Learn how to make a tablecloth for your favorite table. It could be a dining table, outdoor setting, or even a little coffee table. All it takes is some careful measuring and some beginner sewing techniques to create a simple hem. Make a special occasion tablecloth or just one for everyday use. This easy tutorial includes a tablecloth pattern and tablecloth size calculator.
How to Make a Tablecloth Tutorial
A tablecloth is a simple square, rectangle, or circle shape hemmed at the edges. The most important part of making a tablecloth pattern is simply getting the sizing correct and cutting accurately.
Supplies for Making a Tablecloth
- Measuring tape
- Iron and ironing board
- Basic sewing supplies - pins, thread
Best Fabric to Make a Tablecloth
You can choose any tablecloth fabric that makes you happy! Cotton, cotton/polyester, linen, canvas - just about anything is used for tablecloths. If you are a beginner sewer, then I suggest cotton since it is the easiest to sew and washes well.
Since it will be washed often, choose a fabric that will be easy to wash in the machine and whose color won't bleed. Natural fiber fabrics such as cotton and linen are more absorbent for spills but do crease more. Also, consider lace fabrics for a vintage touch.
Best Fabric Width for Tablecloths
Most dressmaking fabric is 44 inches (112cm) wide, so it may not be wide enough to make a large tablecloth without having a join down the middle. Decorator fabrics come wider, as do sheeting fabrics, with many coming in widths of 60 inches (150cm). Lace is often much wider as well.
Upcycle! Also, consider old sheets. You can always put a runner over the top of the tablecloth to add a pop of color or to make it look fancier.
Best Fabric Designs for Tablecloths
Because there are such limited fabric choices in ready-made tablecloths you buy from the store, make an interesting choice of pattern. Be proud to say, "I made it myself". Different colored tablecloths add a pop of color to a room without any long-term commitment. You can change the color of the tablecloth to match your mood.
How to Make a Tablecloth, Step by Step
Once you have chosen your fabric, it is time to cut and sew. Choosing a fabric can take longer than sewing.
Step 1 - Measure the Table
The first thing you need to do is measure your table! Of course, your table could be round, square, or rectangular.
- Square or Rectangle - Measure the length and width across the top.
- Circle - Measure the diameter. This is the whole distance across the top of the table.
Step 2 - Calculate the Drop
The next thing to work out is the amount of drop you wish to have. This is the amount that the tablecloth extends over the edge towards the floor.
You may just want a small drop for casual meals or a full length to the floor drop for an elegant dinner. Full-length tablecloths can be used to hide some storage boxes underneath. There is no right or wrong, it is purely your personal preference.
For everyday use, it is good if the drop ends before the chair. This will make it easier to sit at the table. The drop doesn't necessarily need to be the same the whole way around. For some reason, you may want the ends longer, like this orange tablecloth below.
Step 3 - Calculate the Hem Allowance
Decide on the hem width you will use. A good amount for squares and rectangles is to add a seam allowance all the way around of 1 inch (2.5cm). This means you can do a double-fold hem of ½ inch (12mm).
For circles, a narrower hem is easier to sew. Try a seam allowance of ½ inch (12mm) which will be used to create a double fold hem of ¼ inch (6mm).
Step 4 - Make a Tablecloth Pattern
Once you have worked out the size of the table, the drop and seam allowances, you can make a tablecloth pattern. Use the tablecloth size calculator below to determine what size fabric to cut. Alternatively, I have included the cutting formulas further downl
Square or Rectangle Tablecloth Size Calculator
This easy tablecloth size calculator will determine what size fabric you will need to cut.
Cut Fabric Width: inches
Cut Fabric Length: inches
Circle Tablecloth Size Calculator
Total Diameter: inches
So far, we have worked out the table size, the drop and the hem widths.
Here are some formulas for cutting your tablecloth out.
Square or Rectangle Tablecloth Sizes
- WIDTH = Table Width + (2 x drop) + (2 x seam allowance)
- HEIGHT = Table Height + (2 x drop) + (2 x seam allowance)
Circle Tablecloth Sizes
- DIAMETER = Table Diameter + (2 x drop) + (2 x seam allowance)
Here is a diagram so you can visualize your cutting formulas.
How to make a Tablecloth - Example
30 H x 40 W inch rectangular table and I want a 10 inch drop on all sides and I plan on doing a double fold hem of ½ inch all the way around. This means my seam allowance is 1 inch (don't forget it is a double fold hem)
- Width: 40 + (2 x 10) + (1 x 2) = 62 inches
- Height 30 + (2 x 10) + (1 x 2) = 52 inches
Step 5 - Cut the Fabric
Cut the rectangle or circle according to the tablecloth pattern instructions above.
Hopefully, you can purchase fabric large enough to cover your table, but if you can't, here are a few tips for joining fabric.
- Put the 2 pieces of fabric with right sides together.
- Stitch along the raw edges you want to join with a ⅜ (1cm) seam.
- To prevent fraying, finish the seam with a serger or wide zig-zag stitch.
- Press the seam.
Step 6 - How to Hem a Tablecloth
After you have cut out your tablecloth all you need to do is to sew a nice hem all the way around. I have used a contrast thread for my stitching, but it will look much neater if you use a thread that matches.
Straight Hems for Tablecloths
The easiest hem to sew is a double fold hem.
- Flip your tablecloth to the wrong side.
- On the long edges, press the raw edges up once by the width of your hem. Press it over a second time so the raw edges are completely encased. Example - If your hem seam allowance is 1 inch (2.5cm) you would press it up once by ½ inch (12mm) and then a second time by ½ inch (12mm).
- Stitch the hems along the long edges. Use an all-purpose presser foot and a straight stitch. Try a length of 2.5. The sewing machine needle should match your fabric type and weight. For cotton, use a universal needle in an appropriate weight.
- Repeat to form hems on the short ends. You can see from the photo below how the corners overlap.
Circular Hems for Tablecloths
For circular tablecloths, a really narrow hem is best as there will be less puckering. Here I have a full article on how to sew round hems giving several methods.
If you just have a regular sewing machine and no serger, here is the easiest method to sew circular hems.
- Straight stitch ¼ inch (6mm) from the raw edge
- Use the stitches as a guide to press the hem up once by ¼ inch(6mm). The stitches form a perforated edge that makes this easier.
- Press the hem over a second time by the same amount.
- Pin and stitch the hem. Use an all purpose presser foot and a straight stitch. Try a length of 2.5.
How to Make a Tablecloth with Handstitching
If you don't have a sewing machine, you can easily hand stitch around the hem. It is a long way around so do it in front of the television in the evening. Hand stitching can actually be quite relaxing. The best stitches to use for the hem are slip stitch or running stitch.
Further Reading: Hemming Stitch
Running stitch is the easiest and is a simple up and down motion. As the tablecloth will be washed repeatedly, use a strong thread which is threaded double through the needle. The smaller the running stitches the stronger the hem will be.
Slip stitch takes a little longer but will result in an almost invisible and neat hem where the stitching cannot be seen on the outside.
Step 7 - Pressing the Tablecloth
By now, your tablecloth is probably a bit squashed from all the handling, so give it a final press. This will also make the hems sit flatter.
Decorative Ideas for Making Tablecloths
Tablecloths don't need to be plain! You can add an applique for special occasions and seasons, some embroidery letters or embroidery flowers. Pom poms, lace and ric-rac make great borders and edging and are easy to sew.
How to Make a Tablecloth - In Conclusion
So now you know how to make a tablecloth, you can make one for every occasion and every table in the house. Have fun!
More Home Decor Items to Sew
Sewing your own home decor can create a truly individual home and, best of all, will save money! Here are some more great ideas.
How to Make a Tablecloth for Beginners
- Measuring Tape
- Sewing Basics
- Measure the table. Square or Rectangle: Measure the length and width across the top. Circle tablecloths: Measure the diameter. This is the whole distance across the top of the table.
- The next thing to work out is the amount of drop you wish to have. This is the amount that the tablecloth extends over the edge towards the floor.
- Decide on the hem width you will use. A good amount for squares and rectangles is to add a seam allowance all the way around of 1 inch (2.5cm). This means you can do a double-fold hem of ½ inch (12mm).
- Once you have worked out the size of the table, the drop and seam allowances, you can make a tablecloth pattern. Use the tablecloth size calculator below to determine what size fabric to cut.
- Cut the rectangle or circle according to the tablecloth pattern instructions above.
- Sew a hem. Flip your tablecloth to the wrong side. On the long edges, press the raw edges up once by the width of your hem. Press it over a second time so the raw edges are completely encased. Repeat to form hems on the short ends. You can see from the photo below how the corners overlap.