linen by the numbers

in this post, i will explain how to turn 3.5 yards of linen into one table runner, ten napkins, and two tea towels in 24 hours or less.

the first step is to visit your favourite fabric store — mine is leo’s on queen west — and spend approximately 45 minutes yanking reams of fabric off a pile. i was hoping to find an ivory hued linen with thick mustard-coloured stripes (emersonmade style), but instead i fell in love with this simple gray fabric with these prettily striped, multicoloured ends. buy that fabric.

the next step is to have a mother who owns a sewing machine and, more importantly, knows how to operate it. drive to your mom’s.

then, cut off a swatch of fabric and try a few colours of thread out. consult with whomever is around on a thread choice.

i really wanted the denim (darker) thread, but pierre was for the lighter blue, to match our walls in the dining room. we compromised on light blue with a denim bobbin. compromise = nobody wins.

next, be informed by your mom that the pretty stripes on the edge of the linen — aka the very reason you chose this fabric — are meant to be cut off and thrown away, that that’s just there so the material doesn’t fray. insist that not only do you want to keep that pretty stripe, but you also want to cut away the extra fabric in the middle and have the stripe on both sides of the runner. use scrap pieces of a “who wants to be a millionaire?” calendar to come up with a plan.

take the side of the fabric that you’re not going to cut and pin a fold about one inch wide. this is so both sides match, because you’re going to have to have a fold on the side that you do cut, to hide the fact that you needed to remove a huge amount (ten napkins and two tea towels’ worth) of fabric from the middle of the piece. pin that fold.

then, because linen gets crazy wrinkled really easily, iron the parts that are going to be part of your runner. in my case, i did about two feet from the pinned edge and about 6 inches from the other edge.

now you’re ready to sew the fold into place; measure the width of your runner, take a deep breath, and cut away the excess fabric; and then prepare to reattach the cut side to the runner via a double fold of your own invention.

use a scale ruler to pencil in your fold on the cut side of the runner, fold, iron, and then do the same on your cut fringed piece, which, for our purposes was 2.25 inches wide, including the fringe. sew your fringe to the underside of the runner, wipe the sweat from your brow, and then lay your nearly finished runner out so you can measure the length and determine how much you should hem the ends.

i wanted between 118 and 122 inches of length, so that there would be between eight and ten inches of overhang to the runner. we pinned the ends so that the runner was 122″ long and double-stitched it to match the sides of the runner.

an hour’s drive home to toronto, one last iron, and then the fun part — creating a vignette and setting the table.

this whole sewing process (not including driving or fabric buying time) took just over four hours, and then i gratefully accepted my mom’s offer to make the napkins and tea towels for me, another day.

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