Treasure Hunt Collecting Today

The Victorian love of gadgets and bibelots coupled with a passion for all things Scottish fueled the development of tartanware. Made in Scotland, the souvenirs were decorated with Scottish plaids, or clan tartans. These charming 19th-century souvenirs–which range from snuff, boxes to thread winders–are prized by collectors in the United Kingdom and the United States. According to Sir Alasdair T. Munro, a Vermont-based collector and dealer of tartanware, aficionados are drawn to tartanware both for the delightful plaids–more than 60 patterns were used–as well as for the intriguing objects decorated with tartan.

Tartanware first appeared in the early 1800s as a decoration for wooden boxes used to hold snuff, or powdered tobacco. The Scots were particularly adept at creating boxes out of sycamore wood that would keep the snuff dry. One of the finest makers was the firm of John and James Smith, founded in 1810 in Mauchline, near Ayrshire. Over the next century, the Smith brothers came to be the dominant name in tartanware. (Tartanware falls under the umbrella name of Mauchlineware, which includes other small wooden objects decorated in different fashions.)

Like all good marketers, the Smiths wanted to make their product distinctive. Tartans, so classically Scottish, seemed the obvious choice. The first snuff boxes were ornamented with hand-painted tartan. To speed the process, the Smith brothers invented an ingenious machine of multiple inking pens that created tartan patterns on paper. The paper was glued to the wooden object. To hide the inevitable folds (or joins) in the papers, especially when they covered curves, artists would paint over the joins with gold wavy lines. The entire object was then coated with as many as 36 coats of varnish by teams of young boys. Just as the habit of taking snuff began to die out, Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, turned Scotland into a popular English holiday destination. In 1850, the couple bought Balmoral Castle and transformed tartans into a fashion statement. Where the royals led, the rest of English society followed.

The Smiths and other firms responded by making tartanware souvenirs for vacationers to bring home. Tartanware branched out to include clever sewing items–spool holders, needle cases, thimble boxes, and thread winders. "Go-to-beds"–match safes that would hold a single match to light the way to bed–also were common.

Many collectors seek out categories such as sewing objects, books, and games. Others search for particular shapes, such as whiskey bottles or eggs; some amass articles related to an activity such as writing, and search for blotters, pens, pen trays, and inkwells. Yet others collect specific tartans, a task made easier by makers who labeled the tartan name on each object. "Many people make a special effort to look for their family tartan," explains Alasdair Munro. Twenty percent of all Americans have Scottish ancestry. Although tartanware objects are generally small and only cost a few shillings when sold in the 1800s, they are no longer inexpensive.

Prices are determined by rarity as well as condition. Some objects are especially unusual, as are some tartans. Napkin rings are probably the most readily found. Patricia Funt, owner of Patricia Funt Antiques in New Canaan, Connecticut, sells tartanware napkin rings for $75; 10 years ago she sold them for $30. "There’s not much tartanware for under $100," she says.

"Needle cases and thimble holders– the next most common tartanware articles–cost between $200 and $400," says Munro. The most unusual tartanware objects claim prices in the thousands of dollars. Funt has a tartanware box filled with many smaller snuff boxes, each covered in a different tartan. "That would cost around $5,000," she says.

With prices like these, fakes are inevitable. True tartanware is hardy and well made. If you detect folds in the tartan paper over the object, it is probably not genuine tartanware. Many fakes are not finished with gold wavy lines. Look also for the toughness and patina that comes from countless coats of varnish.

"Most pieces were so well made and so well finished with varnish, they look new," says Munro. He once found a small, rectangular box with a hinged lid that had 116 tartan game counters (poker chips). "They had been used so much that it took me all day to clean off the finger grease," he recalls. "But not one of them was chipped."

There is no way of knowing the limit and kinds of the tartanware made. A devastating fire in 1933 destroyed the Smiths’ factory and all their records. "With most areas of collecting, there are documents that show exactly how many pieces were made and the different types," says Munro. "Not with tartan. No one knows how much is out there and what it all looks like." For many collectors, it’s a mystery worth pursuing.

Reference books about tartanware include: Tunbridge and Scottish Souvenir Woodware by Edward H. Pinto; London: G. Bell & Sons, 1970; and a softcover publication, Mauchline Ware by John Baker, Princess Risborough, England: Shire Publications, 1985. Both are out-of-print, but copies may be sought through art or hard-to-find book dealers, or through Internet bookfinders such as amazon.com, or alibris.com.

Wisconsin Pottery

If a Colonial potter walked into my shop, the only substantive differences he’d find would be electricity and the wage scale," says Joel Huntley, co-founder of Wisconsin Pottery, a Columbus, Wisconsin-based studio that produces traditional, aged redware inspired by 17th- and 18th-century designs. "The materials, hand tools, and decorative techniques have pretty much remained unchanged for the past 200 years or so.

For the past 16 years, Joel, and his wife, Debra, have been making and marketing traditional earthenware plates, bowls, and jugs-former staples of Colonial kitchens and taverns. "Redware was basically the crockery of the common man," he says, explaining that the durable glazed pottery derives its name from the reddish hue produced by the mineral-rich clay after it has been fired. "It was the stuff they used every day. The red iron oxide in the clay gives it its distinctive Color." Originally intended for everything from storing spices to serving food, the utilitarian pieces often were decorated with designs in black or yellow slip–a creamy blend of clay and water that was applied before firing.

Joel’s appreciation for the humble earthenware began in 1975, when he enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute to study pottery and art history. After two years, he headed for England and was offered an apprenticeship in a small country pottery that produced simple domestic crockery. "I started out throwing small pots and doing all the grunt jobs, for roughly $80 dollars a week," he says. "But I was finally a potter and working with my hands."

Two years later, he returned to the Chicago area and married Debra, a drama teacher, who encouraged him to pursue his calling full time. Shortly afterward, the couple moved to Wisconsin where Joel worked as a housepainter but continued to throw pots "when I wasn’t painting, mostly at night in a garage," he recalls. The couple launched Wisconsin Pottery in 1984, after learning that an abandoned elementary school located eight miles out of town was for rent. "Like most artisans, I always dreamed of having my own business," he says.

While Debra managed the business and juggled a full-time teaching career, Joel threw pots–primarily simple slip plates and trays and traditional blue-and-gray salt-glazed stoneware. When the market for the salt-glazed pottery "went sour" in the mid-1990s, he expanded the line to include fancy slip-decorated wares and elaborate sgraffito, or "scratched," designs. Inspired by the works of David Spinner (1758-1811), a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, potter renowned for his elaborately decorated and inscribed wares, Joel began experimenting with traditional Pennsylvania German motifs–mounted horsemen, leaping stags, and fruit and flower designs. "I studied photographs and museum pieces, then basically added my two cents worth," he says.

Two potters work full-time with Joel, producing an extensive selection of lead-free, slip-decorated wares as well as signature sgraffito pieces. "Each piece is unique," he says, noting that all pots are dated, stamped, and signed, so as not to confuse them with actual antique redware. "No two pieces are ever identical. We’re a studio, not a factory."

Exploring Florida’s Gold Coast

Take a break from winter’s chill: this month’s 110-mile Historic Highways route runs from north to south along Florida’s east coast. We begin in the resort community of Palm Beach, then visit Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale, once a haven for college students on spring break, and now a yachting center. We continue to Miami Beach, Miami, Key Biscayne, and end in Coral Gables. Dubbed the "Gold Coast," this region was established as a winter playground in the 1920s. Today, the Florida cities attract sun-worshippers from all over the world, as well as those drawn to the vibrant cultural life and restored historical areas. Southern Florida offers the active traveler abundant white sand beaches and water sports, golf, tennis, and natural habitats for bird-watching and canoeing.

PALM BEACH

Palm Beach was named for its palm trees, planted in 1878 when a Spanish cargo ship carrying them ran aground on the beach. The American architect Addison Mizner arrived in 1918. He designed many of the Spanish-Moorish homes along Ocean Boulevard, including Mar-A-Lago, built in 1923 for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. The Norton Museum of Art has extensive holdings of European, American, and Chinese pieces. Take Route 1 south 18 miles to Delray Beach.

The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, (561) 655-2833. The Norton Museum of Art, (561) 832-5196. The Breakers, (561) 655-6611.

DELRAY BEACH

Settlers from Michigan and Japan established Defray Beach in the 1920s. George Morikami, a farmer and one of the earliest settlers, acquired 200 acres of land that he willed to the county to create the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It includes a theater, galleries, tea house, nature trail, and bonsai garden. Military miniatures covering two thousand years of history are on view at the Cornell Museum of Art and History. The dates for the Delray Beach Community Center Antiques show are February 13 and 14. Continue on Route 1 south eight miles to Boca Raton.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, (561) 495-0233. Cornell Museum of Art and History, (561) 243-7922. Antique Show and Sale, (561) 243-2233.

BOCA RATON

Legend has it that this inlet of jagged rocks was named "mouth of the rat" by Spanish pirates. In 1925, Addison Mizner designed the city plan for Boca Raton. Two of his surviving 1920s buildings are the lavish pink Boca Raton Resort Hotel and Club and the city’s administration building. Historic houses open to the public include the 1920 Old Schoolhouse, the 1937 Pioneer House, and the 1923 Historic Butler House, built from plans from Woman’s Home Companion magazine. Visit the International Museum of Cartoon Art, started by Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey. The Old Floresta Historic District along Cardinal Avenue has many small Spanish Colonial-style homes. Spanish River Park and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center are two places to take in native plants and birds. Take Route 1 south 20 miles to Fort Lauderdale.

Boca Raton Resort Hotel and Club, (800) 327-0101. Old Schoolhouse and Pioneer House, (305) 427-1050. Historic Butler House, (305) 429-0378. International Museum of Cartoon Art, (561) 391-2200. Spanish River Park, (561) 393-7815. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, (561) 338-1473.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Named for several forts that protected settlers from Seminole attacks, Fort Lauderdale became a south Florida resort town in the 1920s. The Museum of Art features North and South American art and Dutch and Flemish paintings. The 1920 Bonnet House is the 35-acre estate of painter and art collector Frederick Clay Bartlett, whose furnishings, studio, and tropical plants are on view. The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Museum has collections of local artifacts, Seminole and Colonial settlers’ clothing, toys, and a scale model of a fort. Stranahan House, built for trader Frank Stranahan in 1901, is a good example of Florida frontier design. The 1907 King-Cromartie House, a replica of an 1899 schoolhouse, and a Discovery museum complex are all housed in the 1905 New River Inn. Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area is home to such endangered species as the gopher tortoise and golden leather fern. The Riverside Hotel, the oldest in Fort Lauderdale, has large guest rooms with Jacobean-style oak furnishings. Cont inue on Route 1 south to 195 east, about 30 miles to Miami Beach.

Museum of Art, (954) 525-5500. Bonnet House, (954) 563-5393. Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Museum, (954) 463-4431. Stranahan House, (954) 524-4736. King–Cromartie House, (954) 462-4116. Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area, (954) 564-4521. Riverside Hotel, (954) 467-0671.

MIAMI BEACH

In 1920, 1,600 acres of mangrove swamp east of Miami were drained and developed into Miami Beach. During the 1980s, more than 800 pastel-hued structures in the Art Deco district, in the heart of South Beach, were restored and renovated, revitalizing the city. Today, the area boasts art galleries, clubs, and restaurants, along with the Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony at the Lincoln Theater. The Wolfsonian–FLU Foundation Gallery offers rotating exhibits of American and European art produced between 1885 and 1945. The Holocaust Memorial has five main areas of sculptures and captioned photographs. Simply named The Hotel, a recently restored 1939 structure with 52 rooms, has been decorated by fashion designer Todd Oldbam with inlaid terrazzo floors, lush fabrics, and playful lighting fixtures. Adventurous divers might try the underwater Wreck Trek site in north Miami Beach, with two shipwrecks, the Patricia and Miss Karline.

Continue on Route AlA to 41 to 95 south about seven miles to Miami.

Miami City Ballet, (305) 532-7713. New World Symphony, (305) 673-3331. Wolfsonian-FIU Foundation Gallery, (305) 531-1001. The Holocaust Memorial, (305) 538-1663. The Hotel, (305) 531-2222.

MIAMI

Miami was incorporated in 1896. Today, the city is a melting pot of cultures with ethnically mixed neighborhoods such as Lithe Havana, Little Haiti, and Coconut Grove. The Art Deco Historic District runs from Ocean Drive to Lenox Avenue in nearby Miami Beach. Rare antiquities and decorative arts are on view in more than 70 rooms at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, in the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, interprets 10,000 years of Florida’s history from prehistoric Indian artifacts to 1830s Audubon prints. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum collections include Henry Flagler’s locomotive, a circa 1950 California Zephyr, and a Pullman car. In a 1930 Art Deco building, the Bass Museum of Art exhibits European paintings, and sculpture and decorative arts. From March 3 to 12, Miami celebrates Carnaval in Little Havana with food, concerts, and dancing events. Take Route 95 south to Route 913 southeast ten miles to Key Biscayne.

Vizeaya Museuni and Gardens, (305) 579-2813. Historical Museum of Southern Florida, (305) 375-1492. Gold Coast Railroad Museum, (305) 253-0063. Bass Museum of Art, (305) 673-7530. Carnaval Miami, (305) 644-8888.

KEY BISCAYNE

Linked by the William Powell Bridge, Key Biscayne and Virginia Key are two islands where visitors can catch a great view of downtown Miami. The area is popular with bikers, skaters, and watersports enthusiasts. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area offers 494 acres to explore. Visitors may climb to the top of the 1845 brick Cape Florida Lighthouse. The 37-acre Miami Seaquarium is home to many rescued manatees, sharks, and sea lions. On the ocean, the Sonesta Beach Resort Key Biscayne offers 300 rooms. Backtrack about eight miles on Route 913 to Route 1 south to Coral Gables, a total of about 13 miles.

The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area, (305) 361-5811. Miami Seaquarium, (305) 361-5705. Sonesta Beach Resort Key Biscayne, (305) 365-2340.

CORAL GABLES

Similar to Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Coral Gables is a planned community of residential and commercial buildings with a Mediterranean flavor. George Merrick established the city from his 3,000 acres of citrus and avocado groves. His boyhood home, Coral Gables Merrick House and Gardens, is open and has been restored with family furnishings and artwork. The Lowe Art Museum displays antiquities and European and American sculpture. Don’t miss the Venetian Pool, a large rock quarry turned into a springfed swimming pool, where Johnny Weismuller and Esther Williams both swam. The Fairchild Tropical Garden is an 83-acre botanical garden with a conservatory, rainforest, and sunken garden. Built in 1926, the historic 279-room Biltmore Hotel is a great place to end a Florida journey.

Coral Gables Merrick House and Gardens, (305) 460-5361. The Lowe Art Museum, (305) 284-3603. Venetian Pool, (305) 460-5356. City Hall, (305) 446-6800. The Fairchild Tropical Garden, (305) 667-1651. Biltmore Hotel, (800) 727-1926.

Wicker wonders

It’s as comtortable as an old shoe and at home with almost any furniture style. That’s why wicker is showing up throughout the house.

Woven from reeds or the thin, flexible branches of willow, wicker adds texture and contrast to soft fabrics and smooth woods. Prized for its strength and ability to retain natural moisture, well-made wicker furture should give you years of use. Here’s how to evaluate it:

Lean heavily on a piece of wicker to test its strength; it may creak a bit but shouldn’t sag or shift.

Check the underside for clues to construction. High-quality wicker will be woven on a frame that’s at least one inch thick and will have corners that are tightly wrapped.

Feel the finish. It should be smooth to the touch, with no snags, rough edges, or hairy fibers.

Check the tightness of the weave. You may pay extra for tightly and evenly woven wicker furniture, but it will repay you with durability.

Also, investigate alternatives to conventional wicker. Water hyacinth has a thicker texture and costs more. Woven resin or latex-coated wicke won’t crack or break when exposed to the elements, but you sacrifice some of wicker’s natural beauty.

The hidden garden

Judith Siegel gave herself two presents when she turned the narrow yard behind her house into a hidden garden (above). One was an inviting outdoor room, cozy with color, fragrance, and the sound of water. The other was enough privacy to dine on the patio, or just relax with coffee and a newspaperfor a-while. Judith laughs. "I can’t stay there and read because I jump up and start gardening."

In the beginning, nine years ago, Judith had privacy and no reason to use it. "The backyard was an ugly, square patio, with a bent-grass lawn and a hedge on two sides." Why so spare? A previous owner was allergic to flowers. Judith wanted color, but nothing seemed to thrive at the foot of the hedge. She coped. "I grew lots of things in pots, and every year I took out a little more of the lawn."

Finally, Judith and her husband Howard agreed the yard need a big makeover. She had joined the Perennial Society of Northern Ohio and learned how perennial beds can offer color and fragrance from spring through fall. She hired David Bier, a landscape architect, and told him she wanted a place to live outdoors, complete with perennials, water, privacy, and a view of her Cleveland neighborhood.

To make room for plants and open the view, the hedge had to go. "That was a big step, taking out a mature hedge that some people would die for." Judith decided to leave the side of the hedge that ran along the property line, screening the neighbor’s house. David recommended making a mound of dirt, a berm, to replace the other side. "The berm clinched it," Judith says. Farewell, hedge. Now, a path from the sidewalk (above) leads across the yard and around the berm on its way to the hidden garden. small yard will look and feel roomier when it’s divided into several pieces, each with a different style and purpose. Judith’s hidden garden has three. The sweep of lawn in the center sets off the beds around it and lets Judith see the whole garden from inside the house. The path from the street flows into a patio that sits next to the house (bottom, far right). Across the lawn from the house, there’s a stone-paved alcove with a garden bench (right). All this in a yard that’s less than 30 feet wide and feels much bigger. In three words, the trick is: add by dividing.

The path and the lawn turn around the berm on the right to enter the hidden garden. On the left, a hedge of hemlocks, a perennial bed, and vine-covered arbors screen the neighbor’s house. A Mugho pine accents the end of the berm and pachysandra spreads a tidy, evergreen carpet beside the path. Mugho pine is slowgrowing and short, good for a tight spot.

A parade of arbors heightens the illusion of roominess. Built of pressure-treated posts topped with sturdy lath, they add a third dimension to the garden, rising high above the shrubs and perennials. (A small tree can also enliven a bed without crowding other plants.) On purpose, the tallest arbors are at the back of the yard. Judith says, "You look under the ones that are closer to the house and see the other ones going around the curve of the bed. That makes the yard feel wider."

Judith dedicated the bench to the memory of her mother. Placed in the shade and surrounded by bloom, the bench attracts visitors. "People like to sit in that enclosed little area."

Judith Siegel has discovered a way to help a clematis climb a post. The result is a beautiful column of leaves and flowers, wrapped neatly around the post from bottom to top.

A clematis needs help on a post because it dings and climbs in an unusual way. When the stem of a new leaf touches something, it curls, trying to wrap around it. (See illustration, above right). The stem is short, so it can’t grab anything thicker than about one-half inch, which rules out most lattices and all posts. In nature, clematis climbs on shrubs and trees.

Judith lees her vines climb on plastic bird netting. She fastens the netting around the post (right with a staple every foot or two and lets it stand away from the post so the leaves have room to wrap around the mesh. Judith’s trick will work in other places-on a tree trunk, a porch column, or a fence.

The pond nestles into the back of the berm. Pushed by a submerged pump, water circulates through a tube to the top of a broad, flat rock, then cascades into the pond, filling the garden with a pink-flowered variety.

Judith entertains on the patio (bottom left) hidden by the berm. For height, she grows a few big perennials, including Joe-Pye weed, which can reach 8 feet tall. "I can still see the neighborhood, but the patio is hidden from the street." The plan (below) shows how the lawn and the path climb the slope and broaden inside the hidden garden.

Clematis Jackmanii wraps o royal robe around the shoulders of an arbor. It’s a hardy, vigorous vine that comes back year oher year, blooming in late spring and early summer for almost two mons. Any garden has room for a clematis or two because the vine has a small footprint. It can fit between plants even in a crowded bed. And on eye catching exclamation point rising above the shorter plants makes any garden look more dramatic.

Stencil over glass

Soften your Crew of the world with a simple stenciled design that is sprayed directly on a window. With a little white latex spray paint, you’ll have the look of etched glass at a fraction of the cost. The stencil gives you a bit more privacy, but still lets in the light.

Choose a precut stencil pattern that fits your window, or cut apart a stencil and reconfigure it to fit. You can also design and cut your own from Mylar plastic, found at crafts stores. Select a simple motif from your wallpaper, and trace and cut it from the plastic. If the stencil will run both vertically and horizontally, make sure the design works in both directions.

First, trim sides of plastic, if needed, so it fits within the window’s frame. Work out the design so it is centered on the window. Mark the beginning and ending points of each placement with tape. You may have to adjust spacing between repeats or use only a partial design at the ends.

Spray the underside of stencil with stencil adhesive. Press to inside of window. Tape edges with painter’s tape to catch straying paint. Spray latex paint over stencil using long, even strokes. Several light passes give a more even coat and avoid runs and drips. Let dry slightly, reposition stencil and repeat the process. When dry, clean up shaggy spots with a razor blade.

Your painted stencil will last several months if protected from scratches. To remove or change design, scrape away paint with a razor blade.

Bedroom design

Using pinking shears, cut the sheet to 48×52 inches. Center the board on the fabric’s wrong side. Wrap the fabric to the back of the board. (For smaller projects, be sure to allow several inches of fabric to wrap back.) Starting at the center of one side and working out, staple the fabric every inch. Next, wrap and staple the opposite side, pulling fabric taut. Finish remaining sides. Fold corners smooth, trimming excess fabric.

Cut two 38-inch pieces of 1/2-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon and two 42inch pieces for the border. Wrap short ribbons around short ends and staple to back. Add long ribbons. Dot fabric glue between ribbon and sheet.

Matters of taste. Pillowcases, scraps left from other projects, or flawed sheets from the bargain bin offer up enough yardage for fabric-covered mat boards. Small prints work best for this project.

Purchase a precut mat board or have one custom-cut to fit your photos and frames. Cut the fabric pieces 1 inch larger than the mat board. Using a foam brush, apply a light coat of white crafts glue on the front side of the mat. Center the fabric over the mat and smooth it in place. For the photo window, cut the opening I inch smaller on each side than the actual mat opening. Cut diagonally into each corner. Pull the center fabric to the back and glue it in place. Place the mat under a heavy book or other weight and let it dry.

Because of its tight weave, sheet fabric frays very little. Even so, it’s a good ideo to add a tiny dot of glue to the inside corners (below) to prevent any stray threads from popping out.

After the mat dries, attach your photograph to the mat back with tape. Add a solid piece of mat board the same size as the first for backing and place both in the frame.

If you choose not to use glass, be aware that your photograph is unprotected. Consider framing a copy of the original instead. With original heirloom photographs, use only archival-quality tapes and glues.

Dressy drawers. Help an unfinished or worse-for-wear dresser get with the decorating program by covering the drawers in fabric that matches the bedding. A twin-size sheet will cover a three-drawer dresser. When cutting out the fabric, check pattern matches and repeats so the overall design is pleasing.

Cut fabric 72 inch wider on all sides than the drawer fronts. Mix equal parts of water and white crafts glue, and paint one drawer front with the solution. Working quickly, center the fabric on the drawer front and gently press it into place with a small rolling pin or credit card. Work from the center out, pushing air bubbles out the edges. Wrap the 2-inch fabric flaps to the drawer sides or back, and glue into place with full-strength glue. Add a row of hidden staples for holding power. Finish the rest of the drawers, then slide them into a dresser that’s been painted with two coats of matching paint.

Curtains for this one. WIder is better when it comes to drapery fabric-less piecing is needed. And sheets will fit almost any window size. Select a sheet that is 1 1/2 to 3 times wider than your window. If the sides are already hemmed (most are not), skip to the rod pocket step in the next paragraph. If the sides are selvage edges, turn the edge under 4 inch, then 3/4 inch, and topstitch.

Determine the proper length for the curtain and add 2 inches for the rod pocket. For a balloon bottom like the one shown here, add 6 to 8 inches. (You won’t need extra inches for the hem, since the sheet bottom already is hemmed.) Cut the sheet to the proper length. Turn the top edge under 4 inch, then 1 3/4 inches to form the rod pocket. Topstitch.

Flat-front drawers work best because the fabric is glued to the front, then wrapped around the edges and glued and stapled in place. For beveled drawers, apply the fabric to the flat surface only. Paint the bevel a contrasting color.

When adding rickrack, you don’t hav to sew back and forth along the trim-a straight stitch will hold it in place just fine. Align the rickrack so the bottom of the V meets The edge of the hem, then sew straight through the trim. After laundering, the rickrack may curl slightly. Steam ironing will Haen the trim to its original shape.

(Be sure to prewash the trim before using-it may shrink slightly.)

Lay rickrack along the side hem on the curtain’s wrong side. The lower point of the V shape should align with the edge. Sew through rickrack in a straight line. Tack in place at each end and finish with fray-checking liquid.

Siding that sparkles

When your "last-forever" vinyl or aluminum siding begins to show wear, don’t jump to the costly conclusion that you have to tear it off and replace it. Give it a coat of paint instead. Vinyl and aluminum siding may be guaranteed to protect your home for 50 years, but nobody guarantees how these materials will look that far down the road.

Like any surface that’s exposed to the harsh outdoor environment, siding will eventually show wear. When it does, you may be able to bring back its original luster with a paint job. Here are four tips:

1 Wash it. Washing by hand, with warm water and car-washing detergent will do the job, but power washing is faster and more convenient. Power washers, much like the kind found at do-ityourself car washes, can be rented at local rental shops. High-pressure sprayers that can be connected to garden hoses are available at hardware stores and home centers.

2 Remove the oxide. Aluminum surfaces may require some extra work. With aluminum, the coating can begin to erode and chalk, and, if the metal becomes exposed, it can oxidize. If aluminum siding has oxidized, you will need to remove the white residue carefully with steel wool or sandpaper, then give the surface a thorough cleaning. Do not try this with vinyl siding because it will cause deep, irreparable scratches.

3 Kill the mildew. Mildew is a common problem under porch ceilings, eaves, or soffits. To kill it, apply a diluted bleach solution, then rinse until it is clean.

4 Pick light colors. Finally you are ready to change the color of the original aluminum or vinyl siding. But if you have vinyl siding, don’t choose a darker color. Dark colors absorb more heat from the sun and can cause vinyl siding panels to buckle.

To get the best results, spend a little extra money for superior paint. You’ll get a durable and long-lasting finish from a top-quality acrylic latex paint. It’s designed to adhere steadfastly to any factory-finished siding, preventing such common paint problems as peeling, blistering, and flaking.

Many paints also contain additives that resist mildew and ensure uniform coats, allowing you to reproduce the appearance of the original siding. (If aluminum siding is dented, use a flat finish to help hide the damage.) The flexibility of acrylic latex allows it to expand or contract with the siding as it heats or cools during daily and seasonal temperature changes. Quality paint may cost as much as $25 per gallon.

Sheet success

Sheets not only make the bed, but make the room as well. Fabulous patterns, wide widths, and high-quality fabrics make sheets a perfect tool for decorating. Fabric glues, fusible tapes, and short-cut sewing techniques make the projects more achievable.

Give it the slip. Update almost any headboard with a slipcover made of sheets. You’ll need one flat sheet that’s the same size as the bed-twin, double, queen, or king.

Make a pattern by taping paper onto your headboard and tracing around it. The pattern should extend to the bed rails. Add 1 inch all the way around (12 inch for seam allowances, 1/2 inch for ease of fitting), then cut out two pieces. Baste piping to the right side of one piece along the seam line. Sew the pieces together, right sides facing.

Clip any curves and layer the seam allowances. Narrowly hem the bottom edge. Slide the slipcover over the headboard.

For rail-type headboards that have expanses of open space, you’ll need fabric with a bit of stiffness. Choose sheets with a high thread count. For extra stiffness, iron fusible interfacing or fusible fleece to the wrong side of the fabric before sewing the pieces together.

Seamless coverup. Tablecloths cut from standard yard goods require a seam or two because of the fabric’s narrow width. Sheets come wide enough to eliminate the seam, letting the cloth lay smooth and flat. Generally, sheets are made in the following standard sizes, so use these measurements as a guideline for choosing the proper sheet for your project: twin, 71xl10 inches; full, 87×110 inches; queen, 95×118 inches; king, 108×120 inches.

Cut the fabric 2 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the desired size. Turn under all edges 4 inch, then 3/4 inch, and hem by machine or with fusible hemming tape. Iron on a border of 1 2-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon, aligning the edge of the ribbon with the edge of the hem. If fusible hemming tape isn’t available in the width of your ribbon, combine two narrow strips or cut strips from yardage of paper-backed fusible webbing. Corners can butt, lap, or miterwhichever works best for your ribbon weight and pattern.

Bulletin.. no boredom. Perk up one of your home’s more mundane necessities-the bulletin board. Sound board (you’ll find it at home improvement centers) covered with sheeting and trimmed with ribbon provides a colorful background. For this 32×36-inch board, use one twin sheet. For smaller types, use a pillowcase or crib sheet.

Ribbon lampshade

A basic lamp goes one shade better with the help of sponge-painting and wire ribbon. A self-adhesive shade and wire-edge ribbon are the keys to this easy project. Paper shades work best since fabric may fray at the cut lines. Choose ribbon that’s in proportion to the lampshade. We used 1-inch-wide ribbon for a shade that’s 9 inches tall. A 1-to-9 ratio is a good guideline.

Materials: self-adhesive shades (available at fabric and crafts stores) or paper shades, which will allow paint to adhere; rice paper to fit the adhesive shade; tacky crafts glue; wire-edge ribbon to fit the bottom of the shade plus 1 yard; acrylic paints to match the ribbon; natural sea sponge (available at crafts and paint stores); paper clips; crafts knife.

Instructions: Following the manufacturer’s directions for the adhesive shade, cut the rice paper to fit the lampshade pattern, then apply it to the lampshade. Sponge-paint the shade with one or more colors. Make sure the painting is even by turning the lamp on. However, do not work with lamp plugged in or turned on.

Measure the circumference of the bottom of the shade and find the halfway point opposite the back seam. Divide the space between the seam and halfway point into increments spaced 2 to 3 inches apart. Mark these increments with paper clips. Measure the width of your ribbon. At the point opposite the back seam and 1 inch up from the bottom edge, cut a vertical slit that measures 1/8 inch longer than the width of the ribbon. Cut parallel slits 1/4 inch from either side of the first slit. Continue around the shade, cutting two vertical slits at each paper clip.

Starting at the set of three slits, push the ribbon into the center slit, back out the next slit, and continue weaving it around the shade. Pull the end back out of the original slit. Tie the two ends in a bow and trim.