I Am a Quilter

My Adventures in Quilting

Scrappy Placemats

This holiday season proved nothing if not the fact that I need placemats. That may seem like a strange divination, but it’s true. I was surprised in my not only hosting one, but two holiday meals with family that I wasn’t expecting. We are still furnishing our house and don’t have things like place settings yet.  And I can’t simply go out and buy placemats. Just have ordinary table settings that anyone can have on their table? No. I am a quilter. I require special custom table settings. [Just a side note, due to the time line, I had to buy some for Thanksgiving. There just wasn’t time to make any.] I will be more prepared for the next event.

The Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild #kcmqg recently had a sewing day. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, a bunch of us get together and sew. We work on projects, chat, sometimes more chatting than sewing gets done, but hey, it’s all good. I was gathering my materials to bring and I found a jelly roll in my stash that I hadn’t designated to anything specific. It was from Carolyn Friedlander’s line “Botanics”. I thought it would be perfect for making some placemats that go together quickly and, if I made them look “scrappy”, then guests wouldn’t be afraid to spill on them.  If I made some intricate design that took a very long time to make and looked extremely complicated, noone would want to risk spilling gravy on them and I wouldn’t want to put them out anyway, because gravy will be spilled.  I needed to come up with something that was pretty, but not intimidating.

A jelly roll is comprised of (usually) 42 strips that measure 2 1/2 inches wide and are the width of the fabric (wof). I cut the strips into 2 1/2 in squares, mixed them up, and sewed them back together in a 20×14 rectangle. BOOM!! Placemats.




I wasn’t planning on sharing much of this experience other than the finished product with you, dear reader(s), but one thing I learned from this project is that even the simplest of things has its challenges. So, here are some tips based on my own mistakes and shortcuts.

1. Figure out how many squares you need before you begin and cut them all at once. I just started cutting and ended up having to stop and cut two more times.


2. Have a plan of action for piecing. Even with improvisational piecing or random placement, it is good to think about how you are going to assemble the top of whatever you are making. I just dove in and realized at some point that I could have come up with a much more practical method of creating rows and then joining them. Plus, I had pressed my seams to the side as I went and ended up having to change direction on a significant amount so I could nest them. You could press your seams open, but with nesting, I find it significantly easier to get perfectly matched seams.  And the fact that I am using fabrics that will be scrappy and placing them randomly, I’ve had about as much chaos as I can handle for one project.



3. Even if you mess up and end up having to reverse the direction of several (or many) seams, so be it.  Just do it and move on.  You want to love your project when you’re all done, not resent it.  You don’t want to “power through” it and just pine for the time when it’s done and you can move on to something else.  Fix your mistakes and continue on your way.

4. When it is time to “square up” your placemats, here is one method you might try. Trim one long side using your seam lines as guides. Line up your ruler with the edge of the trimmed long side to trim up one short side. Then, fold the whole thing in half legnthwise with the trimmed side on top taking care to have the short trimmed side follow along itself.  Then place your ruler edge along the trimmed long side and trim the other long side. Repeat this for the remaining side.  You will get a more “square” rectangle than if you tried to measure all of your sides and trim.






5. I decided to face the backing and turn it to complete the placemats.  Due to the fact that I am a human being and therefore inherently imperfect (a fact that we all would do well to remind ourselves of once in a while), there was some minor variation in the finished sizes of the 6 placemats.  So, did I cut 6 separate backing fabrics to match the mats exactly?  Heck, no. I measured all 6, wrote down the sizes, length and width, and then “split the baby”.  I found I had variation up to 1/4″.  I found a happy medium of the sizes and cut 6 backs all the same size.


When all was said and done, I was in love with my new placemats.  The more I played with the fabric, the more I moved around the pieces, the more I pieced, the more I fell in love.  In the end, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I am in love my them and I don’t care who knows it. I can’t wait to have company over again so that I can show them off.



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