Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Have you discovered Fat Quarter Placemats?

Back near the turn of the century, we (I owned a shop, Erie Street Quilts) received our first fat quarter stacks -- 8 color coordinated plaids! 
And they didn't sell -- )-:
Happily about the same time, I noticed a set of  placemats in a mail order catalog and was inspired to write a pattern for Fat Quarter Placemats. 
The pattern instructions use a strip piecing process that yields eight placemats approximately 12" by 17".  We included the pattern with those plaid stacks and the idea worked. 
We sold all those stacks and went on to make dozens more to sell for the placemats.
Earlier this year, I added the pattern to my Craftsy shop as a FREE download.  Since then over 500 folks have ordered the pattern (and so can you by going HERE!!)
My teaching trip  to New York and Pennsylvania last month included three fabric shopping stops and a darling winter print with chickadees came home with me.  I knew how I would use it before the salesgal had it cut -- napkins for a set of placemats!
When I returned to my studio, I pulled out my copy of the placemat pattern and began to cruise through my stash to put together an assortment of eight different fabrics that would give a subdued palette suitable for use all winter.  Most of the prints I chose are textured designs to set off the focus print.
Step one is to cut strips according to the charts in the pattern -- since I only wanted to make a set of four placemats, I cut half of the required strips.   
Once the strips are cut, they need to be arranged in a random order.  In the photo above, the first and third sets are the same fabrics in a different order.  Same follows for the second and fourth sets.
Here are the four strip sets pressed and ready to cross cut into rows.  If you are making a set of eight, you will have eight of these strip sets.
Each strip set is cut into four rows.  In the picture below, the top strip was short and so I added another print to the top of the last part of the set before trimming it to the needed size. 
When the cutting is finished there are four rows from each strip set.
While working on this set, it occurred to me that I could do a completely scrappy set using my stash of fruit and veggie prints by cutting just one strip from sixteen different prints.
It is such an efficient process, that I started the second set while I was still working on the first set!
Here's a photo of the sixteen strips in an auditioning layout before stitching the strip sets. 
Once I decided on the basic arrangement, I piled up the four sets and added them to my chain piecing work at the machine.
Here are my next four placemats ready to stitch the rows together -- one row from each strip set. 
I use plain flannel as the interlining of my table runners and placemats -- I like the flatness -- just be sure to preshrink it by washing the flannel in hot water and drying it on high before using it.
 I've discover another use for one of Marti Michell's templates!  Template A from the regular Drunkard's Path set is perfect for marking uniform rounded corners quickly.  A rounded corner is easier to turn and looks nicer in my opinion. 
The mass production continues!  I stitch around three and a half sides of each placemat sandwich with the flannel on the bottom, then the backing right side up, and the pieced top right side down, leaving a 4" opening to turn it through.
I trim the flannel right up to the stitching line, then trim the seam allowances down to 1/4" and they are ready to turn. 
Once I have them turned, it's time to press the edges and slip stitch the openings close.
I always edge stitch 1/4" from the outer edges but don't add any quilting.  No reason you couldn't, I just don't. 
 I always make a set of cloth napkins to match the placemats.  I use a 17" square -- four more fat quarters used up!!  I roll hem them with my serger -- have to keep justifying owning that machine and it's faster (for me) than hemming them with my sewing machine.
Here are my two (almost) finished sets -- the openings are still being stitched closed. 
Isn't this set fun!!  And it's three yards of stash off the shelves!!! 
I use the placemats sets as gifts, as donations to fund raisers, and to spruce up my dinner table.  Think about it, do you have a stack of fat quarters that would look wonderful in this simple project?
We want to keep using that stash!!
Mary Huey


  1. This is such a great project for beginners. My stepdaughter is learning to sew and make gifts for her friends. This is just the sort of thing I can imagine her enjoying.

  2. Great pattern Mary and fabrics! I make placemats all the time as we use them for every meal!

  3. I love, love, love the placemats!! I will give it a try. Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. This is a great pattern! Just yesterday I thought fondly of you and this pattern as I got out my Christmas set. I need to think about replacing my worn out everyday set.

  5. A great idea, Mary. Love how it trims the stash and adds to the table. Count me as another download. Thank you for sharing.

  6. What a great idea! I need to make some of those Making a pattern for those fat quarters was great thinking too. You made me laugh with "back at the turn of the century".

  7. Thanks for all the nice compliments!! Thirty-four of you downloaded the pattern yesterday -- that's fun!! I hope everyone enjoys working with it!. Funny coincidence last evening as I was searching my stash for a hunk of backing fabric -- I found one of those original plaid fat quarter stacks buried in the blue and yellow hoard -- surprise!?!

  8. I love your idea for making matching tablenapkins and placemats. I'd done that once 30 years ago but don't use placemats. Why I didn't think to do it with a tablerunner I will never know. And if you have any of that chickadee fabric you want to sell, let me know.