Sister Sword of Desirable Mindfulness (fiberaddict) wrote,
Sister Sword of Desirable Mindfulness

Placemat Tutorial

This is VERY photo-heavy; I tried to take a picture of every single step I do...but some of the photos didn't come out. I'll try to explain - if I don't do a good job, ping me and I'll see about making another set. :lol: Also - do as I say, not as I do; I bought the proper amount of border fabric...but when I went to cut it I realized that I prefer the way the print ran from selvedge to selvedge, instead of the way it ran cut end to cut end. So....I ended up NOT having enough fabric to do 6 placemats (and coasters - I'll do a tutorial on them later. They're even EASIER!)


Please excuse me if I over-explain this; I am trying to explain it as if you have No Clue about sewing. Also, I use quilting tools; you do NOT need them for this. I don't have photos of using scissors, but I'll do my best to talk you thru it, OK? OK.

This is for a set of 6 placemats. If you need more, you'll need to up the amount of border fabric (there is PLENTY of body fabric leftover here. I don't mind leftovers; I'll use it for something.)

You need:

1.5 yards of double-sided pre-quilted fabric.

This is the stuff that has fabric on both sides; our local Wal-Mart's don't carry this - they carry the stuff that only has 1 side of fabric. NOW. This stuff is EXPENSIVE - JoAnn's has it for $19.99/yard. Use a coupon ( has 40% off most of the time; I got lucky and had a 50% off 1 item this time.) If you don't want to spend that much, then use a heavy-weight cotton duck. Or, quilt your own body fabric - but that's a bit of work, keeping both sides flat. You could double up fabric...but without quilting I have a problem with it bunching up and not laying flat after the first wash.

1.5 yards of border print.

Since this is for Sukkot, I wanted a harvest print. LOVE this - but I didn't notice in the store that the print looks "better" selvedge to selvedge. Had I noticed, I'd have purchased 2 yards. (For 8 placemats, you might need 2.5 yards - I'm not sure. My table only seats 6.....sorry!) Also, I didn't notice that this piece had a "nibble" out of one of the selvedges.......but I worked around it.

Thread to match the body (or white/black. It really does NOT matter - if you're hand-sewing it, you won't see the stitches. Machine sewing - go with a thread that matches the border.) and needle (for hand-sewing. A Machine if - well, you know. :wink:)

A TON of straight pins. Less if you're going to do 1 placemat at a time - I try to do everything at the same time, so all my ironing is done, then all the cutting, etc. So..I use a LOT of pins. (More right now, because I have 1 Passover placemat that's pinned, 4 RH placemats that are pinned, and now this 1. :lol:)

I recommend ironing the border fabric before beginning this - you want it as smooth as possible so that your cuts are straight. I've done it without ironing, and the placemats turned out fine, so....your call. :grin:

First things first - you need to "square" the body fabric. Fold it in half, then half again (so you have 4 layers) - it doesn't matter which way you fold it, so do what makes sense to you. I folded it selvedge to selvedge, because that gave me the "shortest" piece of fabric - but it doesn't matter.

I use a quilting ruler and rotary cutter - I line up one of the tick marks on the bottom of the ruler with the fold, and wiggle it as close to the edge as I can get it, making sure that all 4 edges are sticking out.

Then I cut it with my rotary cutter:

If you are using scissors, I suggest you do this 1 placemat at a time - it's easier to keep the edges square that way. Using unfolded fabric (unless you are better at cutting multiple layers than I am - I never can keep them straight!), mark a straight line along the edge, and cut. You can use chalk/pencil/pen/maker to make the line - you'll be cutting on it, and then covering it with the border print, so you won't *see* the line. If you decide to use a white fabric for the body, I'd suggest NOT using a marker - but really, it's up to you.

Now I measure out the width:

I used one of my favorite everyday placemats as a template; it's 17" x 12". Since I'm working with 4 layers, I measured the width here - I lined up the first ruler at 12", then laid my "cutting" ruler right up against it. I made sure that I was even (by running the first ruler up and down the length, to make sure the cutting ruler was straight), then I removed the first ruler and sliced the layers with the rotary cutter. For scissors, I'd measure the width, mark it in numerous spots, then connect the dots with a longer ruler, and cut on the line. You want to end up with 6 (or more) body pieces, all the same size.

Now we measure the border. Again, I fold it in half (quarters if I'm cutting it cut end to cut end), then I square the edge (same way as with the body), then I set a ruler at 4.5", set the cutting ruler, and slice it.

Here's 6 of the cut pieces (out of 7 - I have 1 strip left, but it's not enough to do all 6 placemats. :sigh:) Also - I went back and cut the selvedges off, but you could skip that step. You'll be covering the end, anyway - it's up to you.

Now we move to the ironing board. I ironed the body pieces, just to make sure they were perfectly smooth. You don't *have* to...I'm just that way. :lol: You DO need to iron the border pieces - first, you fold them in half, wrong sides together, and press.

Now, open it up, and fold under a seam allowance. You cut the strips at 4.5" wide, remember? This is so you have a .25" seam allowance on both sides, giving you a finished border of 2" on each side. I eyeball the fold here - I try to keep it even the whole length of fabric (sometimes I'm better than others.

Do both sides, then fold the strip in half again and give it a quick press - it makes things easier for the next step - applying the border.

Basically, you want a sandwich - the border print should completely cover the edges of the body fabric.

I try to get the edge of the body fabric right up inside the fold, but it's not always that easy. Fold the top part over, and start pinning.

Make sure you pin thru both sides of the print. Makes it easier when you start to sew.

Now we come to the corner. This...I HATE the corners, because it's fiddly. I have tried to do "proper" mitered corners (per quilting books), but can't quite figure out all the folds. So..this is my way.

Stop pinning about 1" from the corner.

This part....let me try to explain. I sorta crumple the fabric in the corner, while taking the border strip and lining up the fold line with the "new" side of the body fabric.

Then I go back, and try to hold the side in place while prettifying the corner. (This photo is of me prettifying....hope it's helpful!)

Then I pin the corner crease in place, and start pinning the side. Do NOT worry if you can't get it perfect - you can fiddle with it again when you are sewing the border on - I usually end up re-folding it, to make it "perfect". The back is usually ugly until I start sewing it- then, again, I fiddle with it. Right now, you just want the corner in place so you can keep pinning the border on.

Do this all the way around. I, um, ran out of border before I ran out of placemat:

Now. NORMALLY, I'd have already sewn 2 border strips together....this time I didn't. Probably because I wasn't thinking.....anyway. No big deal; I took the placemat and new strip to the machine, put right sides together, and ran a seam. I then clipped it close to the seam, and then went to the ironing board to iron the fold and seam allowances (because.....I was trying to only do 1 placemat for photos. Again, normally, I'd have ironed ALL the strips at the same time. AH, worked. :lol:)

With some prints, it doesn't matter how the new strip is sewn on; with this print I had to be careful that my pumpkins were all running the same way.

When you reach your starting point, you will hopefully have too much border. Overlap it about...oh, an inch, then whack it off. Fold under the raw edge at least .25", and pin it into place. Yes, you'll have a seam. If you're picky, try to start in a corner, so you can end with the mitered corner - it won't show as much. If you're're ready to start sewing! (I was picky on the Passover ones, not picky on the rest.)

If you want to machine sew them, try to keep your stitch line about 1/8" from the folded seam allowance - you want to make sure you catch the under-turned fabric completely, to keep the border from fraying. If you're me, you'll have to sew it 2x; once on each side (because I can't seem to catch both sides of the border in 1 pass.) This is why I am hand-sewing these - it still takes 2 passes, but you don't see either seam.

So - to start hand-sewing this, thread your needle, knot the end, and stick the needle inside the seam allowance. I could NOT get a photo of this- my camera couldn't see the needle. Basically, I gently pull up on the border, so I can slide my needle down in between the seam allowance and front, and poke the needle thru the fold. I then go down thru the top layer of the body fabric (I keep my other hand right under where I'm sewing, to make sure I don't go all the way thru), and run it about .25", and poke it back up, thru the body and the fold. Basically, I'm trying to keep my stitches invisible - so I keep the needle right on the folded edge of the border. It's SO easy to do, but so hard to describe. (Stupid camera!)

Anyway, sew along the border, all 4 sides, then do the other side. You can sew the miters closed as you go, or you can go back when you're finished and do it - on the RH ones, I'm going to go back - I'm using red thread to attach the border, but I think I need to use yellow thread to secure the miters invisibly. Do the same thing on them as you do on the body - try to keep your stitches in the fold.

And, to show you that I'm no expert, here's my first (and so far only) Passover placemat:

I miscalculated my block size on the sides, so these mats will be a little narrower than I wanted. I need to iron these when I'm done -the wavy edges aren't really wavy, it just looks that way because of the pins.

I love these mats - you can toss them in the washer when you're done with them, and you don't really have to iron them (although you can, of course. :grin:) There's so many possibilities with these - it just depends on your border fabric. They go together quick, too - it takes me about an hour to hand-sew each one - MUCH less to machine sew, but I'm still not comfortable with my machine.

Hope this made sense. I'll be making matching coasters later this week (probably RH ones, but we'll see. Tomorrow I go buy another yard of the harvest fabric.), so I'll take pictures of those, too. Have fun - and feel free to ask for clarification. I'll try to get more photos, even, if necessary.

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Tags: sewing

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