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Pretty Decorating Touches You Make Yourself

You'll be amazed at what you can make with dish towels, pillowcases, and placemats. It's like magic!

Photography & Text by Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

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Dish towel craft
Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil
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Magic with Dish Towels

If you're like us, you find it challenging to pass by a pretty floral pillowcase or a great graphic dish towel—even if you already have more than you need! So many of today's linens are gorgeous and well-designed, they're just too good to pass up. Well, now you don't have to. We've come up with some crafty ways to turn those textiles into something terrific—and useful!

Dish towels, for example, are perfect for no-sew projects. The edges are already hemmed and the fabrics can be fabulous. Plus, some have embroidery, beading, and appliqués. Of course, you can make a quick apron by attaching a sash to the top of a tea towel or fashion a tote bag by gluing the sides of two towels together and adding a strap (let someone else dry the dishes!). But we've also come up with three more ideas for that next irresistible patterned dish towel.

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Dish Towel Idea #1: Napkin Bling

Today's tea towels have darling details, from scalloped eyelet lace to rows of hand-sewn pearls. Take advantage of these elegant embellishments by showcasing them in small home accents, like napkin rings. To make each ring, cut the adorned sections off a tea towel using pinking shears. Layer the pieces and glue them together with Fabri-Tac, adding a ribbon along the back. Wrap around a napkin and tie in a bow. You can make a set of four from the same dish towel!

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Dish Towel Idea #2: Curtain Call

Dish towels, with their airy fabric and extra frills, are only steps away from being café curtains! Start by measuring the length of your window. Shorten your dish towel by cutting off the undecorated end. Fold the top over two inches and iron it down with Steam-A-Seam to create a pocket for the hanging rod. Make as many panels as you need, but two panels are usually enough. If your window didn't come with hardware, use a tension rod to hang your cute curtains.

Cute curtain creations aren't just limited to windows, either. We used them on this little dresser.

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Dish Towel Idea #3: Easy Chair

Make over a flea market chair with a Boho tea towel. Simply cut the decoration from the bottom, leaving enough material to cover your chair. Remove the seat and stretch the dish towel over the cushion. Use a staple gun to attach it underneath. Replace the seat and secure with screws. Wondering what to do with the leftover trim? Jazz up a throw pillow or guest towels!

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Magic with Pillowcases

A pillowcase with a bold printed image is much more than bedding—it's a soft piece of cotton with contemporary style. Unlike bolts of regular fabric with repeating patterns, many pillowcases have asymmetric designs with artsy composition. The cloth also tears nicely, for a shabby chic handmade effect.

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Pillowcase Idea #1: Pretty Pinup

Cover a bulletin board with a lovely pillowcase, and your daily memos will go from blah to ooh-la-la! Choose a sham with a large single design. Measure the cork surface and cut the pillowcase to fit. Glue the edges with Fabri-Tac, then tack on a border of ribbon using Steam-A-Seam. (Why didn't we use spray adhesive, you ask? It would gum up our pushpins!)

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Pillowcase Idea #2: Night Light

Give a plain lampshade artistic flair with playful strips of colorful fabric. Rip a pillowcase into a few dozen two-inch-wide lengths. Wrap each one around the lampshade and tie in a knot. You can arrange the knots at the center of the shade to make funky pleats, or move them to the bottom to create fringe. Who would have guessed it was made with a pillowcase?

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Pillowcase Idea #3: Luxury Liner

Need a simple storage solution with a polished look? Then line a wicker basket with a modern pillowcase! Lay the pillow cover in the basket and bring the edges up and over the sides. Tie a satin bow at each corner to hold the material in place. Fill the lined bin with hand towels and washcloths, or use it to store hats and scarves in your dressing area.

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Magic with Placemats

Cloth placemats have a lot of features to charm a crafter. Besides being trendy and stylish, the hemmed edges give any project a professional finish. You can buy a single placemat or combine several into one creation. And they are often reversible, giving you two looks in one.

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Placemat Idea #1: Hot Pocket

When can a placemat help you get organized? When you turn it into a pocketed wall caddy. Just fold a placemat in half then flip the end over. Iron vertical strips of Steam-A-Seam on the inside to form pockets. Sew a button at the top of each divider to reinforce the seams. Add two grommets so you can hang it over your desk. Staying tidy never looked so smart.

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Placemat Idea #2: Pillow Pairs

Liven up the living room with pillows that mix and match. Start with a two-sided placemat with sewn seams. Make a two-inch opening in the hem with a seam ripper and stuff the inside with polyester fiberfill. Use an iron and Steam-A-Seam to re-close the hem. Sew on big buttons as a finishing touch.

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Placemat Idea #3: Runner

Delight dinner guests with a runner made of vibrant placemats. Line up four end to end. Connect them by gluing wide grosgrain over the joints followed by a thinner ribbon for interest. Glue the ribbons on the backside and your runner will be reversible!

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