Monthly Archives: January 2013

DIY Fancy Flour Sack Tea Towel Tutorial | The Borrowed Abode

Stitch It: Embellished Flour Sack Towels

If you’re searching for an easy but appreciated DIY hostess gift, this fancy flour sack towel tutorial may be just the thing!

Because these can be made with or without a sewing machine, I thought they’d be the perfect first tutorial to share in the Stitch It series that I’ve been wanting to write for ages.

I whipped these up at Christmas as a gift, but if you just switch up the fabric, you can make these flour sack towels for any season or color palette.

DIY Fancy Flour Sack Tea Towel Tutorial | The Borrowed Abode

I didn’t take photos of the process because I was busy just trying to get them made – but I think it’s simple enough that you can follow these easy steps:

Materials Needed:

  • Flour sack towel
  • Cotton quilting fabric – at least 1″ wider than your flour sack towel
  • Pom-Pom Trim or other trim of your choice – at least 1″ wider than your flour sack towel
  • Iron-on hem tape
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine – OR – needle and thread

Let’s Get Stitching:

1.  Measure the width flour sack towel and cut a 5″ strip of patterned fabric that is at least 1″ wider than your flour sack towel.  For example:  My towels are 30″ wide, so I cut my patterned fabric strips at  31″ x 5″.

2.  Using the iron-on hem tape, adhere the fabric strip to the towel at the spot where you want it to go. Make sure you center the strip so that a 1/2 inch of fabric sticks out at each side of the towel.

  • Sewing Machine Version: I just use a few pieces of iron-on hem tape to help hold the strip in place for machine sewing.
  • No Sew Version: Use extra-strong hem tape to adhere all the edges. Iron on high heat with steam for best adhesion.  See photo below for where to use the tape.

Embellished Tea Towel Tutorial 2 | The Borrowed Abode

3.  Once the strip is adhered to the front, turn the towel over.  Fold the flaps of patterned fabric over and use more iron-on hem tape to adhere them to the back of the towel. Before I iron them on, I like to trim them to be nice and neat, just the width of the towel’s hem.  (See detail photo below.)

Embellished Tea Towels Back Side | The Borrowed Abode

4. Repeat this iron-on hem tape process to adhere the fun trim (pom-poms or whatever trim you choose) to the bottom edge of the towel. Don’t forget to fold over and trim the ends again.   Again, if you aren’t going to use a sewing machine, iron and steam this carefully to get a good adhesion.

5. Stitch it!

  • Sewing Machine Version:  Use a regular presser foot on your machine, and set the machine to a medium-width and length zig-zag or overlock stitch.  Sew along every edge of the patterned fabric to attach it well and prevent fraying.
  • No-Sew Version:  If you’ve used heavy-duty hem tape and have ironed it really well with steam, it technically should be fine.  However, I’d recommend threading a needle and just putting a simple running stitch along every edge.  This is easy to do while watching TV, etc.

6:  Iron it and admire your work!Embellished Tea Towels 4 | The Borrowed Abode

I hope you found this tutorial useful.  Please, if you have any questions or are confused, let me know in the comments below! I promise I’ll answer – if not today, within a few days. :)

New to sewing and wondering what supplies you need?  Check out my fabric bunting tutorial for a list of my must-have sewing supplies.

Exploring Kraft Azalea Garden in Winter Park, FL

When the conference ended on Thursday there was still a little daylight left, and I wanted to get some fresh (warm) air. I can’t stand being cooped up in a hotel.  I’d spotted the Kraft Azalea Garden on the map, and it was located at the edge of the large lake in Winter Park, only a few blocks from the restaurant I was returning to that night.

The garden, with its tall old trees draped in Spanish Moss, was much grander than I expected.

Kraft Azalea Garden Winter Park FL | The Borrowed Abode

It also looked incredibly peaceful as I arrived, but when I stepped out of the car there was such a racket coming from the trees above me.  I stood staring up at the trees, trying to find the source of the noise.  I saw nothing but branches, leaves, and moss.

Suddenly a majestic white bird swooped out of the trees and across the road.  And then I saw it:  the trees were filled with dozens of beautiful Snowy Egrets, all nesting and squabbling with each other.Kraft Azalea Garden Snowy Egret | The Borrowed Abode Kraft Azalea Garden Winter Park FL04

The birds were mesmerizing, and it amazed me how all the seemingly local visitors barely took a second look at them.

When I tore myself away from birdwatching to wander through the other 5 acres, it was such a treat to see azalea bushes blooming in the middle of winter, and even more fun to see them juxtaposed against the Spanish moss that covered everything.

Kraft Azalea Garden Winter Park FL02Sunset was approaching and the light was phenomenal; everything seemed to be glowing.Kraft Azalea Garden Winter Park FL03At the end of my visit I was treated to a close-up peek at one of the birds.  It was gathering a twig from the ground, then flying it up to add to the nest.

Snowy Egret Kraft Azalea Garden | The Borrowed Abode

Once it landed in the nest (last photo above), I watched as the bird carefully jabbed the stick against the others, trying it over and over, until he had woven it around the other branches just right.

Watching the bird’s movements and multiple attempts, I became aware of just how hard he was thinking as he worked to build his nest.  I think sometimes we forget just how intelligent other creatures are.

(If you want to see more of these amazing birds, check out this gallery of the Great White Egret Chicks!)

Small Business Homework From a Stranger at a Bar

Wednesday night, while on business travel in the suburbs of Orlando, I headed to the town of Winter Park to find an interesting meal.

My meal at the bar of Prato ended up coming with a surprise side order of much-needed business advice and two homework assignments.

Small Business Homework | The Borrowed Abode

I got talking with another customer and was intrigued to learn he was a real estate developer and restaurant owner.  Real estate isn’t really my thing, but because I love talking to business owners and asking a million questions, we talked business, and eventually discussed my grand plan for Janery.

Upon his asking me to describe my mission and products in one sentence, I totally froze, and gave him the Most Boring Tagline Ever:  I make durable and decorative dog beds.


Seriously, my friends, I know better than to freeze like that. I also know the importance of an elevator speech. And so I was embarrassed when he spit my company’s mission statement back at me, in a much more polished, professional, and elegant manner.

Every week at my “day job” I meet small business owners, many of whom can’t elegantly describe their business in 1-2 sentences.  I unofficially coach them to work on this, I know the importance of presenting your business well, so how is it that I’ve failed to do this for myself?

My first homework assignment of the night was clear:  Perfect my elevator speech; both the one-sentence version and the longer, 30-second one.

But the homework didn’t stop there.

The man went on to ask “so how long have you been working on your business?”  

When I answered 3 years, and said I was having trouble finding US factories so that I could execute the wholesale part of my plan, he gave me a hard time again. I don’t remember how exactly he said it, but I do remember the essence: He told me that I needed to stop wasting time playing at business  and focus instead on actually doing business, by hiring some help already.

I argued (hopefully politely) with him at first.  I was really put off by a stranger daring to suggest that I was wasting time or making excuses rather than executing.  No one who pours their energy into a new business wants to hear they haven’t been focusing on the right things, but as he and I talked more, my ego recovered and I realized he was absolutely right.

I’ve said exactly the same thing to other business owners.  Why didn’t I see that I was falling into the trap myself?

Several times I’ve considered hiring a seamstress or two on a contract basis, but I never followed through with it, and frustration ensued.  I always had an excuse for why I wasn’t ready.

As I answered this stranger’s questions at the bar, I started to see what he was already seeing.  I was ready to take the next step.  Yes, I do have a prototype.  Yes, I have sold my pet beds successfully.  Yes, I have identified marketing opportunities.  Yes, I know there is a demand for my product because I know the market and have spent years analyzing it.

So what was I waiting for?  Why hadn’t I put an ad on Craigslist to hire help?

The answer was simple:  I was letting fear of the unknown and fear of failure stop me.  It’s funny how those little apprehensive voices in the back of your head can keep you from taking the next steps to grow your business.

With that, my second homework assignment was set:  Stop making excuses, and hire help now.

Back in the hotel later that night, I worked through all the “worst case scenarios.”  I always suggest doing this when you’re fearful about taking a new step.

When you intelligently work through your worst case scenarios, the big scary goal starts to look achievable. 

Then I compared existing seamstress ads on Craigslist, and wrote my own.  It was so easy to do that I found myself thinking “why on earth did I wait this long?

Regardless, I’m finally making headway with it, and all thanks to a kick-in-the-pants from a stranger in a bar.  As we parted ways and I thanked him for the great conversation, he challenged me to beat him to finding a factory as well.  Two hours later he emailed me a potential factory contact, but that was one challenge I was happy to lose.

So if you’re still reading, here is my homework for you:  If you’re trying to start or grow a business, get out there and talk to people.  Be curious about their stories.  You will learn so much, and not just from people in your niche.

And as the stranger said in his email to me:

“I am 51.  I only know this stuff because people shared their knowledge with me.  Pay me back by paying it forward.”

Helping others grow or start their businesses?  That’s something I’ve always done, and always will do.

Is there anything that maybe you need a shove with?  Let’s chat about it and help encourage each other in the comments!

Dining Room Art Wall Dilemma: Prints or Paintings?

I’m rethinking my approach to the gallery wall in our dining room/kitchen area.  Here’s why:

The dining/living/kitchen area is all open and flow-y.  Or something like that. And that’s why I’m starting to think that the art that goes on one of the two dining area walls should fit the same style as the rest of that are.

For example, on the living room wall we have two paintings, one of which is this:

Living Room Oil Painting Corner | The Borrowed Abode

And if you continue down that wall to the dining area, we have a moody Ships at Sea painting which I picked up at Just L, our favorite mid-century modern shop, during the minimoon.  I am absolutely in love with both of these paintings.

Dining Room Painting Ships | The Borrowed Abode

So with that in mind, I think it might be too random and clashing to have the opposite dining room wall display a growing gallery of random modern art prints and photos, framed in plain white frames.

Dining Room Beginning Art Gallery Wall | The Borrowed Abode

The photo above shows the current state of the wall (I just spackled all the holes in preparation for refreshing the paint).

If we continue that white frame wall over to the island, that’s going to be a heck of a lot of white on that wall.  I feel like it may just look boring.  I don’t like boring.

Random old paintings, however, in funky ridiculous old lady frames, however, may add a little more fun to the wall while blending better with the rest of the art we have in the entertaining spaces of the first floor.

Here’s some of what I’m loving, via Etsy, right now:

1.  This Moulin Rouge oil painting via Shop on Sherman at Etsy.  But at $190 it’s a little more than I think we’d like to spend right now. The style is so much like the Italian painting in our living room.

Moulin Rouge Oil Painting via ShopOnSherman on Etsy

This set of two miniature Dutch Oil Paintings via LittleBearandBunny on Etsy.  I am really craving some miniature sets of paintings right now, I have no idea why.

Miniature Dutch Oil Paintings

With this in mind, I’m actually wondering if I could mix some older, classical-style paintings with some of our more modern art prints that we love, such as the Washington DC print in our kitchen photo above.

What do you think?  If I popped the pop art into some old Granny style frames, would that help it all come together as a cohesive collection?  Or do I need to pick one style – prints or old paintings?

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