This is a project that took me a LONG time to finish – one of those that doesn’t look like it will be near as time-consuming as it turns out to be. I’ve been wanting to make some simple but beautiful placemats in a neutral palette to go with some of the brighter colored dishes I’ve collected, and this seemed like the perfect project. Reversible sashiko placemats, a free pattern on Purl Bee, gave me an opportunity to use Robert Kaufman’s Essex, which looks like linen, but at 55% linen and 45% cotton, it’s more cost-effective and machine washable.
I bought Essex wide-width in color Flax – I can’t even remember how many yards, as I had to re-order twice once I decided I wanted eight placemats instead of six, and then that I wanted to make cloth napkins, as well. I bought Sashiko thread in color White 01, and Sashiko needles, as well (because you really do need large, long needles to make the embroidery work). I followed the pattern exactly, and quickly found that the embroidery took a really long time – plus, I couldn’t just churn out placemat after placemat, because it got to be a little dull. I decided to pace myself, and worked on finishing the embroidery for one placemat every two days. Then Christmas projects intervened, and the placemats were set aside for a while. In all, it took me over two months to get the eight placemats done.
I bought a hera marker for marking the grid pattern on each placemat, but I didn’t find it to be very effective, so I stuck with the chalk. I used craft-size batting between the placemat front and back, which gave it just the right amount of loft and was still easy to embroider through. Although I have a bias tape maker, I’ve never really figured out how to use it, so I just made the bias tape by hand by pressing it with the iron.
I do love the finished product, though. The hand embroidery is just rustic looking enough, without being too kitschy, I love the flax linen with the white thread, and both sides of the placemat are equally attractive. I struggled a little with the binding directions, particularly the mitered corners and joining the two ends of the binding together, but with eight placemats (32 corners!), I had ample opportunity to practice.
The finished size of each placemat is approximately 16×20. Because I wanted a complete set, I made napkins to match – a simple process, I just cut two 20″ x 20″ squares for each napkin, sewed the squares together with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 2″ opening for turning, cut the corners, turned the napkins and poked out the corners, and then top-stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which also sewed closed the opening. Then I carefully pressed each napkin (the placemats required a fair amount of pressing, too).
Overall, I’m glad that I did this project, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to put in a significant amount of time, or unless you’re just making a set of two or four placemats – that would have made for a lot less embroidery!Pin It