In January my local quilting group went on retreat to the Texas Gulf Coast and stayed in the beach front home of a relation to one of our group. It was decided that we would each make an ocean-themed place mat for the homeowner as a thank-you for allowing us to spend such a wonderful, peaceful weekend in her home.

It was also decided that our fabric medium would be Kaffe Fassett fabrics which sort of resemble sea life. Fabrics which threw me totally out of my comfort zone. But I’m fairly pleased with the result.


The first thing I did was scour the internet for art of ocean life to get an idea of what I wanted. Miss Mary Lou, the owner, had several shell collections throughout the house and I had the idea of a nautilus floating in the back of my mind. This step was actually the easy part.

Next, I sketched out a pattern and enlarged it to a size that would be to scale on the background fabric. I made two copies. With a clear tote and a strand of Christmas lights I made a makeshift light box and traced the nautilus pattern on to the paper side of Heat & Bond. Using a hot iron, I then attached the fabric to the Heat & Bond, following the instructions given with the interfacing.

Using some sharp pointed embroidery scissors, I cut the appliques out. This took a bit of time as there were quite a few pieces involved.

Placing the background fabric over the pattern on the light box, I then laid the applique pieces on the background fabric and double checked my arrangement. Very carefully I carried the arrangement over to the ironing board and proceeded to iron the appliques on, being sure to melt the glue for a firm bond.

When that was done, I found a coordinating spool of Aurifil and using a tiny zig zag stitch, appliqued the pieces in place. I was delighted with the result.
Nautilus Detail

But then came a bit of second-guessing my choice. The others had begun to show pictures of their place mats and mine was so simple in comparison. I’m also not a machine quilter and the other members do exquisite work. Their place mats are serious pieces of art. Stunning.

So I spent several weeks debating whether or not to try and add something to my work. I finally had to make a choice and I chose simplicity. I’m a simple person, and this place mat is a reflection of me.

This past Sunday I laid the place mat top on some Quilter’s Dream batting that I had on hand, and using white Superior machine quilting thread, a size 14 top-stitch needle, and my Brother PC8500 with the “J” foot, I quilted it.

I had used a water-soluble marker and traced around and between the nautilus appliques to outline it.
Applique Detail

The background fabric had wavy lines vaguely resembling sea sponges, so I just randomly followed every third or fourth line and the effect was similar to ocean currents.

Quilting Detail

I couldn’t believe how quickly the quilting went. I think I only spent about two hours at the machine. It took me longer to stitch down the binding.

I wanted a wide binding to sort of “frame” the piece. So I cut 3 1/2″ strips, folded them in half and lined up the cut edges with the edge of the mat. I then stitched a half inch away from the edge, giving me a 1/2″ binding. I made mitered corners and hand stitched the binding to the back. It gave me a chance to use my new Clover binding clips (here) which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.


The finished piece measures out at 14” high and 18” wide.


What do you think? Would you put this on your table?

Linking up with My Quilt Infatuation and Sew Fresh Quilts.