize and have set as one of my goals for the new year to be a better blogger!  The Christmas season is truly a super busy time of year for me.  Starting in November all the way up to 2 days before Christmas I never got into bed before 12:30 any night.  I was busy sewing, monogramming, cooking, crafting, working my regular job at school and trying to fit in a little shopping every now and then.  I say this every year but . . . I am going to start making my Christmas gifts this summer!  I was so busy filling orders for other people all of my projects were pushed to the week of Christmas.  But, to me that is just all part of the season, scurring around getting everything done and then in the wink of an eye, it's all over until next year.  Christmas is truly my all time favorite time of year.  I am a summer girl at heart but I do love Christmas.  Now I think of the new year and all that it holds.  I can't wait to get in my garden (right now it's covered in snow!) and look for those first signs of my daffodils popping up through the soil.  We were blessed with 6 inches of snow last week, something out of the ordinary for SC and wouldn't you know, they cancelled school!  YAY for me...God knew I needed some quiet time in front of the t.v. and that's exactly what I did.  Enjoyed every last minute of it and was actually ready to get back to school today.  I have lots of things I want to blog out...most of them having to do with SPRING and SUMMER, but before I start all the warm weather things I do still want to share some pictures of my Christmas Cookie Swap.  I know the season has passed but we had so much fun!  For those of you who didn't have time for a cookie swap during Christmas, why not have a Valentine's Day Cookie Swap!  By this time everyone is ready for something sweet and an event to look forward to!  I'll leave you with that thought and share my pictures hoping you all have a fun weekend!

Lesli, Jackie, Linda and Jane

Sara, Diane, Lesli, Becky, Donna, Jackie and Jane
Joyce and Emily

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

I monogrammed hand towels for each friend as their "thank you for coming" gift!