Ideas for Thanksgiving and Beyond

The holiday of gratitude is upon us! One of my favorite parts of the holidays is decorating for the holidays! It really is a lot easier to transition from fall decorations to Christmas decorations if you consider Thanksgiving to be a transitional winter holiday — as in the colder season, not the literal season which doesn’t start until around Christmas. Winter decorations can stay up from Thanksgiving through spring, really. They’re meant to fill your house with warmth and cheer during the dark, cold months and usually involve things like berries, nuts, pinecones and evergreen branches … and, of course, warm, cozy, cheerful items and colors.

I love this idea that Sofia posted on Mokkasin last Christmas Eve. Light sleigh bells hung in front of a register, blower, fan, or on or near a door will bring a heartwarming, welcoming sound each time they’re stirred.

dageninnan

If you were to also hang a bundle of herbs or a sprig of mistletoe, it would make your home look as bountiful as it sounds cheerful!

My grandmother had an enormous table that could be lengthened from one end of the dining room to the other for family gatherings. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter the adults sat around it and passed food right to left after the traditional family prayer. Her table was fiercely protected with a pad and/or plastic tablecloths under the formal tablecloth. My great-grandmother had a similarly long dining room table and I think it is the memories of our family gatherings that make me desire a farm-style table.

This table was shared by Kristi on her blog Simple, Everyday, Glamour. I thought her table decorating was beautiful and could even inspire a table set for only a few people. It also reminds me of the pilgrim tables depicted in artists’ renditions of the first Thanksgiving. (Note the milk-jug style centerpieces.)

I love the idea of “thanks jars” as centerpieces, or across a mantle or counter. A Google search will provide countless examples of these used in various ways — from vases to votive holders. They are simple to make. Some are painted mason jars, some are decoupaged, some have letters cut out of pretty paper and tied or glued to the jar…. Here is one of my favorite examples, shared by Country Girl Gourmet.

thanks-votive-009

When my aunt started hosting Thanksgiving dinner a new tradition emerged. The table was covered with a plastic tablecloth and she left permanent markers in the center. Every year we would write the date and what we were thankful for on the tablecloth. In years following we would look back to the years before as if looking at a time capsule of our own lives and the dynamics of our family.

An alternative idea is a thankful tree, like this one shared by Emily Rose on Simply Vintage Girl. Hers is made from a bouquet of branches collected in a jar with paper tags hanging from them. (She also shares how to make a thankful tree with chalk ornaments on her blog.)

If you’re not interested in making your own paper tags, there are so many to choose from on Etsy — like these from TinHeartDesigns.

Tags by TinHeartDesigns on Etsy

If you are having a family gathering or dinner party for Thanksgiving, you can hand a tag out to each guest and have them add it to your shared thankful tree or make a garland with tags hung at intervals. You can keep the tags to display the next year or send them to your guests with greeting cards to remind them of both the time you shared and what they have to be thankful for. This example of tags comes from Southern Living.

thanks tags

The idea of stringing a list of blessings also comes from Southern Living. They suggest folding tabs over twine (glue the ends together so they don’t fall off!) and laying it along the center of the table. It could also be hung as a garland. For an even more rustic look you could use wooden clothespins and write on them with marker or use them to clasp your tags to the string.

Another idea I loved for decorating the Thanksgiving table was this collection of white pumpkins and vases. It is simplistic elegance!

tableidea

If you would like to duplicate this idea, I found the peacock figurine (or at least something very similar!) from Dwell Studio on Amazon.

This Aviva Vase from Crate and Barrel looks very gourd-like and would look nice next to a collection of white pumpkins.

aviva-vase

Or maybe this Juno Lacquer Bamboo Gourd Vase from Briers to compliment the collection?

briers vaseIf you would rather just use a pumpkin as a vase, Kari has shared a how-to for creating your own pumpkin vase on her blog, U Create. It isn’t a real pumpkin, but she explains everything! I think it is lovely!

ucreate pumpkinvase

And if you’re looking for more pumpkins, this stoneware white Pumpkin Squash Ramekin Bowl and white Pumpkin Gourd Salt and Pepper Shaker Set are available on Amazon.com. (Click the pictures to see the product details.)

The cute little pumpkin table accents could also be given as take-away gifts to guests if you don’t want to keep them for your own collection.

How about this so-simple idea from Glitter Guide? Why not take a gold or silver craft pen or marker (gold would show up better on the white pumpkin) and write in pretty scripted letters on your gourds or jars? Write words of thankfulness that can transition into the rest of the holiday season, or turn your decorations around to reveal new words like “joy” and “Noël” after Thanksgiving is over.

53C7057-copy

I also happened across the perfect wreath to compliment this Thanksgiving table that would last from fall through winter. Tia and Andrea a.k.a. Two Junk Chix made this snowball wreath to ring in 2013 and their blog explains exactly how they did it!

snowball1twojunkchix

However you choose to decorate your home and dining table for the holidays, I hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions. If you have your own ideas or suggestions, please be sure to share or link them in the comments. I will be adding more items I find to Pinterest, if you’d like to follow my discoveries!

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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