Things I Learned Whilst Trying to Buy a Tablecloth

One sunny afternoon this past week, the children and I headed out toward the church, to set up a dinner table for our church’s annual WIC Welcome Back Meeting and Dinner. I just had one “quick” errand to run first: return a pair of shoes I’d bought for Abigail. As I was in Marshalls returning the shoes, I had an idea: why not quickly stop by the linens section in back and pick up a pretty tablecloth to go with my china setting for the above-mentioned table? I actually have no fullsized tablecloths of my own which will work with my simple cream china though my MIL has kindly lent me the use of several of hers along with their nice oak dining table which we are “babysitting” for them. But all her cloths are solidly colored (with good reason: her lovely china is patterned with many colors in it) and I was hoping to find something with a bit more of a design to it.

It was a fun idea, but back in the linens section I came up empty. The patterns I liked were all the wrong sizes and the right sizes came in patterns I could do without. No big deal. While I was out, why not just check the other Marshalls just 10 minutes away? The advantages (or disadvantages depending on how you look at it!) of living in a large metroplex!!

Three hours and 7 discount stores later, including that second Marshalls, a Tuesday Morning, Steinmart, Nordstrom’s Rack, and others, I had no more reached my goal of a tablecloth than when I started. The kids, who each nap everyday and by this point were well beyond when those naps should’ve started, were wondering why I was torturing them by dragging them all over North Dallas and through countless stores. Meanwhile, my WIC table was still not begun. But by this time I was determined (read “obsessed”). There had to be a perfect tablecloth somewhere for a good price that I would absolutely love and which would beautify my table for the Ladies’ Dinner.

And then it hit me: why not sew a tablecloth? Surely it would cost less than anything I’d seen and I could pick a fabric from the decorator section which would be just right and wide enough to prevent me from having to piece a cloth together. Before I set off in this direction, the kids and I shared a picnic lunch on the floor of our minivan (we’ve removed one of those captain’s chairs which allows for all of us to sit quite comfortably inside). With food in our bellies, we were rejuvenated to continue the search. Well, at least I was. On we went.

After looking at three fabric stores I came to the conclusion that decorator fabrics are not considered “wash and wear”. All the store employees insisted that the manufacturers DID NOT recommend machine washing and that the fabrics were supposed to be drycleaned. A setback indeed; how practical is it to sew a tablecloth that one cannot wash at home? And by this time I’d gotten it into my head that I’d also be making napkins to go with my glorious tablecloth. Drycleaning napkins would never do!

Finally at Hancock’s one lady suggested that I could select an all cotton decorator’s fabric and perhaps try to wash it, at my own risk of course. I had not many options left so this sounded good to me. By the time we got to Hancock’s it was around 3:30. We spent over an hour and a half searching for fabric and finally I decided upon a sage green floral for my tablecloth, with a coordinating plaid fabric from which to make the dinner napkins.

I got the children home, endured a few, “Why did you keep the kids out till after 5:30pm with no naps?” questions from my bewildered husband, and fixed spaghetti for supper. After getting the kids to bed, and making a grocery trip to SuperTarget, I completely finished cutting, pressing and sewing my tablecloth. It required cutting only two inches off the short end, pressing a double folded hem all the way around the perimeter of the cloth, and then sewing that hem in place. Less than two hours start to finish.

The next day I made six napkins during the kids’ naps. Same thing: cut them out, press a double fold around all four sides and hem. Probably about another two hours of work.

The finished results were wonderful. I had a custom-made table cloth with matching napkins in beautiful shades of green/rose/red/khaki which work not only with my china but with my home’s decor as well. It cost me less than the least expensive one I’d seen readymade and was a hundred times more lovely. And perhaps even most wonderful, I’d managed to complete a project quickly and with little trouble!

Here then in a nutshell are some helpful hints I took from this whole experience. Perhaps, gentle readers, they might be of use to you someday:

1. My children are incredibly well-behaved and patient sometimes, even when they should be delirious from lack of sleep and serious boredom. (By the way, the rest of the week was filled with playdates and outings the likes of which we haven’t had in quite some time!)

2. Buying a tablecloth is not necessarily a quick, one-stop job. It is probably not wise to attempt such an exercise as a “quick errand” on the way to set up a dinner table for your church’s Ladies’ Supper.

3. Tablecloths are expensive and it can be difficult to find one that fits your style, budget and color scheme. If you are picky like I am, you might do better to sew your own.

4. Some decorator (non-washable) fabrics can be washed in cold on the delicate cycle and gently dryed without any harm to their colors or sizing. They turned out beautifully, with barely any shrinkage.

5. Two yards of 54″ decorator fabric makes 12 equally and perfectly sized square dinner napkins (about 16″x16″).

6. Three and 1/4 yards of 54″ decorator fabric makes about a 108″ long tablecloth for that longest dining table (96″) of yours. (Or just adjust yardage to your own table.)

7. All in all, making a tablecloth and set of napkins is a quick, easy and gratifying project, especially for those of us with very little amounts of spare time to devote to such endeavors.

2 Comments

  1. angie
    Sep 15, 2003

    I personally saw and admired the said tablecloth and posh matching napkins. I had no idea, Trish, that you are the solvent and above-the-board Martha Stewart of North Dallas! Kudos!! And your table was beautiful, to boot!

  2. Stephanie
    Sep 16, 2003

    I too vouch for the beauty of the table and linens. I do confess however, that I spent a bit of time searching the hem of my napkin looking for a tag, but found none….this was quite a professional job!