Thanksgiving is such a great holiday because it’s all about celebrating food! I’ve celebrated it in a lot of places, including sunny California, freezing New England and even once in Hawaii where a colony of ants attacked the pumpkin pie, but no matter where we are the ritual is always the same, a celebration with family and friends and a uniquely American meal. Turkey, squash, and corn (not to mention tomatoes, beans, and potatoes) are all native to the Americas and I think it’s wonderful that we have a day to celebrate our special foods.  On Thanksgiving day I love to think about everyone all across the United States watching the parade on TV and peeling pototoes just like I do every year.  For me Thanksgiving isn’t about making the fanciest meal, it’s about sharing the experience of cooking and breaking bread with the people I love.

I designed this set of reverse applique Thanksgiving placemats and napkins with all of these things in mind. I wanted to make something by hand that I could use every year for this special day. Sewing something by hand reminds me of cooking in a lot of ways, mostly because you can see the care and love that went into it, even if it doesn’t come out perfectly.

Much like cooking Thanksgiving dinner, this is not a last minute project. Reverse applique takes time and consideration but I think that’s part of the fun!  And much like the Thanksgiving feast, while they take time to make they are not particularly hard since no fancy stitches or vast knowledge of hand sewing is required.

For this project I used the absolutely amazing Nani Iro Linen Blend Brown Print as the main fabric for the placemats. This fabric is simply stunning, the abstract print, in brown, white, black and metallic gold makes each piece seem like a little painting. To contrast with the print’s subtle beauty I used four different boldly colored solids as backgrounds and napkins, and the result is simply luminous!  For the solids I used both Echino Solids in chartruese and purpley pink and Kona Cottons in bright pink and mustard. Both fabrics were a dream to sew with. I loved the jewel tones and sturdy feel of the Echino and the Kona Cotton was really easy to sew with.

These unique and fun to make placemats will be a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving table. Happy Thanksgiving! –Molly


To make four 17-inch by 13-inch placemats and four 16-inch napkins:


Cutting and Prepping

Cut one of the solids to a 19-inch x 15-inch rectangle.

Cut the brown print to a 17-inch x 13-inch rectangle.

Using a pair of pointy, sharp scissors cut a short slit in the fabric, about 2 to 4-inches long.

Cut five more slits emanating out like flowers petals.

Cut a few more of these 6 petaled flower shapes in random places around the brown fabric. If you look carefully at the picture above you can see the cut slits. I also cut a three petaled half shape near the edge.

Feel free to cut as many or as few of these shapes as you like.

Center the brown fabric on the solid so there is an inch of solid beyond all four sides of  the brown fabric. Measure this as exactly as possible  because it will make the finishing step a lot easier.

Baste the two pieces together by pinning them together with safety pins.  Make sure to pin down each corner and the sides.

Sewing the Reverse Applique

Tuck one raw side of one of the slits under itself, towards the wrong side of the fabric, hiding it’s raw edge. It will automatically make a curved shape. Finger press the edge down so it lays flat.

Starting from the back of the fabric (and thus hiding the knot) sew the folded fabric down to the solid using a very small running stitch right along the folded edge.

When you get to the next side of the slit turn around and fold the second side in on itself just like you did the first one.

Once you sew all the way around each slit you will have a little petal/almond shaped bit of the solid fabric peeking though. Sew around all the slits in this way.

Once you’ve reversed appliquéd all of the cuts remove safety pins and press the placemat.


Fold the 15-inch raw edges 1/2-inch to meet the raw edges of the brown fabric, press into place.

Fold and press the 15-inch sides 1/2-inch once more, this time overlapping and encasing the raw edge of the brown fabric. Pin to secure.

Starting at the edge of the brown fabric sew these folds down with a small running stitch at the very edge of the fold. Stop at the opposite edge of the brown fabric.

Fold and press all four corners in a right angle triangle towards the raw edge of the fabrics as shown above.

Fold and press the 17-inch sides of the solid 1/2-inch towards the brown fabric so their raw edges meet as pictured above. Make sure to keep the triangle of the corner folded down during this step.

Fold and press the 17-inch edges down 1/2-inch once again, encasing the raw edges. Your corner should miter neatly as you do this. Pin these folds into place.

With a small running stitch sew the long sides down using a small running stitch a the edge of the fold (hide your knot inside the mitered corner).

Repeat for with the three other solid colors.