Martha Stewart: Toss your old pillow notions in favor of reversible mixed fabrics

Posted: May 06, 2011

SUMMER IS on the way and that's a reason to celebrate. Here are some "Good Things" to help you do it.

Custom cushions

Summertime calls for a playful approach to decorating. So mix - don't match - fabrics to create reversible pillows that you won't find on anyone else's sofa. A quick flip is all it takes to change your look, and you can do it as often as you change your mind. Just a yard each of three fabrics can make three 16-inch and three 18-inch pillows. Use fabrics in similar weights; pair them in different combinations.

For each pillow, cut two same-size pieces of fabric 1 inch longer and wider than you want the finished pillow to be. With right sides facing, stitch edges with a 1/2-inch seam allowance, leaving an opening to insert pillow. Turn right side out, insert pillow and stitch shut by hand.

If you're unsure about combining fabrics without clashing, start with a solid and then add one floral and one graphic print that pick up on that color.

BUILT-IN BOUQUET: Think of this as no-decorating decorating: Dress up your favorite Bundt cake with a bouquet in the center. Choose dainty nontoxic flowers such as muscari, brodiaea or bupleurum. Cut the stems short, and arrange them in a glass that fits in the center of your cake.

PLANT SWATCH: The next time you make a trip to the nursery to fill a gap in your garden, take along a bundle of clippings from the surrounding bed (bind the stems with a piece of twine). Having samples of your plants will help you choose new flora that fits right in.

ALL DOILIED UP: Transform traditional doilies with a dip in dye. The color makes their lacy patterns look fresh and modern.

Uncoated doilies absorb the most color; coated ones take on subtler hues. Start with a light dye bath, and make it more intense if you like. Experiment a bit – half the fun is seeing all the beautiful shades you can make.

Dyeing can be done in just four easy steps. First, fill a wide, shallow bowl with water, and add several drops of food coloring. Wearing rubber gloves, quickly dip a doily in the dye bath (it won't hold up if left in too long); remove it carefully using both hands. Lay flat on paper towels, and blot to speed drying and reduce splotching. If doilies dry wrinkled, press them with an iron set on low heat.

Use the doilies to line plates of sweets, or turn them into gift-wrap. Even Granny would approve.

Wrap: Start with a box wrapped in white paper or treats rolled in parchment. Trim doilies to size, and attach them to the packages with double-sided tape or a glue stick. Tie with ribbon or waxed twine.

Fold: Fill a small cellophane bag with candies. Seal the top with double-sided tape, and then fold a doily over it, securing with another piece of tape. Finish with ribbon or waxed twine in the same color as the doily.

Cut and layer: Place candy in a glassine envelope. Trim a doily so that only the center remains. Then place it over a larger doily in another tint, and tie both to the package.

COOL AID: Instead of watering down your drink with ice cubes that are destined to melt, give the entire vessel its own ice bucket. Slip one glass container inside another, and put the ice between them. The effect is dramatic and guarantees that your punch retains its punch.

PACKAGE DEAL: Don't throw out the foam peanuts or bubble packing material the next time you get a box in the mail; put them to use. When filling outdoor planters, place the packing material in a plastic bag at the bottom of the pot (subbing it for up to half the soil). The plant won't know the difference, the container will be lighter, and you'll save on soil.

FRESH CATCH: Seafood needs to be kept well chilled until the moment you cook it. If you're tight on fridge space or want to bring your fish or shrimp to the grill a few minutes in advance, here's how to keep it cool: Fill a shallow pan with ice. Cover with plastic wrap, place the seafood on top, and cover with more wrap.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by email to:

mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

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