Friday, July 9, 2010

Home Sewing Part 1: Perky!

We live in an old farmhouse that has "good bones". What this means is, there are refinished wood floors, new windows, lots of light and open spaces. What it also means is crooked doorways, slanted floors, mice that come out to dance on the counters at night, and angular quirks that will make renovating "interesting". Although we have long-term plans of renovating the summer kitchen or perhaps even removing it to add an addition that will house a laundry room/washroom and a recording studio, for now we're just trying to find a weekend to paint: our bedroom, the livingroom, the kitchen, the hall...yes, the whole house.

In the meantime, I perk things up by sewing little items that somehow pull the many colours of the present paint job together. Like this table runner:

Some of you beginner sewists (I hate the word sewer) may feel daunted by such a project. You're casting me in the light of 'Amazing Seamstress!' Well, I'm here to tell you that you, too, can make a table runner, or a seat cover, or a cushion cover in a log-cabin style, as long as you can sew in a straight line.
First, cut out 2.5" strips of 5 fabrics that bring you joy.

Choose two of the strips, and place them right sides together. Sew a 1/4" seam down one long side. Then cut this long (double) strip into 2.5" pieces:

Open these up, and iron down the seam. This will become the centre of your log cabin. Just a word of interest: traditionally, the centre square of a log cabin quilt block was red, to represent the hearth. I love this and usually remain true to the tradition. Since this was a spring/summer runner, I veered a bit and used pink instead!

Now, lay these open two-square pieces down a strip that is the same colour as one of the squares (in this case, green), and sew as you go.

Cut between the pieces, and when you open them up, you'll find this:

Can you see where this is going? You're going to lay the bottom edge (in this photo) along a strip of your next colour, and sew them together, then cut them apart.

This is what it looks like before you cut them apart.
Remember to iron down the seams as you go.
The next strip should enclose that little centre square. You'll be sewing on two strips of the same colour to "frame" each smaller square.

...cutting the strips apart....

So now you have your little centre square, plus a bigger green-and-orange square around the centre.

Continue in this manner! You can go as big as you like, and you can make as many as you like. You can make a whole quilt this way! The advantage of strip quilting is that it is FAST. I've made a whole quilt in one day, from start to finish, using this method. It is now our beloved, much-abused beach quilt! The disadvantage is that all your blocks come out looking the same. You can play with other ways of doing this, like sewing each piece along a different coloured-strip, but then you lose the speed factor. These make great last-minute gifts, so the speed factor matters in that case!

Once you have your squares, you can play with positioning to create different effects:

Like this...

...or this!

I chose to lay them in a line to make a long runner. I attached the blocks to one another by sewing a strip of yellow gingham between them, and on each end, then along the long sides. Now I just have to back it and put on some binding. It's FINALLY raining here so today might be the day!

Please email me or ask any questions in the comments...happy sewing!


  1. Gorgeous! I love the colors you chose. Thanks so much for posting these easy to follow directions! I might have to try this :)

  2. Very nice. I hope you find the time and energy to bring it all home this weekend.

  3. Lovely-as usual! I LOVE my quilted runners made by Mom. Your instructions are something even I could figure out to follow.

  4. oh thank you for this! i've been wanting to make a table runner for awhile now and your's is quite inspiring and beautiful..i will be using your tutorial for sure!

    we lived in a 100+ year old farmhouse for 3 years on a friends' farm. our youngest was born in the dining room...:) there were updates as the family had lived in it while building their main we had central a/c, dishwasher, updated kitchen, etc... but we also had big gaps in the wall behind the entertainment armoire that let all the little critters in. old, single pain windows that were very drafty, as were the doors, all the lovely things that a 100+ year old farmhouse entails...but we loved it! we still miss it sometimes even though we love our house we bought almost 4 years ago. enjoy your's!! :)

    and yes, i picked you for the award because you truly are inspiring and have a blog of real substance in my opinion. your sister's was chosen too..:) here is the link to my post ( ) and all you have to do is copy the award jpg for your blog and then follow the rules..;)

    thank you for finding me and for having such a wonderful cyberhome here..:) xoxo

  5. Thanks for this tutorial, Stephanie! I might have to try this sometime. Although, the jury is still out on whether or not I can sew in a straight line. :)

  6. You most certainly are cast in the glowing light of "Amazing Seamstress" and this post just confirms it! I *adore* that runner!

  7. Yes. I'd qualify you as master seamstress. I've been working on an outfit for my daughter and have used my seam ripper more times than I'd like to admit. I think this table runner will be my next project! Thanks for the tutorial.


  8. Your sewing/knitting posts keep reminding me that I need to learn how!!

  9. Love it!! We live in a character-less rental at the moment and I'm always looking for ideas to give it more personality. This little runner would be perfect! PS Your crooked doorways and slanted floors sound heavenly!! Someday... :)

  10. Lovely table runner! We should definately have a log cabin quilty Sunday afternoon get together! Then we can all have cute table runners!!!
    xo maureen

  11. I really need to get over my sewing phobia. I really do.

    I would rather recover a couch(which I will be doing soon)than sew a pillow slip or a dress for my daughter.

    The dress is still sitting here half done. ha!
    Great table runner!

  12. Oh that is so much easier to understand than books from the library - thank you so much for enlightening me!


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