Measuring and Shopping
It’s easy to measure square and rectangular tables—add twice the drop or overhang and 2” for the hems to the dimensions of your table. For round tables, measure the diameter, add twice the drop and 1” for the hems. For oval tables you will need to measure the diameter at the widest point as well as the narrowest width. When buying fabric, you will treat these diameters as if they were the lengths and widths of rectangular tables.
If the measurement for the narrow side is wider than the width of your fabric, which is generally 42” to 45”, the tablecloth will need to be pieced. Since bulky seams can make your table surface uneven, it is preferable to avoid them or at least place them in the overhang, if possible. One possible solution is to buy extra-wide fabric, generally sold for quilt backing. Unfortunately, extra-wide fabric doesn’t come in a very wide variety of colors. Another more expensive possibility is to buy a bed sheet and remake it into a tablecloth. If you decide to piece your tablecloth, plan on making two seams, one on either side, rather than one down the middle, and allow ~/8” on each side for each seam.
Another thing to keep in mind while shopping for your fabric is the care of your finished cloth. A dining room tablecloth will need to be washable. Cotton blends are more resistant to stains than pure cotton. Print fabrics will hide minor stains better than solids. Accent tables that are in direct sunlight shouldn’t be covered with pure cotton because it will fade.
Cutting an Oval Cloth
To avoid having corners of your tablecloth resting in your guests’ laps, you will need to cut your tablecloth into an oval the exact shape of your table.
Piece the cloth if necessary. Place the cloth wrong side up on the table and center it exactly. Pay particular attention to where the piecing seams are in relation to the edge. Weight the tablecloth down around the edge of the table to keep it from shifting. Using chalk or other washable marker, outline the edge of the table.
Remove the cloth from the table and fold the cloth in half with right sides together. Use pins to be sure your marked outlines on the two layers are lining up exactly. Do this by running a pin in and out on the line then checking to see if the visible center portion of the pin is on the line on the bottom layer.
Fold the cloth again, being sure this time that the marked diameter lines up on all four layers. Pin the layers together and lay it out flat. Mark the distance of the drop plus hem allowance from the first mark. Cut through all four layers along this second mark.
Cutting a Circle
A round tablecloth can be marked and cut the same way as an oval one. If you are making a cloth for a dining room table and planning on a drop of only a few inches, this is probably the easiest way to measure. However, if you are making a cloth for an accent table with a drop to the floor, it will be difficult to measure this distance from your chalked curve with any accuracy.
Begin instead by folding your square cloth in fourths, as you did for the oval. Match the pieced seams, if you have any. Calculate the radius (half the diameter) of your table plus one drop and hem allowance. Make a loop on one end of a length of string that measures a couple of inches more than your calculation. Be sure your string won’t stretch. Tighten your loop around a pin and insert the pin close to the folded point that is the center of your tablecloth. Putting a small pad of paper or a sponge under the corner for the tip of the pin to penetrate will help keep the string and cloth anchored.
Using a measuring tape, trim the string so it equals the calculated radius of your tablecloth. Holding the string taut, use the end of the string to help you mark your cutting line. Cut through all four layers.
Another way to eliminate the need to hem a tablecloth is to make it reversible. To do this, you will need to cut two tablecloths the same size out of coordinating fabrics. Test your fabric choices before you buy them to check that when they are placed wrong sides together, neither fabric shows through the other.
Piece your tablecloths if needed and cut them to the proper shape. You will only need to allow ‘/2” for the lower seam, which will replace the hem. Carefully arrange the two tablecloths together with the right sides together. Be sure the piecing seams match, if there are any, and that both layers are smooth Stitch around the tablecloth ½” from the edge, leaving 6” to 12” open for turning. The larger the tablecloth, the wider this gap should be. Backstitching at the beginning and the end of your stitches will keep them from pulling out with the stress of turning. If you are making a square or rectangular tablecloth, take a diagonal stitch or two across the corners to make the points sharper.
Grade the seam allowances by trimming one to half the depth of the other. Clip the corners and cut Vs close to the stitching along curves, including the allowance of the gap. If your fabric has a tendency to fray stitch along the seam lines inside the gap before you clip. Turn the tablecloth right side out. Use the blunt end of a seam ripper or something similar to poke the corners out of the points. Don’t use anything sharp like scissor points, or you might poke a hole in your fabric.
Press the tablecloth flat. Blind-stitch the gap closed. Topstitching around the edge might keep the edges sharp. Topstitching is a row or sometimes two rows of straight stitches taken on the top of the fabric close to a finished edge. It is sometimes done with contrasting thread.