It’s been a while since I did anything useful and crafty – mostly it’s just been for pleasure, or as silly gifts. All lovely, but nothing especially noteworthy. But while dreaming of new placemats to adorn my table for Christmas dinner, and feeling sentimental about the thought of throwing away my rather tired-looking 13 year old Denby mats, which were a wedding present and have been very well used, I hit upon an idea. I have chalkboard paint… I have a brush…. I have a chalk permanent marker pen. I could easily create new stylish new upcycled placemats!
Once I had the idea, I was raring to go. I toyed with painting the mats with chalkboard paint, and keeping them plain so that they could be written on or decorated to suit the occasion, but we have some super-swanky slates that we use for that purpose, and I wanted the new place settings to be pretty, but still suitable for every day. Having decided that I would use my chalk pen to leave a permanent design, I set about researching various patterns. I liked the look of vintage lace patterns, and printed off a few patterns to have stab at. Since my drawing isn’t artist standard, it would have been silly for me to attempt to copy the patterns freehand, so I used them as a template and drew over the painted mats, intending to leave an imprint, which I could then follow with the chalk pen. I painstakingly set out with a trusty Biro, copying the lines and making sure I pressed hard enough to leave a mark, tongue poking out of the corner of my mouth in concentration. With an aching hand, I finished the design, then lifted the paper. Not only had the design fit perfectly, but the chalkboard paint had lifted where I had drawn, and revealed the original colour of the mats showing. Whilst it wasn’t what I had intended, I was thrilled with the way it looked, and the bonus was that it saved me having to draw over the marks to leave a chalk effect! My mats were originally a sort of ombre blue (in the days before ombre was even a thing!) and I love how the design fades from dark blue/purple at the top into a much lighter blue at the bottom, which is where the majority of the etching is.
Buoyed on by my triumph, I excitedly started on the second mat, with a similar but slightly different pattern. I wanted each to be individual but linked in the style. After another session of drawing over the design, I lifted the paper to find…. nothing. Well, not nothing, but just an indentation where I had pressed with my pen. Not to be deterred, I improvised with a wooden kebab skewer to remove the paint from the pattern. Although more time consuming, this worked very well, and again I was left with a beautiful and unique mat. After repeating on the remaining mats, which took several sessions spread out over a few days (the first one was the only time the paint came off on the first tracing) I sat back and admired my handiwork. The only thing now was to somehow protect the new mats from heat and moisture so that they cold withstand all that dinner time could throw at them. A trip to Hobbycraft resulted in the purchase of just the thing – Plastikote Hobby & Craft Sealer. I had wondered about using mod podge but I wanted a spray in case using a brush smudged the dry paint across the etched pattern. Thankfully the spray worked like a dream and I am now the proud owner of six beautiful tablemats. I can’t wait to use them, but I must crack on with the coasters so I have a complete set first.
If you want to give a new lease of life to some shabby looking mats, it really was very easy – if I can manage it, you can.
- Gather your placemats – mine are corked backed, which worked very well. I’m not sure it would work so well on other materials.
- Choose your designs and print them out at the right size for your mats.
- Paint your mats. I used black paint, but I see no reason why you couldn’t use another colour, as long as it complements the original colour of the mats, if you want that to how through. Leave to dry completely.
- Position your design on your mats and use a pen to draw over the paper, pressing hard enough to leave a mark on the mats. I did try using a knitting needle to make the indentation, but found it easier to use a pen as I could see where I had drawn on the paper too, so I knew which parts I had done and which were left to do.
- If you wish to paint the design on, use a fine paintbrush or a paint pen to follow your lines. Alternatively use a wooden skewer to gently but firmly remove the paint by following the dented marks. I experimented using a darning needle and a knitting needle, but they were a bit too harsh on the mat, and I was in danger of damaging the original surface. The wooden skewer was much more gentle and left a good result.
- Use a sealer spray or varnish to lightly cover the painted side of the mats in order to keep them safe from any moisture and heat that they may encounter in their day to day use.
- Host a wonderful dinner party to show off your unique table settings, and stand back while people ask where you got such wonderful mats.
If you have done any DIY upcyling or general crafty shenanigans, I’d love you to share your triumphs with me. Please tweet me or leave a little note in the comments, and I’ll be sure to stop by and admire your handiwork.