From cheesy cookbook to placemat

One of the perks of being a known upcycler is that all my friends bring me strange and wonderful things to repurpose. Julia and Cindie send me Scrabble tiles, Teri brings me board games, and recently Wanda -- one of my most loyal supporters -- gave me this treasure.

Blender Way to Better Cooking
Published in 1965, The Blender Way to Better Cooking is filled with full-page color photos of inexplicable mid-century concoctions. Like "surprise deviled eggs," "snappy cheese balls" and "golden glow salad." Golden WHAT?

Wanda and I share a love of cooking (and eating), so she'd knew I'd appreciate the irony of these unappetizing recipes.

The book cover itself is destined to become a hardback case for a large tablet. But I wanted to do something special with the photos inside. Suddenly it struck me -- placemats!

I chose two especially graphic photos and laid them side by side. 
Photos for placemat
Perfect! Appetizers -- including what looks like deep-fried green olives and bacon spirals atop Ritz crackers -- and a main dish of meatloaf in cheese sauce. I taped the pages together on the back.
Photos for placemat
To protect the pages from spills and help them last, I opened a tube of iron-on vinyl from a past project. This stuff is probably evil, but it works magic to transform flimsy paper into heavy-duty material. You can buy it at most fabric stores.
Iron-on vinyl

Iron-on vinyl

To use the vinyl, first unroll it and peel it away from the coated paper it comes with, being careful not to make creases. Stick the vinyl to the surface (in my case, the photos) and then, with the paper on top, press an iron to melt the vinyl onto the surface.

WARNING!  Not recommended for perfectionists! It's virtually impossible to lay the vinyl in a way that doesn't produce bubbles and creases. You can pull up the vinyl and try smoothing it down repeatedly. To see the imperfections, hold the vinyl up to the light, like this.
Bubbles in the vinyl
Not very pretty, is it?

But my food photos came out a bit better. After ironing the vinyl on the first side, I chose two more photos for the back (beverage and dessert, of course) and repeated the process. To make sure the photos stayed in position, I used double-sided tape to stick the two sides together. 
Reverse side of placemat
To finish off the edges, I tore off a strip of red duck tape and ripped it in half. This thinner strip I folded over the edges.
Sealing edges with duck tape
If you don't like the look of the tape, just make sure to leave extra vinyl around the edges of the placemat. Fold over the excess and melt it to the opposite side, to seal the edges.

When my husband saw the finished placemat, he nodded his approval but said, "Looking at that would make me lose my appetite!"
Finished placemat upcycled from old cookbook pages
So I made his placemat out of a different old book--this one, a history of Napoleon.
book about Napoleon
Finished placemat upcycled from old cookbook pages
A battle like that might make ME lose MY appetite!

Postscript: I learned the hard way that these placemats will NOT work for very hot plates. The vinyl melts and gets gooey.
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