Sunday, March 31, 2013

Girl Friday Sews: Photo Desk Blotter Tutorial

I'm so thrilled to welcome you to the first day of the Girl Friday Sews Blog Hop! Over the next two weeks, we'll be sharing tips and projects to use in all sorts of different work situations. I've gotten a few peeks at what the other bloggers are doing, and there's some great stuff coming up for you to see. Today is my day, so let's start by taking a look at where I work.

This is my desk: a five foot square corner of the family room featuring an old round work table that I cover with a table cloth. My paper clips, rubber bands, and other office notions live in spice jars and a wooden rack from Ikea -- I love using unconventional objects for storage and display when I can. Most of my papers stay in wire mesh files from Target, and the colorful fabric bin on the left is from there as well. There are two calendars on the wall...yes, two. The one on the right gives me space to write the month's events, and the one on the left is just there because it's beautiful -- I couldn't resist Rifle Paper Co.'s "Cities" calendar this year (and if you can't resist it either, you can find it on sale for 50% off here). My inspiration file hangs on the wall along with my Focus mini quilt and Zakka Style message board. It all makes for a cozy, happy space where I can sit in the morning and read through at least a few of my blogs before the girls start school.

Before I share my tutorial (sneak peek above), I promised you some tips for brightening up a workspace, classroom, or study area. Here are a few things I've picked up over the years...

1. Use fabric instead of paper on any bulletin boards. The fabric lasts much longer without fading, and it looks so much warmer at the same time. Your choice of print will depend on your own style and what you'll be putting on the board, but I usually find that a small scale print works best. Also keep in mind the effects of color on your audience. My classroom was always more peaceful when all my boards were in different shades of blue and green.

Scrappy Pillows

2. Nothing warms up a room like pillows. Stack them in a reading corner -- kids love to snuggle up in a pile of pillows while they read -- or make a small decorative pillow to hang on a wall or door. They add a welcoming touch to an office chair as well.

3. Small touches can make an office seem so much more approachable. I brought my love of retro decor into my office when I was an assistant principal, including framed WWII era posters, an old fashioned coat stand, and a CD player built like a vintage radio. Add plants -- real or fake -- to your shelves, a table cloth to your conference table, and pictures or mini quilts to your walls. You'll be surprised by the difference it makes. I keep a Pinterest board full of ideas for this sort of thing which you can see here.

Image courtesy of decor8

4. Set up a corner in your home where your children can read. It can be a simple as a pillow and a quilt next to a box of books. If you want to be more elaborate, though, find a theme that your child loves: princesses can read within the walls of a cardboard castle, pirates can cozy up inside an inflatable boat, and adventurous readers can camp out in a makeshift tent. There are tons of accessories that you can make or buy to complete the illusion.

5. Curtains aren't just for windows. Use them to cover bookshelves or cubbies, an open space under a sink or desk, or a closet without a door. You can hang them on either a length of heavy cord or a tension curtain rod.

Image courtesy of Country Living

6. Closets make gorgeous home offices. You can find examples all over the internet, including here.

Notions Pouch

7. There are a million and one uses for a zipper pouch in any workspace. They can hold pens and pencils, business cards, office supplies, flash cards, white board markers, bookmarks, clothespins, scissors, activity cards... The list is endless.

So there are a few things to get you started. Now let's move on to the tutorial part of the post: how to make your own photo desk blotter. I love having a place for pictures and notes on my desktop (that photo, by the way, is from the day when my mom introduced me to my new baby sister), and it's great to be able to keep them in something that's handmade. This is a surprisingly quick project -- I spent more time cutting out the pieces than I did doing the actual sewing. The plastic portion is actually quilting template plastic, but if you have another source for this type of material, you could definitely alter the dimensions on your blotter to make it larger.

(1) 12 x 18" piece of template plastic (I use the Dritz template plastic which I find at my local Joann's. It seems to measure about 12.25 x 18.25" even though it's labeled as 12 x 18", but it will still fit.)
(8) 1.5" hexagons sewn together in two vertical rows of four
(2) 8 x 14" pieces of fabric for blotter ends
(2) 4 x 14" pieces of quilt batting for blotter ends
(2) 14 x 20" pieces of fabric for main body of blotter (You can use different prints for the top and bottom of your mat if you like -- they don't have to be the same material. I used a cotton print for my top and a linen solid for the bottom.)
(1) 14 x 20" piece of heavy sew-in interfacing for main body of blotter

1. Fold the fabric for the blotter ends in half lengthwise and press. Slip in the batting pieces and sew 1/4" from the fold on both pieces. Position one hexagon strip 3/4" from the top edge on the left blotter end, just along the 1/4" seam by the fold, and sew 1/16-1/8" just inside the hexagon strip all the way around. Repeat with the other blotter end except position the hexagon strip 3/4" from the bottom edge.

2. Layer in this order (bottom to top): sew-in interfacing, top main body blotter fabric (right side up), mat end pieces (in place on either side with folded edges pointed toward center and raw edges matched up), bottom main body blotter fabric (right side down). Clip or pin them all together in a stack.

3. Sew 1/2" all the way around, leaving a gap for turning on the bottom edge in the space between the blotter ends. Trim the excess around the edges and corners and then turn the whole thing right side out, pushing out the corners with a chopstick. Fold the raw edges inside and press. Stitch 1/8" from the bottom and top edges on the main body piece only -- not on the blotter ends -- backstitching at both ends. Give it one last press, insert the template plastic, and you're done!

If you're not into hexagons, you can make this project without them. This is the version that I made for Bunny's desk. The blotter ends are a little wider here -- 5.5 x 13" instead of 4 x 14. I personally prefer the more narrow ends, but it works either way. This one also has an extra layer of quilt batting in the main body piece for a softer, thicker feel. Love those elephants by Nancy Wolff!

If you're absolutely crazy about hexagons, this is a version I made for my sister with wide ends and three rows of 1 inch hexagons. I had so much fun sewing all those little hexies! Feel free to adapt this tutorial to make it the way you want it -- there are always so many ways that you can tweak a project to suit your needs.

If you make a desk blotter of your own, please share a picture with us in the Flickr group! Tomorrow Kristy has a fantastic pattern to show you, and yes, there may be paper piecing involved. She'll also have a wonderful giveaway from Pink Chalk Fabrics, so be sure to head over there on Tuesday to get in on the fun!

Linking up to the Let's Get Acquainted Monday Link-up.


  1. Super cute! I love the space and your tutorial.

    You look so organized!

  2. This is really fun, and a simple way to spruce up your desk. I wonder, maybe I can make one for my office, I have an idea.

  3. What a great post full of neat ideas!

  4. Great ideas and a great tutorial - thanks!
    PS I love the elephants too!

  5. Gorgeous blotter - what a great idea! I love your tips for brightening up your work area as well!

  6. Love the blotter! Great idea and gorgeous fabrics!

    Perfect tips for brightening up the work area - now if only I had a dedicated work area to brighten up... hehehe

  7. That is so cute and I love your notions bag!

  8. Great idea - this would make a great gift for that 'hard-to-buy-for" person in my life!!!

  9. I had to look up what blotter is as it seems like opened journal cover to me, lol. Oh well, learning every day. I'll follow along as I really need to organize myself. Thanks for your tips.

  10. Another great idea brilliantly executed!!!

  11. Great tutorial! I love your work space it is so cozy.

  12. I enjoyed your tut; thank you. Hexies are so cute.

  13. What a great idea for a workspace! :-)

  14. Lots of great ideas to freshen up my space! Thanks!

  15. Ekkk it's so cute!!! I love the fabric with the glasses, I think that might have to go on my "must purchase list"!

  16. Great tips and great tutorial! I love seeing all the different versions of the desk blotter. The fabric with the glasses is so adorable and just perfect for this project!

  17. I love every single one of your tips!

  18. Great desk mat! Very creative, practical and beautiful!

  19. Ohhh I hate to admit I didn't know what a blotter was. The blotter I know is the ink bottles that you blot/ cover your bingo squares with, hehe.Your's is much nicer! Thank you for a great tutorial. This is the first time I've seen one made and how great it does brighten up your desk. Thanks for sharing with us, super job!


  20. I love hexagons, your blotter's are so pretty, can I ask though can you put your computer on it, or does it warm up the plastic?

  21. I love the hexagons and both the cushions are great!!

  22. Such a lovely space to work in! I'd love it if my classroom looked like this, unfortunately it gets used for too many random cover lessons. Thanks for the tutorial too.

  23. Thanks for sharing the tutorial and the great tips! Your blog is so inspirational and lovely!


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