How To Make A Sweet Spring / Birthday Table Runner

I’m not a runner, but I can make one. I used to run track and cross country in middle school and high school. I actually ran a 5:09 mile once (with the help of some downhill portions of a course and the fact that I was like 80 lbs). It happened once and never again (I usually clocked in between 6:20 and 7:10). But those days are gone (due partially to an ankle injury but mostly to laziness). Now I only run when I’m being chased. Or when I lose track of the baby. But making a runner? That I can do. You guys actually got a sneak peek of my recent runner creation in this picture from Clara’s party:

And let me tell you, it was child’s play compared to my big quilt project (nothing like a little confidence-building quick & easy sewing project to get your sew-mentum up). Yes, I just made a sewing pun for my mom. Happy birthday Momma (it’s tomorrow)! Anyway, here’s how it went. First I sorted through all of the leftover fabrics from Clara’s weekly photo project and picked four that I liked together (for a sort of cheerful and happy-go-lucky mixed & matched effect).

Then I found a runner that I already owned (from Target a while back) and folded it into quarters so I would have an idea of the size of each of the four squares of fabric that I should cut out (so that when sewn together they would equal the approximate width and length of the runner that I already had). I left about an inch of overhang on all sides to account for seams, so it looked a little something like this:

And for some reason I like to over-share, so I’ll point out how insane I am about my “good scissors.” I actually wrote this message on them with Sharpie because I was sick of John using the good sharp ones to do something crazy like trim a thick branch outside or slice open some crazy-thick plastic package. Do you like how it specifically says “no John cuts”? I think it’s hilarious. That’s like Kate Gosselin level micro-managing right there. But it works. John won’t touch these scissors anymore. And I love you for that babe.

Anyway, next I ironed all of my four fabric rectangles so they weren’t all junky and wrinkled looking (they were already washed, btw, which is important to combat shrinkage – because nobody likes shrinkage).

Then I pinned each section together with the bad side facing out (which would create invisible seams – which are my favorite since they’re harder to mess up). Oh and to all of those who gave me the tip about pinning it perpendicular- I love it. I just somehow forgot so I’ll have to try that next time.

With it all pinned together it looked a little questionable for a while, but I (surprisingly) had faith that when I ironed and sewed those seams they’d look a lot less ganked up then they looked at the pinning stage of the game:

And sure enough, after a little bit of sewing things were looking a lot more promising. Who ever would have thought that me + sewing machine = something looking better than it did before. I’m telling you, this is serious growth for me as a person. I would have defined my relationship with sewing machines as tumultuous before this month. But times they are a changing. I might even have a tiny crush on Oh Brother.

Anyway, then it was time to iron down those seams from the back so they would lay nice and flat and look good from the front (as opposed to looking all bunched from the front like a big ol’ runner wedgie going on under the surface).

Then I ironed the outside seams on each end of the runner down to create the finished seams that would be seen from the front. I went straight to ironing because I was feeling gutsy (and didn’t feel like pinning the entire outside edge since the baby was about to wake up from her nap any minute and I was feeling all jumpy and why-the-heck-not about it)…

… and then sewed those two seams (these seams would show, which still kind of scares me but it wasn’t a big deal in the end- I just tried to go slow and steady and keep things nice and straight).

In about five minutes I had a nice tailored looking seam on both ends of my runner (without any pin usage – saweet). Then I had to deal with the unhemmed sides of the whole thing.

So I ironed them down too. I have to admit that not pinning felt good. Like I found some sort of shortcut to the next level in the video game of sewing.

Then I just slowly and carefully stitched around my ironed edges to create a nice neat hem around the outside of the rest of the runner. Aside from my bobbin running out halfway through (which pisses me off every time, I’m not gonna lie), it wasn’t annoying or frustrating. I was almost – dare I say it? – enjoying the process.

Cue the collective gasp.

Anyway, after making out with turning off my sewing machine and removing my freshly completed runner, I just ironed the whole thing again, just to make sure it was nice and tailored looking. Houston, we have a runner:

I hope to use it at lots of Clara parties to come. And probably for a bunch of other parties too- it’s just really happy and festive. It even looks kind of Easter-ish so it could work for a fun little egg dying party or something. Oh and the total cost = zero bucks (thanks to already having the fabric on hand). As for how long it took, I knocked it out in about 45 minutes to an hour. So it’s perfect for any beginners out there who want to kill me because they think I’m getting good at sewing. I’m not. I’m not even junior varsity. I’m the water boy of sewing. I don’t know the right terms for things, I make tons of mistakes as I go, but I’m telling you – just messing around until you end up with something you like is a surprisingly effective approach thus far. So take it as a sign that if a cursed sewing-machines-revolt-in-my-presence person like me can tackle some simple projects, you can do it too. Probably much better than I can.

Psst- Our baby-proofing adventures continue over on BabyCenter today. Can you handle the excitement?


  1. says

    I can already tell I’m going to love reading about all your future sewing endeavors! You are off to a great start using that machine of yours. It took me much longer to figure it out… Plus, it opens the blog up to a whole slew of other fancy fabric-related DIYs. Great job, Sherry!

  2. Angie says

    I LOVE that you are writing so many sewing machine related articles right now. I got a sewing machine for Christmas… 5 months on I’m still too afraid to use it! But after reading this I might be brave and tackle some of the projects on my to do list (maybe!).

  3. says

    I think you’re a little better than the water boy (although I did just get a flash of the Adam Sandler movie in my head)! You’re getting so good at sewing. It makes me wish I had a sewing maching. Kind of.

    I’m not there yet.

  4. Robin says

    I have a friend who had a very expensive pair of sewing shears that she wanted to prevent family members from borrowing (you know, to trim branches or — heaven help me — BONE A CHICKEN.)

    So she put a combination lock through the finger holes. Sure, family members could *admire* her very expensive shears, but like a chastity belt, it kept out those who were not authorized.

    • braelin says

      That just made me laugh out loud— chastity belt for keeping out those who are not authorized- love reading the comments on this blog almost as much as the posts themselves! :)

    • says

      Hilarious – I second that, Braelin.

      My hubby used my Tweezerman tweezers to open a cardboard box the other day (oy!). I may have to resort to your Sharpie note plan for those, Sherry! :)

    • Lisa says

      Yes, FINALLY a trick that might stop my less-than-careful partner. I was laughing approvingly about your writing on the scissors Sherry, but the lock is at a whole other level completely. A level I need!
      I’m just so happy there are people out there who are as careful (=anal) about their things as I am. My partner is the complete opposite, and after 10 years, I’m about an inch away from hiding EVERYTHING that he might misuse/damage/break/misplace/lose.

  5. Kim says

    Very cute, and looks pretty easy to tackle-I even think I could do it, and I have the non-sewing gene, too!

  6. says

    I love that you have found so many uses for the surplus of fabric. I await more creative posts of things like bean-shaped pillows and lamp shade covers for Clara’s room.

    BTW, your middle school athletic flash back cracked me up. I won the Presidential Fitness Award [headed up by pre-Gov’na’ Schwartzneger (sp?)] in the 6th grade for my mile time and got to meet two of the original American Gladiators. I’m not gonna lie, they were really scary. When I said “Yes, sir” to the woman (I think her name was Lazer) I thought she was going to knock my block off!

    • says

      Woah. That is hardcore and I bet everyone at your school was totally jealous. And a for the whole “sir” confusion, it’s 100% understandable.


  7. tara says

    I’m like you, I know nothing about the technical side of sewing, but I can cut a square or a rectangle and stitch things together. To date I’ve made countless place-mats,napkins, embellished flour sack towels, and an apron that ties around the waist . . . If I waited to learn all the “right” terms for things, I’d never have gotten started. My mom and my grandma both sew things like quilts and clothing – they know a lot. Bless their hearts, they act impressed that I just go for it without a pattern or the technical know-how. There is something to be said for creativity.

  8. says

    I notice you are pinning the wrong way. I find pinning perpendicular to your seam really helpful. It’s easy to take the pins out and you can sew right up to them. On the topic of pins I totally suggest upgrading to long pins with the ball of plastic on the end. They will make your life SO much easier especially now that you are graduating from beginning projects. The running totallly pulled the table together; way to go!

    • says

      Oh yeah, lots of you mentioned trying that when I posted about my quilt and I just had some sort of colossal brain fart and forgot to try it. Next time!


    • E.Lefebvre says

      I was going to say exactly the same thing! It’s really nice that way because you don’t have to pull the pins out as you sew (although it is good to slow down near them). And I second the long pins with a plastic ball at the end… so much easier to find, etc.

  9. Amy says

    Great job! I don’t think you can call yourself a beginner any longer. Have you sewn any clothing for Clara yet? Nothing like seeing your little love in something made with your own two hands! I was going to tell you that when you are pinning fabric together, if you place your pins perpendicular to the selvage, you can sew straight over them! Just a sewing lesson I’ve learned! Love your blog! Love your perspective and fun commentary!

    • says

      Well I made her that quilt and birthday banner, but not clothes yet. I’m working up to that since a lot of things involve elastic and snaps and zippers and all of that scary stuff. Haha. Oh and thanks for the perpendicular pinning tip! I heard that from a few others on my quilt post but I just somehow forgot to try it. Next time!


  10. Jennifer C. says

    Yes, I marked my “fabric scissors” too. It will totally ruin your scissors to use good fabric scissors on paper. (At least it will dull them, ever so slightly). But, you can get them sharpened at Joann’s and places like that. I recently got a serger from my Mother-In-Law. You think sewing machines are frustrating…it takes a good 20 minutes to thread that baby and then it’s not always serging right. But you’re right…I am also a “keep trying and you’ll figure it out and come out with something half way decent” kind of sewer!

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