How to Make Wrinkle Free Placemats
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
Last year, my husband and I bought an absolutely beautiful solid oak table that expands from 4 feet all the way up to 9 feet long (shout out to Peaceful Valley Furniture in central PA - can't recommend them enough). To protect the wood, we've been using placemats.
Problem: I only have 4 placemats and they're old and kind of beat up. This has been mostly fine, but, when family comes, 4 was just not going to be enough.
So obviously, I had to make some! DIY placemats are quick, easy, and, best of all, will give exactly the look you want since you get to pick the fabric yourself.
Before we get started, let's discuss some general questions.
Q: What do I need to make this project?
To make placemats, you will need:
Fabric - enough to make however many placemats you want. See notes below on fabric choice and how much to buy.
Heavy fusible interfacing (optional) - see note below on interfacing. I used Pellon Peltex 72F Double-sided fusible ultra firm stabilizer. One rectangle per placemat.
Iron with steam function (or a spray bottle filled with water)
Fabric scissors or rotary cutter with cutting mat
Chalk/pencil/fabric marker etc. (if not using rotary cutters and rulers)
Q: How long do placemats take to make?
A: This depends heavily on how many you'll be making. I made 10 in total and spent about 4-5 hours start to finish on this project, including time to take photos and make some mistakes. Using a rotary cutter definitely sped up the cutting process, so use it if you have one.
Q: How difficult is this project?
A: Placemats are an excellent project for beginner sewists because you only need to sew in a straight line and turn corners to make them. The interfacing is totally optional (note in the instructions where you will skip ahead), so leave it out if that seems too tricky.
Q: How big are these placemats?
A: I made standard 12 inch by 18 inch rectangular placemats and these are the measurements given in the tutorial. That said, you can easily adjust the sizing and the shape to get exactly what you want - the math for seam allowance is included in the tutorial to make this easier. Common options include smaller or square shape, ovals, and even circles! Keep in mind that curves are a little bit more challenging if you're brand new to sewing.
Tips, Notes, & Learnings
(Fabric Considerations) Choosing the right fabric for your project is always an important step. In this case, you want to choose a fabric that looks great and is also durable so your placemats will last for years to come. Some things to consider:
Fiber content: I used 100% cotton fabric for this project because it presses well, can be machine washed and dried, and is easy to treat if stained. Remember to consider these things as you make your choice on fiber. I generally recommend choosing a natural fiber with no stretch and a tight weave for this project - home décor fabrics work well.
Pattern: Choose whatever colors and patterns look the best to you and will fit in your space! That said, if you have particularly messy eaters, a busier pattern will do a better job of hiding stains and dirt.
Outdoor fabric is an option, especially if you want to use the placemats outside. Outdoor fabric is also often water resistant and stain resistant, which are great features for messy eaters. Some outdoor fabrics are dry clean only, however. Remember to read the tag.
Last thought - remember to check the cleaning instructions before making your final decision. Everyday placemats should be safe to machine wash, machine dry, and press with a high(ish) heat.
(How much fabric do I need?) For placemats that measure 12 inches by 18 inches with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, you will need to EITHER cut out two 13 inch x 19 inch rectangles OR one 13 inch x 37 inch rectangle for each placemat (I went with the latter). For the 13 x 37 inch rectangle, you'll fold the fabric in half instead of stacking two rectangles, meaning one side will be a fold instead of a seam.
For 44 inch wide fabric, you can fit one placemat longways from selvage to selvage for every 13 inches of fabric. So multiply 13 by the number of placemats you will make, then divide by 36 to get the yardage. For 10 placemats, that was 130 inches = 3.6 yards, I rounded up to 4 yards in case of mistakes.
For 60 inch wide fabric, you can "stack" the placemats so that 4 will fit short sides together from selvage to selvage for every 37 or 38 inches of fabric. Divide the number of placemats you will make by 4, then multiply that by 37 or 38, depending on how you will cut the fabric. Lastly, divide by 36 to get the yardage. For 10 placemats, that's 10 / 4 = 2.5 --> 2.5 * 38 = 95 --> 95 / 36 = 2.6 yards, round to 3 in case of mistakes.
(Interfacing - do you really need it?) I hate ironing. So much. I don't mind it when I'm making something, but after it's finished, I never want to iron it again. Using a heavy interfacing helps a LOT in this regard which is why it's included in the instructions below. Interfacing also adds some extra padding on the table, which is good if you're clumsy (like me) because it can help avoid accidentally chipping your dinnerware.
That said, using interfacing, especially the thick stuff, does add a few extra steps and change the look of the placemat a bit. If you want to leave it out, leave it out!
To purchase interfacing, you will need one 11.5 inch x 17.5 inch rectangle per placemat. Interfacing is usually 20 inches wide, so round up to 12 inches per placemat, multiply by the number of placemats, and divide by 36 to get the yardage. For 10 placemats, that's 120 inches = 3.33 yards, round up to 3.5 yards.
(Added Fabric Protection) It can be tempting to treat your fabric with something akin to Scotchgard after the placemats are finished - don't do it. Unless you have found something that's specifically made to treat food-safe surfaces, the odds are good that the chemicals are toxic. This is fine for your shoes, but not for something where you might drop (and then pick up and eat) food.
In the end, it doesn't add that much additional protection anyway. The best route for stain and water proofing is to buy a heavier, water and stain resistant fabric - try the outdoor fabric section.
How to Make Wrinkle-Free Placemats
(Step 1) Pre-wash and dry your fabric, then press it very well, using as much heat and steam as the fabric allows. The goal here is to never press it again, which means it has to be pressed as much as possible at the beginning.
(Step 2) Cut out the pieces for your placemats. For 1/2 inch seam allowance and 12 inch by 18 inch placemats, you will need to EITHER cut out two 13 inch x 19 inch rectangles OR one 13 inch x 37 inch rectangle for each placemat (I went with the latter and cut out 13 x 18.5 inches along the fold).
I recommend folding the fabric hotdog style with right sides together to cut the pieces out a bit faster, regardless of which way you choose to cut your fabric.
(Step 3) With right sides together, match up the pieces of your placemats (if you cut as recommended above, this should already be done). Pin along the edges, marking where you will stop sewing about 5-6 inches before the end of the seam. This gap will let you turn it right sides out and add the interfacing later. I like to use a double set of pins for this marking - a chalk or pencil line also works well.
(Step 4) Sew around the outside of the placemat with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, remembering to STOP sewing at the mark you placed in the step 3. To turn the corners sharply, stop sewing, lower the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric, lower the presser foot, and continue. Remember also to backstitch a few stitches at the beginning and end of your seam.
(Step 5) Clip the corners and trim the seams, leaving the seam untrimmed at the opening.
Pinking the seams is an option here, but I decided the seams won't be getting too much wear and tear because of the interfacing and used a rotary cutter instead. This is definitely the quickest way to do it so use one if you have it.
(Step 6) Turn the placemat right sides out, being sure to turn the corners all the way out. I use a little plastic turning tool to help with this - a pencil, butter knife, or wooden ruler will also work well to get sharp corners.
Press all the way around, using your non-iron-holding hand to finish turning the seams as you go.
When you reach the opening, turn it under 1/2 inch (the seam allowance) and press it flat as well.
(Step 7) If you will not use interfacing, skip ahead to step 9. Cut out the interfacing. To make sure it fits well, we'll leave 1/4 inch all the way around, so cut one 11.5 inch by 17.5 inch rectangle for each placemat (remember the finished size is 12 by 18 inches).
Roll the interfacing rectangle into a tube long-ways and insert it into the placemat through the opening. Unroll it and fuss to get it to fit. I shoved the tubes into the top of the placemat and then unrolled it to get started - this seemed to work pretty well.
Before moving on to the next placemat, overlap the seam allowance at the opening so that it covers the interfacing - this will keep it from trying to escape and will ensure the interfacing is completely hidden later on. Pin or clip the opening shut.
(Step 8) Following the manufacturer's instructions, press to fuse the interfacing to the placemat fabric. Remember to start in the middle and work your way outwards to the corners, using lots of steam. You can also spray the fabric with water to add some extra steam if needed. Flip the placemat over and repeat on the other side. Be careful to not melt your pins or clips when pressing near them!
(Step 9) Topstitch around the entire placemat once, remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam (overlap a little bit). I like to use about a 1/8 inch seam allowance for top stitching.
If you've used interfacing, the placemats should be stiff enough to store vertically and should need little pressing in future, even after washing (remember to store flat).
That's all for now, friends!
Enjoy your new tablescapes - I'd love to see them! Share your thoughts and creations with me here in the comments and on Instagram and Pinterest @craftematics!
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