I find shopping for table linens frustrating (the fabric is poor quality, the dimensions or shape aren’t correct, or the colors differ from what I want). Easy solution? Make your own!
Here are several tutorials featuring various tablecloth styles you can make using assorted fabrics and trims.
Some are holiday or seasonal-themed, but remember you can use the same techniques and ideas to make a covering suitable for year-round use (change the fabric, trims, or decorative embellishments).
To clean up and better organize this site, I’ve moved the vintage table skirt projects to this page (you’ll find them underneath the gallery section below).
Finally, at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a few tips for crafting with and collecting vintage table linens (one of my addictions which Etsy has only dragged me deeper into).
These cuties can be cut up for other DIY crafts or layered with other pieces to cover a tabletop if they’re in good shape.
Helpful Tips Before Getting Started:
- What is the proper drop length of a tablecloth? Typically 8″ but can be longer for more formal settings.
- How To Measure For A Round Table: A top-notch guide from sew4home.com.
- Tablecloth Hemming: If you have a length of fabric you want to learn how to finish the raw edges, this is a quick and easy picture tutorial for sewing a basic hem. Suitable for beginner sewists.
- How To Select The Right Size Tablecloth: Nice guide (for square, round, oblong & oval shapes) from bumblebeelinens.com.
- Uncomfortable with sewing or looking for no-sew options? Your best bets are Frayed Hems, Hemming Tape, Fusible Adhesive Spray, and Fabric Glue (click the links for the how-tos).
Sew It Yourself: Free Tablecloth Projects & Guides
No matter the shape or size of your table, you should be able to find something in this bunch to work with. You’ll also see examples of various fabrics used (oilcloth, burlap, waterproof, linens, cotton, etc.) and intended usage (indoor/outdoor/casual/dining/etc.).
As always, here on Tipnut, these projects are handpicked by me, and I only include those that are 100% hassle-free. This means there are no email addresses to submit, no memberships are required, and no fees are charged. Any necessary templates or pattern pieces are provided. If that has changed since being added to this page, please let me know in the comments section below so I can remove it. Lots here, enjoy!
Directions: Click on images to visit the project page; a new browser tab will open & save your spot here
Dressing Table Skirts: Transformations For Timeless Charm
First published on October 6, 2010, and moved to this page for better organization.
A dressing table may be decorated in many different ways.
(For Table with Arms)
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 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)
Reviving Vintage Linens: Collecting & Creative Repurposing
*First published September 29, 2007, and moved to this page for better organization
It’s no secret that I love vintage patterns, crafts, and textiles–including tablecloths.
The fabrics are soft and durable, usually a good quality cotton or cotton/linen blend, and the designs are deliciously whimsical, folk artsy, and retro. Perfect for brightening up the kitchen, using in crafts, and sewing!
Crafting With Cutters
The term “cutters” is used when describing vintage household linens with rips, tears, or holes, rendering them no longer suitable for their intended purpose.
These cutters are still considered treasures and sought after since they are suitable for cutting down and repurposing. The main bulk of the fabric is usually still quite durable and functional.
If they are dull and dingy looking, it’s a good idea to try freshening them up first (see Caring For Old Linens: Brightening Instructions & Advice).
Here is a list of crafts and ideas to transform old linens into:
|Jumpers and summer dresses for young girls||Pillowcases, Cushions||Placemats||Vanity skirts|
|Drawstring bags, gift bags, diaper bags, purses & totes (Reusable Grocery Bags)||Footstool covers||Stuffed toys||Book Covers|
|Kitchen and bedroom curtains & valances||Wallets, checkbook covers||Tissue Holders||Quilts|
|Pot Holders||Aprons||Basket Liners||Tea Cozies|
|Table Runners||Picnic Napkins||Clothespin Bags||Mug Rugs|
Sometimes you’re dealing with a raggedy or worn hem but the rest of the piece is in good shape. Consider adding a trim to hide the worn parts (such as ric rac, fringe, or lace) or a fabric bias trim in a complementary color.
Tips For Collectors
- Inspect the item thoroughly! Open it up and look for wear holes or weak spots – these may become bigger holes after washing if the cloth has been improperly washed or stored in the past.
- Watch for fugitive dyes and significant fading – Early kitchen textile dyes can be unstable and 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- sometimes you will find a 38″ wide BBQ or patio tablecloth. Anything 36″ wide is likely a vintage fabric piece, not a tablecloth. 60″ x 60″ wide cloths will most likely be reproduction tablecloths, so it pays to measure all pieces in the store.
Most vintage printed tablecloths you can find today are in smaller sizes ranging from 32″ square to 54″ square. One recommendation is to buy several larger gingham and plain tablecloths in primary colors to show off your smaller tablecloths.
One of my favorite go-to’s is to have a white crocheted tablecloth laid down first (it has an ideal drop length), then the smaller vintage topper arranged over the top. This is an excellent match for every vintage goody I have on hand. I also have two linen sets in white and brown, both with ruffled hems. They pair well with vintage toppers too.
Collecting retro tablecloths is a hobby one can do relatively easily since they are still common enough to find at thrift stores and garage sales–and quite affordable. Using these items in daily living to brighten our kitchens and home spaces is lovely; not many vintage collections can claim that.
Now if only chenille blankets were as easy or affordable to collect, sigh ;).