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Using Citrus to Brighten Up Your Kitchen

I love citrusy things (Source: Home Life) no matter the season, but in the first few months of each new year I’m practically obsessed with them. I slather my hands with lemon-scented lotion, cover the couch with cheerful yellow throw pillows and seek out an array of citrus-scented waxes for the collection of wax warmers I have scattered throughout the house. I even eat more citrus fruits in the winter and early spring: My husband raised an eyebrow the other day when I came home from the grocery store carrying a 15-pound bag of grapefruit — especially since I’m the only one in the house who eats grapefruit. I’ll have you know that I polished that bag off in a week and am currently working through my second bag!

There’s just something about the bright colors, smells and tastes of citrus fruits that cut through the fog and chill of winter. With less sunshine and warm weather to get me going — and without relying on record-breaking quantities of coffee — I like surrounding myself with all things citrus to perk me up and remind me that spring will eventually be here! And did you know that there’s a growing body of research to support that instinctive attraction to citrus? I realized I was on to something when I started looking into the benefits of various citrus oils.

Did You Know …

  • Popular citrus essential oils include grapefruit, sweet orange, tangerine, bergamot, lemon, and lime.
  • Citrus oils are noted in aromatherapy blends for their refreshing, energizing, and mood-lifting properties. (Source: WellBeing)
  • University researchers in Japan found that diffusing lemon essential oil in an office environment had a dramatic impact on workers, reducing computer keystroke errors by more than 50%! (Source: Chicago Tribune)
  • Citrus peels — the source of citrus essential oils — contain high levels of a natural compound called d-limonene. It’s this substance that lends citrus fruits their signature scents. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Scientific research into citrus essential oils and d-limonene suggest that they have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties. (Source: Natural Health Advisory)

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? So now I feel totally validated by my love of citrusy things — and I’m obligated to indulge even more!

Brighten Your Kitchen with Citrus Colors

I’ve been spending a lot more time in my kitchen lately, thanks to a New Year’s resolution to eat clean and eat at home more. I’d already picked up a fun yellow kitchen rug and some sunny yellow placemats to brighten up the space, but that just wasn’t enough! So on a recent visit to Tuesday Morning, I scored a few more things that inspired me to put together a little DIY project for you all.

My first find, on the bath-and-body aisle, was some citrus-mint hand soap.

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Yum! I am constantly washing my hands in the kitchen and love the combination of citrus and mint. But when I found a lime green and white kitchen towel set and this bundle of bright yellow fabric fat quarters, I knew exactly what my kitchen was missing: some fun, embellished kitchen towels!

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I did not grow up in a household that had decorative towels. Towels had a purpose, and that purpose was to be used! In college, however, my roommate had a thing for decorative towels. One day, she caught me drying my hands on the towel she’d hung in our bathroom—our bathroom that the two of us alone shared, I might add. So imagine my surprise when she scolded me and said, “Anna, that towel is for decoration! You’re not supposed to use it!” Of course, I responded, “Well, what’s the point of having a towel hanging here if I can’t use it?” We got a good laugh out of it, and I never dried my hands on her towel again, even though it remained there, hanging on the towel rack and taunting me. Now that I’m the mistress of my own household, with a slew of children and animals running around and creating chaos in their wake, I can appreciate having a pretty towel that stays clean and dry…though I like to think I alone can use it if I want to. So today, I’m going to show you how to make a quick and easy set of ruffled dish towels for your kitchen.

You’ll need:

  • Kitchen towels (mine were $4.99 at Tuesday Morning for a set of two, compare at $11.99)
  • Four fat quarters of fabric in different patterns (my bundle of five fat quarters from Tuesday Morning was $5.99, compare at $14.95)
  • Coordinating wide ribbon
  • Sewing machine and notions, or fabric glue (You’ll get better results for gathering your ruffle if you use a sewing machine or needle and thread.)

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Step 1

Unfold your fat quarters, iron out any creases, and refold the fabric, RIGHT sides together, lengthwise (so it’s longer, giving you more fabric to gather for the ruffle without having to sew strips of fabric together). Iron again, on the fold, to make a nice crease. That lengthwise fold is going to be the bottom of your ruffle—no hemming required! (I’m all about sewing as little as possible!)

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Step 2

Decide which fabric pattern will be your bottom ruffle and cut a 3 ½” strip of that fabric lengthwise. For the fabric you’ll have as your top ruffle, cut a 2 ½” strip lengthwise. Your fold should be uncut.

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Step 3

Keeping RIGHT sides together, stitch both ends of your fabric strips. (I use a hefty seam allowance (5/8”) because I’m not a great seamstress and have a hard time sewing even a short line straight.) Clip excess fabric close to the seam and clip corners.

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Step 4

Turn fabric strips right side out, pressing out the creases, and ironing new creases at the bottoms (the “hems”) of your fabric strips.

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Step 5

Increase your sewing machine’s stitch length. Stitch along the TOP (along the raw edges) of your fabric strips at your preferred seam allowance and again ¼” inside your seam allowance. You’ll use these stitch lines to gather your ruffle.

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Step 6

Start with the fabric strip that will be the BOTTOM ruffle. Pull the threads at one end of the strip to gather your ruffle until it fits the width of your towel. I usually pull a little bit from one side and then a little bit from the other to keep the gathers even. Pin the ruffle in place on your towel and stitch along the seam allowance (that should be the bottom row of your gathering stitches). Don’t worry about the seam showing — it will be covered by the top ruffle.

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Step 7

Repeat Step 6, working with the fabric for your top ruffle. When pinning the ruffle onto your towel, make sure the bottom of the top ruffle covers the top of your bottom ruffle!

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Step 8

Now we’ll cover the seam of that top ruffle with some wide ribbon. Start by clipping the excess fabric close to the seam of the top ruffle. Here you can see where I’ve starting clipping the excess and how the ribbon will cover the raw edges and the seam.

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You can either pin the ribbon in place and stitch it or use fabric glue to secure it. For this towel, I stitched my ribbon in place. But in hindsight, I think I would have preferred to glue it. For the tricky ends of the ribbon, cut the ribbon about an inch away from the edge of the towel. Fold the ribbon end in half, so that it meets the end of the towel, and then fold it over again onto the back side of the towel. Stitch or glue in place. This will give you a neat edge to the ribbon.

Step 9

Hang up your towel and admire your handiwork! (And I won’t tell if you use it to dry off your citrus-scented hands.)

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If you have an embroidery machine, create a fun kitchen towel set by sewing ruffles on one towel and embroidering this lemon wreath from Embroidery Library (my absolute favorite place to find machine embroidery patterns).

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When I saw this cute pattern, I could not wait to stitch it up for my citrusy towel set! (Not to be an enabler, but they have similar wreath patterns with all kinds of fruits and vegetables.)

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Does that not make the cutest and most cheerful set of towels to brighten up your kitchen?

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick and easy tutorial today. Be sure to check out Bring Spring Indoors pinboard on Pinterest for even more spring delights, including lots of citrus-inspired treasures you can find at Tuesday Morning right now and some recipes for DIY household cleaners that use lemon essential oil!