recycling old placemats

At home, I have eight ugly, crackly, and wavy old-looking vinyl placemats that I keep using every day. Sadly, they have become an eyesore in my kitchen. However, as you all know, I hate throwing things away –so I thought I’d breathe new life into them. In this article, I thought I’d show you how to go about recycling old placemats.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed these placemats and they’ve served us well. Before we were living in a rather dark apartment and the dash of red brought a bit of color into an otherwise somber place. I have had these placemats for 11 years. Now, it’s time to change.

I did think of tossing them, but they’re vinyl and therefore not recyclable where I live. This gave me pause, I can’t help feeling guilty about filling up some far off landfill with silly plastic items. I am not the sort of women to complain about an issue on social media and do nothing real about it. I value action and there’s no better place to make a change than in your own home, no matter how small.

So here is my way of using that hideous pile of placemats without throwing them out (with the bonus of reducing my out-of-control fabric stash). I have used cotton and linen canvas fabric. It is the perfect hardy textile for the kitchen. Please check out the fabric recommendations from below for something similar you might like. There’s a terrific print from one of my favorites, Marimekko.

I have made a sort of pillowcase to cover the old placemats. Like this, I can take the old placemats in and out to be able to wash them.


  • Old placemats
  • Fabric (canvas, cotton twill, upholstery, waxed cotton or any fabric that is used to make cushions or cover a sofa) depending on how many are you planning to cover. You can estimate about 1/2 yard per placemat but best to measure as detailed below.
  • Thread to match


Fabric Recommendations from Amazon

Covering Or Recycling Old Placemats

Ah yes, we are going to cover the placemats. We are going to use the placemats as a stabilizer so you will not need to use fusible interfacing for this project.

Step One:

The first thing to do is to take your fabric and wash it in hot water and dry it in the dryer until it is almost dry, then iron with a very hot iron. This will shrink the fabric and you will be able to easily wash the placemats.

Not washing the fabric before using in a sewing project is one of the most important mistakes to avoid when cutting fabric. Please read the linked article to learn the other 4 big mistakes.

I found that my fabric, due to its composition 80% cotton and 20% linen, shrank by 4 inches. This is a lot of you are making something that is supposed to fit snugly on something or someone.

Step Two:

Measure your placemats horizontally and vertically and add 1/2″ around the whole rectangle.

recycling old placemats

Step Three:

Take this large rectangle and mark and fold it in the middle. Then to each half, add 1/2″ in the center.

recycling old placemats

Step Four:

You should have three rectangles now. If your placemats have curved corners you can use a coin to shape the corners.

recycling old placemats

Trace all these rectangles and cut the fabric.

Step Five:

Fold the sides that will become the center back of the placemats by 1/2″.

recycling old placemats

Pin the front and the backs print sides together.

Pin the front and back together. Line them up then turn the center sides, zigzag the edge then topstitch. Zigzag at 1/8″ all around the placemats.

recycling old placemats
recycling old placemats

Sew around with a small to medium stitch at 1/8″.

recycling old placemats

Turn the placemat inside out and top stitch around it at 1/8″

recycling old placemats

If the vinyl placemats are too hard to insert, you can trim them about 1/4″ more like I have done here.

recycling old placemats
recycling old placemats
recycling old placemats

It is said that the fashion industry is in the top ten most polluting industries in the world. Largely due to the two dollar t-shirts and mass production of ready-to-wear garments, many items are often worn for less than three months. Let’s do our bit to repurpose the things we have around us, both to limit waste, beautify our surroundings and save the planet.

We talk more about this in a past article about Why Millenials Should Learn to Sew. You may want to check it out.

So we’ve finished the project. Below is my kitchen table where we spend most of our meals. This is exactly how I set the table for every meal of the week with the exception when we have guests over that we use our dining room. It’s not fancy, but there is no TV or phones. The flowers are changed and in their place, the food will be served.

P.S. Yes the table is set for left-handed people 🙂

Need to do more recycling? Have a look at these fantastic ideas.

Or, if you have too many t-shirts…

What do you think about recycling old placemats? I think it’s a simple, fun way to practice your skills and beautify your home.

While I was making them I came up with two other ways to do it. I made six placemats, but I have two more to go. What would you do differently? Leave your ideas as a comment or better send me the pictures of you recycling old placemats and I will add it to this post. Until next time, Happy Sewing!

recycling old placemats
recycling old placemats

For Berneice who has cork placemats

Thanks for your comment Berneice, I hope the drawing below gives you an idea of what to do in case the placemats do not bend. The view is seen from below. I would not make the bottom side too think. perhaps single layer if you are using canvas or any other think fabric. Let me know if this works for you.

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