Rattan Lines

(Click any picture or link in this post to see the item in store.)

I saw a beautiful table in a Michael Amini advertisement for his Bella Cera dining room furniture that inspired this post. I was amazed at how it looked so down-to-earth and elegant at the same time.

The solid wood table had no tablecloth. Each place had a woven round place mat or charger. (There are square versions of these out there if you have square dinner plates.) Before you decide that I’ve fallen back a couple of decades, wait for the finished result!

Any of these chargers I found individually for around $10.00 looked cheap or like they might fall apart after several uses, except for this one for $10.99 from Crate&Barrel.

Rattan Placemat

I would suggest making the place mat/charger contrast with your table — as in light table, dark chargers or dark table, light chargers.

Most of these come in sets of four and the prices are comparable at common department stores. This dark brown rattan charger is from Kohl’s and comes in a set of four on sale for $35.99 (from $59.99).

Charge It 4-pc. Charger Plate Set

There are similar styles from Bealls (Round Rattan Charger Plate (Set of 4))
for $31.78, and Target for $32.49, or there are these chargers for $9.99 at hayneedle.com (sale price).

I really loved the look of these Round Madras Chargers from World Market. Again they are comparable in price as a set of four is $35.96. I love the contrasting colors and unique weave.

ROUND MADRAS CHARGERS

Pottery Barn also has a Paros Rattan Round Charger for $19.50 and a Tava Round Charger for $18.00 (sold individually) if you are looking for something a bit different.

Directly on top of these chargers were elegant plates. They appeared to be a blue floral pattern that matched the bowls sitting on top of them, but I envisioned instead solid white plates with a pattern around the rim. I love these Mikasa Dinnerware American Countryside plates for this look. They have little flowers scrolling around the rim. You can get them at Macy’s. (Click the image for a link to a closer look.)

Mikasa Dinnerware, American Countryside Dinner Plate

Next came the blue and white bowls. Again, I’m going to use my own inspiration here, but I think something like these Paula Deen Tatnall Street Blue Bell Soup Bowls would look really pretty here. (And wouldn’t you know it — they’re on sale!)

Tatnall Street Blue Bell Soup Bowls

(If you prefer the matching plates, there is a whole collection of coordinating items.)

The napkins are what really made this entire table look so charming. They were tucked slightly under each bowl, on top of each plate, and were clean and crisp but a bit rustic and rough around the edges. The ones in the ad appeared to be a soft pink or mauve, maybe even pastel purple color, which looked amazing and cheerful next to the blue in the bowls.

I really really like these purple napkins I found on Amazon, though I suppose you might want green, red or a peachy-orange for winter or fall. (And yes, these come in other colors!)

The table was decorated with plants, white votive candles and appetizers like a bowl of fresh-picked fruit, a loaf of bread on a wooden cutting board, and what appeared to be condiments like honey and jam. You can see the table by clicking the link in the first paragraph of this entry, but I am not going to post the original image because it had a sort-of European background and I want you to picture it in your own home, on your own table. I’m going to say it is “rustic elegance.”

I also ran across a couple more items that might be fun to add. How about some rattan coasters for cool drinks since there wasn’t a tablecloth? (The table was set with wine glasses in the ad.) A set of four is $12.95 at Pier1.

Rattan Coasters

And I don’t know … I just liked this Pfaltzgraff chicken canister. Normally I would avoid decorating with chickens but this just seemed to fit the theme somehow. Maybe because of the woven basket design on the bottom.  (It is labeled as a rooster. I disagree. I strongly believe this is a hen!)

Pfaltzgraff Dinnerware, Country Cupboard Rooster Canister

I’m thinking this table would look beautiful for any occasion but I can seriously picture it next to a homemade easter egg tree in the spring. You know — the kind with the blown egg shells, dyed by kids and hung on a tree branch with a piece of ribbon? Or how about with pale orange napkins and harvest decor for fall? Switch to gold embellishments with deep reds and greens and maybe an evergreen centerpiece and it would be a beautiful rustic or old-fashioned Christmas table. The beauty is that it is very versatile.

Quilts – New Era, New Uses

How To Make an American QuiltMaking quilts these days is laughably different from the way my grandmother made them. First of all, these days the first step is to “choose your material/fabric.” No one in my family ever really did that. The material that made up the quilt came from old, worn out dresses, shirts, tablecloths, scraps leftover from making cloth items, you-name-it, that could no longer be used for its original purpose and was then cut into smaller pieces — specifically, quilt pieces.

Secondly, these days almost everyone is stitching with a sewing machine. There are definitely pros to making a quilt with a machine — for one thing it is just plain easier and faster, but it also means your stitches will all be uniform. However, hard-core old-fashioned hand quilters will tell you that you can not get the same quality results with a machine as you can if you sew by hand. When sewing by hand your stitches should be very small, uniform, and barely discernible. It actually takes a great deal of talent and a steady hand to end up with a quilt the likes of which generations of housewives made in the past.

Thirdly, quilting is rarely handed down from generation to generation these days, but thanks to sewing and quilting classes, this art form is still persevering. Quilts make personal, thoughtful gifts filled with love and can be customized in hundreds and thousands of ways — from the fabric to the pattern — to make them even more meaningful.

Of course there’s also the fact that they’re just pretty!

Apparently these days, pre-washing your fabric is a must, to prevent any colors/dyes from bleeding and/or shrinking when you end up washing your final product. (This was not a necessary step back in the farm days, as the fabric came from cloth that had already been well-worn and washed multiple times.)

When my grandmother made her quilts, she would “piece” together all her quilt “blocks” (the pieces sewn together into the design the quilt would eventually have) and then attach the batting and backing with pins. All of this would be rolled onto a quilting frame which looking back reminds me of two saw-horses with blanket-wide rollers between them. These are heavy duty, take up a lot of space, and don’t seem that easy to find these days. One of the last times I saw one in use was during a country-themed Vacation Bible School several years ago when the grandmothers of the church dressed in costume and had an actual quilting party during the VBS sessions.

(And yes, if you hadn’t already learned how to quilt from a mother or grandmother, the quilting party was the perfect place to learn. Quilts take a lot of work and the more hands you have, the sooner it will be finished!)

The quilt was then “quilted” with the pattern of stitches preferred in order to hold together the layers.

Of course I’m talking about the type of quilt that has a uniform pattern from one end to the other and sometimes even has a pattern to the color scheme. (My family’s rule was just don’t put two matching colors next to each other.) There are also quilts that are basically functional canvases for artwork — pictures and collages. In the movie “How To Make an American Quilt” each character makes their own quilt block with a personal story that fits an overall color scheme and the pieces are fitted together and quilted into a gift for a bride (pictured above).

These days quilts aren’t just for warmth or bed comforters. Beginning quilters will often start out making potholders or table runners to become more confident in their abilities before jumping into a larger, more time-consuming project.

And quilts don’t have to be the traditional blocked and patterned variety. Some quilts aren’t even pieced, but made from one large piece of fabric that is quilted in stitching only.

If you happen to be interested in taking up quilting, or would love to incorporate the warmth and art of a quilt into your home without the two-centuries-ago appeal, here are some ideas.

Quilts as Tablecloths

Quilt tablecloths would typically not have a thick batting in between the layers like a blanket (or even any backing at all, depending on the project) since you would want a hard, sturdy surface to put your food and drinks on.

MelanieO at A Sewing Journal featured several examples in her blog post “Inspired by: Quilts as Tablecloths.”

Quilts as Tablecloths by MelanieO - A Sewing Journal

Quilts as Tablecloths by MelanieO – A Sewing Journal

If you wanted the tablecloth to double as a picnic blanket you probably would want another layer of cloth to shield you from any dampness on the ground and to protect the top/pretty layer of the blanket from being soiled from the bottom up.

(Click the picture below to learn how to make an easy, do-it-yourself Bandana Quilt Tablecloth.)

Bandana Quilt Tablecloth Tutorial

Bandana Quilt Tablecloth Tutorial from Aesthetic Nest

A quilt used as a tablecloth could easily be transformed into something that matched your home design by using blocks of fabric that coordinated with your existing color scheme. The fun part is that you can get as creative as you want or have a lot of fun shopping for just the right quilt.

Quilted Table Accessories

By the Sea Reversible Coastal Table Linens from Touch of Class

By the Sea Reversible Coastal Table Linens from Touch of Class

I think I’m in love with these quilted place mats. The advantage of having quilted place mats is that they soak up more “juice” or liquid and hold it to preserve your tablecloth. After dinner they can be tossed into the wash. They also just feel more soft and lush.

There are some amazing handmade table runners on Etsy (< click the link to see!) that demonstrate that a quilted table runner doesn’t have to be “traditional” if you don’t want it to. Here is one of my favorites:

MarveLes CITY LIGHTS Art Quilt table runner by marveles on Etsy

MarveLes CITY LIGHTS Art Quilt table runner by marveles on Etsy

Accessories for You

The amazing thing about quilts is that they can look like anything, and be made into almost anything — from a cup cozy to an electronics case to a wall mural. They are functional, insulated, and beautiful art. You can customize them any way you want to be exactly what you want.

Here is an example of Coffee Cup Cozies – perfect for when that napkin or cardboard sleeve that is supposed to wrap your paper coffee cup just isn’t doing the job. These were made by Julie Comstock, who offers her pattern on her website for free. (Click the picture below to visit it.)

Coffee Cup Cozies by Julie Comstock (Free Pattern)

Coffee Cup Cozies by Julie Comstock (Free Pattern)

If you would rather just buy yourself a cute coffee cup cozy, click here to see the variety on Etsy.

Quilt handbags and purses (of the cloth variety) have enjoyed a time in the spotlight thanks to designers like Vera Bradley. Not all quilted bags are the traditional soft and puffy blanket type, and – as charming as it might be – they don’t have to look like they’re fresh from the farm. (I love those vintage quilted leather purses from decades past!)

Check out these awesome “Laurel Burch Mermaid Bags” from DiannaInEtsy, which can be used as jewelry bags or just a pretty decoration.

Laurel Burch Mermaid Bags

Laurel Burch Mermaid Bags

Or how about this gorgeous ‘Orola’ Quilted Tote from Ted Baker London…?

Ted Baker London 'Orola' Quilted Tote

Ted Baker London
‘Orola’ Quilted Tote

Another wonderful thing about quilts is that if you have a specific design in mind and you don’t have the time or even want to sew it yourself, there are plenty of quilters out there who will be happy to do your bidding, even if for a price.

Fall Pillow by Scrappy Threads

Fall Pillow by Scrappy Threads

A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit on the Rocks

Mug Style Mason Jar Drinking Glasses

I’ve seen a lot of these “drinking jars” lately. People have been seeking them for outdoor wedding centerpieces and quirky al fresco parties. They are sometimes labeled as “redneck” or “country” glassware and advertised as something to add “hillbilly fun” to your table or party. There is even a “country stemware” version in which a jar is glued to what basically looks like a glass taper candle holder to make a “redneck wine glass.” Despite their labeling, people everywhere are using them as quaint, quirky and simple, down-to-earth additions to their parties. The key to using them in a sophisticated way is to put something pretty in them!

Out in the wholesome country it might be all sweet iced tea and lemonade but add a bit of creativity and you can have some of the most très jolie (and fun) drinks on the block!

Of course iced tea and lemonade is always a touch prettier with lemon slices thrown into the pitcher or glass, but think about adding other fruits, frozen fruit, or colorful ice cubes! This works in water too — and the bonus is that fresh fruit always gives plain old water a little something special. Slide berries or pieces of fruit onto cocktail skewers and freeze them to serve double duty as flavor and chillers — or throw some fruit into your ice-cube tray to make these!

You absolutely have to check out these wildflower/floral ice cubes suggested by A Cup of Jo. You’ll find the How-To here.

Let’s not discount (a pun?) the frugal way out — add just a drop of liquid food coloring or use any “powdered soft drink” to add color to your ice cubes, water, or other beverage. Or, as Martha Stewart suggests, freeze some of the drink you plan to enjoy ahead of time, so that your cubes don’t water down your beverage.

But this post was supposed to have a bit more kick….

mitt-rumney-mojitoIn my opinion, Mojitos and Mint Juleps are gorgeous drinks and part of that is because they look so simple and refreshing!

Traditionally, Mojitos use pure cane sugar. You can easily find raw sugar cane swizzle sticks to garnish your drink (and I’m told they’re delicious) and if you want to give your drink a little twist and a little color, try making Black Cherry Mojitos!

Here’s an authentic Kentucky recipe for a Mint Julep from a well-known Louisville (home of the Kentucky Derby) restaurant. (If you are serving your Mint Juleps from traditional silver or pewter Mint Julep cups, it is customary to hold them at the very top or very bottom of the glass!)

Here is another of the most beautiful drinks I’ve ever seen. It has been circulated on Pinterest as “Paradise” but the Paradise is actually a “martini” that looks nothing like this.

Paradise?

This is actually layers of light rum, Malibu rum, blue curaçao, pineapple juice and grenadine.

And here’s one that is perfect for outdoor parties or weddings — High Street Market shared a recipe they found in Country Living in 2009 for a simple, homemade sangria. Basically, you use a bottle of white wine for every three cans of Fresca and add fresh fruit! Gorgeous!

Or how about a beautiful and fruity Frenchy? (Does it make you want to reach out and kiss someone?)

Of course something you can never go wrong with when you’re trying to make drinks pretty is bubbles! Champagne in itself is captivating but turn it into a Mimosa for the color factor. Bellinis are pretty cocktails that are traditionally made with peach puree and sparkling wine (but I’m partial to strawberry)!  Here’s a recipe for an Orange Blossom Gin Fizz, which I’ve never tried but it looks delicious! There’s also the “Cherry Moon” or “Dirty Shirley” — cherry vodka with lemon-lime soda and a bit of grenadine. And here’s an article of 10 Perfect Champagne Cocktails from Saveur. Add a slice of fruit, a sprig of mint, or a skewer of frozen fruit (as mentioned above) to any of these to make them look magnificent!

If you’re interest is piqued, there are more absolutely beautiful drinks pinned on Pinterest.

So where can you get the perfect jar to serve these lovely drinks in? Considering how popular they’ve become — even if only as conversation pieces — it won’t be hard. You could even just go buy regular canning jars from the supermarket or cooking supply store. However, if you’d rather have the “real deal” complete with a “handle,” here are some links:

6 Piece Country Folk Drinking Jar Set from Kitchen Kapers – $19.99

Personalized Glass Drinking Jars (Set of 4) from Nordstrom – $36.00

Jar Glasses on Etsy –  price varies depending on seller