Heirloom-to-Be Linens

3 Comments 01 February 2011

Heather Harris-Brady is a happy nester who enjoys creating textiles, renovating thrift finds and cooking for her family! They live in the north woods near the Lake Michigan beach town of Empire. Her new line of napkin and placemat fabric panels feature vintage silver scroll work, and allow you to have a hand in the making of your own set of linens.

“I believe that people are more creative than ever,” says Heather, “however much of what we create is ephemeral and intangible. It seems to me that there is a basic human desire to create items we can hold in our hands. I strive to create materials that help provide a polished and elegant product, for a minimum amount of labor.”

If you use a sewing machine, Heather’s easy-as-pie DIY can help you turn out an heirloom-to-be in one evening. It will take a bit longer if you opt to do it all by hand, but either way, you will be part of a tradition dating back centuries! We asked Heather to take us through the process of making one of her napkins…

Place your order for napkin panels. The fabric will arrive as flat yardage with dotted cutting lines.

Cut the panels apart.

Apply Fray-Check (or similar product) with a light hand to the cut edges. I have not had any problems with fraying, but the Fray-Check will stop any issues before they start.

Turn each napkin panel print-side down. Fold each side in 1/8 inch and press flat.

Customization time! Decide on your edge treatment…there are LOTS of options.

Simple, Classic Hem
Simply fold the edge in another 1/8 inch, press and sew a straight hem all the way around. You can leave as is, or it’s an easy matter to add some vintage lace to the edge at this point. You can get funky, and even use a different style of lace for each napkin.

Hand-rolled Hem
This is a classic element in couture sewing often used for fine, delicate fabrics. It is a practical skill to acquire, as it is the typical edge treatment for scarves, pocket squares, ties and fine vintage clothing like skirts. It is also one of those things that is harder to explain than it is to do…so please don’t be daunted by my long-winded directions!

Thread a slim needle with a single strand of good thread…silk is great if you have access to it. Knot the end. (I am using a dark thread here for demonstration purposes, but you will want to match the fabric.) Starting at a corner, bring your needle up through the folded edge you ironed down to hide the knot inside the fold.

Down just below the folded edge, pass your needle through one fabric thread. You might find it a little tight as you pull the needle through…but that’s okay. Make a slipstitch through the folded hem.

Repeat this process several times, then pull the thread taught. The hem will roll on its own like magic! I typically make about four stitches per inch.

Rounded corners are a little easier to turn, but if you want to keep the square, just miter the corner as you pass it. You can take an extra stitch or two here to keep it flat.

That’s it! You can see how the stitches disappear, even with purple thread! A lot of people, myself included, find stitching rolled hems relaxing. Find a comfortable chair, a puppy to warm your feet, and stitch away.

You’ll notice that there is an area on the napkin panels for a monogram. I designed it so that it will look beautiful with our without a monogram. If you are an avid seamstress, you probably have an embroidery feature on your sewing machine. If not, any embroidery shop can add it for you.

Add your own custom napkin rings…I made these with grosgrain ribbon and vintage jewelry…and you’ll have created your own personal heirloom table setting!

Editor’s note: Heather will be releasing her first digital book this spring, Great Beach Picnics in Northwest Michigan–A Local’s Guide to Beaches, Regional Wines and Foods. Crafty Heather also makes one-of-a-kind wedding bouquets from vintage hats and jewelry.

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Holiday Wreath: Coloring Outside the Lines

9 Comments 07 December 2010

Gil Mendez is a wonderful interior designer who continually shares his talents for the benefit of others. For the past five years, he’s used that creative brain of his to come up with a unique Christmas wreath for San Francisco Children of Shelter’s Annual Jingle and Mingle Designer Wreath Auction.

“In terms of design, this is an opportunity to create a piece that explores the use of unconventional materials in a decidedly inventive manner,” says Gil. “The crayon is uncomplicated and reminiscent of simpler times, when all a young artist has to worry about is whether or not to remain within the lines. Grouped together in hundreds, I think the overall effect feels like holly berries.”

Before he delivers the wreath for the December 9th auction, we asked Gil to share his how-to hints:

1) I ordered 3,000 bulk red crayons from a wholesaler. (We found single color bulk crayons on

2) I purchased a pre-fabricated 16″ diameter round canvas stretched over and attached to a rigid MDF form.

Example of a Fredrix Round Pre-Stretched Canvas

Gil drew this illustration to help you visualize steps 3 through 5.

3) I drew concentric 6″ and 8″ circles at the center of the canvas. I cut out the 6″ diameter circle. I then divided and cut the 8″ circle into 24 evenly spaced tabs (Do NOT cut out the 8″ diameter circle.)

4) I adhered a round cardboard disk with an 8″ opening to the back side of the canvas and sized it to fit just inside the MDF frame. I folded and glued the canvas tabs to hold it in place. This is reinforces the canvas to better support the crayons.

5) On the front of the canvas, I glued three layers of 1/4 inch foam core disks which measured 16″ in diameter with an 8″ diameter clear center. This completed my wreath base and I was ready to add the crayons.

Gil used full-sized red crayons for his inner- and outermost rows and then cut the crayons for the interior rows (hence the reason for the building up with foam core–got it!). He made sure that all of crayon tops were in alignment. Here are some further notations from Gil to guide you:

6) I carefully pre-selected the crayons for outermost ring as the paper sleeve does not always fall in the exact same spot for all of the crayolas. I was careful to align and position for consistency. This way I could maintain a more even pattern where crayons were “full-height.” This was a non-issue for the rows of crayons placed inside of the the outermost rings.

7) I used Aleene’s tacky glue to attach the crayons to the form and each other. I only glued the paper, not the actual crayon as that does not allow for the desired, stable bond strength.

8) I first glued the two outer layers of full height crayons and then proceeded to work inward. The crayons were cut roughly in half ( the height taken up by the thickness of the foam core layers). This allowed me to reduce the weight of the completed piece (estimating about 20 lbs).

9) I used a cigar cutter to cut the crayons to the desired length. Again, as the paper sleeve does not align exactly in the same place for each crayon, I measured (eye-balled) each one individually so that the tips were fairly evenly aligned once glued in place.

In the process of doing the concentric circles, Gil realized that the small imperfections or misalignment were what made the piece charming, transcending a machined look.

The finishing touch? Gil turned to Paulette Knight, owner of The Ribbonerie in San Francisco, who fabricated a custom and luxuriant satin bow.

Every year Gil looks forward to making this particular pilgrimage to the Ribbonerie as Paulette has an exquisite selection of ribbons to choose from…just take a look for yourself!

A little outside the lines thinking produced this whimsical, chic holiday wreath!

Image by Kathryn MacDonald

From the mind of
Gil Mendez
Gil Mendez Design

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