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Quilted Mug Rug Tutorial

One of my very favorite librarians is leaving the library this week, and I wanted to give her a little something to remember the library by. My current favorite fabric gift to make is a little quilted square. I think of it as a mug rug, which is a small, padded object that you put under your mug or glass to protect your table surfaces from moisture rings. Recently I’ve learned that mug rugs are technically supposed to be rectangles, so you have room for your mug and a snack. So maybe it’s not technically a mug rug, but it’s a big enough square that there’s still plenty of room for a cookie. It has an insulated layer, so it can also be a hot pad.

But I’m still going to call it a mug rug.

Mug rug 01

I like giving this with a pretty mug of some sort. And the awesome thing is that it’s really quick to make. It takes about an hour and a half, which is perfect. I mean…it would take you that long to go shopping for something less personal, right? I keep a little stash of insulated batting and scraps of regular cotton batting, and they come together really quickly with just some scraps of fabric. I’ve made mug rugs in several different patterns, but this one is a recent favorite.

It hit me when I was just finishing the binding that I should’ve taken photos of my process, but, alas…I didn’t. But here's a photo of the back, which I might love more than the front:

Mug rug 02

What you need:

1 6.5” square, cut on point (technically, a diamond) (In my example, the book cover print)
4 10”x2” strips (the blue polka dots)
1 13” square (the library card print)
2 2.75” x width of fabric binding strips (navy diagonal stripes)
1 15” square of Insul-Bright (insulated batting)
1 15” square of cotton batting
1 15” square of backing fabric (dictionary print)

You can adjust these measurements depending on the fabric you have and how big you want to make your mug rug.


  1. Cut the first square. This is the fabric that gives the mug rug its personality, so pick a cotton that reflects the likes of the person you’re making it for. I like to fussy cut this so that the pattern is centered or selected for something specific. I use a 6.5” square ruler to cut this square.
  2. Cut the four strips. If you can cut these on the cross grain (parallel to the selvedge) it will be a little bit easier to sew the pieced square together, because cross grain stretches less, whereas that square cut on point will have stretchy sides. If you don’t have enough fabric for cross grain strips, though, don’t sweat it.
  3. Sew the strips onto the sides of the square. I sew an edge, trim off the excess, iron, then repeat on the next side. You can also sew one on top, one on bottom, then one on each side, it just depends on your preferences.
  4. Iron and square up as needed. This is the center square.
  5. Cut the 13” square. Again consider pattern as necessary.
  6. Cut the 13” square into four triangles by cutting it in half diagonally twice, from corner to corner.
  7. Sew one corner to one side of the center square, centering it as closely as you can (but don’t worry if it’s not perfectly centered).
  8. Sew another corner to the opposite side of the center square.
  9. Iron. You’ll have some triangle flaps on each corner of the square, but just iron them with the ¼” seam flattened down.
  10. Sew another corner to the third side of the center square. Again, center as well as you can. You will sew over those triangle-shaped flaps from step nine.
  11. Sew the final corner to the fourth side.
  12. Iron. You now have a square with an on-point square in the middle. The seams will overlap at the corners of the center square.
  13. Square up the square. You want to consider if you want the corners of the center square to meet up with the binding or not (I’ve done both). For this one, I squared up so there was ½” of fabric from each corner because I wanted the binding to touch the corners.
  14. Layer. Put the backing fabric face down, then the Insul-Bright, then the cotton batting, then the pieced square, face up.
  15. Pin.
  16. Quilt. I like to keep the quilting simple, so I just quilted in the ditch around the blue strips. You can quilt however you want.
  17. Trim and bind as you wish. I sometimes self-bind my mug rugs (which means cutting the backing fabric large enough to fold it over the top), but I am really wanting to get better at binding, so I do the extra step of double-fold binding. It really doesn’t take that long because the piece is so small, and it gives you four more corners to practice on. I machine sew both sides of my bindings because I'm really bad at hand sewing.

Mug rug binding

Whenever I give someone a mug rug, I always write a little note explaining what it is. Otherwise they’re like, hmmmm, thanks for this tiny crinkly quilt! Also the washing instructions: warm water, normal dryer, and don’t put it in the microwave!

Do you have a go-to gift you like to make?


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