Lovely linens make any occasion special. With new spring fabric collections hitting the shelves of online and in-store retailers, now is the perfect time to mix and match your favorites to create a set of fancy placemats for tea time or anytime. When making your next cup, here's a little tea tip: the hotter you brew, the darker and more robust the tea; the cooler your water, the sweeter and more mild it will taste.
We chose a trio of pretty fabrics from the Nature Walk collection by Michael Miller Fabrics, adding in a classic gray gingham in seersucker for the ribbon and bow accents along with a delicate white lace trim.
We kept our base panel fabric consistent from mat to mat, as well as the ribbon stripe, then mixed in a new fabric for each of the overlays. Follow our lead with a new fabric for each overlay or create a perfectly matched set.
The Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey would undoubtedly approve of the design our of layered placemats with their small touches of understated elegance, "At my age, one must ration one's excitement."
It also helps to know a bit of tea etiquette. Number one is to never stir so others can hear it. Do not allow the teaspoon to touch the sides of the cup. Quietly stir in a little figure-eight motion and place the spoon on the front-side of your cup.
We show you a special double-seaming technique for the final layering of the front, back, and batting that helps produce a beautifully flat finish with crisp corners.
You'll also like our basting tip to achieve a perfectly even reveal for the lace trim.
Each placemat finishes at approximately 20" wide x 14" high.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Edge Guide foot; optional but helpful for precise edgestitching; you could also use a Quarter Inch Seam foot - although we recommend your edgestitching be ⅛" for the best look
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful when working with the multiple layers; we used the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system on our Janome Skyline S7
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supplies shown are for a set of TWO placemats
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide standard weight cotton for the front base panel and the back panel; we used Stepping Stones in Azalea from the Nature Walk collection by Michael Miller Fabrics
- ¼ EACH of TWO 44"+ wide coordinating standard weight cottons OR ½ yard of one for the front overlay panels; we used Daydream in Cloud and Hop, Skip & Jump in Bloom both from the Nature Walk collection by Michael Miller Fabrics
- ⅓ yard of 44"+ wide coordinating standard weight cotton for the front stripe accent; we used a gray check seersucker purchased locally, an option is a classic gray gingham or even 1½ yards of ⅞" - 1" gingham ribbon
- 1½ yards of 1"+ wide lace with at least one finished edge; we used a 1¼" scalloped-edge lace, purchased locally – we show below how to precisely stitch and trim for a perfect reveal
- ½ yard of 20"+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon ShirTailor
- ½ yard of 45"+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- ½ yard of 45"+ wide low loft batting; we used Warm Bond by The Warm Company
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
Cuts shown are for a set of TWO placemats
- From the fabric for the front base panel and the back panel(Stepping Stones in our sample), fussy cut FOUR 21" wide x 15" high rectangles.
- From each fabric for the front overlay panels (Daydream and Hop, Skip & Jump in our sample), fussy cut TWO 21" wide x 7" high rectangles.
- From the fabric for the stripes and bows (gingham seersucker in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 2½" x 26" strips
TWO 1¾" x 1½" rectangles for each bow's center knot
NOTE: If using ribbon, cut TWO 26" lengths plus two approximate ⅜" pieces for the bow's center knot.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut TWO 20" x 6" rectangles.
- From the mid-weight interfacing, cut TWO 20" x 14" rectangles.
- From the batting, cut TWO 21" x 15" rectangles.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
The steps shown below outline the construction of ONE placemat.
Create the overlay panels
- Find the two 21" x 7" overlay panels and the 20" x 6" interfacing panel.
- Position the interfacing on the wrong side of one fabric panel so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. This piece will become the front of the overlay. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold back the raw edges ½" along both 21" sides, which means you are folding along the edge of the interfacing. Press firmly to set visible crease lines.
- Repeat to fold back the edges ½" on the non-interfaced overlay panel.
- Find the length of lace. Run a line of machine basting ⅝" up from the finished edge (the scalloped edge in our sample). This will act as your guideline for a perfect reveal.
- Flip the interfaced overlay panel to the right side and flatten the top and bottom folds so their crease lines are visible.
- Align the basting guideline on the lace with the bottom crease line of the overlay panel. Pin in place. Trim the ends of the lace flush with the sides of overlay panel if necessary.
- Find the non-interfaced overlay panel (the back panel) and flatten the top and bottom folds so the crease lines are visible. Place this panel right sides together with the front panel, sandwiching the lace between the layers. Pin together along the bottom edge only. If you are using a directional print, make sure your motifs are correctly lined up along the bottom edge of each panel.
- Stitch the panels together along the bottom edge o nly, running your seam along the visible crease line, which should be a ½" seam allowance.
- Trim away the excess lace to ¼".
- Fold the front and back overlay panels wrong sides together so the lace is facing down from the bottom seam. The side and top edges of the fabric panels should be flush. Press flat.
- Along the top, re-fold both panels together along the original crease lines. Re-press if necessary.
Create the ribbon stripe and bow and place on the overlay panel
- Find the 2½" x 26" strip. Fold it right sides together so it is now 1¼" x 26". Pin in place.
- Repeat to fold and press the small 1¾" x 1¼" center piece, keeping the 1¼" as your finished length.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 26" side. The ends remain open and raw.
- Press open the seam allowance and trim back to ¼".
- Turn the strip right side out, roll the seam to the center and press flat. Cut 5" off one end of the strip for the bow.
NOTE: If you are new to working with tiny tubes, check out our tutorial with tips on Turning and Pressing Skinny Straps & Ties.
- Place the overlay panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the ribbon stripe right side up, ¾" up from the bottom seam of the panel (from the seam, not from the bottom of the lace). Pin in place.
- Edgestitch along both sides of the ribbon stripe through all the layers. We used our Janome Edge Guide foot.
- Find the 5" length for the bow. Fold in half, right sides together, aligning the raw ends. Pin in place.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together, creating a loop.
- Turn the loop right side out. Find the tiny turned tube, which is the "faux knot" for the center of the bow. Pin one end at the back of the bow loop.
- Wrap the knot about the bow loop and cinch, overlapping the raw ends of the knot at the back of the bow. Hand stitch the overlapped ends to secure. Set the bow aside.
NOTE: If you are using ribbon, you can skip the seaming and turning steps. Simply edgestitch the ribbon in place. The bow is made following the same steps.
Assemble final layers to finish
- Find the front base panel and the mid-weight interfacing panel. Position the interfacing on the wrong side of one fabric panel so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- Find the exact horizontal center line of the front base panel. To do this, you can either measure and draw in a horizontal guide line with a fabric pen or pencil or you can fold the panel in half and press to set a crease line (our choice). If you choose to mark your guide line, remember you are working on the right side of your fabric; make sure your fabric pen or pencil will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or heat.
- Place the marked front base panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the overlay panel. Place the overlay panel right sides together with the base panel, aligning the top folded edge of the overlay panel with the base panel's center crease line.
- Once perfectly aligned, unfold the top edge of the overlay panel so it is completely flat and pin in place along the crease line. The bottom lace edge of the overlay panel should be sitting below the top raw edge of the base panel.
- Stitch along the crease line through all the layers.
- Fold the overlay panel down into the position. The seam line becomes the "hinge" that allows the perfectly straight fold. Press well so the overlay panel sits flat against the base panel. The bottom edge of the lace should be 1½" up from the bottom raw edge of the base panel. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch along just the bottom edge of the overlay panel.
- Find the finished bow. Place it at the right side of the ribbon stripe, 3" in from the raw side edge. Hand stitch in place through all the layers.
- Find the plain back panel. Place it right sides together with the assembled front panel. The raw edges of both panels should be flush all around. Pin together, leaving an approximate 4" opening along one side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 4" opening. It helps to stitch with the interfaced side facing up. Not only does the interfacing help stabilize the cotton so there's no stretching, you can also follow the edge of the interfacing to help you keep a consistent ½" seam allowance.
- Find the batting. Place it flat on your work surface. Place the sewn panels right side down on top of the batting. Pin in place all around.
- With the sewn panels on top, follow the original ½" seam allowance around all sides with a second seam. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 4" opening.
NOTE: Why are we stitching twice rather than stitching all three layers together just one time around? Part of the beauty of a placemat is a perfectly flat surface and crisp corners. Because cotton likes to stretch and shift, this two-step seam helps prevent shifting to result in flatter, prettier layers.
- Trim back the batting all around and clip the corners.
- Press open the seam allowance and turn right side out. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin the opening closed.
- Lightly pin across the top of the overlay through all the layers.
- Attach a Walking or Even Feed foot if possible. We engaged the AucFeed® Flex fabric feeding system on our Skyline S7. Lengthen your stitch. Re-thread if necessary with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. We stayed with our pale gray thread throughout.
- Edgestitch across the top of the overlay panel. This edgestitching should be a perfect match, in terms of distance from the folded edge, with the edgestitching along the bottom of the overlay panel. Because the seam goes through all the layers, it acts as a quilting stitch to keep the layers from shifting when laundered.
- Edgestitch around the entire perimeter of the placemat as well. This also helps secure the layers and closes the opening used for turning.
- We wanted our bow to sit at a jaunty angle and so slightly twisted it against the ribbon stripe and hand-tacked it in place to secure.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild