Project by Helen Bowes
The supermarkets have got the chocolates out, gifts are arriving in stores, emails are being sent inviting you to discount or preview events. Guess what? Christmas is on its way!! So, what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to make some reversible placemats to have your Christmas dinner on. This tutorial will show two different methods (hand stitched and machine stitched) of English Paper Piecing to create a beautiful placemat.
Step 1 – gather equipment
As always, the first stage of any project is to gather your equipment. For this project you will need the following items:
· Stiff paper or card (I used wallpaper as it was what I had to hand)
· Pen, pencil, fabric marker
· Sewing thread, sewing/embroidery needles
· Sewing machine
· Glue pen (this was the most amazing purchase I have made in recent months)
· Double sided fusible fleece (I didn’t have this so used quilting wadding instead)
· Scissors or rotary cutter
Step 2 – template making
One of the beauties of this project is that you can make your own pattern for your mats depending on your sewing level. You can completely personalise it – no one else will have placemats like yours.
Start by choosing the overall outer shape of your placemat. It could be square, rectangular, hexagonal. Now decide how big you want it to be. We don’t have much space, so I made mine to fit the dinner plate on but not much bigger. Draw the outline of your shape onto your card. Now make the rest of your design using easy interlinking pieces with straight lines. My design featured a star in the middles with various sized triangles radiating out. You could feature the initials of your family members in the centre for an example. Draw your design out twice being accurate that the two templates are identical. They need to be identical as you will use one template for one side of the mat and the other template for the other side. Number each piece so you know which pieces go with which and then cut them out. Sometimes it is of benefit to have a smaller hand drawn picture of the template design with the numbers written on, so you have something to refer to.
Step 3 – cutting fabric
Once you’ve decided which fabrics will be for which pattern piece, place you pattern piece on top of your fabric. Use you glue pen to secure it in place. Now cut around you piece giving yourself a little margin – I aimed for around 1/8th to ¼ inch. Using you glue pen draw around the edges of your template leaving a layer of glue on your template piece. Fold the margin of fabric so it sits on this glue strip and firmly press down. Repeat this for all pieces.
Fabric under template The blue line is the glue pen
Overlapped fabric glued down Completed fabric stuck to template
Step 4 – Sewing
The English Paper Piecing means that this project can be hand stitched or machine stitched. To demonstrate both methods the tartan side was hand stitched and the post box/robin side was machine stitched. For both methods I started by laying all my pieces out on the table, so I knew which piece went next to what. Once this was in place, I started by sewing from the middle piece and working my way out to the sides.
Hand Stitching – using a needle and thread of matching or contrasting colour, sew the pieces together using a running stitch. It is perfectly fine if you sew through the card – it is designed to be this way. I found it was best if you hand sew the wrong sides of the fabric as this way most of your stitching is hidden and out of sight. If you use a thimble to protect your fingers now is the time to grab it. If you don’t use one, now is the time to consider trying one out.
Machine stitching – with your material laid out use pins to join pieces together. Start at the centre and work your way out with pieces. If you pin the whole thing together and try machine stitching it won’t work and your piece will just pull a part. You want to choose a stitch which will work across two fabric pieces and suit the project. For mine I used a zigzag stitch which worked perfectly. With machine stitching you want to sew with the right sides of the fabric facing you and make the stitch an accent to your design.
Step 5 – Assembly
With both sides of your placemat sewn together, you can now assemble it. The first thing to do is remove all of the card template. The advantage of using a glue pen is that it is easy to peel the fabric overlap off the card.
With all pieces removed, you can now iron the folds of material flat.
If using fusible fleece, cut to fit the placemat size then iron this onto the wrong side of one of your mats. If you are using wadding cut out a piece to the correct size and lay on top of one of your pieces. Place your two sides together, right sides facing, so that the wadding or fleece is uppermost.
Pin it altogether and sew around the edge leaving a 2-inch gap on one side. Once sewn you can now bring the material through the gap to turn the piece the right way around. To close your opening, fold the edges in so they are hidden and top stitch. If using a machine practice with a decorative stitch going around the edge. Your placemat is now assembled and ready to use.
To see more from Helen, visit her at @phoenix_crafting
Made by Helen Bowes for The Craft Cotton Company 2020