Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Tablecloth That Survives

Hey, so if you are new here then I will tell you – I have boys.  3 boys to be exact.

I often question my parenting (about every 5 minutes) and why OH why do my boys go at the speed they do.

That being said my goal when decorating or purchasingDSC00948 items for the house is first- WILL IT SURVIVE.

We purchased this table 4 years ago used off Craigslist.  The first thing I LOVED about it was the character from all the cracks.  The second thing I LOVED about it was all the cracks that could conceal scratches and gouging from my boys.  The one thing that bothered me were all the cracks where food and toys could hide.  2 to 1 says it would work for us.

IMG00002-20101211-1624And it has until recently.  It stopped being the primary eating surface and became the school room table.  Then it became the primary area for Lego construction.  Do you know how TINY Lego pieces are?  After the Christmas Lego assembly marathon DH requested that I find a way to cover the cracks.  He was done digging out Lego pieces.

I already had an idea but had put it off because I was lazy forgetful distracted busy with other projects.  My friend, Jackie, had done something similar with her dining table (her picture below by the way).  She flipped hers over and stapled oil cloth to the top (staples underneath).  I loved how it looked but I around_the_house_006KNEW I could never commit to staples.  My mind changes about decorations furniture clothing food everything in the house as quickly as the weather in Texas. (It is really quick just in case you didn’t know)

So I remembered a tablecloth my grandmother had made for her card game nights and thought it would work perfectly.  It was fitted with elastic so when Granny’s friends got crazy with Bridge or Canasta the table didn’t get scratched.  Those ladies a serious about their cards.

Of course I did not account for the slippery fabric and my desire to never work with it again as I fought it through the sewing machine.  However, this was probably due to my older sewing machine that is wonderful but not made to push through moody uncooperative oil cloth fabric.  So if you are over and look close at the tablecloth please don’t think I was doing Tequila shots and trying to sew.  I wasn’t.  I promise. 

But even after all that it turned out great.

So if you are interested here is the HOW TO:

First, I measured the table and added about 4-5 inches on both sides (length and width).  I used inch wide elastic because I had it from some other project and didn’t want to buy more.  If you are using smaller elastic (which would work fine) you won’t need 4 inches added around.  My 4 inches was the width of the elastic x’s 2 + the distance from the edge of the table to where I wanted the cloth to be under that edge plus 1/2 inch for seam allowance (1/2+ 2 + 2 inches=4 1/2).

DSC00949I also like to add inches according to my sewing skills+the machine+the propensity to make errors=1/2 yard for me.  The best and cheapest selections of oil cloth seem to be online.  I found this at Hancock Fabrics that was $20/yd and used a 50% off coupon.  Then I found some online for $6/yd. Grrrrrrrr

Next, flip your fabric over (pretty side down) and place on table as you want it to look.  DSC01073Then lightly trace all the way around where you want the seam to be while holding the table cloth in place (heavy books, baby in a car seat, lazy cat would work too).  Add 4 1/2 inches (or your number) and trim excess fabric.  Scissors will be fine for the trimming.  Perfectionists can use a rotary cutter and ruler.

If your table is wider than the width of the bolt (mine was almost too wide) you will need to cut two pieces the length of the table and sew them together to get enough for the width.  So keep in mind that you will have a seam in the middle.  That will affect the pattern and I would not have chosen this fabric if that was the case.  I would have gone stripey to conceal the line.  Just a thought!

This next part requires someone who can hold a piece of elastic still while you pull on it.  I do not recommend 5 year olds. They do not have the attention span for it and may let the elastic go and giggle hysterically when it hits you in the face.  Then repeat it for their brothers.

Now, I only put elastic on my rounded sides.  If your table is completely round you may want to do the whole thing.  If it is square, just the corners with 4 different pieces of elastic. If you are a better sewer/crafter than me go with your gut.  I don’t know what I am doing most days.

So have your reliable helper hold the elastic at your designated spot.  You will do the DSC01080same thing on the other end so going halves works well (see above for square tables).  Now gently pull and mark where you want the other end to stop.  This is just half the table (or a 1/4 if you are square).  Now go do this on the other end/corner of the table.  For the right angled bunch you will do this 3 more times.

NOTE: You are not trimming the extra elastic right now.  Mark the starting and stopping points with PINS and trim the elastic with about 10 extra inches.  This is important because you have to adjust it once the table cloth is sewn, but not the elastic.  K?

DSC01081Now (after your pins are marking the spots) begin folding the table cloth to the line and pinning in place.  Rounded edges definitely need LOTS of pins if you don’t want to say mean words to your sewing machine later.  (I apologized afterward)

For those who have never worked with elastic (i.e. me) you are not putting it in at this point.  That comes later.

Walk proudly to your sewing machine because you used so many pins and try to sew a 1/4-1/2 inch seam.  See how well I did?  Don’t you feel better about yourself now? 


Remember to leave an opening at both ends.  You will finish sewing after the elastic is in and sewn in place.  Remember the pin you put in place to mark the elastic places?  STOP SEWING THERE.

And sew the other side the same way.

Now find a GIANT NEEDLE or something similar.  This is what I used.  No, I have no idea DSC01302where I got it.  My grandmother gave me a box of sewing stuff with an old machine like 20 years ago.  I kept most of it and gotta say this needle freaks me out just a bit.  I am happy it was finally used for something normal (not to imply I used it for anything abnormal).

Anyway, go get some strong thread/yarn for your freaky needle, thread it (if you can’t thread that stop what you are doing and go to the optometrist now), and poke it through one end of your elastic like so (see DSC01304picture).  Tie it on like a rope.  I used regular thread about 4 times over.

If you don’t have a giant needle you just need something long, thin, and straight (pencil size) that you can tie to your elastic so you can work it through the hem you just made.  Get creative.  You can do it.

Now work the needle through the hem slowly, pulling your elastic through.  Be sure to pin the elastic in place at the beginning and end of the hem.  Do this for both ends.  Now go put it on the table to see how it fits. 

It will be a bit of a struggle.  I needed to put something heavy on one end when it got on the pull the other end on tightly.  Here is where your pull your elastic tighter or loosen it based on the fit.

If you are pulling on it like you did those jeans in 1986 then you may want to let it out a bit.  If it lays there like a regular table cloth it isn’t tight enough.

Once the elastic is where you want it go sew it in place.  Just go over the end about 3 or 4 times and trim the excess.  Repeat for the other side.  Now hem up the remaining edges and get it on your table.

Smile and look with joy on your new tablecloth that will survive snacks, Legos, hot wheel races, cookie decorating, quilt class, glitter glue, stickers, crayons, frogs, caterpillars, misbehaved dogs, laundry day, etc.


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  1. Wooo-ee! Love it, Kenna! Great idea! It looks amazing.

  2. Great idea my friend! You did a wonderful job...and a great tutorial.


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