Cork-Backed Coasters


Coffee rings. Whether you think they're artistic or unsightly, you probably don't want them on your table when you're trying to impress your guests. Instead of showing your friends how suave and stylish you are with your interior design, the cup rings just say, "Look, I don't even know how to use a coaster!"

Perhaps that's not your fault. Perhaps you don't have any coasters. Maybe you thought that paying 20 bucks for some flat squares of plastic was a bit overpriced. Maybe you didn't fancy the floral print they came in. In any way, you have no more excuses. You're going to make your own coasters, and banish the coffee cup and wine glass rings from your table forever. Or, at least you'll have stylish coasters to use to cover up those rings when guests come over.....

Coasters are pretty basic. They're a square or circle of material that goes between your table and whatever offending mug or glass happens to be sitting on top of it. Rather than being boring, the simplistic nature of coasters makes them a blast to create, because there are so many artistic places you can go with them, and they're easy to sew together.

I decided I wanted my coasters to be more than a little flap of fabric. I wanted them to have a bit more heft, and absorb heat and liquid better, so I'm making some sweet little cork-backed coasters. I'm also hand embroidering material for the top rather than using a machine, because every once in a great while I appreciate more traditional things

You don't have to be like me and embroider them by hand. You can embroider them with a machine, or even use the clip art to make an iron-on transfer. Just make sure the design is smaller than 4 x 4 and put it on some fab fabric, and join me after I've hand-stitched my way through mine.

If you're like me and are hand embroidering, choose a design that is less than 4 x 4 and not too complicated. I'm using one of the Florid Fauna designs. Print the design and get out the transfer paper.

Place the transfer paper on top of the fabric, blue side down with the design on top, and trace over the image. Check every once and a while to make sure the design is being transferred through nice and strong.

How you go about embroidering the design is really up to you. There are lots of different stitches that you can try. My last hand embroidery project was mostly running stitches, so I thought I'd try a variety here.

Two new stitches I tried on this project were the satin stitch and the split stitch. The satin stitch is just a back and forth stitch, creating a "satiny" sheen to the threads when its done. When using this stitch, make sure you go in "loops" when stitching, coming up across from your last stitch instead of next to it.

The split stitch is made by making a stitch, and then coming back up in the middle of that stitch, "splitting" your threads, and then back down again. It's a nice way to make a thick continuous line, and I'm using it on my fluffy cloud.

So after a bit of laborious work, we have a beautiful little embroidery design! I used a satin stitch on the moon and reed tops, a split stitch for the fluffy cloud, and a normal running stitch for the reeds and little bird. Again, there are all sorts of ways you can stitch the designs, and depending on how many coasters you plan to stitch up, you'll have lots of chances to try new techniques.

If you used an embroidery machine or clip art to embellish the fabric, you can join us again to finish up the swank coasters.

Once you have the fabric stitched or clip-arted, measure it out in a square that's 4.5 x 4.5 inches.

Cut the square, and another of the same size. This will be the back of the coaster.

Pin the two pieces together, right sides in, so your embroidery is hidden.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam along three sides of the square, then take the square off the machine. Turn it right side out so that your design is facing the world again.

Push out all the corners, turn the raw edge in 1/4 inch, and pin it in place. Double-check that it's folded properly by measuring the sides of the square to make sure they're all around 4 inches.

Go over the folded seam with an iron to make sure it's flat and smooth for sewing, and since you're already at the ironing board, you might as well give the whole square a quick ironing.

For sewing the seam, you can either use a thread that blends into your fabric, or choose a color that complements the design. I chose a purple thread that matches my embroidery thread.

Stitch a 1/4 inch seam to sew the folded edge shut, then sew all around the square once.

Now it's time to add the cork bottom. Find sheets of cork at places like office or craft supply stores. I found mine at Michael's. I wouldn't recommend cork that's any thicker than 1/4 inch, as it can be tricky to fit under the sewing machine foot. Cork that's too thin won't do much to back the coaster, or give it much of a heat barrier.

Spray the cork with fixative, and press the fabric on top of it, smoothing it out to the edges. This is enough to keep the fabric in place while sewing.

Now it's time to get the whole thing under the sewing machine foot. This may take a few adjustments. The first foot I had on my machine was too thick, and pressed too hard on the cork for it to move through the machine. Some machines have heads you can adjust to different heights (lucky!). Either way, if my cheap little Futura can manage it, yours can too; it'll just take some fiddling.

Using the same color thread, you can either follow the same seam you sewed around the square before, or sew a few decorative edges at different widths around the square, like I did. It all depends on the look that you want.

If you're going to stop and turn the fabric at the corners, make sure the needle is down and the foot is lifted up off the coaster, or you might tear the cork underneath as it passes over the toothy feed dog. Once the coaster is securely stitched all the way around, clip the extra threads. You may also want to trim or round off the corners of the cork if they stick out past your fabric.

Now repeat those steps as many times as you like to make a beautiful set of handmade coasters!

I made four for my set, a standard number you might have round for coffee. I stitched a different color border around each coaster that matched the embroidery design. You can embellish each one, make them all the same, or make them all different. It's up to you, and your little muse.

Wrap a ribbon around the set to make a beautiful packaged gift, or to sell in a boutique or on Etsy. It also makes the coasters extra pretty when they're sitting on your coffee table.

Fabric coasters are great at absorbing extra moisture. The cork backing ensures that they're sturdy, won't scratch your table, and take heat well.

These coasters are large enough for a big steamy mug of coffee, and delicate enough for a dainty cup o' tea. They can be customized with any kind of design imaginable, and they make fantastic little gifts.

Either way, with these little gems sitting on your table, no one will forget to grab a coaster. Just make sure they give them back....

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Suggested designs for this tutorial: 
Florid Fauna Moon_image
Florid Fauna Moon $1.00
2 Available Sizes:
Machine Embroidery: 4.29"w x 4.57"h | 2.76"w x 2.91"h | Hand Embroidery