January 7, 2008

Reversible Oilcloth Placemats

oilcloth placemats reversible

I consider my work on the Pink of Perfection to be about a deep desire to create beautiful days. The reason why I embroider and bake and love having people over is to add sparkle to a 24 hour period that more often than not includes work, commuting, and other daily drudgeries. But the one piece of the puzzle that I haven’t quite gotten my arms around yet is supper.

If I have just stumbled through the door, sometimes in sweaty workout clothes and sometimes just with the musty shroud of the day on my back, I am tired. And I’d put my life savings on the fact that you are tired, too. In those moments, even if I know in my heart of hearts that pouring myself a glass of wine and throwing something quick together will give my day a sense of meaning, no matter how small, sometimes all I want is for someone else to do the work.

If I were to be totally honest (and you seem to like it when I am), I would have to tell you that at least once a week, and often frightfully more frequently than that, we order take-out. Even worse, when the food arrives, we clear off the coffee table and unpack the hot and sour soup right there in front of the television. And yes, when I was sick yesterday, I did eat that Cup of Noodles.

Are you still reading?

One of the things on my list is to do this less often. If I were honest with myself I would admit it’s an indulgence that feels good only until I am sitting in front of a stack of gnawed rib bones and the coffee table is scattered with empty soy sauce packets and stray grains of rice. “God isn’t finished with me yet,” as my mom says, and I’m working on making sitting at the table a more regular part of our weeknight meals and not something that just sounds good in my head.

At the same time, I can’t deny reality. I will probably always be someone who wants the feeling of being cared for every now and then. That means me changing into my pajamas while someone else cooks my dinner and brings it to my door. It also means watching Dr. Katz and not having to make conversation while I slurp down my noodles. I hope to do it less, sure, but to not do it at all? I tend to believe that would be cutting out a certain kind of sparkle a particular kind of day needs.

These reversible placemats will make eating at the coffee table a cheerier — and neater — practice. They will catch those errant grains of rice and splatters of sauce and a quick shake-down over the trash can will leave them clean again. Bet you didn’t think post-take-out clean up could be even easier, did ya?

oilcloth placemats reversible

Reversible Oilcloth Placemats
makes 4 placemats

1/2 yard of oilcloth (1/4 yard of each print)
pinking shears
sewing glue or sewing machine
ruler or a box lid or book to trace

When sewing fast and loose like this without a pattern, I think the best thing is to find an object you can trace directly on the fabric. I used a box lid that was 15″ x 12″. Find an object around that house that works for you, or just measure out the shape with a ruler.

Iron wrong side of the oilcloth on a low setting if it has deep crinkles from being folded. Trace or measure out shapes on the wrong sides of both pieces of oilcloth. Cut out with scissors. Put one cut-out shape on a flat surface, wrong side up. Place the other pattern of oilcloth on top, wrong sides together and printed side facing you. Pin if sewing and stitch along all four edges, or carefully run sewing glue along the edges between the two pieces of oilcloth, press and smooth. Let dry. Cut along all four edges with pinking shears. Eat! [Edited thanks to Juliann‘s helpful feedback to this sewing novice.]

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  • Juliann: If you cut the pieces out with regular scissors and then use the pinking shears after sewing or glueing, you won’t have to worry about lining up the little notches.
    10 years ago

  • Sarah: Ah, very smart, Juliann! Why didn’t I think of that?
    10 years ago

  • rebekka: Did I already tell you I have that same oilcloth? Well, I love it, anyway. 🙂
    10 years ago

  • EB: What a great idea! I actually find myself eating at the coffee table more often than not and I always feel schlumpy about it. Some fabu, fun place mats are a brilliant idea! Thanks-
    10 years ago

  • Ann: What a fabulous idea! Especially when my kitchen table gets hijacked as a cutting table for mid week sewing projects, I spend more time than ever eating at the coffee table. I LOVE that oilcloth print, where did you get it?
    10 years ago

  • Ruth Simons: i can’t wait to make my own. now that my husband and i have three children, we have abandoned coffee table meals for the family circle that is the dinner table.
    10 years ago

  • Sarah: Ann, I got that oilcloth at Purl Patchwork, and I tried to find it online but didn’t have much luck. Denver Fabrics has a pretty good selection, too. Good luck!
    10 years ago

  • Hobbit: Those are so beautiful! What a great, creative way to brighten up the weeknight routine.

    I wonder if there are other ways to dress up the delivery food ritual? Too bad you can’t get other things delivered after a long winter’s day– like sunshine. or a sense of wonder.

    Guess I’ll have to rely on pop for that!
    10 years ago

  • Kim: Do you have any suggestions for sitting on the couch using a throw pillow and a hardcover book as an impromptu lap table more glamourous?
    10 years ago

  • Sarah: lol, Kim. That’s a toughie…maybe kicking it boho-chic, throwing that pillow on the floor and sitting on it…?
    10 years ago

  • Ann at mommysecrets: I love these – sooo cute and sooo easy!
    10 years ago

  • Anonymous: I think this will have to be my next project! I have a little man in my house (almost ten months old) who is learning to eat on his own and I am continually wiping off our table of mango, kiwi, cheese, bananas . . . it would be so much easier to make a few cute ones of these and just shake them off into the sink! Now, how to affix them to the table to make sure that he doesn’t pick it up and shake it himself . . . that’s the next challenge!

    Great website! Just reading it today for the first time and I’m already hooked! Have a great day!
    10 years ago

  • RookieMom Heather: Super cute!
    10 years ago

  • Regina: I love these. They’d go great with my outdoor table (inside too) perfect for messy children.
    10 years ago

  • Barb: Medels.com has a wide variety of oilcloth and it’s on sale now.
    9 years ago

  • Lisa K: I love oilcloth placemats and made them before, but this was SO easy. I had to use taut sewing since the feed dogs would not grab on to the slippery fabric, but I was able to cut, sew and trim eight placemats in an afternoon. Sometimes we need to have an easy success.8 years ago

  • Georgene: Wonder if you could help me, I want to make a tablecloth out of some oilcloth that is not flannel backed. Do you thiink it is possible or feasable to use a spray fabric adhesive to bond flannel onto the back of the oilcloth? Do you know if any one has tried this? Both Elmer and 3M have permenent spray adhesives that sound as if they will work. I like the pattern and cannot get it flannel back. Thanks6 years ago

  • Sherry: Love this idea. Want to use for my daughter’s school lunch. They are required to bring a “placemat” to school for community lunches on classroom floors or outside…this will work great and easily washable!6 years ago

  • Carolyn M Grinnell: very nice for campers.. and for little children when they do art work at the table.. good idea.. as a grandma i love it.5 years ago

  • Carolyn Gray: May I suggest using paper clips to hold the layers together as the pins might leave pinholes in the fabric. Also, if the foot of the sewing machine sticks to the oil cloth when sewing, just lay a strip of tissue paper along the seam line, stitch then remove it by tearing it off when finished. If any little pieces remain just spritz with water.5 years ago

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