How to Make a Tablecloth

A custom tablecloth in a dining room

Stacy Fisher 

Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $25

Whether you have an oddly shaped table or a fabric you've fallen in love with, you can learn how to make a tablecloth of any size and shape to fit your table. DIY tablecloths can be used on a dining room table, picnic table, or any other flat surface you'd like to cover. This project is for intermediate sewers and will take you a couple hours to complete. Arguably the most complicated part is measuring the table and calculating your fabric needs, so don't rush these steps. Once you learn the process, you'll easily be able to sew your own tablecloths for special occasions, holiday decor, and even to give away as gifts.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine

Materials

  • Fabric
  • Matching thread

Instructions

  1. Decide on a Fabric Type

    Tablecloths come in all different kinds of fabric. And because you are making your own, you get to decide which type of fabric you want to use. Just about any fabric will work, but cotton, polyester blends, oilcloth, and linen are popular choices. If you'll be eating on this table, it's best to choose a washable fabric. The fabric used in this project's instructions is a mid-weight cotton that's affordable, has a casual look, and washes well.

    A close-up of fabric bolts
    Sue120502 / Getty Images
  2. Measure Your Table

    Take your measuring tape, and measure the top of your table. It can be helpful to draw a simple diagram when recording your measurements.

    • Square/rectangle table: Measure the length and width of your table. 
    • Oval table: Measure from the longest side to the other longest side, going across the center of the table.
    • Round table: Measure from one side to another, going across the center of the table. 
    A diagram of a table with a pen and other sewing notions
    Stacy Fisher
  3. Decide on a Drop Length and Hem Type

    The drop length is the amount of fabric that "drops" off from the tabletop. There are three common drop lengths, and you'll need to decide which length you want before you figure out how much fabric you need. 

    • Short (8 inches to 12 inches): This gives an informal look and is great for everyday use.
    • Mid-length (16 inches to 24 inches): This length is considered semi-formal.
    • Floor-length (28 inches to 29 inches): This gives a very formal look and is usually only used at tables no one will be sitting at.

    Keep in mind these are just guidelines. You can create a custom drop length by simply measuring from the edge of the table and deciding how far you want the fabric to hang. The example in this project uses an 8-inch drop length for a casual look.

    You also have to calculate how much fabric you'll need for the tablecloth hem. The example here uses a basic hem that adds 1 inch of fabric to each side. But you can make a wider or narrower hem to fit with your style.

    A measuring tape laying on a chair
    Stacy Fisher
  4. Calculate Fabric Yardage

    Add the drop length and hem length to each side of the table in your diagram. Keep in mind there will be a drop and hem on each side. This will tell you how much fabric you'll need to buy. 

    Look at the length of the table with your added drop lengths and hems for those two sides. Divide that number by 36 inches to find out how many yards of fabric you'll need.

    Now, look at the width of your table with the added drop lengths and hems. If it's smaller than 44 inches (the width of a normal bolt of fabric), you don't need to add any more fabric yardage to the amount you just calculated from the length. But if the width is more than 44 inches, you'll need to double the yardage you calculated for the length. This is the amount of yardage you'll need to buy to make your tablecloth. 

    You also have the option of buying a wide quilt backing fabric that measures 108 inches wide. If you do this, you only need to buy the amount of yardage you figured for the length of your table. You'll also be able to avoid having a seam running the length of your tablecloth. 

    A diagram of a table, a pen, and other sewing notions
    Stacy Fisher
  5. Sew Together Fabric Panels If Necessary

    If your fabric doesn't cover the width of your table, you'll need to sew together some fabric. Skip this step if you have fabric that's wide enough.

    First, cut the longest length of fabric that includes both drops and hems. Cut another piece of fabric the same size. Sew these two pieces together lengthwise with 1/4-inch seam allowance. This should make one big piece of fabric that will cover your table, including the drop and hem.

    Pins in fabric, scissors, and a pincushion
    Stacy Fisher
  6. Cut Your Fabric

    Now, it's time to cut the fabric to the size you've calculated. Here's how to do it based on the shape of your table. 

    • Square/rectangle table: Cut the length and width of the piece of fabric, including the amount you need for the drops and hems.
    • Oval table: Follow the same cutting instructions for a square or rectangle table. Place a dinner plate on each corner of the fabric, and trace along the plate. Cut along this line to create rounded corners for your tablecloth. 
    • Round table: Fold the fabric in half, and mark the center of the fold. Use a flexible tape measure or string to create a semicircle from the mark. Cut the fabric.
    Fabric, scissors, and a diagram
    Stacy Fisher
  7. Hem and Finish Your Tablecloth

    Finally, create a hem for your tablecloth, so it has a nice finished edge.

    For a basic hem, fold the edges of your fabric 1/2 inch under, and press with an iron. Fold it under again by 1/2 inch to hide the fabric edge. Press and pin the hem.

    Use matching thread and a 1/4-inch seam allowance to sew the hem down, removing pins as you go. Give your tablecloth a nice press, and put it on your table. Enjoy!

    Pins hemming the edge of fabric
    Stacy Fisher