Whether you're a stitching savant or new to working with needle and thread, sharpen your sewing skills with some advice from Martha.
Start with the essentials: a few spools of black and white thread (cotton or polyester). Over time, add colors that match those in your wardrobe. Keep fasteners -- snaps, hooks, and eyes -- at the ready, as well as white buttons. Seam binding, elastic, and iron-on patches will help you mend seams and hide stains and rips. You'll also need a pincushion, straight pins, safety pins, and needles of assorted sizes. A needle threader, a wire loop with a small handle at the end, will help you thread a needle with ease: To use it, string the thread through the loop, then pull the loop through the eye of a needle. A tape measure, scissors, a thimble, a seam ripper, and beeswax (to coat thread and keep it from getting tangled) will also be useful.
Refashion the cloth into smaller pieces for the table, such as napkins or coasters. For a table runner, cut a long rectangle, and sew a half-inch hem along each side. Or for a chic presentation, make two shorter runners to lay across the table's width. Place mats are another option. (For neat seems, sew mitered corners.) Not a sewer? Dye the cloth an inky blue or another dark color to give vintage lace or linen a fresh look.
When metal objects that contain iron (and this includes many scissors) are exposed to magnets, they sometimes become magnets themselves. The reason has to do with electrons creating magnetic fields, but you don't need a degree in physics to determine the cause. Storing your scissors near a seam guide or magnetic pincushion could be the problem. A magnet can also damage your sewing machine's computer. To demagnetize the scissors and protect your equipment, rub a magnet on the blades several times in different directions. This will disrupt the magnetic alignment within the scissors.
First, be certain that the cloth is clean before storing it. Then, wrap it around cardboard tubes that have been covered with acid-free tissue paper or muslin. (Find the tubes at fabric stores, or save those that come with wrapping paper.) Wrap another layer of tissue paper or muslin around the top of the cloth. Folding fabric and placing it in acid-free boxes is another option, though this will create creases that will have to be ironed later. Tape swatches to rolls or boxes so that you can find what you're looking for easily. Never keep fabric in plastic bags or containers, and do not let cloth come in direct contact with wooden shelves. Choose a ventilated spot with a consistent temperature; avoid the attic, basement, and garage, where extreme temperatures, humidity, dirt, and dust can affect the quality of fabric.
Small fabric scraps are the heart of patchwork quilts. If creating quilts isn't a pastime of your, consider donating your scraps to a church, retirement home, or charity that collects them for crafts projects. Martha Stewart Living donates fabric to Materials for the Arts, a New York City organization that supplies schools and arts programs. Another option is the Freecycle Network, an online community that lets you post anything you're willing to give away. Natural-fiber fabrics, such as cotton or wool, can be composted; cut them into small pieces, and mix them thoroughly into your compost pile.