Today I'm going to show you how to make easy oilcloth placemats. I've seen fancier ones that use the contrasting fabric to make edge binding, but no such fanciness will be featured today.
For those of you have never heard of this fabric:
a cotton fabric made waterproof by being treated with oil and pigment, for use as tablecloths, shelfcoverings, and the like.
Oilcloth is very old fashioned (vintage, if you want to be hip), and has been used in kitchens for ages. Traditional oilcloth is quite stiff and plastic feeling - don't be deceived by its relative "laminated fabric" which is more pliable. That being said, there's more laminated fabrics available than oilcloths. The oilcloths available tend to be retro patterns. I buy my oilcloth here, though there are many Etsy shops that provide it as well.
But why oilcloth?
I don't have kids yet, but the first two qualities are very important to me. I get really tired of washing placemats. So tired that I avoid putting them out just so I don't have to wash them. How terrible is that? Added bonus, you can make them whatever size you like! My mom has a square table that regular placemats don't fit, but I made her a set of square oilcloth placemats that fit perfectly.
Materials & Supplies
measuring tape & ruler
*I made six 13" x 18" placemats from 2 yards of 47" wide oilcloth (one yard of each fabric)
Upon opening your oilcloth (if ordered online), you will probably notice that it is very creased. If you are sewing in the summer, I've heard you can lay oilcloth out on a warm day and ease the creases out. If you are, like me, sewing in the dead of winter, you'll have to resort to your iron. (Note: Anna from Oilcloth by the Yard let me know that you can also order oilcloth on the roll to eliminate creases - awesome!)
On a medium setting, run your iron over the creases (on the wrong side of the oilcloth) until they relax. Keep the iron moving - you don't want to melt your fabric! The creases probably won't disappear entirely. This step is intended to smooth out the fabric for sewing. The creases will go away on their own over time.
See, I still had creases? But they were much improved. Promise.
Next, cut out your fabric. (If you're lucky and your oilcloth was pretty neatly folded in half, you may be able to just follow the crease down the middle and cut two 18"(ish) wide pieces. Then you only have to mark and cut the placemats' height.) I used an Expo marker to help mark because it glides smoothly across the oilcloth and wipes off easily. (Don't fret it it leaves a shadow on lighter fabric - you'll be cutting off the edges anyway.)
Repeat for your contrast fabric.
With wrong sides together, pin together as smoothly as you can. No bumps! Sometimes this is difficult with oilcloth because it's stiffer than fabric. (Note: Yes, pinning oilcloth will leave pin holes in your fabric. You could adhere the pieces together with spray adhesive instead, but I prefer the security of pins. The pinholes have never bothered me...they seem to smooth out over time.)
Time to break out the tissue paper! You'll need one sheet for every placemat.
(Note: Anna was also kind enough to tell me that if you use a plastic or teflon foot, you won't need to use tissue paper.)
Position the tissue paper between the oilcloth and presser foot. The tissue paper will help the foot glide along nicely - DO NOT ATTEMPT WITHOUT THE TISSUE PAPER. Or if you do, don't cry when the oilcloth bunches up in the corner and you have to pick out all the stitches and try again....with tissue paper. Because I've warned you. :)
Sew as usual around all four sides. I used a 1/4" seam allowance.
Now the fun part. Rip that tissue paper off! It should rip off cleanly, but occasionally you'll be left with tiny bits stuck in the stitches. Picking them out can be a little tedious, but not as tedious as seam ripping the entire placemat because you didn't use tissue paper. Promise.
With pinking shears, cut around the edges of each placemat leaving about an 1/8".
And you're done!
Here are my beauties, all ready to be soiled.
And here's the lovely reverse side.
I think I'm going to make coordinating coasters with the scraps!