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My brother made me laugh out loud when he said a “mug rug” sounded like a bad toupee for an ugly guy. Although a great guess, a mug rug is really a mini placemat designed to hold your coffee mug or tea cup and maybe an extra little treat, or… when placed by your sewing machine, a handy place to jab a few pins and needles as you sew. Originally, they came onto the scene as a fun excuse to use up some scraps by making an itty-bitty quilt. We took the mug rug concept a step further by turning it into a hand-sewn greeting card with the addition of our Salutation Strip through the center. Cards are a nice thought, but most eventually end up in the garbage can. Instead, create a Happy Birthday, Congratulations, Thank You or I Love You message with a purpose; an every day reminder to the recipient that they have a friend in you!

Super cute and so much more personal and useful than a throw-away greeting card, our mug rug finishes at 10½” wide x 8½” high.

We originally used scraps from one of our favorite older FreeSpirit collections: Tula Pink’s Parisville, Topiary in Sky, Sea of Tears in Pomegranate, and Eyedrops in Dusk. We combined these three prints with two of FreeSpirit’s Designer Linen Solids: Turquoise and Burgundy. See the “Getting Started” section below for exact cut sizes to help gauge the size of scraps you’ll to to gather from your stash

Sewing Tools You Need

  • Sewing machine and standard presser foot
    NOTE: Check your machine’s manual to see what alphabets might be available within the stitch pattern library. Of course, you could also hand embroider your salutation. 
  • Zipper foot
  • Satin Stitch foot; optional for lettering and appliqué

Fabric and Other Supplies

Click to Enlarge

  • Scraps of various cotton fabrics or ¼ yard cuts; we recommend THREE coordinating print scraps and TWO coordinating solid scraps
  • Scrap or ¼ yard of lightweight batting
  • 1¼ yards of ⅛” piping cord
  • Scrap or ⅓ yard of ⅝ – 1″ wide webbing or twill tape; we used a 1″ natural cotton webbing
  • All purpose thread to match fabric for general sewing
  • All purpose thread to accent fabrics for quilting, appliqué, and Salutation Strip
  • See-through ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. From the solid fabric for the upper left and bottom right quadrants as well as for the back (Turquoise Designer Linen in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 5″ x 5″ square
    ONE 5″ x 7″ rectangle
    ONE 9″ x 11″ rectangle
    NOTE: You can use either of your solid scraps for the back; we chose Turquoise for our back.
  2. From the solid fabric for the upper right quadrant (Burgundy Designer Linen in our sample), cut ONE 5″ x 5″ square.
  3. From the print fabric for the bottom left quadrant (Sea of Tears in Pomegranate in our sample)fussy cut ONE 5″ high x 7″ wide rectangle.
  4. From the print fabric for the highlight “coaster,” fussy cut one coaster-size circle. It should be approximately 4-5″ in finished diameter plus at least ¼” for a hemmed edge.
    NOTE: If you can’t find something to trace to cut this circle, check out our tutorial on how to draw perfect circles: How To Make and Measure a Circle Without a Pattern.
  5. From the print fabric for the piping, cut enough 1⅜” wide strips to equal a finished length of approximately 42″.
    NOTE: We cut our strips on the bias, but this mug rug is a mostly straight-edged piece, so you could also work with straight-cut strips. The bias cut does help with the rounded corners.
  6. From the lightweight batting, cut ONE 9″ x 11″ rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Pin the solid 5″ x 7″ rectangle to the print 5″ x 7″ rectangle along one 7″ side. If you are using a directional print, it should be the TOP 7″ side of the print.
  2. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the two pieces together. Press the seam open.
  3. Pin one solid 5″x 5″ square to the other solid print 5″ x 5″ square along one side.
  4. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the two pieces together. Press the seam open.
    Click to Enlarge

Salutation Ribbon

  1. This step is optional, but is actually one of our favorite parts of the project and a great way to play with the decorative stitch and monogramming functions on your sewing machine. We chose a Happy Birthday message; you could add a name, an anniversary date or a favorite quote. You could even leave out the message and just create a pretty line of decorative stitches.
  2. Thread the machine with your chosen contrasting thread for the message in the top and bobbin. We used a deep burgundy.
  3. You need to follow the steps in your machine’s instruction manual to set up your machine for decorative stitching. We originally used the Janome Memory Craft 11000SE, so all we had to do was select the “font” tab on the touchscreen and enter our message letter-by-letter. It was immediately ready to stitch out.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. We recommend testing your message on scrap fabric or webbing to make sure you are happy with the size and the color contrast, and to insure the length of the message will properly fit the mug rug. You want the salutation to be about 5″ in length. We suggest starting with a 10-12″ length of tape or webbing. Stitch the message in the middle of the strip; this will allow you to easily center it on the mug rug, then trim the edges flush with the fabric.
  5. Center the tape over the 7″ seam on the sewn pair you just made. Pin the strip in place. Trim away any excess tape as necessary so the ends are flush with the fabric.
  6. Pin the 7″ sewn pair and the 5″ sewn pair right sides together along one 9″ side.
  7. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together. Press the seam open
  8. Stitch the tape along both long sides with a plain or decorative stitch. We used a straight stitch set at its longest stitch length.
    NOTE: If you are worried about accurately stopping your stitching at the center seam line, you could also do this step prior to sewing together the two panels.

Quilting stitches

  1. Place the batting flat on your work surface.
  2. Place the sewn top right side up on top of the batting, aligning all the raw edges. If the batting is slightly off anywhere, trim it flush to the fabric.
  3. Machine baste the two layers together around all four sides.
  4. Thread your machine with a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin to quilt the two layers together within the top left and bottom right quadrants.
  5. Starting in the top left quadrant, lengthen your stitch and quilt in straight lines from the top raw edge to the salutation strip.
  6. If possible, use the lock stitch function on your machine rather than a backstitch to lock your seam at the beginning and end. This will look much neater – especially where the seam ends just above the salutation strip. If you do not have this feature, leave the thread tails long and hand knot them at the back to secure.
  7. Starting from the center sewn seam, work your way outward to the side raw edge. We made our quilting lines ½” apart, which was an easy width to keep track of using just the presser foot as a guide. If you’d prefer wider spacing, we would recommend measuring and drawing the vertical lines with a see-through ruler and erasable fabric pen. You can then simply follow these lines with your stitching. Another option would be to use a quilting bar attachment. The quilt bar runs along your previous stitch line, keeping your new stitch line perfectly spaced and parallel.
  8. Repeat your quilting pattern in the bottom right quadrant, working from the bottom raw edges and stoping at the horizontal seam line between the two colors.

Coaster appliqué

  1. Find your “coaster” circle of fabric. Using a basting stitch, sew around the circle along the outside edges of the motif. As we mentioned in our cutting instructions above, you should have fussy cut your circle about ¼” larger than the design so you have that ¼” to fold under as your hemmed edge. If you followed this instruction, the circle you just basted should be sewn ¼” in from the raw edge.
  2. Fold and press under the raw edge, using the basted line of stitching as your fold point. This line-of-basting-method is a slick way to fold and press a narrow, curved hem for appliqué; it gives you an easy, tactile edge to fold against. We like to fold and pin first and then press.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Because your edge is curved, the hem will fold over on itself as you work your way around the circle. That’s okay. You can leave the folds as is, pressing them in place, but some people like to clip the curves slightly to help with the turning.
  4. Place the coaster appliqué on to the quilted top, positioning it in the upper right. Use our picture as a guide. Your circle size may vary based on your motif, but in general, you want to overlap the point where the four quadrants come together, but you don’t want to cover up any of your salutation. You also want to be about ⅝” in from the top and side raw edges to account for your piping seams.
  5. Pin the coaster in place.
  6. Appliqué the coaster in place with your choice of decorative stitch. You want a stitch with a wide enough swing to both the right and the left to nicely bridge the curve of the circle.
  7. We used our Janome Satin Stitch foot. We love the little red arrow on this foot, which allows you to easily keep on track as you move around in a circle.

    NOTE: If you are new to appliqué, you can also check out our tutorial, How to Appliqué Like a Pro .


  1. Stitch together the 1⅜” strips end to end to create one length that is approximately 42″.
  2. Wrap the fabric, right side out, around the cord, keeping the cord centered and matching the raw edges of the fabric.
  3. Use a Zipper foot to stitch the wrapped fabric in place. When stitching, keep your seam line as close to the cord as possible and the seam allowance consistent.
  4. Pin the piping to the right side of the front of the mug rug, matching the raw edges. Start at the bottom edge of rug at the point of the seam.
  5. This is a very brief summary of piping attachment and finishing. If you are new to the technique, check out our step-by-step tutorial: How To Make And Attach Piping.


  1. Find the mug rug back piece. Place the finished quilted front and the plain back right sides together. Pin all around, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Leave a 4-5″ opening along the bottom edge for turning.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Using a Zipper foot and a ½” seam allowance, stitch around all four sides. Remember to pivot at all the corners and to lock your seam on either side of the 4-5″ opening. If you stitch with the top facing up, you can follow along in the seam you made when attaching the piping; this helps insure you stay close and consistent.
  3. Trim the seams to ¼” and clip the corners, being careful not to cut through the stitching.
  4. Turn the mug rug right side out through the opening. Use a blunt end tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick to help push out the corners so they are as square as possible.
  5. Press in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  6. Thread a hand sewing needle and slip stitch the opening closed.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson

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1 year ago

Visiting for Christmas at my daughters home everyone seemed to balance their coffee mug and little “snack” on the arm of the couch or favorite chair. The furniture did have wide arms. Oddly enough they had side tables available, lol. But we all sit in our favorite spots “our way”. Musing thought, “what if” at your local hardware store (Lowes) I thought of having acrylic squares cut so my mug rug would fit/slide over the square sort of like a pillow case, thus creating a more stable or solid mug rug. I know, sounds goofy, use the table with a… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago

Always thinking, Barb! Myself … I’m too clumsy to balance drinks on the arm of a couch or chair 🙂 !!

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