quilted placemat: tutorial


When my friends get married, one of my favourite gifts to make and give is a set of placemats and napkins. In this simple modern design, I love how the alternating parallel quilting lines create subtle puffy chevrons. The finished placemats are soft, flexible, and fully machine washable.

Here’s how I did it.


For each placemat, cut the following pieces.

Main color (grey):
18″ x 2.25″
18″ x 10.75″

Contrast color 1 (blue):
14″ x 1.5″
10.75″ x 1.5″
2.25″ x 1.5″

Contrast color 2 (mustard):
18″ x 2″
1.5″ x 2″

Back (blue): 14″ x 19″

Binding (blue): 2.25″ x 68″ (can be joined from smaller strips, directions to follow).

Batting: 14″ x 19″ thin cotton or bamboo batting.


Sew the 18″ x 2″ mustard strip to the 18″ x 2.25″ grey strip and the 18″ x 10.75″ grey piece, using 1/4″ seams. Press seams open.


With the mustard strip at the top, cut two strips from the left hand edge of the whole piece, 1.75″ and 1.5″ wide.


Stitch the 2″ x 1.5″ mustard piece to the 2.25″ x 1.5″ blue piece and the 10.75″ x 1.5″ blue piece, using 1/4″ seams. Press seams open.


Arrange the pieces as shown.


Stitch together with 1/4″ seams. Press seams open. This completes the piecing of the top.


Sandwich the thin batting between the pieced top, and the backing fabric, lining up all edges. Secure with about 20 safety pins through all layers.


Starting next to the inner stripe, quilt with parallel lines about 1/3″ apart, removing the safety pins as you go. At the end of each line of stitching, rotate the placemat 180 degrees before sewing the next line.


Also quilt at 90°, along the mustard stripe. Trim the quilted placemat to measure 18″ x 13″.


To make a long enough strip for the binding, stitch sections at a 45° angle as shown, using a 1/4″ seam. Press seams open.


On one long edge of the placemat, with back facing up, mark a gap 12″ long with two pairs of pins.


Leaving about an 8″ tail, begin stitching the binding strip to the placemat at the left hand set of pins, using a 3/8″ seam.


As you approach the corner, mark a dot 3/8″ from both the bottom of the side. You will stop stitching at this point.


Backstitch at an angle away from the dot, off the bottom edge.


Gently fold the binding straight upward forming a 45 degree fold.


Fold the binding back down, with the binding’s raw edges aligned with the edge of the placemat. Start sewing again at the fold. Continue around all edges, using the same method at each corner, until you arrive at the ‘ending’ pins. Backstitch.


Lay the loose tail of the start of the binding flat against the placemat’s edge. Cut the end of the binding strip at a 45° angle so that it generously overlaps the start of the strip. Mark the same angle on the starter strip below.


Make a second mark, half an inch closer to the cut edge. Cut along this second mark.


Hold the start and end of the binding strip as shown, creating a 45° angle. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam.


Press seam open, and finish stitching the binding to the placemat.


Press binding to the front of the placemat.


Unfold, and press in half so that the edge of the binding is just shy of the edge of the placemat.


Fold back over the placemat, and pin, mitering the corners as you go.


Stitch around the binding with the top of the placemat uppermost, angling the stitches along the mitered corners as you come to them.

Repeat for remaining placemats. To make matching napkins, cut fabric 18″ square and hem all four edges with a narrow hem.


some recent makes

Time for a catchup on some things I’ve been making in my little beehive. First up: boy stuff! I am lucky to have four boys aged five and under in my family; sewing for them is a joy.


Construction vests. I was channelling Emmet from the Lego movie in my choice of colours. The helmet is not a toy; it’s actually SEI certified! I now have a lot of neon orange utility fabric left over. Any ideas what to make with it?


A layered-look pirate shirt. Inspiration found here.


Batman caps and masks for a birthday party. Sixteen each, in sizes from baby to adult.


Another paper cut portrait; this one’s my grandson Corey. Made as a birthday gift for his mum, my eldest daughter.


For The Guy’s birthday, I made him a toiletries bag from fabric that I waxed myself. Oh man, making that cloth is a story unto itself. WAAY more work (and expense) than buying some waxed canvas on Etsy. But I’m kind of stubborn like that.


And for myself, a tailor’s ham, stuffed with sawdust. If you’re going to make one of these, wear a mask while stuffing it. Ask me how I know.

mojave calling

While Hashi put up the tent, K got the fire going

Our beautiful campsite

Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail

Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)


Hedgehog cactus


Banshee Canyon

It’s becoming an April tradition, the birthday camping trip. Last year we went to Los Padres National Forest. The year before to Death Valley. This time, we went to Mojave (Mo-hah-vee, for you Australians) National Preserve and camped at Hole-in-the-Wall.

Ah, desert. I love its muted tones and barren vistas and surprising splashes of colour. It whispers ancient secrets that I cannot quite understand, but that I want to slow down and strain to hear. Despite the dust, it leaves me feeling cleansed in some way. It is the opposite of frenetic and riotous, the opposite of Los Angeles. There is no hurrying to be done in the desert.

We had such a lovely time. Except for when the wind got fierce in the night, and our tent became a flapping flailing beast for hours on end, and The Guy resorted to sleeping in the car. THAT part wasn’t fun. But the rest, the hiking and exploring and cooking and staring at the fire. Yep, that was all perfect, and exactly right for a birthday trip. I’m a happy girl.

wherever you go, there you are


Today I went before a judge along with a dozen others, and changed my name. It was anachronistic to be in court – an environment that’s usually fraught with negative emotions – and be surrounded by happy people. There were no losers in that room; we were all pretty delighted. It reminded me of how the maternity ward is the only one in the hospital that’s full of joy, not sorrow. And in some ways, it felt like a (re)birth.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 8.47.14 PM

Later my buddy Clif sent me this picture, captioned “Wherever you go, there you are.” It made me laugh, and feel doubly glad that I now share initials with my lovely mama. The Guy, witty punster that he is, commented that “Running Water” should now be my native name.

Yeah, I’ll go with that. What’s not to love?

not even the king

Some people so poor all that they got is money.

Love love love.

february makes



My dear friend Lola loves the smell of lavender, so I made her a set of sachets for her birthday. (Quite a few ladies got these for Christmas, too.) Simple and sweet, with a loop long enough for a clothes hanger if so desired.



And then Miss Cali Hashi turned two, prompting a trio of jersey dresses and a little Aster Cardigan to go with them all.



When I heard she was having an alien/space birthday party, I whipped up a tshirt for her brother Felix to wear at the celebration. But why should he be the only one in alien garb? Cali obviously needed yet another dress, to match the birthday theme.


Then there was some very utilitarian sewing: blackout curtains and a ‘cozy’ for the electric saw. Projects like this aren’t exactly thrilling, but still provide their own satisfaction.

Coming up in March: Sew The Perfect Fit with Lynda Maynard on Craftsy. Wish me luck.

morro bay getaway

Morro Bay Morro Rock from the Elfin Forest

Natal bottlebrush (Greyia sutherlandii)

Twisted oak trunks in the Elfin Forest #elfinforest #morrobay #lososos

Azure Bush Germander (Teucrium frutican azureum)






Just spent a couple of days exploring the back roads of the Central Coast with the Guy + dog. So much green. Wildflowers out early. Horses and bunnies and turkey vultures. We had a beer at Parkfield on the San Andreas Fault. We drove over the Santa Lucia Range from inland to Big Sur, and descended into an ocean of cloud. We visited the Leaning Pine Arboretum and discovered new plants. We earmarked lots of places for future exploration and adventures. I love the way every experience begets more; there is no end to the wonder of this world.

a week of walking quietly


Smile, breathe and go slowly. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Growing up, Mum used to tell me I was ‘like a bull at a gate’. As I’ve matured, I’ve definitely slowed down, but I still tend towards the clumsy, noisy end of the spectrum. I stride. I clatter. I stub my toes.

For the past week, I’ve been paying more attention to my physical interactions with the world. I’ve been trying to be very very quiet. Not there’s-a-murderer-in-the-next-room stealthy. More like there’s-a-sick-child-lightly-sleeping-beside-me. I’ve felt just a tiny bit ninja. And it’s been fun.

Being quiet means going slower. It means looking where I’m about to put my hands, my feet. It means focusing on what I’m actually doing, how I’m actually moving. And this act of attention has rippled through to

    ~single tasking (e.g. not reading while eating)
    ~unclenching my teeth
    ~eating more slowly
    ~driving more alertly
    ~talking less
    ~gaining a little core strength, maybe. It takes engaged muscles to walk quietly.

A week is not nearly enough time for this to be engrained as a habit. It’s definitely a practice, one I have to return to many many times a day. I have no desire to be invisible, but I actually like being a little bit ninja. It’s a very gentle thing, to move quietly through the world, instead of clattering and banging. It feels like a kindness, both to myself and those around me.

Maybe you’d like to try it too, and tell me how it goes.

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. ~ Mary Oliver

january makes


It’s been more than a year since my last papercut portrait. They are somewhat time-consuming and hard on the hand, but I absolutely love the result. I swiped a favourite pic off Rhea’s instagram feed and made this as a birthday gift for her. The one I made for the Guy was three colours (not including the background); this one is four. I like the extra detail that the fourth tone allows.



The Guy and I leave notes to each other daily, as we keep very different circadian cycles. We’ve nearly filled an 80 page sketchbook, so I made another to have ready. Unlike the Christmas journals which were case bound, this one employs coptic stitch. I really enjoy book binding; it combines my loves of paper and sewing, and the finished product is tactile, useful, and beautiful. Can’t wait to start using this.




And of course, there was sewing. Inspired by this tutorial, I made a chess set for a favourite soon-to-be-9 yr old. I bought the bottle caps on ebay, and drew the icons with an ultra fine sharpie before sealing them with polymer medium. I made small and medium-sized drawstring bags; one for the bottle caps, another to hold the whole shebang, folded up.

There was a lot more gift-making in January, but reveals will have to wait until the recipients open them. And there was a big fat shirt-making fail, but I’ll post those pictures another day, hopefully when I actually have success with garment-fitting.

dan blocker to the pier



About to be swamped


My girlfriend A and I took a little break from beach hiking while she went and got married. We were back at it this past weekend, hiking from Dan Blocker Beach to Malibu Pier. The tide was rising, which was not ideal. But we didn’t want to wait another week so we went anyway. It meant a lot of rock scrambling, and some unsuccessful wave dodging.

Some folk who live beachside on the Malibu coast strongly discourage ‘trespassers’. But it’s our legal right to traverse the beach/rocks up to the high tide line, and even higher if it is unsafe closer to the water. Which it kinda was, in a few places.

We happened upon a baby sealion up on the rocks, who we hope was OK. No mama in sight, but it didn’t look injured, as far as we could tell. We clambered on, getting wet up to our crotches. How we laughed.


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