Nearly every sewing machine has at least a few decorative stitch options. Most of our Janome studio machines have dozens and dozens. These stitches are like tiny pieces of thread art; it’s hard to believe a single threaded needle can produce such an intricate design. Even though we love them, we often forget to use them, but they are an easy solution to take a simple surface from ordinary to special in the blink of an eye. We created a traditional linen placemat, added eight tiny tucks for texture plus 15 lines of decorative stitching in sparkling metallic thread. Bring a little bling to your holiday table!
Our sample was made on the Janome Sewist 780DC. This is a mid-range model that is a great option for home décor sewing as well as garments, basic quilting, and more. As mentioned, it’s a Janome – so there were lots of great options to choose from for our stitch patterns.
Your sewing needle is covering a lot of ground when it creates a line of decorative stitching. If you try to sew out an ornate stitch at top speed, the quality can suffer. Run your machine a little slower and be patient. You'll be much happier with the results. Plus, even when you think you're applying consistent pressure with your foot pedal, you may not be, so we also like to recommend using a start/stop button (if that's a feature on your model) rather than the foot control when doing decorative stitching. This guarantees even feeding under the presser foot. If you are brand new to exploring your decorative stitches, take a look at our overview tutorial for additional tips on fabric preparation and more.
We’ve included lots of detail below on how we tested, tested, tested to get the best look, size, spacing, and thread type for our placemat. This experimentation is key to any decorative stitching project. As a great way to remember the look of your favorite stitch patterns, try our idea of making a Decorative Stitch Sampler. You’ll have a great reference tool that is pretty enough to frame and hang in your sewing space.
The 100% linen we chose can be machine washed in cold on a gentle setting and tumble dried on low so these placemats are indeed meant to be used. Yes, you’ll need to press them when you take them out of the dryer, but we’re talkin’ lovely table linens for festive celebrations, not picnics in the park. A little ironing is to be expected.
Create all your placemats with the same stitch sequence or mix and match.The tiny tucks add a lovely yet subtle embellishment with two parallel vertical pairs to either side of center.
We used the Blind Hem foot, which comes standard with most Janome models, as an easy-to-use option to get perfect edgestitching around the hem. This is one of the techniques outlined in our Topstitching and Edgestitching Tutorial. The foot is pictured below; yours should look similar with a center flange. And, as shown in the photo, don’t forget to switch out to a metallic needle if you choose metallic thread as we did. The needles larger eye and sharp point help insure the thread flows smoothly through your machine.
We also have a full tutorial on how to create a narrow hem with pretty diagonal point clean corners. This quick corner technique is perfect for all kinds of applications and can use used with a variety of hem widths.
Our placemat finishes at 20” wide x 14” high.
Are you inspired to make using decorative stitches one of your New Year’s resolutions? Check out these other Sew4Home projects: Scandinavian Style Rustic Apron, Sampler Pillow, Moroccan Style Tea Towels, Sewing Machine Cover, Pretty Pillowcases, and a dynamite Crossbody Bag.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Satin Stitch foot; optional for the decorative stitching
- Blind Hem foot; optional for the edgestitching along the hem, the Sliding Guide foot and Edge Guide foot are two other great options for precision hemming
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional for the tucks
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies below are for one placemat. Multiply as needed to fill your table.
- ½ yard of 54”+ wide linen or similar; we used 60” 100% Natural Linen in Mist Gold from Fabric Wholesale Direct – they have a wide selection of beautiful solid linen colors
NOTE: If you choose a narrower fabric, you could get ¾ yard of a standard 44” width fabric and cut the rectangles on the vertical.
- 1 yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible stabilizer; we used Pellon Shape-Flex
- Tear-away stabilizer; optional to stabilize the front panel for the decorative stitching – you would need 15 thin strips approximately 15” in length
- Sewing thread to match fabric
- Metallic or Rayon thread for the decorative stitching; we used a Madeira metallic thread in copper and silver for our stitching, you can, of course, use as few or as many colors as you’d like to get your favorite look
- Bobbin thread for decorative stitching
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
Testing stitches and thread
- As mentioned above, the key to a great decorative stitch finish is to test, test, test to make sure you get the look you want.
- When we started, we weren’t even sure which color of linen we would use, so we quickly stitched together five different colors. On one side of our assembled panel we adhered a standard lightweight fusible interfacing. On the opposite side, we adhered a sheet a tear-away stabilizer over the interfacing.
- We then started testing a variety of stitches and thread types to find the combination we liked best.
- Remember to write down your stitch and thread types on the sample to remember what’s what! You can keep this little mini stitch sampler in your sewing tool box for later reference.
- Press the linen super flat prior to cutting. This is very important when working with a substrate that loves to wrinkle and shift. The flatter it is to start, the more precise the cut.
- From your main fabric, cut the following:
- ONE 26” wide x 16” high rectangle for the front; this panel will be pleated and the decorative stitches added, then it will be trimmed down to size – the extra is not only for the pleating but also to accommodate the little bit of shrinkage that always happens with decorative stitching
- ONE 24” wide x 15” high rectangle for the back; this panel is also a bit oversize to allow a precise cut to the interfacing to create an even border for the wraparound hem
- From the lightweight interfacing, very precisely cut TWO 20” x 14” rectangles
NOTE: As noted above, our testing revealed that a single layer of lightweight fusible interfacing was enough to stabilize the linen for decorative stitching. If your tests yield different results, you may need to cut some additional strips of tearaway stabilizer.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Preparing the back panel
- Find the oversize back panel and one of the pieces of interfacing. Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Using the edge of the fused interfacing panel as your guide, trim the oversize panel down to size so there is a precise ¾” border of fabric extending beyond the interfacing on all four sides.
- Set aside the back panel.
Preparing and pleating the front panel
- Find the oversize front panel and the remaining piece of interfacing.
- Prior to adhering the interfacing, you’ll create the eight tiny tucks for which you'll need two sets of guidelines to both the left and right of center.
- To do this, first fold the panel in half and press to set a center crease. Unfold right side up so the center crease line is visible. Measure 2¾” to the right of center and mark. Measure 4” to the right of center and place a second mark.
- Measure 7¾” to the right of center and mark. Measure 9” to the right of center and place a second mark.
- Repeat to create the same two pairs of marks to the left of center. Make sure you measure and mark along both the top and bottom of the fabric panel. You can simply use pins to mark top and bottom as we did or you can start with pins and then draw in full vertical lines with a fabric pen or pencil.
NOTE: Remember, anytime you are marking on the right side of your fabric, make sure you are using a tool that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Fold the fabric, wrong sides together, along each vertical tuck line. Linen has a very definite weave, so you can use that to help insure you are pressing on grain. You want each fold to be super duper straight and parallel to the next.
- When done, you should have two pairs of vertical folds to either side of center.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Keep a standard stitch length. Working one line at a time, re-fold the tuck wrong sides together. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch the length of the fold. It is very important that your seam stays straight. We used our standard presser foot and the plate markings on our Janome machine. You could also switch out to a Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Once all eight folds are stitched press them away from center – four pressed to the right and four pressed to the left.
- Find the interfacing panel and center it on the wrong side of the pleated fabric panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- If you can still see the fabric panel's center line, great. If not, either re-fold the panel in half and lightly press to set a new center fold or draw in a center vertical line with your tested fabric pencil or pen.
- Re-thread the machine with your chosen decorative thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin. Insert a metallic needle if working with metallic thread.
- Stitch along the drawn line. As mentioned above, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to decorative stitching – especially with metallic thread. If possible, use a Start/Stop button instead of your foot control.
- With the center line of stitching done, mark for the additional lines of stitching. These may vary based on your initial testing. We used a 7mm stitch width and determined that our stitching lines should be 1” on center.
- Don’t forget to work with a marking tool that is safe for your fabric.
- Below is a drawing (click drawing to enlarge) that shows the stitch position of our placemat design. There are five lines of stitching in the center, three lines between each of the tuck sets to the left and to the right, and two lines at either outer edge.
- Stitch along each drawn line. You may find it’s most efficient to stitch all the lines in one color and then re-thread to stitch in the next color.
- Flip over the stitched panel and trim it down to its finished size of 20” x 14”.
Final stitching and hem
- Find the interfaced back panel. Place it interfacing side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the stitched front panel right side down on top of the back panel so the two layers are wrong sides together and there is exactly ¾” of the back panel extending beyond the front panel on all four sides.
- Pin in place through both layers around the perimeter.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a standard straight stitch. We attached a Blind Hem foot.
- To keep any shifting of the layers to a minimum, stitch along ONE of the vertical tuck seams in each of the four pairs. By using the Blind Hem foot, you can run the flange of the foot directly on top of the existing line of stitching to maintain a perfect line. These four lines of stitching go through both layers so you end up with just four seams, in matching thread, on the back of the placemat.
- Working with the ¾” border of the back panel, you’ll create a narrow double fold hem that wraps around the raw edge of the front panel. To do this, fold in the raw edge ⅜” so it aligns with the raw edge of the front panel, then fold an additional ⅜”, wrapping over the top of the front panel. Press and pin in place all around.
- At each corner, unfold both turns of the hem so your fabric lays flat, wrong side up. You should be able to see the crease lines of both ⅜” folds.
- Fold in the corner at a 45˚ angle. Press.
- Trim away the point of the corner.
- Re-fold along both of the original ⅜” crease lines to create the diagonal point. Re-pin. This is a great narrow hemming technique that can be used on lots of projects. We have a full tutorial that shows all the measuring, cutting, and folding steps, which can be adapted to a variety of hem widths.
- With the hem pined in place, and still using our Blind Hem foot, we moved the needle position slightly to the right. This allowed us to run the flange of the foot along the edge of the hem with the needle piercing the very edge. For more of our tips and tricks for topstitching and edgestitching, check out our full tutorial on these important professional finishing techniques.
NOTE: If you are unable to adjust your needle position, consider using a standard foot and following a guideline on your machine’s throat plate, or we have two favorite Janome optional presser feet that offer adjustable guides to set the exact distance from your edge that you wish to stitch: the Sliding Guide foot and the Edge Guide foot.
- Remember to sharply pivot at each of your diagonal corners.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever