You guys… I could not be more excited for today’s DIY project tutorial because it’s a project that’s not only so versatile, but it’s easy as can be, which you know is my very first criteria when deciding whether or not I should even attempt a DIY project. The project du jour? DIY Laminated Placemats! I know I know, you can totally buy laminated or coated placemats, but why buy when you can make these bad boys on the cheap and customize them in your own style? Customization is king in this house! This is also the perfect project to tackle now that warm weather, outdoor living season is here. These are just begging to be part of your backyard BBQ tabletop!
It’s important for me to preface this post by admitting that I cannot, in any way, take credit for this idea. It was in fact my genius mom who came up with this idea after seeing something similar at a restaurant here in Phoenix. Said restaurant had laminated really fun, funky wallpaper sheets and used them as placemats throughout the restaurant. And being the wonderful, thoughtful mom she is, as soon as she saw them she sent me a text with a pic of the placemats and the message, “New DIY project!” and now here we are. So shoutout to you, Anna! She totally gets me.
One of the things I loved so much about this project is just how versatile it is. Like I said, you can completely customize this in your own style, for basically any occasion because it’s so cheap and easy to replicate. A celebratory backyard BBQ, a birthday party for the kiddos (hello, easy mess cleanup!), an epic outdoor Cinco de Mayo bash, any holiday ever… so many possibilities! Or if you just love having pretty printed placemats around that don’t make you silent sob every time you see someone spill a drop of red wine on them, then you need this in your life!
As mentioned and as is always the case for any DIY home decor project that we tackle and share with you guys here on the blog, our first mission is to figure out how to make this project as easy and accessible as possible so none of use has to sweat over it. Minimal effort, max impact is the name of the game around these parts, and for this particular project that started with figuring out how one easily laminates something, at home, with minimal tools and professional equipment. Next I needed to figure out what I could get away with laminating (Fabric? Wallpaper? Regular paper? What was the lamination threshold?) and what material would be most cost-effective and easily customizable to laminate. I’m just going to be straight with you guys and admit that I’m not lamination pro. Actually, I’d never laminated anything at home before so this one was going to be a journey, friends.
After Googling my way to at least lamination minor leaguer status and watching about 20 home lamination how-to videos, I was confident that the answer for this placemat project was this: Menu-sized thermal lamination pouches that you can buy on Amazon and at almost any office supply store. You just insert whatever it is you want to laminate into the pouch, fire up your iron, place an old rag or cloth over the pouch to protect it and iron away. These pouches are meant to be used with a thermal lamination machine, but thanks to the kind DIYers on the interwebs I found out that actually, you don’t need that. A good old fashioned iron would provide enough heat to do the job and do it well!
Next up was the whole, “So what can I get away with laminating?” question and this time, the answer required a little more trial and error. I mean I had to test out all of the potential options for you guys because we all need to know the limitations, right? Right. I decided that I’d go big first and scale back from there, so I first tried to laminate a piece of fun scrap fabric that I had lying around the house. The long and short of it is that, probably unsurprisingly for you guys, using the thermal laminating pouches/ironing technique, the fabric was a no go. Too thick, didn’t look good, didn’t laminate properly, kind of a mess. Next I tried a piece of scrap wallpaper I found in a roll under our guest bed. The result? Laminated perfectly, looked super cute, great thickness to give you a substantial placemat. So that one’s a thumbs up, but I will say that if you can’t find wallpaper scrap, it may not be the most cost effective option if you have to throw down for a whole roll. If you can find it on the cheap or on sale? Do it! Next up was wrapping paper I had from a regular old wrapping paper roll. Although it laminated pretty easily, it’s lack of weight/thickness meant that it didn’t laminate very cleanly/smoothly and when all was said and done, it didn’t make for a very substantial placemat. Cost effective, but didn’t necessarily achieve the desired result. Finally, I tried the material that I had the most high hopes for – a thicker, printed wrapping sheet and the outcome was just as amazing as I’d hoped! It laminated so easily and flawlessly, is somewhat cost effective because out of one of those sheets (they range from $4 to $6, sometimes even cheaper or on sale) you can make two placemats and it makes for a relatively thick, substantial placemat. Success!
And so a fully tried, tested and customizable DIY project was brought to life, and now here to the blog for you guys to try on your own. I absolutely love the idea of you guys making fun placemats for the kiddos, a party or a holiday, so make sure you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with pics, or tag me in your pics on Instagram and show me how you customized them and made them your own. Now, onto the supplies and steps!
Paper (wallpaper, thick wrapping paper, etc. of your choice – I used the Rifle Paper Co. Emerald Peony Flat Wrap & the Strawberry Vines Flat Wrap from Paper Source and also love the Rifle Paper Co. Jardin de Paris Floral Flat Wrap, this Watercolor Cactus Flat Wrap and the Juliet Rose Flat Wrap, to name just a few.
Measuring Stick or whatever you have on hand that will measure a straight line up to 17 inches
Iron & Ironing Board
How To: DIY Laminated Paper Placemats
1. If the paper you’re using already has one or more straight edges, utilize them to kickstart your rectangle! It’s always nice to have one or two perfectly straight edges to start with. The paper I used already had two straight edges per placemat that I could utilize, so first, using the backside of my paper, I measured and traced one 11 inch line and connected it to a 17 inch line perpendicular to it to create one full rectangle. If you have no straight edges to get you started, you’ll need to repeat that process to create your 11” x 17” rectangle.
2. Using your scissors (I love using fabric shears – so sharp), cut along the lines you’ve traced to cut out your rectangle.
3. On top of your ironing board, open one thermal laminating pouch and position your paper rectangle inside it, making sure that you center your paper inside your pouch. This may take just a little bit of adjustment. I advise doing this step on top of your ironing board so that you don’t have to pick up and move the pouch once your paper is perfectly centered inside.
4. Cover your entire pouch with an old rag or towel, making sure that it’s completely flat and wrinkle free on top to make the ironing process easier and smoother. The thicker the towel is, the longer it may take to laminate as less heat will get through. Too thin, though and you may damage the pouch and paper with too much heat. I used an old dish rag that wasn’t too terrible thick and it worked like a charm.
5. Start running your iron over the top of your rag/towel, making sure to only press down with a moderate amount of force. Too little force and the process will take forever and it won’t heat/laminate properly. Too much and you could create air bubbles or damage your pouch. Make smooth, fluid strokes that run from the center of the towel/pouch all the way out to the edges, moving around your rectangle to ensure you’re hitting every part of your pouch and running out to every edge. The reason I say start in the middle and move outward to the edge with your strokes is so you can avoid air bubbles and ripples. Lift your towel once in a while to check and see how far along you are in the lamination process – if parts of your pouch still have the same “cloudy” appearance they have when you started, it hasn’t laminated or sealed yet. Once the edges start to become clear and appear sealed, you’re on your way. Once you see minimal or no cloudy bubbles along the edges and they become mostly clear, and it the entire pouch feels stiff with edges sealed, you’re done!
6. Turn your pouch over, re-cover with your towel/rag and repeat the ironing process on the back side of the pouch. Use the same method outlined above. The back of your pouch will be more prone to bubbles or wrinkles, but I think that’s Ok. Some will be more perfect than others. Don’t sweat it.
7. Check both sides to see if the lamination process is complete. If it looks clear, is completely sealed around all of the edges and the center is free of bubbles, you’re good to go!
A couple of tips:
*Take your time. It takes a bit of time for each pouch to laminate, so be patient and take it slow. I obviously watched a Hallmark movie while I ironed… the perfect afternoon, really. Don’t expect it to laminate in seconds.
*Make sure your ironing board is completely flat. When I tried my first one, I didn’t realize that our ironing board has a little dip in the middle and it was causing my paper to wrinkle inside my pouch, which couldn’t be repaired. Find a part of your ironing board that is 100% flat and immovable.