Burlap Table Runner

I love summer...and sun...and being warm...and the lack of snow and weird, heavy clothing that I don't totally understand how to wear without looking like I've raided a Goodwill clearance bin. I just don't understand dressing for cold weather. I always tell people my favorite season is summer. Yup, that's me. I LOVE summer.

But truthfully- I have a deep dark secret...I've never admitted it fully in person and never out loud so that someone can hold me to my word...but if I'm totally honest, autumn is my favorite season.

In particular I love, love, love the crazy deep blue gray skies we have over golden harvest-ready fields here in the Midwest- they are absolutely ethereal. I miss my vast Texas skies like nobody's business but there's nothing like our autumn skies down there...ever. I love the smell of pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, chicken soup and eucalyptus all married together on a cool breeze coming in through my open windows. It's seriously a slice of heaven. If I didn't have serious anxiety out the looming winter on the horizon I'd be able to admit this deep, dark secret to other people...but if I say that out loud I'd probably need to breathe heavily into a paper bag.

All of that said I jumped on the chance to host my girlfriends' Recipe Club in October when the schedule came out last year. I knew out new house would be done and, assuming we stayed in Wisconsin, I would be unpacked, somewhat decorated and definitely knee-deep in autumn decor. We've been meeting once a month for probably almost a decade now. We've seen births, deaths, laughter and tears- we've had members come, go, move and come back. Over the years we've moved to a far more comfortable, casual setting but this month I really wanted to bring back the beauty of the set table. As I was laying in bed one morning (because that's where ALL of my good ideas come to me) I decided that I really wanted to go back to the days of utter panic to make sure our tables were perfect and magazine-worthy (OK, maybe not THAT crazy but still, some effort used to be put forth to really add that "wow" factor).

I had a vision and started to put it together. Being who I am, however, I was not going to just go to Marshalls, Michaels, Target, Hobby Lobby and a zillion other stores to make my table amazing. I certainly wasn't going to walk into Pottery Barn and drop $20 to $40 EACH on decorative pumpkins (especially when I wanted about 10 to scatter on the table- my husband would KILL me (not literally but there would be lots of questions for me as he drove me back to the mall to return it all) if I shelled out that kind of dough on "crap"). I wanted to do it on a budget (this will be a huge theme on this blog...my husband is an accountant/auditor/CFNo/controller...he likes money...in his own pocket). I wanted to prove that you don't have to go to Pottery Barn to make your table look like it came from a Pottery Barn catalog.

The foundation of my table needed to reflect the heart of my farmhouse. I wanted to go natural, cheap and have some good texture- rustic. The most obvious choice? Burlap, of course. Burlap is easy to find (Walmart), cheap (less than $3 a yard cheap) and versatile. I decided this would be the perfect foundation for my table- a burlap runner. Although there are tons of colors options available I went with the traditional, natural brown color. My biggest gripe about burlap is that it sheds all over EVERYTHING while you're working with it. You have to get over the fact that you have to make a mess to make something beautiful (and be careful not to get the little fibers in your eyes...little bastards).

I simply measured my table, added a bit to the ends for some overhang and cut away. I kept this runner fairly wide- about half the width of the table. I wanted this to have a substantial feel because recall- I'm bringing fancy back to Recipe Club- there needed to be some presence behind the base of my center design. Now, burlap has the nasty habit of unraveling like a sweater in a cartoon. This is easily remedied by a quick, wide zig-zag stitch around the edge. I tried not to go right up the very edge because if I wanted to get a string or two on the outside of the zig-zag to leave a little bit that 'unravels' to give a naturally frayed edge.
Once my edges were secured and the loose pieces picked and trimmed off I could have easily called this runner 'Done!' But did I do that? Oh no I did not! I went that extra mile, I did! I pulled out a stencil I had on hand (again, purchased at Walmart) and some nice cream paint. Because I'm a bit ADHD I knew I wouldn't be able to measure, plan, and manipulate the stencil to do the entire runner. I could have done it but I would have made it about a quarter of the way in and then I would have gotten bored, things would have gone crooked, the patterns would not have tessellated properly and I would have started swearing and getting all pissed off. One of the biggest things I think a person can know to make themselves successful (especially when creating) is to know their limitations and their Pissed Offedness Threshold. We'll come back to this later but my Pissed Offedness Threshold for baking is MUCH lower than it is for creating household items...LOADS of swearing, hopeless feelings and general irritability. Still, I knew that doing an entire 108" table runner's worth of stenciling was FAR beyond my patience level.

That said, I decided to just do a few stencils on the end of the runner- nothing perfect, not completely symmetrical (let's be honest- no one is going to bust out a ruler and level to check the perfect of a stenciled pattern on the ends of a runner (if they do I probably can't be friends with them anyhow). When stenciling on burlap be sure to have cardboard and/or aluminum foil under the burlap. Those little holes will let lots of paint seep through on your counter or table (see again: swearing and iSwear).
I also knew that because I'm lazy I would want to use this runner more than once. Putting pumpkins or leaves on it was out, first off because it's tacky and ugly (I will probably offend people a wee bit with some of my comments- it's not intentional, my filter is just broken) and secondly because it limits the usefulness of the project. I love making things and being creative but I don't like reinventing the wheel each time I need to decorate. The more "generic" you can make an item the more useful it will become (this could be cute during a summer BBQ on a picnic table, at Christmas during a cookie exchange or for a gift table at a bridal shower). This is what I call Multiple Personality Decor- make your time and items work for you.
This pretty much wraps up the burlap table runner- the foundation for my autumn table setting. I'm going to go piece by piece on each blog post chatting about the things that will make up my table. Next up are the pieces de resistance- the pumpkins...get...so...excited!!!!

Cheap & Chic Chick, who cannot wait to put this whole table together...


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