Making Mug Rugs

Silliest thing I ever saw…


When I first saw a “mug rug,” I thought it was just another way to make and sell quick projects, thriftily using old blocks and scraps of fabric.

Gimcrackery: an ornament, showy but cheap and useless (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition)


It looks like (and is) a skimpy placemat or an overgrown coaster. Placemats and coasters come in sets of four, however, and each one has to be individually bound. The binding takes longer than the rest of the project! I don’t mind tablerunners, because that’s only one binding job. A single quilted block, less than twelve inches square, looked like a cop-out. That’s not even big enough to be a wall quilt. It’s more like a potholder, but even those are usually sold in pairs.

I just couldn’t justify the making (and especially the selling!) of one little quilted mat. Besides, it wouldn’t even be very profitable, since anything really nice would take over an hour, and they wouldn’t sell for more than $10 each.

But as time went by, I started noticing things:  When I carry my coffee cup into the livingroom and set it on the coffeetable, or take it up to my studio or into the office, I always have to find something to act as a coaster. Cups get hot, and I tend to dribble. I’m not fussy; I usually have some (unbound) coasters stacked on top of the piano, so I grab one of those if I am in the living room. Otherwise, I use a cloth napkin. Or dish rag. Or a paper towel, if the cup isn’t too hot. On my desk, I always have a few envelopes and other papers sporting brown rings.

It’s not the end of the world. Our life is simple. I won’t die of embarrassment if I have to hand a flannel or terrycloth napkin to a coffee-drinking guest.

And then I realized that sometimes I was using two napkins, or a napkin and a coaster. Yes, I sometimes have cookies or some other small treat with my coffee. With a mug rug or snack mat, I’d have a handy – and much more attractive! – place to set everything. I’d even have room to set down the spoon after I used creamer or sugar. My days of slovenly coffee drinking are at an end!

Possibilities abound. I can make them in colors to coordinate with each room, or in seasonal fabrics and patterns. I might make two dainty mats for tea parties with my granddaughters, or some his-and-hers sets. I think there ought to be “manly” ones, and some discreet enough to use at the office.

Think of the possibilities for gifts! You could assemble a very nice gift basket with one or two mug rugs, pretty (or manly) cups, and packages of coffee or tea. Or maybe even animal crackers and cocoa to drink!

And I only have to do one little binding.

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