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Picnic Placemats with Flatware Pockets

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Outdoor dining takes a little creativity in order to keep everything from blowin' in the wind. Our darling, durable placemats have built-in pockets to hold flatware and/or napkins. Dining in? Hooray for the reversible! Simply flip over the placemats for whole new look – the back is pocket-free. These clever placemats are so quick and easy, you can easily whip up enough for your own table or the entire family reunion in a single weekend. You want a substantial fabric for this project: a canvas, heavy cotton duck or an outdoor fabric. We went the outdoor fabric route, which worked well and looked great. We love the bright, bold designs common in the outdoor category – perfect for casual summer meals. 

Normally, outdoor fabrics are not meant to be machine washable. It can remove the protective coatings that help keep them from fading in the sun and molding in the damp. However, these placemats are not meant to be left out in the elements for days on end, so fading and molding aren't the huge concerns they might be with pillows or cushions left out all season. We cut several smallish (about 9" x 12") swatches and washed and dried them several times. They turned out great.

Plus, the surface of outdoor fabrics tends to resist dirt and grime and can often simply be spot cleaned. If you plan on inviting Cousin Earnie over for the annual rib barbecue, you might consider having him eat on a towel instead of one of these. 

If you're new to working with outdoor fabrics, you may also want to take a look at our Waverly tutorial outlining some basic outdoor fabric care facts.

Each placemat finishes at approximately 20" wide x 14" high. The pocket finishes at approximately 5" wide x 6" high.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

We created a set of four mix and match placemats; the supply list below is for the same.


Placemat One:

  • Front:  Vertical Stripe
  • Back & Pocket: ZigZag 

Placemat Two:

  • Front: Starburst 
  • Back & Pocket: Polka Dot 

Placemat Three:

  • Front: Polka Dot 
  • Back & Pocket: Vertical Stripe 

Placemat Four:

  • Front: ZigZag
  • Back & Pocket: Starburst

Supplies needed for all placemats

  • Coats Outdoor Living thread to match fabric
    NOTE: Regular thread will succumb to the elements much more quickly, so it's a good idea to use a specialty thread. However, since these placemats won't be left out for extended period, a standard all-purpose thread would also work. 
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins 

Getting Started

  1. From each of the FOUR fabrics, fussy cut the following:
    TWO 21" wide x 15" high rectangles
    ONE 6" wide x 8½" high rectangle

At your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Prepare and place the pocket

  1. Find the four fussy cut 6" wide x 8½" high rectangles. 
  2. Fold in and press both sides and the bottom edge ½".
  3. Fold the top edge down 2" and press. 
    NOTE: Be very precise with your measuring and folding so your pretty, centered fussy cut stays pretty and centered.
  4. Pin in place all around.
  5. Create a top hem by stitching across the top of the pocket approximately 1¾" from the top folded edge.
  6. Place the pocket on the right side of the placemat front in the bottom right hand corner. It should be 1½" up from the bottom raw edge and 1½" in from the right raw edge. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  7. Using a Quarter Inch Seam foot (if possible), stitch along both sides and across the bottom, leaving the top open ('cause, yeah, it's a pocket). Remember to pivot at the corners. We also like to do a heavy back tack at both upper corners as this is a stress point when using the pocket. 
  8. Repeat to create the remaining three pockets for the remaining three placemat fronts. 

Assemble the layers to finish

  1. Find each front and back placemat pair. Place the two layers right sides together, sandwiching the pocket in between.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, leaving a 6" - 8" opening along the bottom for turning. Remember to pivot at all the corners, and to lock your stitch at either side of the 6" - 8" opening.
  3. Trim all the corners at a diagonal and press the seams open. 
  4. Turn the placemat right side out through the opening. 
  5. Gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long, blunt-end tool works best for this, such as a knitting needle or chopstick.
  6. Press well, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  7. Pin the opening closed.
    NOTE: We also added pins all around prior to the final edgestitching. The indoor/outdoor fabric is rather thick, and the extra pins held the two layers flat and kept them from shifting. 
  8. Topstitch around all four sides, using a ¼" seam allowance. This closes the opening and secures the two layers. We used our Quarter Inch Seam foot again to keep our seam line super straight and even. Remember to remove your pins as you sew. 


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild


Comments (7)

Michelle said:
Michelle 's picture

Love these. If I add ribbon to tie it, will I still be able to put it in the washing machine or will that fray the ribbon ends?  Thank you

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

@Michelle - it would depend on the ribbon you use - a grosgrain would probably hold up the best, but you would certainly need to finish the cut ends with a tiny hem or similar. A twill tape or thin cotton webbing would be another option. But in these cases as well, if there is a cut end that frays, it should be finished.

Kelly Aley said:
Kelly Aley's picture

I also added a yard of ribbon (folded in half) on the opposite side of the utensil pocket. Now, I can roll this up and keep it in my lunchbox at work.

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

@ Kelly - Great idea. Thanks for sharing it with us 

cori said:
cori's picture

Made these, now everyone wants me to made them  some.

Juanita P Dixon said:
Juanita P Dixon's picture

where did the fabric come from. NI really like the placemat

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

Juanita P Dixon - we always provide not only the specific fabric details for our projects but also direct to buy links in our Fabric & Supplies lists. As you can see in that section above, we used a combination of outdoor fabrics from several different manufacturers -- I'm not sure which of the four placemats was your favorite. All our selections were from Fabric.com. Click the links above for more information and/or to buy the fabric. Should a link default to the Fabric.com home page that may mean the fabric is currently out of stock, but you can have fun searching through their outdoor fabric section for even more choices. Enjoy!

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