By Jessica Wilson
The mister and I recently upgraded our dinky bed for a less-dinky bed. Being a hoarder of vintage linens, I found to my dismay that not a lick of my wonderfully vintage sheets fit the new less-dinky bed. Never one to look at a glass as half empty, I discovered to my delight that I now had the stackiest-stack of the prettiest vintage fabric to play with. With fall just around the corner and a new kitchen table to set, I have come up with one super easy way to create a table setting – placemats, coasters and napkins – that is low on technique but high on charm. I used scraps from the fitted sheets but wrote this tutorial up using one pillowcase per setting.
Standard vintage pillowcase, lighter prints work better
12+ bags of black tea
Clothespin, or other similar type of clip
Distilled white vinegar
Step 1: Gather up your pillowcase, tape measure, and pencil. Turn the pillowcase inside out and measure up from the bottom fold 13″-15″ at each side, making a mark with your pencil. I used 13 1/4″ but I think 15″ would be a smidge nicer. Draw a straight line from each mark using your tape measure as a guide. Before you begin stitching at the line, mark off about 3″ from one side along your line. With your sewing machine, begin stitching at the 3″ mark, lining up your pencil line with the left side of your sewing machine foot. Don’t forget to backstitch.
Step 2: Using your scissors, liberate your stitched rectangle from the pillowcase by cutting along the edge of your pencil line. When you get to the opening at the edge, maneuver your scissors away from the pencil line 1/2″ or so. Continue cutting the remaining bit until it’s free. You just created a channel that will tuck nicely inside your rectangle once you turn the fabric right side out.
Step 3: Turn your rectangle right side out, taking care to tuck your channel back into the opening. Use a chopstick, wooden spoon or crochet hook to shape your corners if you need to. Iron the whole thing flat with a hot iron. You should have a pretty decent rectangle.
Step 4: With your sewing machine on a short straight stitch, begin stitching all around your soon-to-be placemat beginning at the opening. To keep your edging even, line up the edge of the placemat with the inner edge of the right side of your sewing foot. Don’t forget to backstitch and trim threads. One placemat down! Now it is time for your coaster.
Step 1: If your pillowcase has a wide hem at the opening, you’re halfway there. Measure the length of the hem and match that measurement all the way around for a small square. Large hems are generally about 4″, a perfect size for a coaster. Trim with your scissors so that you have a neat square that has two layers of fabric.
Step 2: Pin to hold in place and use a zig-zag stitch to stitch all the way around – raw edges and all – as you did with the placemat. Go back around the edges using a straight stitch, but instead of finishing up at the starting point, maneuver your soon-to-be coaster so that the stitched edge lines up with the far right side of your sewing machine foot. It’s time to quilt your coaster. You are going to repeat the process of stitching along each side, moving towards the center of your coaster. Kind of like a swirl but with right angles. Keep moving in, using your sewing foot as a spacer until you’ve reached the center. Now you can backstitch and trim. How cute is your coaster?
Step 1: Look at the remains of your pillowcase and liberate a single layer of fabric that measures 13 1/2″ x 13 1/2″. This is your soon-to-be napkin. You can of course make your napkin larger – just make sure it is square. Iron it out, right side down. Fold up about 1/4″ of one edge and press it flat. Repeat for each side, making sure to press each fold into place.
Step 2: With a straight stitch, stitch all the way around your soon-to-be napkin as close to the edge as you can. Backstitch and trim threads. Return to your iron and repeat the edging process, pressing as you go. Back at your sewing machine, stitch all the way around, this time using a short zig-zag. When you are finished, you should have a pretty cloth napkin with happy finished edges.
Stain with tea:
Now it is time to prepare your tea bath. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. While water is heating, clip together your teabags. I used a clothespin for mine. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and add the teabags. Give the tea a few minutes to brew, then add your placemat, coaster and napkin to the bath. Allow them to soak for at least thirty minutes. When sufficiently dark (to create a darker tea bath, use more tea, or coffee even), transfer your fabric bits to a large heat-proof bowl containing one cup of vinegar and one cup of water. Saturate your pieces with the vinegar solution and let them soak. Remove and squeeze excess water, and allow them to dry and set. Once dry, toss them into the wash. Press if needed.
To add embellishment, tear a strip of fabric from the remains of your un-dyed pillowcase and press your long edges as you did to your napkin. Bring to your placemat and fold under the top and bottom edges so that they line up with your pillowcase, press, and pin into place. Stitch to the front of your placemat with a straight stitch, backstitch, and trim threads.
Cook up a happy dinner and set a happy table! Enjoy! You can probably get four coasters out of each pillowcase and maybe even another napkin or two. Save your leftover scraps for future use, such as a pin-cushion, sleep mask, or quilt!
About the Author:
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as “jek in the box” and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.