PC Blog Hop: How to Make Plastic Canvas "Straw" Placemats

18 Apr 2014

Plastic Canvas "Straw" Placemat

Plastic Canvas "Straw" Placemat

Yaaaay! 'Tis my turn at the PC Blog Hop! For this project, I wanted two specific things: I wanted to use this fancy leaf stitch (which I adore), and I wanted to do my stitching with synthetic raffia (which makes a wonderful, sturdy surface). I thought a simple placemat might be a good way to use the raffia's particular flatness and straw-y look. If you've never tried stitching with this stuff, do! It's really fun.

Here's what you'll need:

  • • One sheet of 9 x 12 plastic canvas, 7-count size (per placemat)
  • • 3 spools of synthetic raffia (see below)
  • • Needlepoint needle (big eye, dull point)
  • • Scissors

I used three colors of synthetic raffia (also called "raffia ribbon") in this project: Coral Matte, Red Matte, and Oatmeal Matte. (Lots of other colors are available from that linked seller, and many party stores carry it, too.) It comes in 100-yard rolls, which should yield you several placemats at least.

PC Placemat Raffia Strands

PC Placemat Raffia Spreading

You can thread this stuff on a needle and stitch with it just like yarn. When you cut a strand, just take a quick look at it and make sure the raffia is flat and mostly the same width all over. Sometimes there'll be a section that's been twisted into more of a string than a flat strand. If that's happened to some of your raffia, just gently pull it apart with your fingers, as shown above, and it'll flatten back out.

PC Placemat Leaf Part 1 PC Placemat Leaf Part 2

I'm using a stitch here called Leaf Stitch. There are lots of variations on this stitch, and this is one I particularly like.

It's easiest to think of the Leaf Stitch in two sections: the tip of the leaf, and the body of the leaf. I used two different shades of grey in this diagram to help differentiate them, but you'll stitch them all in the same color.

I usually start stitching with the body section. Begin in the upper right corner of your plastic canvas sheet, and count down three squares. Bring your needle up in this third square, and then follow two squares diagonally down from there as shown. Then put two identical stitches below that one. And then, repeat this configuration on the other side as the diagram shows.

The angle of the tip is a little tricky - it doesn't follow the squares in the canvas diagonally. Instead, the angle moves upward a little from the body. Just compare your canvas to the diagram and give it a try. You'll get it! And then there's a little straight stitch to finish off the tip.

PC Placemat Leaf Rows

I find it easiest to work these leaves in long vertical rows, using the same hole in the canvas for the base of one leaf and the tip of the next, as shown. They work up pretty fast in this configuration.

(Incidentally, if you're wondering how to start or end a strand of yarn/raffia for PC, I covered that in this video.)

PC Placemat Stripes

Now, you could certainly stitch all your leaves in the same color, but I decided to change colors every so often, creating random-width stripes. And I love the idea of each placemat in the set having a slightly different configuration of stripes.

PC Placemat Starting Veins

PC Placemat Stitching Veins

…To stitch the veins in these leaves, I'm using a back stitch. To start this strand, I just run my needle under a few stitches at the back of the work, to catch the end of the raffia. Then I back-stitch my way all the way up the row of leaves.

PC Placemat Bottom Edge

Let's talk about the whole idea of fitting this stitch pattern on your 9 x 12 sheet of PC. I've never been one for mathy things, so I didn't worry too much about counting the holes in my canvas to see if the stitch pattern would fit perfectly. (I mean, you can do that, but you don't have to.)

Instead, I knew that since the repeat of this stitch pattern is pretty small, it would end up fitting without too many adjustments. As you can see above, along the bottom edge, I had to stitch one partial row with just the tips of the leaves. That didn't bother me too much.

PC Placemat Left Edge

…And along the left edge, I ended up with one extra row of canvas. Instead of trying to stitch that little section of the pattern, I just cut away the extra row. Easy Peasy.

PC Placemat Filler 1 Plastic Canvas "Straw" Placemat

With all the leaves in place, I filled in the spaces between with this easy little stitch pattern. First I worked the vertical stitches, then the horizontal. And I worked these bits across the placemat in horizontal rows.

PC Placemat Edging

Lastly, I added a whip stitch edging. You can learn to do this in this video here.

PC Placemat Back

I did a lot of hemming and hawing over whether to put a backing on these placemats. On the one hand, who doesn't want to cover up the back of their work? On the other hand, even when it's fully covered in stitching, PC has little holes all over. Ultimately it seemed like adding a cork or felt backing would mostly create little crumb-catchers all over the surface of the placemat. So I decided against a backing.

Caring for your placemats

I did a colorfastness test by soaking strands of the raffia in water for five days. As you can see, there was no color bleed at all! So you're safe to wipe your placemats down with a damp sponge. I'd steer clear of soaps and sprays, though.

Plastic Canvas "Straw" Placemat

If your placemat gets a little wavy during the stitching process, a half hour under some heavy books will straighten that out. And that's that! If you make some of these babies, I'd love to see pictures!

Check out what my fellow PC Blog Hoppers are making!


I have been waiting for this tutorial!!! Absolutely love the idea of working with synthetic raffia on plastic canvas! Opens up a whole new world! And I love love love this placemat design. So pretty and cheerful!

Oh no! I feel another addition coming on! (And I thought I was safe from this one - I guess not!) I'm on my way out to look a raffia colors, LOL!

Sorry, Meryl Ann - NO ONE IS SAFE. :-)

OK I'm fessin' up. Yesterday I bought some plastic canvas and needles -- the last time I did that was 35 years ago, but addictions die slow! I have a special project/tutorial idea…it might take a while but you'll be the first to know - ha! Still looking for this raffia though, I didn't see it at the THREE craft stores I went to yesterday when I was SUPPOSED to be shopping for tax file containers (but maybe I was in the wrong department. That raffia is probably one of only 3 or 4 craft items I haven't ever bought!)

One of us! One of us! :-) I can't wait to see what idea you're hatching over there!

You really knocked it out of the park here, Diane! Wonderful project with lots of potential for fun variations.

Wow! That project is super duper fabulous! And beautifully explained. Wonderful! I think it might have jumped to the top of my list of things to do.

I love this so much! I love the idea of playing around with what fiber you're stitching with, the raffia gives it such a summer feel. And that pattern you made it gorgeous, I love it!

Looks very pretty! Great tutorial!

Whoopie! I made a raffia ribbon purse - crocheted in stripes and have been wondering what to do with the leftovers for 7 years! I wonder how my DH will like pink placements! LOL! I love placemats and have been looking for new ideas..

Love those stitches, and that raffia gives it such a great look, but I'm finding myself wondering what those stitches would look like in wool! Oh dear, just when I've finished mine!

Gosh that looks so pretty! I really like that stitch, too.

Wow! I really love the way these turned out. There are so many possibilities!

Diane, you know I was in love with these the second I saw them on IG. This is a project rife with potential! You have fulfilled it, and I am definitely checking out synthetic raffia. I was concerned about the ability to wash them, but LOOK! You've assured me. We have a dinner party three times a year, and I will love being able to festoon my table with these. I'm going to do all black and white. No! Rainbow! No, that's too many spools. RED AND GREEN! PINK AND LIME!

I guess if we're going to eat on them, purple and puce would be chancy.

I just showed this to Cathie. I said I was going to make eight of them. She said, You're going to make EIGHT of them?
I said, YES.

She laughed so much Scout had to leave the room.

HAHAHAHA!! Well, nobody said they had to be dinner parties THIS year or anything! :-)