reverse appliqué place mats

At some point in my project trolling, I came across Design*Sponge’s tutorial for “reverse appliqué placemats”. Turns out that “reverse appliqué” is just a fancy name for “cut out the shape and show the underlying fabric”. I’m sure the Germans have a more concise term for that, w/o making it sound so terribly high-brow. Sometimes I wish English was an agglutinative language!

So, the directions for this project are here.

Design*Sponge is glorious in so many ways. This project, unfortunately, was not one of those ways. While it’s not a difficult project, per se, the title and directions are somewhat misleading. First, it’s disingenuous to call it a “sewing 101 project”. Cutting 12 precise rectangles (lest you end up w/ four wonky-looking, differently-sized mats) isn’t the most simple thing for someone knew to sewing, particularly if you spend more time sewing clothing rather than quilting. It’s not hard, mind you, it just takes some time. The other issue is tools. You need not lower the feed dogs (the parts on the bottom that grip the fabric) on your machine to make these mats. With some maneuvering, you can still make tight loops and corners. The biggest problem though, is how the directions don’t say the following: YOU MUST HAVE TINY VERY SHARP EMBROIDERY SCISSORS; IT’S AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. Without tiny sharp scissors, you’ll never be able to trim away the excess fabric, which reveals the “reverse appliqué”. Using big or dull scissors will yield a sloppy result. My scissors weren’t sharp enough, so I ended up w/ some frayed edges. This irked me to no end. It still bugs me when I look at the photos. Granted, some of my crabbiness comes from the fact that these were a gift to my MIL! Ya can’t be giving your MIL sloppy things! :)

Griping aside, I was generally happy w/ the result once I traded scissors and checked my measurements several times.

(for four mats, plus mistakes, plus some left over fabric. you can by w/ less, but i didn’t feel like doing the math. shame on me!)

1 yard brown linen (top layer)
1 yard tan linen (“appliqué” layer)
1 yard madras plaid cotton (backing)
1 yard fabric remnants (non-visible middle layer; i used the ugly fabric we took off our kitchen chairs)
contrast-color thread
SHARP pointy-nose scissors
stitch witch

1) Cut 4 13×19 rectangles from each fabric

top and two middle layers


2) Pin top and two middle layers together, then sew your loopy / angley pattern

loops and angles


3) CAREFULLY, AND W/ VERY SHARP SCISSORS, cut out out areas of the loops to reveal the fabric underneath. Do not cut directly against the thread; instead, leave a 1/8 or a 1/4 inch border.

snip snip snip


4) Stack the top and bottom of the placemat together (pretty side against pretty side) and sew around the perimeter, w/ a 1/2 inch seam. It’s best to start in the middle of the long side of the rectangle, sew all four corners, and leaving a 2 inch opening on the side you began with.

stack the pretty sides facing each other, then sew around the perimeter. leave an opening!


peek-a-boo. (and don’t look at my ironing board cover!)

5) Turn mats right-side-out. Poke out corners. Press mat, so the backing peeks out along the side. I closed the two inch opening with stitch witch, but you could do it by hand too.

6) Admire your labor!

check it!

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