Holiday gatherings might look a bit different this year, but setting a beautiful table is always in style – and a lovely way to keep traditions alive. We opted for a set of colorful modern placemats for our newest tabletop design. The large, flat front of the placemat is like a canvas for your creativity; combining patchwork, decorative quilting, and bold appliqué. All of it comes together with crisp, clean lines of precision stitching and a striking color palette.
Our thanks for our friends at Janome America who provide all our S4H studio sewing and embroidery models. We are so grateful to be able to work with what we feel are the best machines in the industry. You can learn more about why we are an exclusive Janome studio in our full review article. For this particular project, we relied on the power and precision of Janome stitching as well as their no-fail fabric feeding.
The center panel of each placemat is created as a strata, which is a quilter’s term for a block of pieced fabric made up of strips sewn together side-by-side.The completed strata can then be cut into smaller sections for inclusion in your project. It’s a wonderful time-saving, fabric-saving technique!
Our strata is created from 2½” Design Roll strips in color-rich florals from Kaffe Fassett for FreeSpirit Fabrics. The vibrant patchwork is framed top and bottom with white panels. Adding a neutral solid in this manner pulls your attention to the center panel. The back panel is cut from a fat quarter in coordinating Kaffe Fassett florals.
Quilting top and bottom adds texture to the placemats but is meant to be a subtle tone-on-tone effect. We used a diamond pattern at the top and vertical straight lines at the bottom. To help you get the same effect, we’ve included a placement template below as a free download so you can trace in all the guide lines.
Each placemat features a large appliquéd leaf bridging the center strata panel and the bottom solid panel. There are free templates included for the three leaf designs featured on our samples, but you could also draw your own leaves or choose a different shape that compliments your fabric selections. Our modern design has a trendy tropical feel, but perhaps you’d like classic autumn leaves or holiday pine cones. With appliqué, simple shapes are best, and for this design, interior veins and stems add some very pretty dimension.
You’ll see in our steps below that we switched out our presser feet throughout the project to give us the most accurate seam line and flexibility. The selection of feet and accessories is another one of our favorite things about Janome machines. When you’re using the right presser foot for the job, everything becomes easier!
With quilted placemats, including several of we have here on S4H, a bound edge is the most traditional finish. However, because we wanted a very crisp and flat edge, in keeping with our modern design, we instead did most of the quilting first on just the front panel, then placed the front and back panels rights sides together, stitched the perimeter, turned right side out, and finished with limited additional quilting through all the layers. To maintain that sharp seamed edge, we closed the opening used for turning with a fusible rather than hand stitching.
Our placemats finish at approximately 18” wide x 15” high.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional, but all seam allowances are ¼” so this foot does help with consistency and accuracy
- Open Toe Satin Stitch foot or similar for appliqué stitching
- Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio machines. This is optional but is the best practice for the quilting steps
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Scraps or 2½ ” Design Roll Strips for the center strata; we used nine strips from a Kaffe Fassett Collective for FreeSpirit Fabrics Design Roll in the Green colorway exclusive to Fabric.com
NOTE: Each placemat uses NINE different strips, however, the strips are cut to 7½” so ONE standard 44” Design Roll strip can yield up to five strips, depending on how you choose to fussy cut. Our instructions below show how we sewed together our nine strips and from that completed patchwork cut all three of our completed strata sections. For more than one placemat this is by far the easiest and most efficient option.
- Fat Quarter or ½ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating print to the strata fabrics for the back panel of the placemat; we used three fat quarters from a Kaffe Fassett Collective for FreeSprit Fabrics 20-piece FQ bundle in the Green colorway exclusive to fabric.com
- ¼ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton for the upper and lower front panels; we used Kona cotton in PFD White
- ¼ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton for the leaf appliqué; we used three colors of Kona cotton: Plum, Zucchini, and Peapod
- ½ yard of 20”+ wide low loft batting
- ½ yard of 20”+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- Scraps of paper-backed fusible web for applying the leaf appliqué; we used Pellon Wonder Under
- Scraps of tearaway stabilizer for stitching the leaf appliqué
- All purpose thread to match fabric for construction and quilting; we used 50wt Aurifil cotton in 2821 Natural White
- Matching thread for appliqué; we used Sulky 40wt rayon in white for the leaf veins as well as the following colors to match the Kona colors above: 1043 Burgundy, 1104 Light Avocado, and 1322 Chartreuse
- Bobbin thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Template Downloads
- Download and print out the Quilting Assembly Guide and one or more of the Three Leaf Templates (depending on how many placemats you are making). These have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each of the seven pages in this PDF is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale. If possible, we recommend printing in color to better see the lines on the Quilting Assembly Guide.
- Match the arrows on the four pages of the Quilting Assembly Guide to butt together the pages (do NOT overlap) to create the full template.
- From solid fabric for the upper and lower front panels (Kona Cotton in PFD White in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 18½” x 5½” strip for the upper panel
ONE 18½” x 3½” strip for the upper panel
- From the print fabric for the back panel (Kaffe Fat Quarter in our sample), cut ONE 18½” x 15½” rectangle.
- From the low loft batting, cut ONE 20” x 17” rectangle.
- From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, cut ONE 18” x 15” rectangle.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Construct the center strata
NOTE: As mentioned above, we are showing our “assembly line” method of creating one large strata panel and cutting it into multiple 7½” sections for multiple placemats. This is the easiest and most efficient method, but you can certainly also start with 7½” strips to assemble each center strata independently.
- Arrange your NINE 2½” strips in a pleasing order. It’s helpful to number each of the strips so you don’t lose track.
- Using a ¼” seam, sew Strip 1 to Strip 2, Strip 3 to Strip 4, Strip 5 to Strip 6, and Strip 7 to Strip 8. For a perfect ¼” seam allowance, we’re using our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Press each seam toward the even numbered strip. You now have four sets of two plus Strip 9, which will be added in a later step.
- Still using a ¼” seam, sew Strip 1+2 to Strip 3+4 and sew Strip 5+6 to Strip 7+8.
- Press the seams toward the larger numbered strip.
- You will now have two sets of four, plus Strip 9.
- Still using a ¼” seam, sew together these two sets of four to complete your 8-strip panel
- Finally, add Strip 9 to Strip 8, which is at the edge of the completed 8-strip panel. Press the seam toward Strip 9.
- Place the completed strata on your cutting mat.
- Using a see-through ruler and rotary cutter, slice the strata into 7 ½” strips. We sliced our strata into three panels.
NOTE: You should have enough fabric to carefully position your slices for a pretty fussy cut of each section. We did not fussy cut our strata sections; the fabric was vibrant enough that each random slice produced a gorgeous section.
Complete the front panel
- Place your strata on a flat surface with Strip 1 on the left, Strip 9 on the right.
- Find the 5½” wide strip of solid cotton (Kona PFD white in our sample). Place this strip right sides together along the upper edge of the strata. Pin in place.
- Using a ¼” seam, stitch across through both layers.
- Press the seam toward the solid panel.
- Add the 3½” wide strip of solid cotton to the lower edge of the strata in the same manner.
- Your front panel is complete.
- Place the leaf pattern right side down on your work surface. Tape it in place so it won’t slip.
- Place the paper-back fusible web over the leaf pattern, following manufacturer’s instructions. We weighted down the fusible web
- Trim around the traced leaf about ¼” from drawn outline.
- Iron the trimmed fusible web to the colored Kona cotton, then trim the leaf along the drawn outline.
- Remove the paper backing and position the leaf appliqué on the assembled placemat. The drawing below shows our recommended placement for each leaf design.
- Once you have the leaf exactly where you want it, press the appliqué in place, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Cut a square of tearaway stabilizer slightly larger than your chosen leaf shape. Place this square behind the leaf appliqué, pinning in place. This stabilizer helps support the satin stitch outline for the cleanest finish.
- Switch to an Open Toe Satin Stitch foot or similar for the best view of your stitching. Re-thread the machine with bobbin thread in the bobbin and the rayon thread that matches the leaf appliqué in the top.
- We like to use a two-step method of finishing the edge: first running a small zig zag stitch around the appliqué to secure the edge, then finishing with a wider satin stitch to create a smooth outline.
- For the zig zag, we adjusted the stitch settings to 2.5mm in width and 1.00mm in length.
- Stitch along the edge of the appliqué so the needle swings just off the edge of the leaf on the right then swings back to the left fully land in the leaf fabric.
- Pivot at each corner, and when working on tight curves, stop with the needle in the fabric and reposition the foot every few stitches.
NOTE: If you are brand new to appliqué, you can take a look at our full Appliqué Like a Pro tutorial prior to starting the project.
- Continue around the entire perimeter of the leaf with the zig zag.
- For the satin stitch outline, change the setting to a width of 3.00mm and a length of 0.5mm. Stitch around the perimeter of the leaf a second time, adjusting the foot placement on tight curves, and pivoting at each corner just as you did above.
- Mark the veins of the leaf, using the original paper pattern as a guide.
- There are multiple veins so it can help to plan your stitching in two steps, similar to how you did the perimeter stitching. Start at the base of a vein and stitch toward the tip with the small zigzag.
- Then stitch back to the base using the satin stitch settings.
- Next, travel along the main center line to the next vein using a straight stitch.
- The final line of satin stitching will be the main center line.
- When the appliqué is complete, remove the excess stabilizer from the back of the panel.
Quilting the placemat
- Find the batting panel and the assembled Quilting Assembly Guide.
- Place the batting flat on your work surface. Center the front panel on top of the batting and lightly pin in place.
- Using the Quilting Assembly Guide, a ruler, and a marking tool, draw in the quilting guide lines. Start with the straight lines that go through the lower panel and the strata. Yes, the lines go through the appliquéd leaf.
- Then draw in the diamond lines that go through the upper panel.
NOTE: Remember, any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure to use a marking tool that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Switch to a Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcurFeed™ Flex.
- Thread the machine with all off-white purpose thread in the bobbin and the top. Select a straight stitch and lengthen the stitch length slightly. We used 2.8mm.
- Following the marked lines for the diamond quilting, stitch up and down in a continuous line in one direction.
- Re-set and stitch a second continuous line in the opposite direction to complete the diamonds.
- Next, set-up to quilt the vertical straight lines, stitching up and down along the seam lines as well as along the marked lines down the center of each strip. We recommend stitching up along the seam, pivoting at the top of the strata, stitching along the top strata seam to the next line, pivoting, and stitching down along the drawn line.
- Travel across the lower edge of the placemat to the next line, then pivot and continue this up-across-down-across pattern across the panel. And remember you are stitching through the leaf.
- When the quilting is complete, press flat.
- Trim the batting flush with the placemat front panel, which should be 18½” x 15½”.
Stitch front to back and do final quilting through all layers
- Find the back panel and the panel of mid-weight interfacing. Center the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the fabric panel so there is ¼” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all four sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Stay stitch along the edges of the strata at each side of the front, sewing through the layers of fabric and batting very close to the edge. This helps keep the layers in place when the placemat is turned right side out.
- Place the quilted front panel and interfaced back panel right sides together. All raw edges of both layers should be flush. Pin in place, keeping the pins at least an inch from the edge so you don’t have to remove them as you sew the perimeter seam. Leave an approximate 5” opening along one side of the strata.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch around the perimeter of the placemats. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 5” opening center along one edge of the strata.
NOTE: As shown in the photo below, we recommend stitching with the batting against the feed dogs to prevent tucks.
- Trim the corners, taking care to avoid the seam. Press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the placemat right side out. Using a long, blunt tool such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner carefully push out the four corners so they are nice and sharp.
- Press well, pressing in the seam allowance along the opening so it is flush with the sewn seam.
- Cut a small strip of the fusible web.
- Peel off the paper backing and insert it between the seam allowance.
- Press to seal the opening shut.
NOTE: This method was our choice because we wanted a very clean and crisp edge all around the mat for the most modern finish. However, the opening can also be hand stitched closed.
- Finish the placemat by quilting through all layers along the top seam line of the strata, the bottom seam line of the strata (stopping and starting at either side of the leaf appliqué; do NOT stitch across the leaf horizontally) …
- … as well as around the outline of the appliquéd leaf.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Michele Mishler