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Kwanzaa Table Mat

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Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture that combines traditions from many African cultures. It marks the harvest and emphasizes seven principles of strength: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The 'mkeka' is a place mat, on which the mazao, bowls of fruits and vegetables, are placed. It is traditionally made of straw or cloth and represents culture and history. It is the symbolic foundation on which the holiday stands. Our Kwanzaa table mat is based on this tradition.

Most often here at Sew4Home, we give you very specific information on our fabric choices so, if you want, you can create an exact replica of our project. This time, we're pushing you out on your own. Not to be mean, just because we happened to stumble across this beautiful African print fabric collection on Etsy and purchased all the seller had available. However, we've seen similar lovely prints at local fabric retailers, and so feel confident you'll be able to find a set of fabrics that will be just perfect for your celebration.

The instructions below could work with any ‘charm pack,' which is a bundle of pre-cut squares from within one coordinating fabric collection. It's a great way to go when you have something that calls for patchworking. You save time with the pre-cut squares and the bundles are very inexpensive. One of our favorite online outlets for charm packs is Fat Quarter Shop.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 26 5" x 5" fabric squares: we used a collection of African print fabric squares we purchased on Etsy
  • ¾ yard 54" home dec weight fabric for center/base: we found a remnant at our local fabric store with a lovely multi-hued linen weave
  • ¾ yard 54" wide black fabric for back of mat: we used plain black cotton
  • 4 yards extra-wide black double-fold bias tape
  • All-purpose thread in black
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Iron and ironing board

Getting Started

  1. From your base fabric, cut one rectangle 22" x 50".
  2. From your back fabric, cut one rectangle 22" x 50".
  3. Collect your 26 5" x 5" squares and arrange them on a large flat surface to form your ten square by five square border.
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At Your Sewing Machine

Create the patchwork border panels

  1. Collect the five squares you've chosen for one side panel.
  2. Pin the first two squares right sides together, along one side.
  3. Sew together, using a ½" seam. Iron seam flat.
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  4. Take the third square in your sequence and pin it, right sides together, to the completed two-square piece.
  5. Sew together, using a ½" seam. Iron seam flat.
  6. Continue in this same manner to complete your five-square side panel.
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  7. Repeat steps 2-6 to create the five-square panel for the opposite side.
  8. For the top and bottom panels, follow the same steps, but use eight squares each.
  9. You now have two completed five square rows (the sides) and two completed eight square rows (the top and bottom).
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  10. Lay the side panels onto the top and bottom panels, right sides together, to create a rectangle, lining up your raw edges and making sure your inside corners are 90˚ angles. Pin in place.
  11. Stitch all four corner seams, using a ½" seam allowance. Iron flat.

Attach border to base

  1. Fold under the inside border of the completed rectangle ½" and press to create a finished edge.
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  2. Place the completed border on top of your cut piece of base fabric so the right sides of both are face up. Use your see-through ruler to square up the boarder. The base fabric will extend beyond the raw edge of the border. This is okay; we're going to trim it flush later.
  3. Pin the border to the base along the finished inside edge. Make sure the border lays nice and flat against the base.
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  4. Top stitch along all four finished sides of the border, using a ¼" seam. This attaches the border to the base fabric.
  5. You now have a completed base panel with a rectangle border held in place along its inside edge.
  6. Place this completed panel on top of the black back fabric, WRONG sides together, matching raw edges all the way around. Again, the edges of the base and back fabric will extend beyond the border fabric.
  7. Pin FLAT. Start by placing pins in the middle, smoothing any ripples and working toward the ends.
  8. Edgestitch the base/border panel to the back around all four sides using a ¼" or smaller seam.
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  9. Trim any excess fabric so your back, base and patchwork are exactly flush along their raw edges.
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  10. Iron flat. The table runner is now ready for binding.

Faux mitered binding

  1. Seam together your bias tape to create a length that will go completely around the mat with about 1" - 2" extra. For this project, you'll need approximately 142".
  2. Starting in the middle of one side of the table mat, unfold your bias tape and slip it over the the raw, edge stitched seam. Work from the right side. Be very careful that your middle fold is right on the mat's edge and your binding is even on both sides. Pin from starting point to first corner.
  3. Bring your table mat to your machine and starting in the middle (where you started pinning), stitch binding to mat, staying as close to the edge of the binding as you can.
  4. Sew to the corner and stop. Back-tack to lock your seam.
  5. Remove the mat from under the needle and clip your threads, but do not cut your binding.
  6. Fold a pleat in the corner to make a 45˚ angle. Pin. Encase the new side's raw edge with the binding, working your way to the next corner. Press and pin in place.
  7. Return to your machine, and matching your first line of stitching, edgestitch around the corner and down the side to the next corner. Stop at the corner and back-tack. Note: By "around the corner" I mean you should drop your needle in at the end of your original line of stitching, stitch into the corner, pivot, and then stitch down the new edge. This way, your line of stitching around each corner will appear uninterrupted.
  8. Repeat these same steps at each corner.
  9. When you return to your starting point, tuck under the raw edge of the binding, match bottom edges and match your stitching line to finish. Press.
  10. If you want super flat and secure corners and ending overlap, you can slip stitch the corner folds and the tucked fold where the binding ends

Hints and Tips

If you prefer to make real mitered corners, Starting in the middle of one side, attach your binding, mitering all four corners and making a simple folded edge finish where your ends meet. For more details, link to our tutorial, Bias Tape: how to Make It and Attach It.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Michelle Pacheco



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