By emphasizing a large motif and using a contrasting fabric for the borders, this place mat design creates the perfect frame for your favorite place setting. You’ll learn how to fussy cut to perfectly center the fabric’s motif, so whether you make two or twenty, each mat can be a perfect match. Our clever construction method starts as a tube, allowing a flatter finish with four lines of vertical topstitching.
We chose Tapestry Linen Canvas from the Menagerie collection by Rifle Paper Company for Cotton + Steel, which has lovely metallic accents. This is combined with a classic black denim from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. You want to select two fabrics of similar weights for the best balance.
Although the weights should be similar, don’t be afraid to experiment with more unusual substrate combinations. We settled on the lovely linen/canvas first and were then tasked with finding the best partner for it. Our first inclination was to go with another canvas or perhaps a smooth twill – both fine choices, but the denim, an outlier alternative, ended up being the best option. We mention our thought process not to say that you must use the exact same pairing, but rather to emphasize that mixing and matching is not a science… it’s an art, and it often means stepping away from the ordinary.
With the heavier canvas and denim, we didn’t feel the need to add batting – something we often do with our place mat projects to give a bit more tabletop protection for hot dishes and condensation from plates and glasses. Instead, a single layer of standard mid-weight interfacing backs all the panels.
As mentioned above, rather than the traditional method of stitching together front and back layers, we came up with a clever seam-and-roll construction option. You’ll cut one large panel from the denim and a smaller panel from the print. These panels are stitched into a tube, leaving a secret opening in one vertical seam that will be used later for turning right side out. The tube is rolled to perfectly center the fussy cut panel, then the rolled tube is flattened and stitched along the top and bottom. Read on for all the quick and easy steps.
Our motif is considered “large” because of its large repeat area, but the layout would work equally well for fabric with single large motifs, such as damasks, paisleys, and medallions. For more information on mastering the proper mixology of color and motif, check out our article: Top 10 Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.
Each place mat finishes at approximately 15″ high x 20″ wide.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Denim needle
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for the final topstitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies shown are for TWO placemats – multiply as needed to fill your table.
- ½ yard of 44”+ lightweight canvas, canvas-linen blend or similar; we used Tapestry Linen Canvas in Midnight from the Menagerie collection by Rifle Paper Company for Cotton + Steel
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide mid-weight denim or similar (you want the weight to be similar to the canvas/canvas-linen); we used 8oz Black Washed Indigo Denim by Robert Kaufman
NOTE: Denim is sometimes quite wide. If you can find a denim that is 58”+, you could get away with ½ yard by cutting the 29” panels side by side.
- 1 yard of 45”+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Heavier thread in a slightly contrasting color for the topstitching; we used Coats Jeans/Topstitching thread in an orange/gold
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
NOTE: As mentioned above, cuts shown are for TWO placemats.
- From the print fabric, fussy cut TWO 13” wide x 16” high rectangles.
- Find the exact center point of your large motif and then measure 6½” to the right of center and 6½” to the left of center, drawing a vertical line at each outer point.
- Cut along the outer drawn lines.
- Repeat, again finding the exact center point of your large motif, this time measuring 8” up from center and drawing a horizontal line, and 8” down from center, drawing a parallel horizontal line. Cut along these drawn lines.
- You now have a 13″ x 16″ center print panel with your large motif perfectly centered top to bottom and side to side. This fussy-cutting also allows you to match the front panels from placemat to placemat so they all have the exact same look.
- From the denim fabric, cut TWO 29” wide x 16” high rectangles.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 12” x 15” rectangles for the center print panels
TWO 28” x 15” rectangles for the denim panels, then from each of these panels, sub-cut TWO 4” x 15” strips. For each placement, you need one 20” x 15” panel and two 4” x 15” panels.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Fusing the interfacing
- Find the 13” x 16” center print panel and the 12” x 15” interfacing panel. Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place the 29” x 16” denim panel wrong side up and flat on your work surface. Collect the three panels of interfacing for this panel (one at 20” x 15” and two at 4” x 15”). Starting from the right side of the fabric panel, place one 4” x 15” panel. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing along the right edge as well as both top and bottom. Lightly tack in place with your iron.
- Place the large (20” x 15”) panel next to the 4” panel. These two interfacing panels should be flush top and bottom and the center edges should butt almost together; you need just a crack to help facilitate the final fold of the roll-and-seam placement. Lightly tack in place with your iron.
- Finally, place the remaining 4” x 15” panel in place along the left edge. Again, the top and bottom edges should be flush with the other interfacing panels, the inner edges should be almost touching, and the outer edge of this last panel should be ½” in from the left edge of the fabric panel.
- With all three panels positioned, fully fuse in place, following manufacturer’s instructions.
- The illustration below shows the positioning of the interfacing on the two panels.
Stitching, rolling, and final upper and lower seams
- Pin the print panel right sides together with the denim panel, aligning the 16” edges.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance, which means you should be stitching along the edge of the interfacing.
- Repeat to pin together the remaining 16” edges, creating a tube. But on this second seam, leave an approximate 4-5” opening at the center of the seam.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance. Remember to lock the seam at either side of the 4-5” opening.
- With the tube still wrong side out, roll it to center the print panel. This means there should be 4” of denim to either side. As shown below, the 4” is measured from the seam to the outer fold.
- Pin in place across the top and bottom of the placemat. Take the time to check that your side panels are truly even from top to bottom, measuring each corner. The seam allowances should be pressed together and toward the side denim panels.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top and bottom. These seams are what secure the print panel in its centered position.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances top and bottom.
- Turn the placemat right side out through the opening in the one vertical seam.
- Use a long, blunt toot to gently push out all the corners so they are nice and sharp. A knitting needle, chopstick or point turner all work well. Press the placemat super flat, including the opening in the vertical seam. Remember, those vertical seam allowances should be facing the outer denim panels. Pin the opening closed.
- Re-thread the machine with the contrasting, heavier thread in the top and bobbin. Lengthen the stitch. If possible, attach a Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Topstitch along each outer folded edge from top to bottom, ¼” from the edge.
- Topstitch ¼” from each inner vertical seam within the denim panel. This topstitching closes the opening used for turning.
- For all topstitching seams, when both starting and finishing, use a lockstitch, a very neat backstitch, or leave your thread tails long and knot to secure. The top and bottom of each seam need to be right at the edge of the mat and you want as neat a start and finish as possible.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild