Fun, graphic, and durable placemats are easy to make with some basic sewing skills, making them a great beginner sewing project. Although this can be done with a standard presser foot, I prefer a walking foot. Typically used for machine quilting, a walking foot advances both layers of fabric making it a great presser foot for most sewing and worth purchasing.
I used denim, leather, and contrasting stitching to make a bold design. I love dark denim – the subtle and multi-hued tones make it a great not-so-neutral neutral. The best part is that preshrinking the fabric by washing and drying beforehand means that these placemats can be popped in the washing machine anytime. You can choose any fabric, so long as it is machine washable.
To start, determine what size placemat you’d like. A common size is 12”x 18”. To get four, you’ll need 1½ yards of 44” wide fabric. Fold the fabric in half longways. Using a ruler and chalk, draw out four rectangles 13”x 19” each. This allows for a ½” seam allowance on all sides. Cut out the rectangles making sure to cut through both layers of fabric.
From here, there are two design choices: a smooth edged placemat or edges with fringe. For fringed edges, pin two rectangles of fabric, wrong sides together. Stitch ½” from the edge and pick out threads along the exposed raw edges until the edge is fringe.
For a smooth edge, pin two rectangles together right sides together. Stitch ½” from the edge, leaving 4” open on one side for turning out. Press the seam, and clip each corner. Turn right side out, making sure to turn out each corner fully. Press and pin the opening closed.
Now, here is the fun part! Using a contrasting thread color (I used white), stitch a fun, free form zigzag pattern. You can draw it out with a ruler and chalk, or just wing it. For the smooth edged placemat, first sew a straight seam ¼” from the open edge to close it. Near the bottom, fold a piece of leather in half so that it overlaps the stitch line on both the front and back. It makes a neat little leather “tag.” I had to manually advance my sewing machine for this part as it was a lot of thick layers to sew through. My leather piece is 1”x1 ¼” but you can use any size you like, so long as it overlaps the stitch line on both the front and the back. (For a fringed placement, you’ll sew the leather tag in place after you’ve done all the zigzag stitching. If you sew it in when you initially sew the two placemat sides together, it will be harder to fringe the edges.)
At the bottom corner, make sure the needle is in the down position, lift the presser foot and pivot the placemat to the desired position to make the next stitch line a diagonal line. Sew to the opposite side, pivot, etc. until you’ve reached the opposite corner. Stitch a straight line ¼” from the side edge, and then zigzag back across. Press your stitches, being careful not to iron the leather.
And voila! A unique and graphic placemat! Although it seems like a lot of steps, they come together quickly. Don’t have a sewing machine? The fringe version is available as a custom order at my Etsy shop.