Placements from the store can often be the wrong size for your own tableware and size of table. Its easy to make some simple made to measure mats from upholstery fabric, using basic sewing machine skills.
Begin by working out some measurements for your mats. I laid out my (small) dining table as though for guests, and measured just how big I could make my mats, without having them overlap. I would really recommend this method of customisation, after all if you make something yourself, why not make it bespoke?
I wanted my mats to comfortably accommodate a large dinner plate as well as glasses & cutlery, even a napkin for posh days, and came up with a finished size of 51.5cm x 37cm (approx 20″ x 14 1/2)”. You could use newspaper sheets as patterns and fold them to size, laying out your tableware on them to make sure everything fits.
Step 1: Materials / Equipment / Skills You Will Need
Bias Binding tape
Each mat has a back and a front, and sandwiched in between is a piece of batting, I used cotton batting which can be bought at any home craft / haberdashery store.
I wouldn't recommend synthetic wadding as you want the filling to be quite dense. Please note, despite the wadding these table mats won't be heatproof.
The fabric I used was a light upholstery weight cotton fabric, and the bias binding was of the shop bought variety, 1cm wide. I also used matching polyester sewing thread.
You will also need, pins, a sewing needle, large scissors or rotary cutter, and a ruler plus the use of a basic sewing machine capable of straight stitching and zig-zag stitching.
Ideally work on a large flat surface and if you have one, use a cutting mat to square up your place mats when trimming them to size.
You will need basic sewing skills, both hand sewing and machine sewing, plus ideally be familiar with the method of using binding tape to finish off the raw edges of a piece of work.
Step 2: Cutting List - Front, Back & Batting
For each place mat I cut out:
- 2 x pieces of striped upholstery fabric 52cm x 38cm
- 1 x piece of cotton batting 52cm x 38cm
- 1 x 2 m length of bias binding. (this allows enough tape for turning round the corners and the final joining process).
Step 3: Cutting Diagram - for Striped / Patterned Fabric
I made my life a bit difficult when I chose the stripey fabric, as I soon realised I wanted the stripes to line up on the front and the back of the place mats, where they met at the side seams.
I achieved this by marking out my two place mat rectangles side by side on my material, following the same horizontal fabric stripe, and cutting carefully with a rotary cutter.
By following the printed stripes on the fabric, I ensured that I would be able to match up the stripes for the front and back pieces, when I assembled them.
This method would work just as well if your fabric has an obvious pattern that you wanted to match on the front and back of your mats.
Step 4: Making Up - Basting
I assembled each place mat laying the 3 components flat on my work surface:
- Place the mat back fabric (right side down),
- Then add the batting material.
- The top layer is the place mat front fabric (right side up).
I hand basted the fabric/batting/fabric sandwich together using a needle and contrasting thread with long running stitches.
I sewed large running stitches by hand across the whole mat to prevent the fabric from slipping when I sewed it together on the machine.
I find it best to keep the work on a flat surface when basting, it helps keeps all of the layers together.
I didn’t take my basting stitches right up to the edge of the mats, as I would be trimming down the edges later on.
Step 5: Making Up - Trimming and Edge Zig Zag
I used a rotary cutter to trim all four edges of the place mat down to my finished size of 51.5cm x 37cm, squaring up the mat edges with the grid layout on my cutting mat.
Alternatively you could draw your desired place mat size onto the fabric using a marker pen and a ruler, and then cut carefully along the line with a pair of large scissors.
I then machine sewed all three layers together along all four edges, using a wide zig-zag stitch, (you can see the hand basting stitches in the picture as well as the machine zig-zag stitches.)
The zig-zag stitches will be completely covered when you attach the binding tape, this method gives a nice strong edge to your place mats, and makes adding the bind tape a pretty easy process.
Step 6: Finishing
For the final step, I attached the bias binding, lining up the edge of the binding with the edge of the place mat, right sides together, and sewing the binding to the mats with a straight machine stitch approx 1/4" from the edge of the fabric, and along the fold in the binding tape.
Step 7: Finishing by Hand
At this point, when the layers are firmly sewn together, I removed the basting stitches.
I pressed the binding flat, rolled it over the raw zig-zagged edge of the seam, and hand sewed the binding tape in place to the back of the place mat using a simple slip stitch.
If you are not familiar with the binding method of finishing raw edges, I recommend searching the internet for some of the many excellent bias binding video tutorials that explain this process in detail.
Step 8: My Top Tip
Press at every stage with an iron, if the fabric is flat with no creases or wrinkles there is less margin for error, also pressing fabrics with heat and steam helps the fibres bond a little and the material stays in place with less movement when you start to sew.