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Free Thanksgiving DIY Placemats & Napkin Rings

Recycle, Reuse and Restyle Your Thanksgiving Table with These Free & Easy DIY Placemats.

One of the most cherished American traditions is a month away.

Every Thanksgiving I like to set the table in a different way. Most of the time, I use what I have in new ways and bring in foliage from my yard as the centerpiece.

One part of the table settings that always gives me a problem is that my dining table is round. Fabric cloths work fine, but over the years I have been preferring the simple look of placemats on the wood surface.

Finding round placemats that fit my style are hard to find. Most placemats are rectangular in shape and on a round table, they end up overlapping. Not a good look. :-(

High End Round Placemats

Food 53 Essential placemats set of 4 in brown

I did however find very hip and trendy round placemats over on Food 52. I like the minimal look, but not the price tag. A set of 4 is $48 for what looks like crumbled paper.

So whats a DIYer to do? Make her own – in a fast and affordable way.

When I first started blogging I did a sponsored post for Martha Stewart crafts. I used this paper punch to make brown Kraft paper doily placemats. I still have the punch and thought of using it again, but I wanted a more rustic feel for the table.

Two brown paper bags from Trader Joes and Whole Foods and a pair of scissors.

So I went in search of something to use to make DIY round placemats. In my garage I keep a pile of brown paper grocery bags. As I passed them, the writing on them stated… Reusble Recyclable. Seeing this gave me an idea.

When you think of making something with brown paper bags you think of children’s Thanksgiving crafts. I didn’t want cute, I wanted rustic, simple and free.

My Thanksgiving Placemats

Fall themed rustic DIY placemat to make. Thanksgiving table setting using a brown paper grocery bag to make a round placemat.

I am calling these my Thanksgiving placemats, but they can be used for any holiday or season. When the meal is done, they can go right into recycling.

  • Note: You can make these paper placemats in any shape you want. Square or rectangular works also.

I even came up with a way to use the paper handles from the bags. I turned them into coordinating napkin rings.

I left my paper placemats plain and let the brown color and wrinkles add the rustic vibe, but you can write names on them to use a place cards.

Thanksgiving Table setting idea transforming a brown grocery bag into a modern rustic round table placemat.

How to Make Round DIY Placemats & Napkin Rings with a Brown Paper Grocery Bag

supplies needed:

  • Brown paper grocery bag with handles
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Something circular to trace around – large round tray, can lid, lampshade
    • If you want to make rectangular placemats, find something in the shape you want to make them.

10 minutes 10 minutes.

How to Make DIY Placemats & Coordinating Napkin Rings for a Round Table

  1. Cut Bottom Off Paper Bag

    To make the placemats you will need a brown paper grocery bag for each placemat and one handle for each napkin ring.

    Lay the bag on your work surface and carefully remove the handles.

    Next, cut along the back seam of the bag to the bottom, then cut off the bottom of the bag.

    Two brown paper bags from Trader Joes and Whole Foods and a pair of scissors.

  2. Draw Large Circle On Open Bag


    Find something circular in your house to use as circle pattern. I found a can lid in the size I wanted. A few items that would work – plates, trash cans, round trays, or lampshades. If using a lampshade, make sure to protect the edge so you don’t get any pencil marks on it.

    Use a large can lid as template to draw a round circle on an opened brown paper grocery bag.

  3. Cut Drawn Circle


    Using a pair of scissors, carefully cut the circle shape out just inside the pencil line.

    Cutting a large circle from a brown paper grocery bag.

  4. Bunch the Cut Circle into a Ball


    Using your hands, bunch the bag into a tight ball and then unfurl it. Doing this will give the paper an overall crinkled look.

    The reason to do this is to make the folds already on the bag look less visible. It also adds interesting texture.

    Crumpled up brown paper bag

  5. Flatten the Paper


    Using your hands or an iron, smooth the paper circle if you want less crinkles. If
    pressing with an iron, make sure to put a cloth between the iron and the paper.

    Ironing a brown paper bag using a pressing cloth.


  6. Place on Table


    Use the round paper placemat as is or get creative and write each guests name or draw a design on them.

    Brown bag cut into a circle and crinkled makes a rustic table placemat.

  7. How to Make Matching Napkin Rings


    Using the handles that you removed from the bag in Step 1, you can make coordinating napkin rings by cutting the length of the handle in half.

    Brown paper bag handle removed from bag.

  8. Staple to Make a Ring


    Cut the brown paper bag handle in half or in 4 to 6-inch long pieces. The center of the strip is the smoothest, so you can cut off the ends and keep the smooth part to make your napkin rings.

    Once cut, overlap the ends together and staple.

    Brown paper bag handle stapled into a circle to make a napkin ring.

  9. Place Folded Napkin Through the Ring


    I made mine napkin rings larger than the diameter of most bought rings. You can make yours as large or small as you think looks best for your napkins and style.

    Option: I left my napkin ring plain, but if you write your guest’s name on them so they double as place cards.

    Brown paper bag handle napkin ring on dark sage green napkin. Stapler and scissors in the background.

  10. More Style Options for the Crinkled Placemats


    These ideas are from reader, Diane Whitehead: One extra step I take with the crumpled up brown bags is to paint them with brown craft paint to make them look like faux leather. You cover the bag with craft paint, wait a few minutes, then gently wipe them off with a sponge. Let dry and then iron. It really looks like leather! I have also put the craft paint on and “washed” it off by actually holding the paper under the running faucet. In addition, you can draw “stitches” on with a Sharpie (a running stitch around the outside of the circle). It really makes a difference.

Here are some more entertaining ideas from my blogging friends for your Thanksgiving this year.

Thanksgiving Table Place setting. Text overlay says Thanksgiving Placemats

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17 Comments

  1. Oh Diane … I would most definitely also include a small box of crayons with the napkins so adults and child could color their placemats. What fun! I am passing this idea along to daughter for her table with seven grands this year. Happiness to you during this thanksgiving. JudyCinNC

  2. I love that idea too. Less creative but resourceful, I have been saving the round clean cardboard from underneath packaged frozen pizzas. I have a dozen , enough to be used as chargers.

    1. Hi Mary Ann – Great idea! I save them to use when I am painting something small. They are the perfect drop cloth for spray painting small items. After I spray them outside, I can easily carry them inside to dry.

  3. I mean, seriously Diane, this is such a great idea. Just today I was trying out tablecloths, runners, & little pumpkins with assorted fall looking candles & candlesticks and I added some fall-looking, purple, clear glass thrifted glasses and stemware I just picked up for $1. each at Terri’s Treasures. I kept wondering what dishes I’d use and wished I had enough chargers to “set the mood” for each place setting. Now I have it thanks to you!! I love this idea and what a great way to inexpensively yet rustically (is that a word) & seasonally design a table. Thanks for all your great ideas!! Love your blog!

    A Lake Murray neighbor,
    Leilani

  4. Diane I love this idea!! Such a simple but fun fall idea. I love to set my table fancy for Thanksgiving but everyone else in my family hates it. Drives me nuts!! I always want the holidays to have that extra something special. I know my mother in law would like this idea. Cute and less dishes. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Marsha,
      I’m with you. Many times I hesitate when decorating for special dinners and holidays when I know my family just rolls their eyes but then I think “it’s our house and I just like what my teenagers call ‘Extra!’ Ha ha! Hey, we’re making memories aren’t we?! I think you should roll out the red carpet and enjoy every decorating whim you have – regardless of if anyone understands or not. I’m reminded of the quote by Elsie de Wolfe “I am going to make everything around me beautiful – that will be my life.”
      Happy fellow decorating!
      Leilani

  5. Diane, Your blog is my favorite to read because you always come up with a creative way to use things we all have around the house. I love these placemats and while this year will just be my husband and me I will file it away for a year when the kids will be here, They could even decorate their placemat waiting for dinner! This former teacher loves your ideas!

  6. Diane — love your placemats made from brown paper bags. One extra step I take with the crumpled up brown bags is to paint them with brown craft paint to make them look like faux leather. You cover the bag with craft paint, wait a few minutes, then gently wipe them off with a sponge. Let dry and then iron. It really looks like leather! I have also put the craft paint on and “washed” it off by actually holding the paper under the running faucet. In addition, you can draw “stitches” on with a Sharpie (a running stitch around the outside of the circle). It really makes a difference.

    1. Hi Dianne – Thank you so much for all your brown bagging ideas. :-) I know other readers will get inspired knowing a few decorative treatments options. I will add them to the post with a credit to you.

  7. Well, these are just as cute as they can be. I think you are the first blog I ever started following so how did I miss these? So going to do this because I love any craft using paper. You should see my stash of scrapbook papers and I don’t even “scrap”.

    Have a great and blessed day.

  8. What a fun and original DIY Project. I love that you were thinking outside of the box and our paper placemats look fabulous. I am all about using what I have, so this is a great idea to put in my “To Do File” and make some of my own for a future table.