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Linen Placemats with Heirloom Stitching

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Table linens are a great way to get started into the world of heirloom stitching, and a placemat (or two or four or more) is a nice, smallish format with which to practice. We'll show you two options today: hemstitching (if you are brand new to heirloom techniques) and fagoting (if you are more advanced). Both placemat designs feature beautiful borders with mitered corners and an optional monogram.

Most often in heirloom sewing, the fabric choice is a mid-weight, lightweight or sheer woven, such as batiste, cotton voile or linen. We chose to work with linen, which comes in a wide variety of weights and colors. Fabric.com carries a beautiful selection of regular linen, including hankerchief linenbatiste, and voile – as well as lovely lace.

For more tips and techniques, check out our overview article: Basic Heirloom Stitching by Machine.

Our placemat samples are done in a medium weight linen, and we stayed with the natural, muted colors most often associated with heirloom sewing. We used a medium weight 100% European Linen. We did one set in Stone, and a second set in OatmealHowever, the techniques shown below are color-blind; you could use other palettes and other fabrics, although we would recommend a medium weight for a placemat.

You could also downsize this project to make a set of napkins in a lighter weight linen. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

The ingredients and instructions are for ONE placemat.

  • ½ yard of 60" linen fabric; we used 100% European Linen from Fabric.com in Stone and Oatmeal
  • ¼ yard of water soluble sticky stabilizer: for the fagoting option only; we used Jenny Haskins' Dissolve Magic 
  • Stabilizer as recommended for your machine for the optional monogram
  • All purpose thread in color to match fabric
  • Contrasting (but similar tone) embroidery thread for the hemstitching/fagoting as well as for the optional monogram
  • See-through quilting ruler; you need one with markings for a 45˚angle
  • Fabric pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Seam gauge

Hemstitching Option: A Beginner Heirloom Stitching Technique

Getting Started

  1. If you are adding the optional monogram, do this first - prior to cutting out your final rectangles. Following the instructions for your machine, cut an oversize rectangle to work with and place the monogram at a diagonal approximately 2" in from the raw edge of the bottom right corner. Exact placement will depend on the monogram/embroidery font you choose as well as the hooping specifics of your machine.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. From the linen, cut the following:
    TWO 17" x 12" center pieces, one fussy cut to position the monogram 
    FOUR 3" x 22" border strips
    FOUR 3" x 17" border strips

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Attach the border strips

  1. Put a dot at each corner of the center piece ½" in, this is where you will start and stop your sewing. Do this on each of the two center pieces.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Measure two of the 17" border strips to find their centers (at 8½"). Mark this point with a pin on each strip.
  3. Measure one of the center pieces along each of the 12" sides to find their centers (at 6"). Mark this point on each side.
  4. Place one border strip right sides together on each side of the marked center piece, aligning the center pin marks. Place additional pins, through both layers, at the ½" corner dots.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together. Start and stop your stitching at the marked dots in the corners.
  6. Repeat with two of the 22" border strips along the top and bottom to complete the placemat front.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Then, repeat all the steps with the remaining center piece and the remaining border strips to create an identical placemat back.
  8. Press the seams first as sewn, then press them open. Do this on both the front and back.
    Click to Enlarge

Miter the corners

  1. Fold the placemat front right sides together on the diagonal, aligning the raw edges of the border strips.
  2. Using the quilting ruler, find the 45˚line. The edge of the ruler should be at a 45˚angle from the inside corner to the outside edge. With a fabric pen/pencil, draw a line from the corner out to the edge.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Stitch along this line.
  4. Repeat these steps (re-folding and marking) for the remaining three corners of the placemat front and all four corners of the placemat back.
  5. Press all these mitered seams open.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Trim the seam allowances to ½".
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Place the front and back right sides together and pin in place.
  8. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, leaving a 4" opening along the bottom edge for turning right side out. Remember to lock your seam at either side of this opening.
  9. At each corner, pivot and take two diagonal stitches to cross the corner rather than a traditional 90˚ pivot. For more about this and other cornering techniques, see our cornering tutorial.
  10. Trim back the corners to match the miter point.
    Click to Enlarge
  11. Press open the seam allowance. Turn right side out and press again.
    NOTE: If you press open your outside edge seam it will make it much easier to press the folded edge once the placemat is right side out.
  12. Press in the raw edges of the opening used for turning so they are flush with the sewn seam. Hand stitch the opening closed.
  13. Place a few pins along the seam joining the center and the band. This will hold your layers together for your final hemstitching.
  14. Place a the wing needle in your sewing machine and attach an Open Toe foot.
  15. Select a Hemstitch on your machine and stitch all the way around the inner rectangle, centering your Hemstitch over the seam line.
    NOTE: For a stitch to qualify as a hemstitch it must go into the center at least three times, making a hole.
  16. On our Janome Horizon Memory Craft 15000, we used a classic diamond stitch set at a 7.0mm width and 2.0mm length.
    Click to Enlarge
  17. If you are new to hemstitching, remember to take a check out our technique tutorial: Basic Heirloom Stitching by Machine.

Fagoting Option: An Advanced Heirloom Stitching Technique

Getting Started

  1. As above, if you are adding an optional monogram, do this step first.
  2. From the linen, cut the following:
    TWO 17" x 12" center pieces, one fussy cut to position the monogram 
    FOUR 3" x 22" border strips
    FOUR 3" x 17" border strips

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Center piece

  1. Place the two center pieces right sides together and pin in place.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, leaving a 4" opening along the bottom edge for turning right side out. Remember to lock your seam at either side of this opening.
  3. As you did in the Hemstitching option, at each corner, pivot and take two diagonal stitches to cross the corner rather than a traditional 90˚ pivot. For more about this and other cornering techniques, see our cornering tutorial.
    Diagram
  4. Press open the seam allowance, turn right side out, and press flat.
    NOTE: As above, if you press open your outside edge seam first, it will make it much easier to press a crisp folded edge once the placemat is right side out.
  5. Press in the raw edges of the opening used for turning so they are flush with the sewn seam. Hand stitch the opening closed.

Borders

  1. On TWO 17" border strips and TWO 22" border strips, run a line of stitching ½" from one long raw edge. These stitch lines are actually folding guide lines.
    Diagram
  2. Pair up these stitched border strips with their corresponding non-stitched border strips. You should have four pairs; each pair has one piece with guide stitching and one piece without.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew each pair together along the long edge OPPOSITE the stitched edge.
    Diagram
  4. On each stitched pair, press the seam as sewn, then open it out flat and press.
  5. Trim one side of the seam allowance back to ¼".
  6. Fold wrong sides together and press the fold. You now have one double-sided border strip, right sides out on both the front and back, with one seamed edge. 
    Diagram
  7. Repeat these steps on the remaining three border strip pairs.
  8. On each double-sided border strip, you now need to deal with the long raw edges. Using your original line of guide stitching, fold back right along the stitching and press. This side should now be considered the FRONT side of the band.
  9. Fold and press under the other raw edge, matching it up precisely with the first fold.
  10. Repeat this on the remaining three double-sided border strips.
    NOTE: This may seem like a lot of steps. Why didn't I just say fold under ½"? It is essential that your border strips are perfectly straight and flush in order for the fagoting to work correctly (and look good!). These extra steps help insure the accuracy of the edge.
  11. Cut FOUR strips of sticky stabilizer. Two pieces at 1" x 18" and two pieces at 1" x 13". Remove the paper backing, and stick the strips to the back of the finished center piece, framing it around all four sides with a generous ½" extending beyond the edges.
    Click to Enlarge
  12. Arrange the four completed double-sided border strips on the sticky stabilizer. The folded-in edges should be facing the center piece with the seamed edges becoming the outer edge all around. Lay the strips down carefully, leaving a generous ⅛" gap between the center piece and the border strips.
    Click to Enlarge
  13. Using a quilting ruler, draw a diagonal line (45˚) from the inside of the corner. Draw a line across the top strip as well as the strip underneath it! Do this on the upper left and bottom right corners.
    Diagram
  14. Gentle pull up the border strips from the sticky stabilizer.
  15. At the corners with the drawn diagonal lines, work with one border strip at a time. Place a ruler along the drawn line and draw a parallel line ½" away. Trim along this line, creating a ½" seam allowance. Unfold to reveal what is now a pointed end. Repeat on the remaining three ends on which you drew your diagonal lines.
  16. Start in one corner; we chose the upper left. Place the points right sides together, aligning the diagonal sides. Be sure not to twist the strips, they all need to be right sides together. Use the center crease lines to help you keep track of which are the right sides.
    Diagram
  17. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the points together. Start at one side of the corner at the fold mark, sew to the point, stop with the needle down in the crease line, pivot, then continue to sew down the opposite side of the corner to the opposite fold.
  18. Pinch and pull the point apart so the seam runs down the center on both sides. Press the seam open and flat on both sides.
    Diagram
  19. Turn the newly mitered corner right side out. Press in place.
  20. Repeat to create the mitered seam in the opposite corner (the bottom right in our sample)
    NOTE: If you are new to mitered corners, we do have a Mitered Corner Hem tutorial. It is a bit different as we are working with a flat square rather than a frame, but the steps are similar and may help with the visualization of this 3-D technique.

Opposite borders and final assembly with fagoting

  1. Replace the borders into position on the sticky stablizer around the center and mark the remaining two corners.
    Diagram
  2. Repeat the above steps to create mitered seams in both of these remaining corners.
  3. You now have a lovely border frame with pretty mitered corners.
  4. To close the folded edges of the border strips, select a zig zag stitch and set it for approximately 2.0mm wide and 3.0mm long. Make sure your thread in the top and the bobbin are as close a match as possible to your fabric.
  5. Hand crank the handwheel on the machine to test the needle drop. The left swing of the needle should just pierce the fabric and the right swing should go off the edge. Stitch all the way around the inside of the border frame to join these inside folded edges. Your nearly invisible stitch is wrapping the folded edges to secure them.
  6. Carefully replace the borders into position on the sticky stabilizer around the center, confirming you still have the even ⅛" gap between the center and the borders.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Re-thread your machine with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used an embroidery thread.
  8. Attach an Open Toe foot.
  9. Select a Fagoting stitch and join the center and the border. The stitch needs to be wide enough so the swing from left to right catches both the center square and the inside (stitch-wrapped) edge of the border. Stitch all the way around the center. You want your needle to just catch the fabric on the left and right swings of the needle. Sew down each edge from corner to corner then pivot.
    Diagram
  10. If you are new to fagoting, check out our technique tutorial: Basic Heirloom Stitching by Machine
  11. When complete, remove the stabilizer according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  12. Depending on your machine, you are likely to have a number of stitches from which to choose from to create the fagoting seam. Below are six examples of stitches we tested along with the width and length settings that would be appropriate for this project.
  • Option 1: width at 7.0mm, length at 4.5mm
    Click to Enlarge
  • Option 2: width at 7.0mm, length at 1.0mm
    Click to Enlarge
  • Option 3: width at 7.0mm, length at 2.0mm
    THIS IS THE STITCH WE USED FOR OUR SAMPLES
    Click to Enlarge
  • Option 4: width at 7.0mm, length at 2.5mm
    Click to Enlarge
  • Option 5: width at 7.0mm, length at 1.7mm
    Click to Enlarge
  • Option 6: width at 7.0mm, length at 2.0mm
    Click to Enlarge

    Contributors

    Project Design: Alicia Thommas    
    Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Carol McKinney

    Section: 

    Comments (5)

    AlexLe said:
    AlexLe's picture

    Hi mate,

    So great idea. this tablecloth looks so simple but beautiful. Thank you for sharing with very specific step by step instructions. Just a sewing machine with an assortment of decorative stitches we can do this project. It is wonderful.

    Wishing you well and success!

    terid1999 said:
    terid1999's picture

    Perfect wedding gifts.  Would you kindly provide instructions for napkins to match?  Also, what about oval placemats?

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

    @terid1999 - glad you enjoyed the article. We will add your suggestions for napkins and oval placemats to our official, You Aksed 4 It list. 

    Gail m. said:
    Gail m.'s picture

    I love this project.  Is that embroidered font part of the sewing machine?  

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

    @ Gail m. - That is not a built-in font on the MC15000. 

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