Green and Frugal Picnic Rollup

My summer of sewing is still going strong, even though we’re into September now. I recently got an idea for a project that is fast, easy, frugal and green. It’s a picnic rollup, containing a placemat, cutlery, straw and napkin. And I made mine using a second-hand tea towel. You can even thrift old cutlery if you like, or you may already have the materials you need kicking around your kitchen. It’s green because you don’t need to buy new things, and it also encourages the use of re-usable cutlery, straws, and napkins. Plus the placemat can compensate for the less-than-clean state of many a park surface.

Without further ado, here is how to make a picnic rollup of your own:


The tea towel, $2 from the thrift store

The tea towel, $2 from the thrift store

  • One tea towel, approximately 20″ x 26″ in size
  • 12″ length of 3/8″ wide elastic
  • Co-ordinating thread
  • Cutlery (knife, fork, spoon, straw, chopsticks – whatever you would normally use on a picnic)
  • Instructions

    Towel cut in half, and then end pieces cut off

    Towel cut in half, and then end pieces cut off

  • Cut your tea towel in half lengthwise, so that you have two 13″ x 20″ pieces.
  • Cut 3″ off the end of one piece, so that it is 13″ x 17″.
  • Cut 9″ off the end of the other piece, so that it is 13″ x 11″.
  • you will cut the bit to the left off to make a square

    you will cut the bit to the left off to make a square

  • Fold the 13″ x 11″ piece diagonally and cut off the bit that sticks out to make an 11″ x 11″ square.
  • Using the 9″ tail from the second piece and cut a 5″ x 5″ square. One edge of the square should be along the hem of the tea towel.
  • Placemat, napkin, pocket. My pocket isn't look 5" square here - I had to re-do it later.

    Placemat, napkin, pocket. My pocket isn't square here - I had to re-do it later.

  • You now have three pieces – a 13″ x 17″ rectangle (the placemat / rollup), an 11″ x 11″ square (the napkin), and a 5″ x 5″ square (the pocket).
  • Get out your iron. Really. I normally avoid it, but it really does help with this project.
  • Three pieces with edges pressed under

    Three pieces with edges pressed under

  • Press 1/2″ under each of the three raw edges on the pocket.
  • Double fold each of the raw edges on the placemat and napkin, first 1/4″ and then 1/2″, and press.
  • Stitch the hems on the placemat and napkin.
  • Finished rollup from the top

    Finished rollup from the top

  • Position the pocket, folded edges down and hemmed edge to the top, on the left side of the placemat. I put mine approximately 3/4″ from the bottom edge and 1″ from the left edge.
  • Stitch the pocket in place along the sides and bottom, approximately 1/4 from the folded under edges.
  • Cut two 5″ lengths of elastic.
  • Fold the elastic in half, and position it on the wrong side of the placemat. It should be on the opposite side from the pocket (right edge if the placemat is right side up). The elastic is positioned 1 1/2″ from the top and bottom edges, with the raw edges of the elastic just meeting up with placemat’s hem.
  • Close-up of the zigzag stitching

    Close-up of the zigzag stitching

  • Zigzag stitch the elastic in place, along the placemat hem and the placemat edge.
  • Finished rollup, unrolled

    Finished rollup, unrolled

  • Put your cutlery and folded napkin in the placemat’s pocket.
  • Roll the placemat, and stretch the elastic down over the top. Go forth. Picnic. Generate no waste. Feel good.
  • All rolled up and ready to go

    All rolled up and ready to go

    Let’s say you like the idea of a picnic rollup, but don’t sew. Never fear, I have the solution for you. In my thrifting I also came across some snazzy placemats and napkins. You can just roll up your cutlery and napkin in a placemat, and tie with ribbon. It’s not quite as tidy, but it’s just as green and frugal, and doesn’t require the use of a sewing machine. The placemats I found already had the fancy mushroom pockets, but they’re completely unnecessary if you get the ribbon tight enough.


    I’m going to come clean and admit that I did buy some new cutlery for picnic use. This fancy bamboo spork is for Hannah. It’s the perfect size for a toddler or preschooler, and does double duty. Plus I hear bamboo is a pretty ecologically friendly choice. I also bought some stainless steel straws. These are still not widely available, and while straws are really completely unnecessary my 4-year-old does love them. These are dishwasher safe and get a big thumbs-up from my kiddo.

    Bamboo spork and stainless steel straw

    Bamboo spork and stainless steel straw

    Now that I have my snazzy rollups ready to go, I’m hoping it helps keep me well-stocked in my travels. I am always forgetting important items on outings with the kids, but now at least I will be ready for a waste-free lunch. As long as I remember plates, that is. ­čśë

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    1. Great idea Amber – I will check it out later today!

    2. That’s awesome! You are much more crafty than I.
      .-= Gayle´s last post ..Reflections on summer =-.

    3. Those look fabulous. Great job!

    4. What a neat idea. And I love those straws!

    5. Great project, I love the elastic loop closures. Your straw had me intrigued right to the end, trying to guess what it was!
      .-= Francesca´s last post ..crochet inspiration =-.

    6. I like this. Usually I just throw a napkin in our snack bag. If I wasn’t so lazy I might even make this.
      The straws are awesome! Does it feel weird to drink form them?

      • I hadn’t drunk from any of the straws, so I had to give it a try just for you. It is a little weird, but I think you get used to it really quickly. Sort of like I found drinking out of a stainless steel bottle to be weird at first, but now it’s no problem. If you have a straw fiend like I do I would totally recommend them.

    7. See? If I didn’t know you I never would have heard about stainless steel straws!

      I’m in awe of your craftiness.
      .-= Allison├é┬┤s last post ..*****************Blood is thicker, but who cares when there’s alcohol? =-.

    8. I’ve never heard of the straws – good to know about them.

      I love the roll-ups! I’ve been trying to move towards reusables, and now is about time to actually do it all the time.
      .-= Lady M´s last post ..Fountains of Youth =-.

    9. I envy! I love! <3
      .-= Jennifer´s last post ..The Post Anniversary Post =-.

    10. Wow that’s really clever! You very clever thing, you…

      I used to do loads of sewing when I was mostly horizontal for a few years but haven’t done any for ages. Seeing those photos of your project made my fingers twitch!

      I’m going to have to get me some of those straws – I have a straw fiend too
      .-= Josie @Sleep is for the Weak´s last post ..Why Twitter is better than Crack =-.

    11. Those placemats are soooo cool!

    12. Oops! I almost forgot to check this out – only 4 days late – sorry! Anyway, ooh’s and aah’s from this mama to you! I actually think I might be able to do this one myself too – I think I may just be able to sew *just* that much! Yay me! And where did you get those straws? So awesome! I found a site selling glass ones, also very perty but these look good, and maybe less expensive…?
      .-= Melodie´s last post ..Random Acts Of Kindness To Defeat The First Day of School Jitters =-.

    13. Those are awesome- must go see what I have for tea towels ­čÖé

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    1. […] a storm this summer. My life is in upheaval and it often makes no sense. But I create a dress or a picnic roll-up and suddenly I’ve accomplished something. Really accomplished something, because I’m […]

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