Inexpensive and easy to come by at hardware stores, a painter's drop cloth is the start of so many ideas for your home. Crafts editor Marcie McGoldrick shows how making a big, bright pillow; a tidy storage solution; or a relaxing hammock can be a breeze.
Made from a lightweight drop cloth, these basic envelope-style pillowcases are dyed in bright, citrus hues and top-stitched all the way around. To give them an extra-appealing texture, the edges are fringed.
6-ounce drop cloth, 4' by 15', by Trimaco, $17.50,
Heavier drop cloths are more tightly woven -- and offer shade on a hot and sunny day. Carabiners, rope, long branches, and stakes give the shelter structure. Corners are folded, sewn down, and grommeted to add strength and durability. For tips on how to erect a canopy, visit marthastewart.com/canopy.
These projects call for just straight stitching, using all-purpose thread for the greatest strength. As with the sunshade, sewing down the corners and grommeting (as shown, left) will keep them from fraying.
These allow you to link different cloths together.
Hanging two oblong cloths side by side can separate an outdoor space into distinct areas. The drop cloths, suspended from hooks, have grommets at the top and bottom. Keep it from flapping in the wind when it's extended to the floor by threading rope through a grommet and wrapping it around a rock. To adjust the height, roll it up from the bottom and suspend it with twill tape.
It only looks like an amenity at a luxury spa: This outdoor shower curtain is actually made with shower-curtain hooks, grommets, and a plastic-backed drop cloth. When you dye such lined drop cloths, the hue tends to be a little subtle, since the dye doesn't soak all the way through. (For dyeing how-tos, see "Drop-Cloth DIY," next slide.)
Canvas drop cloth with Poly Backing, 9' by 12', $20,
Don't let their size scare you away: These sheets of canvas are easy to sew, finesse, and dye different colors.
1. Use the selvage edge.
Lots of drop cloths come with a bound edge. When you utilize that edge in your project, you won't need to hem along those lengths. This is especially helpful (and time-saving) for large-scale projects like the hammock and the sunshade.
2. Fringe some edges.
Creating a soft, fuzzy side requires cutting the cloth and then separating and pulling away threads along the cut edge. Drop cloths come in a variety of thicknesses, denoted by weight per linear yard: The lower the weight (as with six-ounce ones for the pillows), the lighter the fabric will be, and the fuzzier the fringed edge.
3. Work with the seams.
Given their size, lots of drop cloths come pieced together and have visible seams. Do not worry about working around them: They will add to the appeal of the finished product. The same can be said for the vagaries and inconsistencies in color and weave.
4. Dye cloth and cord.
If you want colored fabric -- as opposed to a neutral beige -- dye it with Rit or IDye. If you plan to use cotton rope, dye that too. Prewash the fabric to get rid of any sizing agents so it will absorb color uniformly. (The thinner the drop cloth, the more intense the resulting color.) It's tidiest to dye fabric outside in large plastic storage containers: Use very hot water, and stir the dye in well to mix the color (adding salt, according to the dye instructions, will help the color soak in). Wet the drop cloth with water before placing it in the dye bath, then move it around and separate any folds to ensure the whole surface is permeated with the dye. All fabrics need to be rinsed after the dye bath; since this will lighten the color slightly, remove the fabric from the dye when it looks a little darker than the desired shade.
Cotton rope, 1/4", 10 cents per foot, and 3/8", 24 cents per foot;
Natural-colored drop cloths are an affordable way to give open shelves the hidden-storage capability of cabinets: Size and sew panels to fit, then attach them to the woodwork with twist studs and eyelets. Similarly, the window blinds and door curtain are hemmed rectangles, hung with tension rods.
Mother Nature supplied the anchoring trees. Everything else you need to make this comfy cocoon of canvas, you can get at the hardware store: a six-by-nine-foot drop cloth, grommets, rope, and O-rings. (Toss a few pillows on the hammock and you might stay in it all weekend.)