This is a bit late in the day for a Christmas Project I know, but I have been attempting to post it since the 5th of December, unfortunately our internet service had other plans and decided to go AWOL on us… hence I am posting this now. It might be of some use to someone out there, but it is actually not just a blog for Christmas, as you can use this technique to brighten up old table mats the whole year through. There are some really gorgeous napkins out there to choose from, and some are very cheap to buy – I find that price is no measure of quality when it comes to decoupaging with napkins – I have had some fantastic results with ultra cheap ones and vice-versa. Do think about the design and repeat though. The place mats I did here were very large, and so I needed to use one and a half napkin on each. Although the napkin design might look great folded, if you are covering a place mat larger than the folded square of the napkin, ie you will have to use the whole opened out, occasionally the design isn’t suited for the repeat. You can also cover coasters using the same technique.
All you need is:
Some old worn-out table mats
Chalk Paint (pale, pref white ) – great way to use up old remnants of paint
Napkins of your choice
Water-based Varnish (I use Decorators Varnish)
Table mats can suffer a lot of wear and tear over the years, and can be expensive to replace but as long as the main body of the mat is sound you can easily transform them back to something smart and new. It is also far better for the world we live in to reuse and mend rather than throw away and buy new… not to mention being better for the bank balance also.
Take your old mats and give the surfaces a good scrub with washing-up liquid and hot water to clear them of any grease and dirt, be careful not to soak them though.
Then take coarse sandpaper and roughen up the picture side and the edges. You want it good and scratchy to give the paint a roughened surface to cling to. You can also use the sandpaper to give the back a quick gentle buffing. Be much softer on the back, or use a finer sandpaper, but they can come up like new.
Paint the picture side and the edges with chalk paint – you could try it with emulsion, but I would recommend a chalk paint — either commercial or home made — just to ensure the paint adheres well to the unprepared surface. White or a pale colour is best as it doesn’t detract from the colors of the tissue layer. Leave to dry – another reason to use chalk paint as it can dry within half an hour. I stand mine on old paint pots to dry.
Once the paint is completely dry use the finer sandpaper just to go over it and ensure the surface and the edges are smooth and lump free.
Now, here comes the fun part. Take your first napkin and unfold it to measure it against your mat. Decide on the position you want and cut the napkin, removing any coloured edges you might not want and leaving an overhang of at least 1cm on each side of the mat – more if you can. As I said, my mats were very large so for this project I had to use one and a half napkins – which meant cutting off the red edging and matching up the pattern.
Carefully split the picture sheet from the two plain sheets of tissue behind (usually 2 sheets as most napkins are 3 ply, but some can be 2 or 4 ply). This can be very easy or at times ultra fiddly, slow and patient is the key with tricky ones.
Get together your glue, cling film, brush for applying the glue and, if you have it, a roller. This can be a craft roller as in the picture, or a rolling pin — but not essential.
Take your PVA glue and water it down about 3 to 1 – this isn’t an exact science, you just want a thin runny consistency. You can use a paintbrush to apply the glue, or a sponge brush (which I prefer). Now cover the whole surface and the edges with glue – do this with the mat raised from a flat surface on a paint tin or something similar. If you are doing more than one place mat at a time it is is best to get a paint can, mug… or the like for each to sit it on throughout the process. If you are doing more than one mat do them one at a time, at this stage.
Float your tissue paper gently over the glued mat, if you get good at this you can get it laid over in such a way that it barely touches the wet glue, which allows for a little readjustment if you have not laid it over in the exact position it should be.
Once you are happy with the position, tear off a strip of clingfim to cover the whole of the mat’s surface and lay this gently over the tissue paper. You can now apply pressure and smooth over the whole surface, sticking the tissue to the mat, and the edges as well. You can use your hands to smooth it over, or a roller – if you have it. Don’t be tempted to touch the paper with your bare hands, always maneuver it with the clingfilm over the tissue, otherwise it will dissolve into one icky mess — I know from very messy experience! Smooth it from the centre out, to shift the air bubbles, try not to get creases, but even if you do these often look quite charming in the end result. Reuse the same piece of cling film for as many mats as you can, always being careful to make sure it is the glue side down each time – another easy, messy mistake to make. Once you are happy the tissue is well adhered to the surface and the sides, you can gently remove the cling film and leave the mat to dry hard, whilst repeating the exercise with any companion mats.
Now comes my favourite bit. Once the tissue has dried rock hard, take your rough sandpaper and firmly but gently sand the excess tissue on the edges, downwards in a sweeping motion, like you were trimming a pie crust. You should find that the tissue comes off to leave a smart, clean edge – and when done well, this is a very satisfying exercise.
What you should now have is a nice smart recovered mat – all we need to do now is give it some protection.
With these mats I added some gold acrylic paint to the edges first, just to give them an extra bit of Christmas magic, but that is optional, as hopefully your tissue should have covered the mats’ edges also.
Now you can varnish your mats. Use a water-based varnish – I generally water it down to 1 part varnish to 3 parts water for the first coat, then apply 3 to 4 more normal coats.
Let your mats dry for a couple of days before use. They should be reasonably water resistant and heat resistant. As I said at the beginning, this idea doesn’t just apply to Christmas, you can update and personalise your place mats any time you like with this great technique.
I really hope you have enjoyed this project, I have found that once you get the hang of covering place mats like this, it can become a little compulsive 🙂 Do feel free to ask any questions either in the comments below or via social media.