Archive for the ‘Woven Place Mats’ Category

I have to confess, I’ve had an uncharacteristically low week. I’m generally a pretty happy person, but my spirits have been wallowing, mostly in reaction to the G20 demonstrations last weekend. But yesterday, something shifted. Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was the trip to the farmers market. Or maybe it was the music I was listening to. Whatever it was, though, I found myself ready to be creative again, and thus, finished off my placemats.

It turns out the final few steps take no time at all (if you have access to a sewing machine at least). So here we go…

1) We left off with finishing the “plain weave”, using fabric scraps and a piece of cardboard as a loom. Either using a needle and thread or by tying knots, you want to tie off your stray edges. Next, turn your cardboard loom over, so the backside (the one without the weave on it) is facing you. Place a piece of masking tape along each of the short edges, to keep the ends of the warp in place.

2) Cut the warp down the middle, and carefully release the warp from the cardboard loom. The tape is used to keep all the loose ends in place, so make sure they stay stuck. You may want to use extra masking tape to ensure they stay in place.

3) By hand or machine, sew a straight line along each edge of the place mat, securing the frayed edges of the warp to the end of your weave.

4) Cut the frayed edges to the desired length.

There are lots of great things about this project. First, you can reuse the cardboard loom over and over again, so each place mat takes less time than the one before. Second, it’s dead cheap to make! Third, you can experiment with different weave sizes, materials, textures, etc. The possibilities are endless. And lastly, it’s fun.

So! The week in review:

  • Time: Approximately 1.5 hours per place mat, assuming a 15″x17″ loom with slits 1.5 cm apart.
  • Cost: <$10. You should be able to make this essentially with all reclaimed materials.
  • Difficultly: Easy peasy
  • Success? Totally. The more you experiment, the better they’ll be, but I’m happy.
  • Favourite part of the project: chatting with J. Lax while weaving, and then once she left, discovering The West Wing. How have I never seen this show before?
  • Lesson Learned: T-Shirt material doesn’t work well for this. Straight up cotton, and non-jersey fabrics are way better. Also, the smaller the knit, the tighter and nicer the place mats, but the longer they take. Your choice.

2 projects down, just 50 more to go. Yeeeee-haw!

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One of the things I’ve marveled at since moving to Toronto is just how much stuff happens at any given time. Festivals, shows, live theatre, lectures, parties… it’s hard to know how to handle it. Take last weekend, for example. While the G20 was front and center for most people (myself included), a huge array of other things were happening elsewhere in the city. Like the Pollinator’s Festival, the Cooking Fire Theatre Festival, or the Toronto Jazz Festival.

Now, I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of jazz, but every so often I take in a show, and every so often that show blows my mind. Last night was one such example. I happened to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and wow. Just, wow.

The most amazing part was the stark contrast between hearing him speak and hearing him play. The man is 89 years old, and when he speaks, you can tell — his voice wavers a bit, and well, sounds old. But then he sits down, his fingers fly, and if you closed your eyes you’d never guess that he was over 25.

My favourite part of the show was when he announced Blue Rondo a la Turk, saying that this was the hardest piece he’d ever written, and he always wonders if he will be able to get through it. Well let me tell you, he got through it, and its been playing on repeat tonight while I weave place mats. Speaking of which…

Place mats – Part I

The instructions for this week’s project are adapted from a book I picked up in the UK called Making Stuff, An Alternative Craft Book.

Here it goes…


  • A big piece of sturdy cardboard
  • Material scraps, cut into 2cm strips
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • A way to sew (either a sewing machine or a needle and thread)


1) The hardest thing about this project so far has been getting a piece of cardboard the right size. The cardboard needs to be sturdy (e.g. the side of a packing box) and slightly bigger than the desired size of your place mats. After sifting through my basement, I found a box that produced a side that was 12″x13″. It’s not terrible, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend using a piece any smaller. I think the ideal size would be about 15″x17″. In any case, step #1 – cut yourself a nice big piece of cardboard!

2) Along the shorter edge, mark and cut 1.5cm deep slits every 1.5cm. You can experiment with the spacing here for different effects. The smaller the interval, the tighter the weave will be.

3) Take a long piece of fabric, and starting at the top, wrap it lengthwise around the cardboard, using the slits to keep it in place. Imagine Goldilocks and the Three Bears while doing this. You don’t want it too tight (bending the cardboard), you don’t want it too loose (not staying in place), you want it just right. If you come to the end of the piece of fabric, tie another one on, cutting off the loose ends, and trying to make the knot as flat as possible. The fabric going horizontally over your cardboard loom is, in fancy weaving terms, called your warp.

4) Now comes the fun part – the weaving! According to my book, the name of the weave we’re using is called “plain weave”. Not a very creative name. In any case, the “plain weave” is pretty much what you would expect — you are weaving your piece of fabric vertically through the warp, using an “over one, under one” pattern. When you get to the end, weave the material back, using an “under one, over one” pattern. Following? I hope so…

5) At any point you can change up your colours – just knot the next piece of fabric on and keep weaving. I experimented with a variety of textures and colours and am pretty happy with the effect so far. One tip for the weaving – be careful to not pull the fabric too tight. You want it to lie flat along the cardboard but not to buckle at the ends.

6) When you come to the end, tie your…

That’s as far as I’ve gotten… watch for the next post to figure out how to finish!

Thanks to the wonderful J.Lax for the chats, company, and for being my weaving guinea pig!

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