Full disclosure: Not all home décor editors have a DIY thumb. Just like some kill succulents quicker than it takes to boil an egg, some of us tend to mess up any DIY project we attempt—actually, we’d rather not even try them. Talk of making your own Acapulco chair makes us break in hives, and the idea of dip-dying anything in our studio apartments gives us asphyxiation nightmares. But once in a while, we come across a DIY project so elegant and so simple that we figure if a monkey could do it, so can we.
So when we spotted these adorable placemats in textile designer Rebecca Atwood’s new book, Living With Pattern, we knew this was one DIY we could tackle. What makes up a great do-it-yourself project? First, we love it when the supplies list is no longer than the ingredients for a basic omelette. This placemat DIY requires only five things—four if you already own scissors—and will run you well under $50 for a set of four placemats. Secondly, we like a project that’s mess-proof and hard to screw up. Embroidery is spill-proof and sounds so zen—like the perfect activity to help us wind down on a Sunday evening along with a glass of wine and the latest episode of The Mindy Project. So grab your needles and thread—if we can tackle this DIY, so can you.
To start, Atwood suggests woven placemats, for their easy-to-embroider texture and low price. “There are lots of great and inexpensive plain-woven placemats out there that you can customize with a bit of embroidery,” she says. “The woven structure of the placemat provides a basic grid that’s easy to stitch on, but drawing the framework will help you stay on track. You can do a simple linear border with X shapes or zigzags, or create a more intricate layout as shown here.”
The shopping list is extremely simple: plain woven placemats, a fabric pen, an embroidery needle, embroidery floss in the color of your choice, and a pair of scissors.
Step 1: Prep for the Embroidery
Lightly draw the embroidery design of your choice onto the placemat with an erasable fabric pen or chalk.
Step 2: Embroider
- Thread the needle with a doubled length of embroidery thread, and knot the ends.
- Pull the needle and thread through the placemat from the wrong side so that the knot is now against the back.
- Insert the needle from the right side to form a diagonal line. Then repeat this step, but in the reverse direction, to form an X.
- Carry on until you’ve completed your design.
Step 3: Finish
Knot the thread when your design is finished. Snip any excess thread.
The result: a unique set of placemats that are extremely low-cost and easy to make—our favorite kind of DIY. Better yet, they lend themselves equally well to a more casual fall evening, a themed holiday dinner, or an outdoor summer fête. These placemats are so versatile, in fact, that you’ll want to keep them all year round.
Want to try your hand at more DIYs? Pick up a copy of Rebecca Atwood’s book.