The Curious Quilter

Make a Basic Quilted Mug Rug, a tutorial


This mug rug is constructed like the sample, but features free-motion quilting.

Last week, in The Mug Rug Bug Hits, I shared photos of a few of the mug rugs I made for holiday gifts. Since then I have had over a dozen requests for a tutorial for a simple quilted mug rug, with options for beginners (common request: no mitered binding.) To respond to your curiosity, I am offering this tutorial, perhaps overly detailed! I hope it is basic enough to motivate a beginner, but also give experienced quilters some ideas.

If you make any mug rugs, or have inspiration to share, please email me with a photo and I will add them to the end of the post! You may also want to look at my free pattern for a fun Lady Bug Mug Rug.

Before we begin…

Gather your scraps, tools, and your wits, and let’s get started!

  1. For one mug rug you will need: a main fabric that is at least 6.5 by 16.5 inches, an accent fabric that is 3.5 by 6.5 inches, a bit of batting cut about 7 by 10 inches, and a 2 by 30 inch piece of fabric for the binding. (The binding does not have to be bias binding, as we are not mitering the corners on this example. While I would never use the packaged “Double Fold Bias Binding” from the notions department on a full quilt, it would work just fine for a mug rug. Or cut a strip of fabric as mentioned.)
  2. Cut the fabric as follows: From the main, cut a 6.5 inch square, and a piece that is 6.5 by 10 inches. Cut the accent piece at 3.5 by 6.5 inches.
  3. Then cut the 6.5 inch square into two pieces. The example shows it cut off-center leaving a 3.5×6.5″ and a 3×6.5″ pieces. You can cut it any where you like, just make sure the smaller piece is at least 1.5 inches wide.
  4. 1. A fat eighth, a scrap of accent fabric, a good start for a simple Mug Rug!

    2. Cut three fabric pieces as shown.

    3. Cut the fabric square, off-center, making a home for the accent fabric.

  5. Pin the accent piece along a 6.5 inch side of cut main piece. Stitch, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Always remove pins as you work so you do not sew over a pin.
  6. Open this, and pin the second piece of the main fabric on to the accent fabric.
  7. Sew the second piece on, again using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
  8. 4. Pin the accent fabric to one piece of the cut square and stitch, using a scant 1/4" seam.

    5. With one side of top attached to the accent piece, it is time to attach the other side.

    6. Pin and then stitch the other side to the accent piece.

  9. Press the seam allowances towards the accent fabric. Press from the back first, then turn and press again on the front to set the seams smoothly.
  10. Gather the parts of your Mug Rug quilt sandwich: your new top, your batting, and the backing piece cut in step 2.
    (A note on batting: These small projects are great for using scraps of batting. The example uses a bit of high loft polyester batting, which will be closely quilted for flatness. This results in a light weight finished item with batting that should not shrink. Two layers of thin loft would also work. Cotton batting is also excellent for Mug Rugs, and provides more heat protection for table surfaces, but may shrink slightly upon washing. You may want to try making one with each batting type, and see which you prefer.)
  11. Neatly stack the three layers, keeping the pretty side of the backing fabric facing down. Line up the edges of the topper and backing, but it is fine for the batting to stick out all around. Place a row of straight pins along one edge of the accent fabric. Check the back to be sure there are no pleats or puckers in the pinned area.
  12. 7. Press the seam allowances in toward the accent fabric.

    8. The mug rug quilt sandwich will have three parts - top, batting, and backing.

    9. Neatly stack the layers, and pin along accent seam as shown.

  13. Stitch along the accent piece, just inside the seam. Remove the pins as you stitch. This is your first row of quilting!
  14. Peek at the back between steps to be sure there are no puckers. Then stitch a second quilting row, parallel to the first row, spacing about 3/8 of an inch away from the first row. The spacing may have to be adjusted if you are using a much narrower piece of accent fabric. You may want to place another row of pins for this row, which is not always shown in the pictures.
  15. Continue sewing parallel rows of quilting across the accent piece, ending on the other edge. As you sew rows, you may adjust the spacing between rows so you end right on the accent piece edge.
  16. 10. Stitch along the inside edge of accent piece.

    11. Stitch second row of quilting parallel to the first one.

    12. Continue quilting in these parallel rows to the other edge of accent piece.

  17. On one side of the main fabric, pin along the edges, pinning through all three layers of the Mug Rug.
  18. Stitch along the outsides edge, at right angles to the accent piece. Make a locking stitch at the start of this step. I used a high-contract thread in these photos just to show the quilting clearly, but would usually prefer a matching thread.
  19. Stop with needle in the fabric, turn the Mug Rug, and stitch a few stitches over. Turn again, and sew parallel to the first row of quilting, about 3/8 inches over. Stitch back to the accent piece, turn, stitch over, and turn, and continue to fill in this section with rows of quilting. Repeat this process for the other section of the main fabric.
  20. 13. Pin edges on one side of main fabric. Stitch along the edge, at right angle to accent fabric.

    14. Turn, stitch across, and turn to create a quilting row parallel to the first one.

    15. Continue with these parallel rows of quilting until the first section of main is quilted. Repeat for second section.

  21. You have assembled the body of your Mug Rug! Now let’s get it ready for binding.
  22. Press from the right side, then turn it over and also press the back of the Mug Rug.
  23. 16. All three sections are quilted, and ready to prep for binding.

    17a. Press the top side.

    17b. Press the back side also.

  24. To make the Mug Rug reasonably ‘square’, use a six-inch wide ruler. Align one edge of the accent fabric to a straight line on the ruler.
  25. Cut the excess off the long sides and discard. Then cut the excess off both ends, leaving the final length of nine inches.
  26. 18. To trim straight for binding, align ruler on one edge of accent piece before cutting.

    19a. Trim to six inches wide.

    19b. Trim to nine inches long.

  27. Prepare your binding by folding it in half the long way, and pressing.
  28. Cut a piece of binding about 9.5 inches long, place on the top of your Mug Rug along the edge, with the open side facing out. Pin through all layers.
  29. Stitch in place using 1/4 inch seam allowance, removing pins as you stitch.
  30. 20. Fold binding strip in half and press

    21. Cut a 9.5 inch piece and pin to mug rug, with open edge facing out.

    22. Stitch along the first edge, leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance.

  31. Fold the binding to the back of the little quilt, keeping the Mug Rug smooth.
  32. Pin the binding in place, taking care to secure the back edge.
  33. The pinned binding will cover a bit more area on the back than on the front.
  34. 23. Firmly fold the binding to the back of the mug rug.

    24. Pin, making sure to catch the edge of binding on the back.

    25. The first side is neatly pinned and ready to stitch.

  35. Stitch just inside the binding, through all layers, removing pins as you sew.
  36. Check the back. It should be nicely stitched in place, but if a bit has escaped the stitches, you can re-pin that section and repeat, or tack it down with hand stitches after the Mug Rug is complete. Now repeat steps 21 through 26 on the other long side.
  37. On the long side of the quilt, trim the ends of the binding flush where it meets the short edges. Cut two pieces of binding 7 inches long, or one inch longer than your Mug Rug’s short sides.
  38. 26. Stitch just inside the binding, through all layers.

    27. Your careful pinning before attaching means that the back of binding is neatly stitched down too.

    28. Cut two binding strips one inch longer than the edge of mug rug.

  39. Pin a length of binding to one short edge of Mug Rug, leaving 1/2 inch tail extending beyond the little quilt. Fold this tail back up over the top of the binding.
  40. Make this same fold with the excess fabric at the other end of the short edge. This end may need to be adjusted as you stitch.
  41. Stitch, catching these folds as you stitch. Remove the pins as you sew. When you reach the end, check to see if the edge of the excess fold aligns with the edge of the Mug Rug, adjusting if needed. Now, fold the binding to the back, pin and stitch as you did for the long sides. Repeat with the other short side.
    You are done! Take a minute to snip any threads, and press the finished Mug Rug.
  42. 29. As you pin the last two sides of binding on, turn the ends over to leave a finished edge.

    30. Fold over the other end as well. This may need ot be adjusted as your stitching gets close to the end.

    31. The binding is stitched on the last two sides, turned to the back, and stitch down as before.

    32. The Basic Mug Rug Sample, with no mitered corners, is finished!

  43. Scrappy Strip Variation: You can make a very different looking Mug Rug using a few scraps from your stash. Select 7-9 pieces of fabric, I used themes but you could go totally scrappy. Cut them 10 inches long. Cut various widths, none less than 3/4 of an inch, or more than 1.5 inches. These can have angled sides, just alternate the wide ends as you stitch. The scraps shown all have a leaf theme, and I may need to add one more to reach the 6.5 inches needed.
  44. Sew these strips together with scant 1/4 inch seam allowances. I recommend using the widest two scraps on the outside edges.
  45. Press all seams in one direction. Press firmly on the back, turn, and press on the right side. Tug a bit as you press on the right side, as it may feel a bit ‘stretchy’ with all the seams! It will be irregular in shape, but that is fine. Follow the same assembly steps for sandwiching, quilt in parallel rows at right angles to the seams, and bind as above.
  46. 33. These 10 inch scrap strips will become a leaf-themed Mug Rug.

    34. Stitch a handful of themed scraps together, randomly.

    35. Press all the seams in one direction, press back first, then front.

    A fun mug rug made of Asian-theme fabric scraps cut in random widths.

  47. More options to try! Mitered binding corners are easier than most beginners imagine, and these small quilts make great practice pieces. You can find clear instructions for mitered corners on or a video demonstration on eHow.
  48. There are dozens of mug rug tutorials online; Jennifer from ThatGirlThatQuilt blog did a tutorial for Stash Manicure that features a little pocket for a spoon, Rachel’s Contented blog has a tutorial for a quilt as you go option, and Ryan Walsh of I’m Just A Guy Who Quilts shares a tutorial featuring a Dresden plate pattern. There are many more!
  49. And here is the place waiting for a few more mug rugs photos, including yours. Please email your photos to me. Happy Quilting!
  50. My tutorial tester made this one!

    And another test mug rug.

    Ali's Basic Mug Rug , with the top split the long way.

    Check out my directions for a Lady Bug Mug Rug! Check out the Two Fun Halloween Mug Rugs tutorial for these fun projects. Your Mug Rug Here!

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