Last week I began a Christmas-present project, some handmade napkins for my mom. I decided I wanted to make something that would go with her lovely, silver-rimmed china and some delicate, hand-painted wine glasses. I bought a cream-colored tablecloth, which I thought the china and glasses would look nice on, in a dressed-up sort of way, and took myself off to the fabric store. I came home from the there with no clear direction (see above).
Thanks to Cynthia’s comment on that post, I decided over the weekend to keep it simple. I thought I would choose a solid gray linen and back it with a pretty floral fabric. Perhaps I would embroider one single flower on each one.
But then, another direction appeared over the weekend. I spent part of the rainiest Halloween weekend in recent memory at the library, where I found an Alicia Paulson embroidery book:
(Not familiar with Portland writer/crafter/dreamworld maker Alicia Paulson? Her Posie Gets Cozy makes me want to do nothing but sit in front of a fire with a lapful of yarn and fabric.)
I was struck by these curtains:
Such easy design–use the pattern of a fabric as a starting point and embellish it with embroidery floss. Sort of like this inspiration shot I shared earlier, but even simpler:
Perhaps, I thought, when I returned to the fabric store I would find a fabric with a pattern and know just what to add to it to make it as sweet as Paulson’s curtains.
When I returned to the fabric store, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. For once, I gave myself lots of time to stay there and explore. I pushed a cart around, and I put anything that was a serious contender into it.
Over the course of two hours I went quite a ways down at least three different roads before I finally chose one:
This road required me to abandon my original destination. The project is not going to end at a table appointed with a high thread-count cloth, fine china and delicate glasses. (In fact, the table cloth has already been returned.)
It is going to end at a colorful, humble table–one that feels much more like my mom to me. These napkins will be right at home with her everyday dishes, and I think cloth napkins can be an everyday thing, too. (They are at our house.)
I have to say, I resisted this road. I really wanted my original destination to be the one. But I kept turning away from the fabrics that would take me there. Isn’t so much of life like that? We think we know exactly where we should go, but we often find ourselves making choices that don’t take us there. It’s like we can’t help it. (Maybe we can’t.)
I still don’t know exactly how this is going to turn out. At one point in the afternoon, I had a cart full of coordinating fabrics. I envisioned the backs of the napkins in an assortment of colors and patterns:
But then I got frustrated trying to figure out exactly how much of each fabric I needed, and it seemed there would be more waste with the assortment (and fabric isn’t cheap!). So I settled on using the green for all of them. I did, though, use the other fabrics to help me find shades of embroidery floss to use on the black-and-white print.
When I got home, I made a photocopy of the black-and-white fabric so I could experiment with designs. (Our printer is also a copier and scanner. So nice to have those options at home.)
I got out my Sharpies and went to town:
I also folded the paper so I could see how a napkin might look when folded on the table. That was really helpful. I’d imagined there would be more in a row of flowers showing than there really are.
At this point, I think I need to cut out the fabric and see what a napkin will really look like. And then I need to do some practice/experiment flowers on some scrap fabric. I’m still not sure where this project will end up, but as is true with many big(ish) undertakings, you don’t need to know every step in advance. You just need to figure out the right next step.
Any suggestions are much appreciated–even if they take me in another direction! 🙂