The homespun centerpiece and rustic place markers featured here are easy to make—and inexpensive, too!

Flowers brighten up any dining experience, particularly when they're held in a vase that matches the table setting. Creating such a vase is a cinch when you use a cloth napkin to disguise a plain jar or container.

We chose a 20-inch, square blue napkin with a simple design that complements our dishes. If your napkin has a design, be sure that it's printed on both sides of the cloth. You can choose any size napkin as long as it's large enough to cover your jar.

Our vase was made from a 1-quart mason jar. An empty peanut butter container, instant coffee canister or mayonnaise jar would also work.


Start by unfolding a cloth napkin and setting it on your surface. Place your empty jar in the middle of the napkin and lift up the edges of the napkin, gathering them around the top.

Slip a rubber band around the napkin-wrapped jar, adjusting it so it holds the gathered napkin securely near the mouth of the jar.

Fold down the edges of the napkin and arrange them so the rubber band can't be seen. (If your napkin is not large enough to hide the rubber band, tie strands of raffia, ribbon or yarn over the rubber band.)

Fill the jar with water, then arrange fresh flowers in your new vase.

The flowers you choose should reflect the season and the atmosphere of your gathering. The daisies we selected are a cheerful option for a casual cookout on a warm summer evening.


Stone Place Markers

Since summer is the time for outdoor dining, why not create place markers with items from your own backyard? Smooth, pretty stones not only designate where guests sit, they're a great way to hold down paper napkins if breezes blow.

Rock Photo

Using an opaque paint pen from a craft or stationery store, write the name of each dinner guest on a clean dry stone. Feel free to include a design or small drawing, too.

We wanted our place markers to coordinate with our table, so we wrote guests' names with a blue paint pen and used a white pen to draw a tiny flower on each stone. Once the paint dries completely, the stones are ready to be set on your table.

If you're unable to find enough smooth stones, you can buy small bags of them from the floral departments of craft stores and many department and discount retailers.