Mug Rugs~What I’ve Learned

I’ve always thought mug rugs were a great idea and always meant to stitch some.  Finally, a need arose and a set of these unusual “rugs” seemed like the perfect hostess gift for a perfectly gracious host and hostess.

The second set was made for the guest of honor and speaker, extraordinary Pastor James of Ghana.  So two gift sets of 4 mug rugs were made.  I don’t enjoy stitching identical designs again and again, so I changed the thread color of the background stitching and some of the lettering.



At a lovely dinner at the home of members of our church, Pastor James spoke passionately to a large group of  guests about the challenging conditions in Ghana.  Our host and hostess, a physician and nurse, had gone there on a medical mission trip this past summer.

As he described conditions in Ghana-no running water in the schools or even the police station, only one hospital several miles from the town of 1.5 million people, accessible only by foot or one of  the few motor scooters–one thing he repeated more than once stuck in my mind.  He said, quite vehemently, “You in America have absolutely NO reason to complain. I and people in my country have good reason to complain, but you have NONE!  Every day you should drop to your knees and thank God for all the blessings you enjoy here!”

In retrospect, the mug rug gift seemed a bit paltry relative to the delicious dinner and the moving testimony from Pastor James, but I had decided a gender neutral item would be best and mug rugs is what it was.

As always, I was rushed and finished these in barely enough time to arrive to dinner at the scheduled hour.  Consequently, the picture is really not good at all.  I should have had a cup and cookie resting on a single rug and the 8 spread apart.

So much was learned on this relatively simple project.  First, I began with a mug rug from Kimberbell Designs, Holiday Mug Rugs.  This collection is wonderful with delightful designs and background stitching.  But I just needed a background and a blank canvas for my Ghana design.  I selected the Cardinal for its background but eliminated the cardinal itself and the snowflake. There are several background patterns in this collection.  Now I want to sew some for Christmas gifts.  And I will use what I learned on this project!


I really wanted an applique’ design of Ghana so I could use that souvenir  fabric from my daughter’s trip to Africa.   But what were the chances of finding that?  Surprise!!!!  On Etsy, you can find anything.  This site, Pixels to Threads  has applique’s of several exotic countries! I was thrilled.

The tribal fabric made in Tanzanika was used for the applique’ and for the backing.  I’ve had this fabric for 12 years now and often wondered if I would ever have a use for it.  Now I am so glad it was in my stash!  The Ghana lettering was done in Brother PE-Design.

Instead of using two fabric, as shown on the cardinal mug rug, just one was used, and that background  fabric choice was my first mistake.  It is a relatively heavy, almost coarse linen like piece that seemed perfect for the design.  But these rugs, I expect, were designed for quilt weight fabric, not one so heavy.  It was difficult to press the seams flat after turning the rug right side out.  Note to self: use quilt weight fabric next time.

Next, the instructions were to use a very light weight batt.  But wouldn’t you know, I had a medium weight scrap that was just the right size to make all 8 rugs.  I love using up scraps! How important could the batt weight be?  That was my second mistake.   It IS important.

Even with very close trimming of the batting at the seam line, pressing those thick seams was an even greater issue in combination with the heavy top fabric.  Ultimately, monofilament was used to straight stitch very, very close to the rug’s edge to flatten it.

Frankly, I was doubtful that the mug rugs would be much of a hit.  But when I saw our friends a few days ago, our hostess confided that she had kept only 2 of her rugs.  Two of the Ghana mission helper/organizers who were at the dinner were so taken with them that she shared the other two.  Pastor James, seeing their appreciation for the rugs, gave them two of his.  Of course, he might just have had no use for them.  Still, it was touching.  So each of four Ghana interested people now have 2 rugs each.

At our hosts’ home that night, I was so pleased to see what they had done with the  dishtowel hostess gifts I had made for the first “Ghana” dinner we attended when they shared their mission experience.  I regret not including a caduceus.  I even have one in my design library, but didn’t think of it in my usual rush rush project sewing.



I doubt these towels will ever see a wet dish.  But I am so pleased with how they were arranged and displayed.

A quick laugh—I texted a picture to a friend who asked what I was working on.  Somehow, only the Ghana applique’ showed up and not the text.  Perplexed, she asked her adult daughter what she thought that was.  “Cheese?” she replied.  Then the next photo came through and the question was answered.

Again and again, I am amazed at how much personalized gifts like the simple dishtowels and mug rugs can be so appreciated.  I appreciate my Brother Dream Machine which enables me to make these appropriate gifts.

What are you sewing?  What do you use for hostess gifts?  I’d love to hear about your projects.

Required disclaimer:  I am an official “brand ambassador” for Brother.  It’s a title of which I am proud.



13 responses to “Mug Rugs~What I’ve Learned

  1. Carol Aguirre

    You always have such interesting adventures going on, it’s a joy and informative to read about them. Thanks for the tips about the mug rugs, good to know what to avoid during construction. The towel display is very touching, certainly shows how something we take for granted can be looked upon as art. God bless the work in Ghana, sure does put things in perspective when confronted with life in so-called Third World countries.

  2. You put it so well, Carol. Hearing Pastor James gave me a new perspective and an increased appreciation for all the blessings we enjoy. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Janice–Thank you for sharing your experience of making the mug rugs! I have yet to make any of them, so your tips will certainly be of benefit when I try the first one!

    Pastor James is correct–we in America are blessed, something we so often forget. Thank you for sharing his message, as well!

  4. MoDo, we cannot be grateful enough for our standard of living. He said that living conditions for those in the USA with an income of $20K or less live in the upper 1% of the world population. I hope the mug rug tips are useful. I’m off to make more–but I’m done with Ghana for now.

  5. from MPullen forum: Loved reading your blog, learning about your efforts to make mug rugs significant to Ghana. Love what was done with the towels you gifted earlier. It is also a memento of their mission to Ghana. I have made many mug rugs, using designs and instructions from The ones framed with satin stitching will work with the heavy fabric and are done In The Hoop. Actually, I don’t believe they have any mug rugs that need to be turned. Mug rugs are great hostess gifts, and I use them often.

  6. Thank you! I’ll have to check out San Francisco Stitch company for their mug rugs. I think making these can be addictive! I’m eager to try to satin stitched edge rather than turning the piece.

  7. from MPullen forum: I have done a variety of mug rugs over the years and I don’t care for the satin stitch edged designs. My preference is a bias binding, as in a quilt.

    The one thing I like to do is to use a flannel backed plastic tablecloth for the backing, or at least the inners if I use a matching backing. The flannel is soft and the plastic makes it waterproof.

    As I said in a previous post, I’m not doing much embroidery right now, so this may be old information!

  8. Thank you for your interesting comment. I LOVE your idea of using plastic tablecloth for the backing. Making the mug rug or coaster waterproof would be a great advantage. You may not be doing much embroidery now, but this tip is pure gold! Thanks!

  9. from MPullen forum: That’s a great mug rug and just perfect in it’s design. I look forward to see more of what you come up with.

  10. Thanks! Like all of you, I have so many ideas and so little time. But I’m rushing to get more done.

  11. Love the Mug rug! Had not heard of this before but will definitely work on them this winter.

  12. Thanks for your comment, Rheeta. These make great little gifts and you really don’t even have to embroider them. Using a novelty print and a little cross hatching or any stitching to hold the three layers together works well.

  13. Rebecca Collison

    Loved your latest blog with the report about the junior fashionista tourist on the islands. Her outfits were wonderful. Thank you for sharing her escapades and out fits.

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