Instant Decorating Upgrades With Old Linens
Recycle Pillow Shams Into Place Mats
What you need: Boudoir-size pillow shams (usually 12 by 16 inches).
What you do: Nothing―the simplest project ever. Boudoir shams will cover much of the table when used this way, so you can skip a tablecloth.
Also works with: Napkins and dish towels. For a French-bistro effect, use a king-size sham draped across the table, with place settings at opposite ends of the sham.
Recycle a Tablecloth Into a Seat Cover
The tablecloth's floral pattern is not quite bold enough to mask wine stains, testaments to happy times spent around the dinner table. But you can preserve the memories by using the unblemished parts of the cloth to reupholster the pop-up seats of dining-room or occasional chairs. If there isn't enough fabric for all your chairs, re-cover only the armchairs at the ends of the table.
Note: Before beginning, make sure that the seat pops out with the removal of a few screws. If the upholstery is attached to the chair frame and not to the underside of the pop-up seat, this project is not for you.
What you need: A tablecloth, scissors, a screwdriver, a staple gun, and ¼-inch staples.
What you do:
1. Remove the seat cushion and place it upside down on the wrong side of the tablecloth (be sure to position it so that stained sections of the cloth won't show on the finished seat).
2. Cut around the seat, leaving a three-inch border on all sides.
3. Fold the fabric over, as if wrapping a present, and attach it to the seat with staples placed one inch apart.
4. Pop the seat back into the chair.
Also works with: Linen sheets, tea towels, fabric remnants, even a favorite (now lipstick-stained) scarf.
Upholster a Headboard With an Old Quilt
What you need: A quilt, a piece of ¾-inch plywood four feet tall and as wide as your bed (twin, 39 inches; full, 54 inches; queen, 60 inches; king, 76 inches), two 2-by-3-by-40-inch pieces of wood, scissors, a staple gun, ¼-inch staples, a drill, and four two-inch screws.
What you do:
1. Spread the quilt right-side down on the floor, first noting damaged areas you don't want to show later. Place the plywood on top, avoiding those areas. Cut the fabric, leaving a four-inch border around the panel.
2. Attach the fabric to the plywood with staples about three inches apart. Do one side, then (pulling the fabric taut) the opposite side, then the remaining sides.
3. For each two-by-three, on the wide side drill two ½-inch-deep holes, 4 and 10 inches, respectively, from one end.
4. Position the two-by-threes about six inches in from each short edge of the plywood and extending about 24 inches beyond the bottom of the headboard. Secure the pieces with the screws in the drilled holes.
5. Prop the headboard against the wall and push the bed against it.
Also works with: Matelassé coverlets and thick blankets.
Turn a Dish Towel Into an Apron
What you need: An oversize dish towel, two yard-long pieces of ribbon (to accommodate any size body), two big buttons, scissors, a needle, and thread.
What you do:
1. On the best side of the dish towel, sew a button to each corner of one long side.
2. Tie a piece of ribbon around each button, leaving a little tail. This will make it easy to remove the ribbons before washing the apron, which will keep them from unraveling.
3. To wear the apron, wrap the ribbons around your waist as many times as necessary and tie a bow.
Also works with: Linen tea towels and powder-room hand towels.
Turn Beach Towels Into a Shower Curtain
What you need: Two beach towels and 14 clip-on drapery rings from Umbra. Note: Made of nickel-plate rather than stainless steel, the clips will eventually rust in a bathroom, but they're inexpensive ($8 for seven, umbra.com) and a lot easier than attaching grommets for standard rings.
What you do:
1. Along one short end of each towel, clip on the drapery rings about five inches apart.
2. Remove the curtain rod and slip it through the rings, then reinstall it. More decorative than functional, the towels should stay outside the tub. You'll need a plastic or nylon liner to keep your bathroom out of hot water when you shower.
Also works with: Sheets and tablecloths.
Make a Dog Toy Out of Dish Towels
What you need: Three laundered dish towels and scissors.
What you do:
1. Cut an inch-wide strip from one short end each of two towels.
2. Bunch together the three towels and firmly tie one strip around an end to join them. Tightly braid the towels, then tie the other end with the second strip.
Also works with: Napkins and orphan socks, for smaller pooches.
Turn an Old Pillowcase Into a Smock
- What you need: A pillowcase, two 16-inch pieces of ribbon, scissors, a pencil, and a ruler.
- What you do:
- 1. For the neck hole, cut a shallow scoop (about 10 inches long and 2 inches deep at its center) from the middle of the closed top edge of the pillowcase. Make sure your child's head fits through the hole, and adjust if necessary.
- 2. For the armholes, cut another shallow scoop (about 5½ inches long and ½ inch deep at its center) from each long edge of the pillowcase, starting an inch or so below the top edge.
- 3. Thread a piece of ribbon into each armhole and out the neck. Tie bows, gathering the fabric a bit. More than a decorative touch, the ribbons will help keep the smock from slipping off your child's shoulders.
- Also works with: Two bath towels. Just add a few simple sewing steps, or use the button technique from the apron project.
Convert a Coverlet Into a Slipcover
You could buy an ill-fitting, generic slipcover for your sofa. Or you could enlist a coverlet you actually like, but perhaps no longer use, to hide a stained or torn couch, upgrade a dull one, or just change the mood of the room.
What you need: A coverlet (a king-size one works best for a standard seven-foot sofa), a wooden spoon, and six large safety pins. Bedding with decorative edges adds a finished look; fringed, scalloped, and embroidered coverlets work especially well.
What you do:
1. Center the coverlet on the sofa, leaving at least three inches of fabric puddling on the floor in front to allow for tucking.
2. Use the spoon to smooth and tuck the coverlet between the cushions. The deeper you tuck, the less likely it is to come undone when you sit on it.
3. For a standard roll arm, fold back the excess material at the front edges of the sofa and pin it underneath so the pins are hidden.
Also works with: Sheets and blankets for a quick, in-a-pinch cover-up of stains or pet hair.
Recycle Linen Napkins Into Photo-Album Covers
What you need: An ironed napkin, ½-inch-wide ribbon (measure the album's four sides and get a piece of ribbon that's slightly longer), scissors, and craft glue.
What you do:
1. Place the napkin right-side down. Lay the photo album open on top and cut around it, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides.
2. Apply small dots of glue across one long edge of the album's paper lining. Fold the adjacent fabric over it, then press for a minute or so until the bond sets. Repeat with the other edges. Note: Don't pull the fabric too tightly or the album won't close easily.
3. For a clean finish and to cover any imperfections, add a hemlike strip of ribbon where the fabric's edge meets the paper lining. Cut pieces of ribbon to fit the four sides, clipping the ends of the short pieces at a 45-degree angle to create neat corners. Use dots of glue to attach the long pieces so they're flush with the ends of the book. Then attach the short pieces.
Also works with: Tea towels, tablecloths, and sheets with playful patterns, for covering other kinds of books, including binders and datebooks.
Recycle Linen Napkins Into Coasters
Inevitably, napkins get one coffee or spaghetti-sauce stain that forever bans them from company (if not family) dinner tables. Salvage the good parts by cutting them up into a set of coasters.
What you need: Napkins, a yard or less of felt (depending on how many coasters you're making) in a complementary color, pinking shears, a ruler, a pencil, and fabric glue.
What you do:
1. Draw a 5½-inch square on the back of a napkin.
2. Place the napkin right-side down on top of the felt. With the pinking shears, slowly cut through both pieces of fabric along the lines you've drawn. Note: Cutting slowly will help keep the pinked edges crisp (pinking also keeps cloth from unraveling).
3. Apply dots of glue to all edges of the felt piece, then make an X of glue dots from the edges through the center.
4. Place the napkin piece right-side up on top of the felt, and press all along the glue lines. Let dry for 24 hours. Don't wash the coaster for a week, and air-dry.
Also works with: Any tablecloth, flat-weave dish towel, or place mat with a little heft to it.