18 March 2010

tutorial: dish towels to placemats

I was in dire need of new placemats, but I couldn't find any ready-made placemats that I liked. But on a recent trip to IKEA, I found these dish towels, and fell in love.
Well, OK. I'm not in love with the corn motif. But I love the rainbow dots.
 And the colors go perfectly with my blue dining chairs, adjacent green couch, and warm accents. Not to mention all the colorful toys. (By the way, in case you were wondering, don't ever put young children on non-washable upholstered dining chairs. They tend to get destroyed.)
Ah, you say, but they were dish towels, not placemats. Being crafty comes in handy. :) I eyeballed them in the store and they looked to be about twice the size of a standard placemat--just perfect for folding in half and sewing to make a double-sided, or reversible, placemat. Wanna make some? I'll show you how. They're really easy...at least, if you're familiar with a sewing machine and can do a decent straight stitch. If not, then you probably don't have the desire to make your own placemats anyway.

1. Wash, dry, and iron all the dish towels.
2. Fold one dish towel in half, with right sides together, making sure all the sides and corners meet up nicely. Pin in place, if you like.
3. Sew around the three open sides. I did this just inside the IKEA-hemmed edge, because I wanted the placemats as large as possible. But don't sew completely around...
...make sure to leave an opening a few inches long so you can turn the placemat right side out. I made mine in the center of the long edge, but you can make yours wherever you like.
4. You'll want to take the IKEA hems off now, to avoid excess bulk. To do this, first cut off the corners. (I made six of these, and this was the easiest method for me.)
5. Then grab your seam ripper and undo the seams of the IKEA hems.

*You know what a seam ripper is, right? It's a handy dandy little tool that works really well for ripping out seams. It looks like this:
If you don't have a seam ripper, you don't have to run out and buy one. You can use scissors--carefully--just make sure you don't cut the fabric. You only want to cut the threads of the pre-existing seams.
6. Once the seams are undone, you can cut the edges off 1/4" away from the seam you sewed.
7. OK, remember that opening you left? Turn the placemat right side out through that opening.
8. Tuck the open edges in to match the rest of the seam, pin (if you like), and sew the opening shut. You can do a ladder stitch by hand for an invisible seam, or you can sew really close to the edge with your machine, like I did. (If I wanted these to be nice and fancy, I'd do an invisible stitch. But they're for home, and they're going to be stained and replaced in a year or two anyway, so I took the easy route. It's how I roll.)
9. It would probably be best for you to iron the placemat flat at this stage. I didn't, because I'm tragically lazy...especially when it comes to ironing.

10. Run a seam around the entire placemat, 1/4" from the edge. This keeps the placemat flat and gives it a nice, finished edge.
Et voila! It's done! Just repeat six times (or however many times for the number you need) and you'll have a table full.
I love the mix of patterns, and I love the colors. I couldn't have found anything more perfect.
Now I need your help. Each dishtowel had a twill tape hanging loop (say that five times fast) printed with those dots that I love. I just can't throw them away, but I can't figure out what to do with them. Any ideas?