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In our home we use placemats, not a tablecloth. I find them a lot easier to take care of and wash as necessary. And, as I live on another continent from my family and old friends, I’ve found that handmade placemats make a great and easily transportable gift and have given them as wedding gifts more than once. But today I want to share some with a special twist: DIY bilingual placemats.
I had seen the idea of DIY bilingual placemats at Sew Like my Mom and thought that it was perfect for a friend of mine in the United States who was about to marry her Guatemalan partner. They didn’t know where they would end up living, so I wanted to make them something that could be easily transported in a suitcase, and also be easy for me to get the gift to them from overseas!
I liked this idea because I knew that they wanted to start a family. I know from my own experience in bringing up multicultural and bilingual children that every bit of linguistic reinforcement is important, especially when taking the form of play. I could imagine these placemats being used in the future by their multilingual kids.
But really, even without the linguistic aspect, these are just fun for kids to use! Plus they help you learn where to put the silverware when setting the table! (I never can remember their proper places, to be honest.)
I followed the tutorial at Sew Like my Mom for the most part, though I made these placemats much easier to sew, with simple turning and topstitching, rather than bias binding. Basically, the placemats have two sides, each of which has appliqued shapes for plate, glass, napkin and silverware. The different shapes are labeled with a fabric marker, using a different language on each side.
Are you ready to learn how to make your own DIY bilingual placemats? Let’s get started!
- two 13″ x 21″ (32 x 52 cm) rectangles of cotton fabric per placemat
- one 13″ x 21″ (32 x 52 cm) rectangle of batting* or flannel per placemat (optional)
- scraps of contrasting fabric for the appliqué pieces
- Heat n’ Bond Lite*
- fabric shears*
- regular scissors for cutting paper
- thread* matching the fabric
- 90/14 universal sewing machine needle*
- fabric markers*
- DIY bilingual placemat pattern (My free patterns are available to all Cucicucicoo Newsletter subscribers. The Newsletter is sent out every two weeks and you can unsubscribe whenever you want. Sign up for the Newsletter here for access to dozens of free downloads, templates and patterns! If you are already subscribed, just look at the bottom of the last Newsletter you received for the link and password.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the whole process, but I’ll do my best to explain it clearly!
Preparing the pieces
1. Print the pattern without changing the scale (100%), trim the margins and tape the two pages together so that the triangles form diamonds. The cut out the pieces. (Read here on how to print and assemble PDF sewing patterns if necessary.)
When I’ll need to trace around a small pattern many times, I like to first glue the printed paper to a cereal box and then cut it out. This way it is more stable and easier to trace around.
2. Cut out the two 13″ x 21″ (32 x 52 cm) rectangles of cotton fabric and one (optional) of batting or flannel per placemat.
3. Trace each pattern piece onto the paper side of the Heat n’ Bond Lite* as many times as necessary. You’ll need two per placemat, so if you’re making six, as I did, you’ll need to trace each fork, each knife, each plate, etc. 12 times.
4. Iron the Heat n’ Bond to the wrong side of the appliqué fabric, shiny side down, according to the instructions on the package. Then use your regular paper scissors to cut out along the traced lines. In the picture above the arrow points to the paper side of one knife piece.
5. Peel the paper off of the appliqué pieces for one side of a placemat and position them as you like on the first rectangle of fabric, again shiny side down. Then iron them in place, again, following the instructions on the Heat n’ Bond package.
6. Repeat step 5 for all the other remaining pieces.
Sewing the DIY bilingual placemats
In theory you can leave the pieces attached like this to the fabric, however they could come off after a couple of washings, so I prefer sewing them down. I highly suggest you read this tutorial on how to applique with a sewing machine if you have never done it before. This is the longest part of the project, but definitely worth it!
7. Sew around all of the shapes with either a right zig zag stitch or an applique stitch. I used a zig zag stitch with stitch width 2 and stitch length 1, but I suggest you test the stitch out before to check that it’s what you want. Be very careful especially as you sew around the fork tines.
8. Repeat step 7 for all the other remaining pieces.
I placed mine on the kitchen table as I finished appliqueing them, and one of my small child helpers decided to set the table!
9. Iron the appliqued rectangles.
10. Label the parts of the placemat with the fabric marker*. Iron the writing according to the instructions on the marker package to fix the color to the fabric, otherwise it might wash away.
11. Place the two sides of each placemat together, right sides facing. If you want to give the placemat a little extra volume, place the extra layer of batting or flannel on top. Pin the layers all together.
12. Sew all around the edges of the rectangle with a 3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance, leaving a space about 3″ (8 cm) along one side.
13. Clip the corners, then turn the placemats right side out through the opening. Poke the corners out from the inside.
14. Iron the placemat flat, folding the edges at the opening inwards, and topstitch around the rectangle, close to the edge.
Now decide which language you want to use for the next meal and set the table! Or even better, ask those little helpers in your home to do it! They’ll love it!
And hey, why not also make a set of DIY fringe cloth napkins? These are super easy to sew, with just four straight lines, and that fringe is just so fun!
Do you want all the new sewing techniques and cool modern sewing projects, in addition to the FREE pattern for these DIY bilingual placemats? Then sign up for the Cucicucicoo Newsletter here for access to dozens of free printables!
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