askMartha: Outdoor entertaining casual and elegant affair for your guests

Syndicated Columnist
Published Thursday, May 18, 2000

By Martha Stewart

Outdoor entertaining should be as carefree as summer itself, so here are some easy ideas to make casual gatherings fun and festive this season.

A cheerful table

With just a little stitching, colorful bandannas can be quickly transformed into a tablecloth and cushions for chairs or picnic-table benches.

To make a tablecloth, you'll need six bandannas (or more for a larger cloth). Pin two bandannas with right sides facing and stitch together along one side,12 inch from edge. Repeat with two remaining pairs. Open up each panel.

Pin two panels with right sides facing and stitch together along one long side,12 inch from edge. Attach the third panel to the other two the same way.

For each coordinating bandanna chair cushion, you'll need a cushion insert (available at sewing stores) and two bandannas at least 4 inches larger than the insert. Trim one bandanna to the size of the insert plus12 inch on each side; this will be the top. Trim the second bandanna to the same dimensions, but add 3 inches to the length; this will be the bottom. Cut this bandanna in half widthwise; hem these two cut edges12 inch each.

Pin the top and bottom pieces together with right sides facing and perimeter edges flush; the two halves of the bottom bandanna will overlap in the middle, forming an opening for the cushion.

Stitch around the perimeter of the cover12 inch from edge. Snip corners. Turn right-side out, and insert cushion.

If you wish to anchor the cushion to a chair more securely, select pairs of matching ribbons to make ties. Before stitching the top and bottom bandannas together, fold each ribbon in half, and position the fold between the top and bottom bandannas in two adjacent corners. The fold should be flush with the raw edge and the loose ends of the ribbons pointed inward, sandwiched between the bandannas. Sew bandannas together and insert pillow as above.

Outdoor seating

More guests make for a merrier outdoor gathering, but providing seating for everyone can be a challenge. Inexpensive wooden camp stools (about $15 each in camping supply stores) are portable and easy to tuck away when summer is over.

Dress up the stools with a coat of paint and a new seat. Here's how:

Remove the original canvas seat. Fill in any marks or holes with wood putty, sand down and paint the frame white. Using the original seat as a template, trace and cut out a new seat from durable ticking or canvas, and hem the edges. With a staple gun, fasten one end of the new seat to the stool, wrapping the fabric around one crossbar twice before wrapping it again around the other crossbar and stapling.

Candles and flowers

Be inspired by simple, everyday items. To illuminate an evening gathering, turn cans destined for the recycling bin into hanging lanterns. Peel off labels, fill with water and freeze overnight; the ice will help the cans keep their shape while you make holes in the sides for candlelight to shine through.

On a 2-inch-wide piece of masking tape, sketch a simple repeating design. Wrap around can. Following pattern, lightly pound nails through can. Remove and discard the ice. Form 16-gauge wire into a handle with U-shape at each end. Make two more holes, one across from the other under top rim, attach handle, and place votives inside.

Terra-cotta pots can make your table setting shine. Use silver acrylic paint to coat the insides and top rims of 3-inch pots, allow to dry and place votives inside.


Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: Please include your name and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the askMartha column, visit

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