I have a confession to make. I’ve lived in my house for almost two years and have done next to no decorating. Sure, I’ve put up some shelves, carefully arranged some nick-knacks, but no real decorating. I’ve even left up some of the curtains from the previous owners, ack! I could easily make excuses as to why I haven’t done much decorating, but the truth is I just didn’t want to worry about it. Until a few weeks ago when I was suddenly hit with the decorating bug. Now I want to change everything! Wall colors, curtains, flooring, and so on and so forth, until everything is exactly right. In the interest of being realistic, however, I’ve decided to tackle it in small bits.
The dining room, like most rooms of the house, serves multiple purposes. I like to sit at the dining room table with my laptop and watch the critters in the backyard. My husband and I sometimes eat dinner at the table (when we’re feeling like adults) and other times we use it to play games with our friends. Right now he’s sitting next to me, balancing his checkbook, while I write this post.
I try to keep the dining room table looking nice, especially if there is a holiday coming up, but recently it’s been looking a little drab. The last holiday I decorated for was Valentine’s day, and since then the table has been bare. I wanted to do a project to spruce is up, to make it look a little more decorative during the in-between times. Perhaps some place mats to keep things interesting!
I found a tutorial for batik on Pinterest a while ago and decided it was time to put it to use! Batik is a dyeing technique which uses wax to create designs on the fabric. When the wax dries and you dye the fabric, the fabric underneath the wax retains its original color. The batik recipe I used didn’t use wax; instead it was a simple paste of 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup flour (plus a few extra tablespoons), and 2 teaspoons alum (spice). Follow the steps below to make your own DIY thrifted batik placemats!
1) To start, choose the fabric you want to work with. I bought a plain white full sheet from Goodwill for $3.00. It’s 50% cotton and 50% polyester. I originally wanted to dye the sheet and make curtains for the spare bedroom, but I thought doing DIY thrifted batik place mats would be the perfect use instead. I was able to make four place mats from a $3 sheet, with plenty of fabric to spare!
Since the dining room will inevitably be going through some redecoration in the coming months, I wanted the place mats to be a neutral color that would match anything I could come up with. I decided on a chestnut color; something that would have a little pop to it, but also easy to pair with other hues.
2) Next, I gathered my supplies. I mixed up the batik paste in a glass bowl, following the above recipe. To have the most control over your design, use a pastry bag or squeeze bottle for the batik mix. I bought ketchup and mustard bottles at the Dollar Tree to use with the batik paste. At this time, choose the paint you want to work with. It is recommended to use fabric paint or something similar, but I opted for an acrylic craft paint that I watered down in a spray bottle. Do not use a fabric dye that needs the fabric to be submerged; this will wash away the batik paste. Make sure in addition to your paste, your bottle or pastry bag, and your paint, you have paint brushes and spray bottles to use with the paint. Add water and paint to your spray bottle and shake it up; this will make it thinner for easier application. You can use the brushes later to layer the color. You may also want to get some acrylic medium for the paint; this will thin down the paint and make it more suitable for use on fabric.
3) After your supplies are ready, stretch your fabric with stretcher bars and thumb tacks; this ensures your place mats don’t bunch up and wrinkle while you’re applying the batik. However, I decided to wing it and use cardboard instead. Cardboard doesn’t give as firm a stretch, but the fabric stayed pretty well. Although I did use some ten-pound weights to keep the sheet from blowing around with the windows open.
4) When your fabric is stretched, get started on your design! You can sketch something in pencil beforehand, draw a separate design and use it as inspiration, or free-hand! I chose to free-hand the design, which was difficult, but also allowed for some variation in the pattern. Don’t worry too much about your design being uniform, that’s part of the fun of hand-made items! It gives it a unique, handmade look. The pattern I designed uses a lot of round shapes that are easy to duplicate while still giving an interesting look. After completing the main pattern, I added some random designs as well, just to break up the empty space. The batik needs to be dry before being dyed over, so it’s best to let it sit overnight. I left the windows open and the fan on which helped shorten the drying time.
5) After the design is completely dried, it’s time to apply the color! To get the base color, I decided to spray the batik section of the sheet with the acrylic paint that I diluted with water in the spray bottle. I sprayed down the entire area I wanted to be colored. Since the paint was watered down, it didn’t take as long to dry and I was able to go back in to add more color in a reasonably short amount of time. Be sure to let your paint dry in between coats, especially if you use multiple colors!
6) Once the sprayed on color dried, I decided to add some tonal variation with a sponge brush. I added acrylic medium to the paint, which helps the paint to dry less stiffly while still adhering to the fabric. To get the paint to bleed, I sprayed it with water; this helped achieve an almost tie-dyed affect. To finish, I splattered some paint from the sponge brush across the sheet.
7) When all the paint is completely dried, pick off the batik paste.
8) Once all the paste is removed, it’s time to heat the fabric to set the color. The paint needs to be heat set, especially if you use fabric paint. You can use an iron to set the dye, or you can toss the fabric into the dryer, which is what I did.
9) The final step is cutting down the fabric and sewing it into place mats. I kept the sheet intact for the batik and coloring process to make sure I had enough space to work. After removing all the unneeded fabric, I cut the dyed area into four rectangles, pinned the edges, and sewed them in place.
Ta da! Four simple, but funky placemats to add a fresh look to the dining room! I had a lot of fun with this DIY craft, and I hope you do too!
How did yours turn out? Let me know in the comments below!