The Versatility of a Simple Tablecloth

Recently, I had some friends over one afternoon for a Ladies’ Tea because I was craving company, and I never turn down a good opportunity for a party.

As I sat down to plan my menu and think about the table design (the most exciting part of any party for me) I realized that the few tablecloths I already owned would clash terribly with the tea set and appetizer plates I planned to use.

Side-note: My very favorite part of any party I host is just before the guests arrive, when the house is clean and good-smelling and the table is set—waiting. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the guests or the company, but I like to savor how all the hard work comes together before any dishes get dirty.

I decided to buy a new tablecloth because my current inventory only includes a Damask Christmas Red tablecloth and a Damask White/Cream goes-with-anything tablecloth. Initially, I wanted a mellow spring green since I planned to use a green tea set. There was only one green tablecloth at my local home accents discount store. It was a sage green color and had a shimmery, lined pattern in it to add some interest, and I happily took it home to try it out.

As I laid it out on the table, I couldn’t help but think of how drab it looked. It seemed to suck all of the life out of my dining room (and with my love for rich, warm colors that’s hard to do). I had to take it back, and go on the hunt again.

Undeterred, I went to another location to return it. I literally ended up walking in minutes before they closed and decided to take a quick peek at their tablecloth selection. There it was—the perfect deep chocolate brown (one of my favorite colors) with a discreet swirl pattern that was so….ME. The only problem? The size! It was the only one in stock, and it was for an oblong table that would normally seat 8-10 people. My table seats 4-6 people, and 8 in a pinch if the guests don’t mind a little elbowing!

For those of you who are tablecloth novices, tablecloths generally come in four types: square, oval, oblong, and round. Oblong is just a fancier word for rectangle. Here are some general tablecloth sizes:

Square: 52” x 52” for tables that seat 4 people.

Oval: 60” x 84” for tables that seat 6-8 people.

60” x 104” for tables that seat 8-10 people.

Oblong: 52” x 70” for tables that seat 4-6 people. **My table uses this.

60” x 84” for tables that seat 6-8 people.

60” x 104” for tables that seat 8-10 people. **This is what I got.

60” x 120” for tables that seat 10-12 people.

Round: 70” for tables that seat 4-6 people.

 I bought the tablecloth and took it home and it looked wonderful in my dining room, but it cascaded over my table and onto the floor like a wave. Time to break out the sewing machine! As I was measuring and marking the fabric to make a new hem, I had a brilliant idea. I could make matching napkins from the fabric scraps!

As wonderful as this idea was, it was also last-minute, so my napkins didn’t turn out perfectly, but I figured no one would really notice (unless they read this blog). I mean who studies a napkin anyway? I just folded over the frayed edge, shoved the corners together and sewed with fervor. When I was done I had made four small, square napkins out of the remnants of the tablecloth. Later, I found out that there are plenty of online websites that show you how to make perfect “mitered corners” – I’ll try that method next time.


For Curtains: I looked all over for chocolate brown panels for my dining room, but all of them were too plain, or too glossy, or too expensive – $35 for one panel?!? And I’ve got a big window! On clearance at a retail chain, I found two oblong striped tablecloths that were wide enough to cover the space, I just hemmed the bottoms a bit. If you’re going to use a tablecloth as a curtain, think about how much sun the room gets and make sure they are wide enough for your space. I would also recommend using the curtain rings that clip to fabric to make hanging them on a curtain rod a simple process.

For a Christmas Tree Skirt: If you ask me, these skirts are very overpriced considering that we only use them for a month or so each year. A quick online search revealed that prices can range from $30 to over $70, not including the cost of shipping. Perhaps the high cost is in relation to all the fake baubles, ahem,… jewels…and ric-rac that get festooned to them.

Anyway, if you don’t mind adding some flourishes yourself, or you prefer a plainer option, do what I did and use a red Damask tablecloth. Mine happens to be the same pattern as the tablecloth I use for Christmas dinner, just in a larger size. Make sure to get a tablecloth that is big enough – remember you are going to bundle and pool the fabric to cover the bottom of your tree and you want some space to put your gifts and goodies! If you look for Damask, it can be very affordable, [I bought mine for about $15] and it still has a bit of pattern so it catches the twinkle of the Christmas lights and is less prone to show stains than something solid. If you’re so inclined, you can even add sequins, embroidery, or beads yourself for something truly one-of-a-kind.

As a final thought, creative folks could probably even re-purpose tablecloths as pillows, (I plan to elaborate on this in an upcoming post), or use a cloth shower curtain for some of these ideas with a little modification. If you like the pattern and the texture is right, tablecloths can morph into many different home accents to suit your needs. Happy Crafting!