Tighe and Lisia like vivid but muted colors and simple designs, and I wanted to give them something that was nice to look at but also practical. I decided to try my hand at making an embroidered tablecloth and napkin set, and it actually became the first major sewing project I've done on my own! Here's the fabric (100% cotton) and embroidery silk I picked out last winter:
(You can click on all the photos to enlarge them)
This is when I was cutting out and pinning the seams for the tablecloth. I put the leaf in my own table and used it to determine the size, while making the sides long enough that it can be used on a round table as well. Basically this is three wide strips of fabric sewn together lengthwise. It was HUGE, so I did all the cutting on my living room floor:
Sewing the miles of seams and hem (this was the piece of sewing during which my sewing machine demonstrated its need for a tune-up by tangling the thread around the bobbin about every six inches. My dismay and frustration were, I have to admit, expressed by throwing my seam ripper at the wall the fifth time it happened, and then bursting into tears when I couldn't find the seam ripper because it ricocheted into the open closet. Ahem.):
The tablecloth in my sewing basket, partway through the embroidery:
I worked madly to get it done, wrapped and hidden before Tighe & Lisia's visit in June. Matt took this picture of me embroidering in the backyard the day I finished it:
Ironing. Ironing, ironing, ironing. I don't have an ironing board, but use my table, covered with a large bath towel and a cotton sheet. You can see the embroidery on the tablecloth here, outlining the four corners of where a table runner might be placed:
The final product was 8 napkins and one tablecloth, although I think one of the napkins didn't make it into this photo:
Finished! Wouldn't you know it, when I finally spread out the tablecloth, completed, I discovered that, despite all my careful measuring, I had managed to embroider one of the tablecloth decorations about six inches off kilter from the rest. I hadn't noticed because the whole thing was so huge I never saw it spread out until it was done. Arrrg. But then I remembered my mom telling me that there is an Amish tradition of always creating an error in a piece of work on purpose, in acknowledgment that nothing humans make is perfect. So there is my error, though not intentional. Besides, I knew T & L would appreciate that it has character.
Here's a close up of the embroidery on the napkins. Unfortunately the camera didn't do well with the lighting, and the colors don't show up quite right. The green is a pale spring green, and the orange is a muted rusty color. I love the purple-gray. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed that I used leftovers of this fabric for the lining of Maya's birthday bag.
The two purple napkins are smaller than the rest. Their size was dictated by the dimensions of what was left over after the tablecloth was cut out. They are about 10 inches square, and the rest are 13 inches square.
I wanted to wrap the gift in a unique way, and I don't like the waste created by wrapping paper and ribbon, so I bought a big square of a cool batik fabric and washed, ironed, and hemmed it. This way the wrapping can be reused in whatever way the recipients choose, and does not just get thrown away.
I really did have a great time making it, and along with all of its character, it definitely has a lot of love sewn into it. I worked on it intermittently for six months, embroidering most of the napkins during down time at work, and fitting all the hemming in wherever I could in the evenings and weekends. I am very pleased with how it turned out, and glad to hear from Tighe that they really like it and hadn't noticed any of the mistakes yet! My hope is that it will last them many years (I gave it to them with a lifetime warranty for repair), and that many happy meals will be eaten on it, through long years of happy marriage.