With summer upon us, and the 4th of July right around the corner, many of us are eating outside on picnic tables and on blankets stretched out in our favorite parks. A set of bright, colorful placemats are handy to have on hand, and these are simple to make, reversible, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
What You'll Need:
~ 4-6 sheets of heavy watercolor paper (use as many sheets of paper as the number of placemats you'd like to make) about 140# or better, cut to size (see "What You'll Do" for further instructions on sizing.)
~ Craft paints in 3-4 coordinating colors and 1 in a bright, contrasting color
~ Foam craft brushes or sponges
~ Clear Contact Paper (clear or frosted vinyl sheeting which is sticky on one side. The sticky side is protected by a piece of release paper which needs to be peeled off to use the contact paper.)
~ Paper trimmer, scissors or rotary cutter
~ Cutting mat
~ Bone folder (optional.)
What You'll Do:
~ Prepare your contact paper by cutting pieces to the size you'd like for your final placemats, two pieces per placemat (one for the front, and one for the back.) I like to make them about 16"- 18" long by 14" wide. This allows plenty of room for a 12" plate, cutlery and a drinking glass. Set aside.
~ Prepare your paper. Trim the paper so that it is 1/4" smaller all the way around than the contact paper sheets you've already cut. Paint one side of each paper in your chosen contrasting color.
~Once dry, flip the papers over and smear the remaining colors and some of the contrasting color on each sheet of paper. You can be sloppy with this- you're not making art, you're only freely applying paint in splotches and streaks. Let the paint mix on the paper, but don't overmix or you could produce muddied, dull colors. Set all papers aside to dry.
~ Once your papers have dried, cut them into strips between 1/2" and 3/4", whatever your preference.
~ To construct your placemats, peel about 2" of the release paper off one of the short edges of your prepared contact paper, line the cut edge up with a cutting line on your mat, sticky side UP, and carefully place one strip of painted paper about 1/4" in from the edge. Once you've lined up the first strip of paper, you should be able to butt the edge of the next strip against the first, and so on, to get straight, even spacing across the length of the placemat. You want to be sure to leave a margin of contact paper about 1/4" on all four sides.
~ Continue placing strips, peeling back only a few inches of the release paper at a time to keep it from picking up dust and finger prints. Now and then, flip one of the strips over to reveal the contrasting color and apply it to the contact paper. Place strips along the entire length of your contact paper sheet until you reach the other edge, leaving about 1/4" of contact paper on the very edge without any paper.
~ Using a second piece of your pre-cut contact paper, peel the release paper off of about 2" on the short edge, and line up that edge with the edge of the contact paper to which you've applied the paper strips, sticky side facing the paper. Carefully press into place on top of the paper strips, lining up the edges of both pieces of contact paper with one another. Smooth the contact paper down, sealing the paper strips in between, a few inches at a time, peeling back the contact paper as needed until you reach the other edge.
~ Using a bone folder (putty knife, your hands, whatever you have), buff each side of the placemat to be sure each is firmly adhered to the paper and each other, being sure not to trap any air bubbles.
~ If the edges of the contact papers don't exactly meet, you can trim them down now (aren't you glad you left yourself that 1/4" margin all the way around?)
~ When they're complete, they should look somehting like this on the front...
... and like this on the back.
~ Each placemat is made in the same way.
Tips And Hints
~ Contact paper can be repositioned! If you make a mistake in placement, carefully peel the contact paper back and reposition it.
~ Why just use strips? Collage large, small, or oddly shaped pieces of paper and paper ephemera all over the contact paper and then cover with a second sheet of contact paper in the manner described above.
~ For the holidays, make placemats using metallic paints for sparkle.
~ Why just use paper? This works beautifully with fabric, as well, though the placemats will be a little floppier than if they're made with paper.
~ Even ugly fabric can be collaged into something attractive and useful!
~ Why just use paper or fabric? You can trap nearly anything between two pieces of contact paper... fibers, quilting blocks, glitter, dried flowers, photograps; the possibilities are endless!
I hope if you make these neat little placemats that you'll come back and post a link to show them off to all of us!! Happy creating, and if you're in the U.S., Happy 4th of July!