With the rush of the holidays behind you and a stretch of quiet winter days ahead, now is the perfect time to reassess your home surroundings.

In chilly climates, you can bring out your favorite warm blankets and flannel sheets and cover floorboards with wool rugs. But even in mild climates, a few simple changes will give your home a fresh look for the season.Here are some easy sewing projects to help with your winter decorating. Start by visiting fabric stores for inspiration -- a single pattern or color might be enough to start you on your way.

Curtains and valances

While summer decorating calls for sheer, billowy curtains or even bare windows, winter requires something cozier. A heavy fabric is practical for the extra insulation it provides in cold weather. And curtains made with a rich, sumptuous cloth add a look of warmth to a room.

A simple curtain can be hung from a tension rod mounted in the window frame. Plush, patterned, or lustrous materials such as brocade, damask and velvet make luxurious full-length curtains. If you use silk, be sure to line the curtain to protect it from the deteriorating effects of the sun.

Hem the edges of the fabric, and sew a deep hem in the bottom. At the top, sew a roomy channel for the tension rod (or add fabric or ribbon tabs instead to hang the curtain from a decorative rod). You can mount a simple valance over the curtain. Suspend it from fabric loops over hooks or knobs at the top of the window.

To install a more formal, boxy valance: Attach a plywood board horizontally, like a shelf, to the wall over the window, supporting it with L-brackets. Then use tacks or staples to attach valance fabric to the board.

Pillows and throws

A new look doesn't require a major investment. Look for possibilities in what you already have at home. A beautiful old wool blanket, for example, may be a bit tattered, but you can probably salvage enough good material for a pillow or throw. Of course, new fabric can also be used for the following ideas.

Here's one way to make a pillow: Cut two same-size squares of fabric. Sew pieces together on three sides, right sides facing. Turn pillowcase right side out, and press. Stitch around the three sides again, 3/8 inch (or more for a wider border) in from seams, creating a flange edge. Insert a pillow or loose batting into the case.

Fold in the rough edges of the fourth side, and stitch closed by hand. Add a 3/8-inch hem to match the others. To finish the pillow, you can sew a blanket stitch all around the flange edge (see instructions below), using a lightweight yarn in a color that complements the fabric.

A cozy throw, draped over the back of a sofa or spread across the foot of the bed, is another versatile accessory. Making your own is simple.

Cut fabric to the desired size, then finish the edges with a blanket stitch. Begin by turning and lightly pressing all edges under 3/4 inch, then 3/4 inch again. Pin or baste the edges in place. Hold one edge toward you with the right side up (the wrong side has the rolled and pinned hem).

Using a tapestry needle and worsted-weight cotton yarn, start at the left-hand corner, drawing the yarn out through the fold from inside the hem. Insert the needle down into the fabric, 1/2 inch to the right and 3/4 inch in from the edge.

Before you pull the yarn taut, bring the needle toward you, and pass it through the yarn loop so the stitch forms a right angle, not a diagonal. Continue stitching, working from left to right, so that the stitches encase the folded hem and are spaced 1/2 inch apart. At each corner, make one stitch on a diagonal.

Place mats

Dressing up the table can add new personality to the dining room or kitchen. Making place mats out of felt is an easy project and a great way to get the kids involved. Pure wool felt is a wonderful fabric to work with -- it's gentle to the touch and extremely durable. Since it won't unravel, you don't have to worry about hemming.

Choose a few complementary colors of felt. Cut out rounds or rectangles, using pinking shears to make a decorative edge. Then cut out polka dots, flowers, letters or leaf shapes, and let the kids attach them with fabric glue, creating their own personalized designs.

For fabrics, you may want to look for my new line of fabrics, called Martha Stewart Home, available at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts and Calico Corners stores.

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