I find shopping for table linens a frustrating venture (either the fabric is poor quality, the dimensions or shape is off or the colors just aren’t right). Easy solution? Make your own! Here are several different tutorials featuring a variety of styles you can make using assorted fabrics and trims. Some are holiday themed but keep in mind you can use the same techniques and ideas to make a covering suitable for year-round use (just change the fabric, trims or decorative embellishments). I also added some tips at the bottom of the page for crafting and collecting vintage tablecloths.
Retro Reversible : Made with assorted fabric prints, free pattern download available for the flounce pieces (pdf).
Bandanna : An easy to make, casual-style tablecloth suitable for outdoor entertaining. You’ll need several prewashed bandannas (either the same color or use a mix of colors & patterns).
Fitted Oilcloth : Here’s one made with oilcloth and has the corners sewn together to make a fitted covering. Free scallop template download (pdf).
Patchwork : Six fabric strips of varying widths are sewn together then trimmed with rickrack (includes directions for making matching napkins).
Patio Party Cloth : Made with assorted prints, one long panel along the center with the drops in a coordinating print (fabric ties at each corner).
Holiday Patchwork Topper : Fabric squares are sewn together then an accent row of mother-of-pearl buttons and bright corner tassels finish off this festive covering.
Lemon Zest : Bright & cherry cloth for the holidays, features creamy drop panels and dramatic fabric bands and ties along the table’s top edges.
Skirted With Flower Button Napkins : Learn how to make a fitted tablecloth with gathered skirt and fabric napkins embellished with yo yos & buttons.
Ruffled Slipcover : Made with white cotton twill fabric and cotton cording, instructs how to measure for a custom fit.
Ragged Patchwork : An easy project suitable for beginners, blocks of fabric squares 8″ in size are stitched together (double layers).
Italian Bistro-Style : Formulas are provided to make a custom fit cloth for your table, one fabric print is used for the top while a coordinating print is used for the drop pieces.
- What is the proper drop length? Typically 8″ but can be longer for more formal settings (source: Better Homes & Gardens ).
- How To Measure For A Round Tablecloth : From sew4home.com.
How To Make Dressing Table Skirts
First published October 6, 2010 and moved to this page for better organization
A dressing table may be decorated in many different ways. Chintz or sateen to match bedspreads or draperies may be used. Sheer fabrics, such as organdie or dotted Swiss, make dainty covers. With these, a petticoat of white muslin or pastel-colored sateen is necessary.
(For Table with Arms)
- For a dressing table which has arms that open out, cover the top with a piece of fabric cut to fit the top, plus 2″ around all edges.
- Cut a bias strip, or use bias trim and bind, or face with bias. Tack to the top of the table with thumbtacks placed on the underside.
- Make two covers at the same time, so that the cover may be changed frequently for laundering.
On this type of dressing table, the skirt is made in two sections and attached to the table so that it may be easily removed. One method of doing this:
- Cut 2 pieces of buckram each 2 1/2″ wide and long enough to fit each arm. Cover with muslin or sateen.
- When skirt is finished, it is basted firmly to covered buckram, and the buckram is tacked to table arms.
- To remove skirt, clip basting stitches.
- The arms may also be covered by winding with a strip of fabric, and the flat half of a strip of snap tape slip stitched to front of each arm. The matching half of tape is sewed to each skirt section.
To make the type of skirt pictured for a table with arms:
- Measure the length of the arm. A strip twice this measurement will allow for ample fullness. To find the width of the strip, measure the distance from the top edge of the arm to the floor. Add to this 1 3/4″ for top heading, 2 1/2″ for tucks (1/2″ each for 5) and 1/2″ for lower hem.
- Make 2 pieces to these measurements, piecing if necessary to make strip long enough. Finish the center edges with a narrow hem.
- Along the top, turn in the raw edge 1/4″ and then turn a 3/4″ hem. Baste and stitch.
- On the right side, make a 1/4″ tuck just below the stitching line for the hem and another 1/4″ tuck 3″ below the first tuck. About 20″ down make 3 tucks, each 1/4″ wide and 2″ apart.
- Make a narrow hem along the lower edge.
- The top is gathered to fit the table. Insert 1/4″ cable cord in a safety pin or bodkin and run it through tuck at top of the skirt, pushing the fabric back on the cord.
- Cable cord is also inserted in lower tucks, but here the fabric is only slightly gathered. Baste skirt to buckram, allowing the hem to stand above it as a heading, and tack to arms. Snap tape may be slip stitched to wrong side of skirt to match snap tape sewed to arms.
To make this type of skirt for a table which does not have arms, make strip in one piece, twice the length of the outer edge of table. Finish and attach in same way.
(For Table Without Arms)
This is an attractive cover for a table top to be used over a plain skirt.
- Cut a piece of fabric to fit top of table, plus 1/2″ seam allowance all around. Cut a lining the same size.
- Stitch two pieces together along back. Turn and press.
- Cut a strip of fabric 6″ wide by the length of the outer edge of table.
- Mark off one edge into 6″ sections. Make a pattern for a 6″ scallop and mark and cut a scallop in each section.
- Bind scallops and ends of strip with 1″ wide bias strip of fabric.
- Stitch straight edge of strip to outer edge of the main top piece, right sides together. Turn under outer edge of lining fabric and slip stitch to seam on wrong side.
(For Table Without Arms)
When a dressing table has no arms, the top cover and skirt may be joined:
- Cut a pattern to fit the shape of the table top. Cut fabric and a lining from this pattern, allowing 1/2″ all around for seams. Seam these together at back edge, turn right side out and press.
- Cut a straight strip for the skirt just as long as outer edge of table and wide enough to reach from the table top to the floor plus 2 3/4″ (1 1/2″ for seam allowances, 1 1/4″ for lower hem).
- Make narrow hems at ends and a 1 1/4″ hem at lower edge.
- For ruffles, cut two strips each twice as long as the foundation skirt piece and about 12″ deep. Make narrow hems at ends and on one side of each piece. Gather raw edges to fit foundation piece.
- To insert the lower ruffle, cut foundation piece across 12″ up from lower (hemmed) edge. Draw a thread and cut along it to insure a straight line or mark, using a yardstick and tailor’s chalk. Insert ruffle between these cut edges and stitch.
- Baste other ruffle to the top of the foundation piece. Stitch this edge to the outer edge of the main top piece, right sides together.
- Top stitch seam on right side of top. Turn under edge of lining and slip stitch to seam on wrong side.
- To hold cover firmly in place on table, tack at intervals with thumbtacks. These should be hidden under folds of ruffle.
Source: The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing (1946)
Collecting Vintage Items – Crafts Ideas & Resources
*First published September 29, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization
It’s no secret that I love vintage patterns, crafts and fabrics–and that includes tablecloths. The fabrics are soft and durable, usually a good quality cotton or cotton/linen blend and the patterns deliciously whimsical, folk artsy and retro. Perfect for brightening up the kitchen or sewing with!
Here are a few craft ideas using the tablecloths, as well as resources listed for those who love to collect them…
- Jumpers and summer dresses for young girls
- Drawstring bags, gift bags, diaper bags, purses & totes
- Pillowcases, cushions
- Vanity skirts
- Kitchen and bedroom curtains & valances
- Footstool covers
- Stuffed toys
- Book covers
- Wallets, checkbook covers
- Tissue Holders
- Tea cozy
- Basket liners
- Table runners
- Picnic napkins
- Clothespin bags
- Pretty much anything in this list 
- Look at what eBay sellers are making with the tablecloths, they’re usually on the cutting edge of great ideas
Resources For Collectors
- Collecting Vintage Tablecloths 
- History of the Printed Tablecloth 
- The Collector’s Guide  *eBay Discussion Thread
- Tips For Buying Online 
Tips For Collectors: Hunting for vintage textile treasures 
- Inspect the item completely! open it up and look for wear holes or weak spots – these may become bigger holes after washing if the cloth had be improperly washed or stored in the past.
- Watch for fugitive dyes and significant fading – Early kitchen textile dyes can be unstable and will fade unevenly. Hold the cloth up to the light to see if there is evidence of missing colors or a faded pattern – this will reduce the value of the cloth.
- Measure- most vintage tablecloths were 50″ or 54″ wide and varying lengths- sometime you will find a 38″ wide BBQ or patio tablecloth. Anything 36″ wide is most likely a vintage fabric piece and not a tablecloth. 60″ x 60″ wide cloths most likely will be reproduction tablecloths so it pays to measure all cloths in the store.
Here’s a tip I never thought of:
Most vintage printed tablecloths you can find today are in smaller sizes ranging from 32″ square to 54″ square. I recommend buying a several larger gingham and plain tablecloths in primary colors to show off your smaller tablecloths.
Source: How to use and display vintage linens . Great idea!
There’s an online club you can join too: VintageTableclothsClub.com . It does cost $15 a year to help support the club’s expenses. I’m not affiliated with it and I’m not a member so I can’t personally vouch for the quality of information exchanged, but I have heard good things. If you’re a member or you join, I’d like to hear your thoughts on it :).
Collecting vintage tablecloths is a hobby one can do relatively easily since the tablecloths are still common enough to find at thrift stores and garage sales–as well as quite affordable. Not only that–you can use these items productively in day-to-day living, not many vintage collections can provide that.
Now if only chenille blankets were as easy or affordable to collect, sigh ;).