It Used to be a Tablecloth

1 usedtobeatablecloth

The barbarians are coming! They’re tearing hand-made heirlooms and (gasp)…. turning them to beach dresses!  Yes, those flimsy things destined to fade and be destroyed by suntan lotion in a mere summer or two.

#usedtobeatablecloth is a sewing challenge where we turn a tablecloth or some forgotten piece of household linen into something summery to wear. I’m taking part because I saw the lovely Little White Dress made by Etemi, the challenge host who blogs as The Secret Costumier, but also because on my second foray to the charity shops in search of suitable material, I got really lucky.  I found a tablecloth very similar to the one Etemi used. I don’t know whether it is indeed handmade – I doubt anyone would have parted with it if that’s the case – but it’s beautiful, if slightly spoilt by a light stain or two.  I found it folded on a rail and as I opened it up wondering if I could use it, an older woman came over admiring it and we struck up a conversation as she wondered how many hours of work went into it. I thought the tablecloth needed a chance of a more worthy owner and did actually ask the woman if she was interested in buying it.  She declined, saying she couldn’t be bothered with all the ironing.

1 tablecloth stillSo now it’s belongs to the barbarian.

Does it look familiar to you?  I’m pretty sure that in Croatia every house proud woman of a certain age has one: I seem to recall drinking glasses of squash at numerous tables adorned thus.

Soon as I’ve made it into a dress I will dye it a dark blue because I’m very much missing my dark blue perforated summer dress that Django the Hun* shredded.  I did a test with some remnants of dye powder to see if it would take and it worked very well.  Not only is the tablecloth made of a natural fibre (linen) but all that thread must be cotton as it took the dye too (I was hoping it would stay white as polyester thread does as the contrast would have looked beautiful).

client's dress close up

The target design

My plan is to make a version of a client’s dress that I altered a year ago.  I thought it was quite chic.  Being twice the age of the client, my dress will be less revealing but I’m aiming for a similar arrangement of rouleau strips, perfect for exposing the shoulders to the rays.  No bra will work with this but I don’t care….a back view

I prepared the pattern in next to no time using my block.  Inevitably, my drafted pattern doesn’t quite match up to the threadwork pattern of the tablecloth and I have already had to rethink the length of the skirt and the width too.  You could have a lot of fun with this, working out the different possibilities of where to place the laced parts.

Etemi is very lovely and her blog well written with clear, very appealing presentation.  We met in June in Goldhawk Road but it turned out I’d come across her before; her refashioned shirt was one of my favourites in the Refashioners Challenge 2015.  Do join us if you can: there’s ten days before the deadline and it’s a quick project – provided you have the right tablecloth.  The challenge post has all the details as well as helpful hints and images to inspire.

I have cut out my pattern pieces ready for the making and look, there’s enough tablecloth left for one or two more dresses! 1 leftovers

*not a barbarian but a Hungarian Viszla!

16 thoughts on “It Used to be a Tablecloth

  1. A lovely idea that I would like to try next summer. My mom often collects old cloth like this and repurposes the stained ones for her uses. Have fun.

  2. I have numerous table cloths and sheets like these, mostly snapped up here in France where there seems to be an endless supply. I could easily make something with someone else’s monogram strategically placed on part of my body.
    Unlike Etemi, who looks as if she would look good in a black bin sack with a string tied round the middle, I’m not sure I could make a dress work for me. Maybe, as she’s done elsewhere on her blog, I’d go with a Brigitte Bardot top or a skirt . My holiday is in a week’s time and I’ve got other things on at the moment so I will join Stephanie and Kate in saying ‘can we do it next year’? Maybe in the Spring.
    What dyes do you use, if you don’t mind me asking? Sometimes the linen sheets I get have storage stains and the dye available in the shops comes in very limited colours.

    • I use Dylon, the machine variety. I agree that the colours are somewhat limited but they have my favourites and you can vary the intensity by putting in different amounts of powder.

      When I was making a silk handkerchief for my wedding I used half a Dylon small packet which is meant to be hand agitated but it was much more of a faff. Hope this helps.

      • Thank you! The Dylon machine one is what I’ve used in the past but, in the supermarket here, there’s only black, navy blue and a shade of red. I think I’ll have a look online as they must have more choice in their range. I dyed a sheet with the navy blue and, because there was so much fabric, it actually turned out a lovely shade of indigo which I preferred anyway.

        • That does sound nice: I’m aiming for a Moroccan blue kind of colour. When you’re in the UK, check out Wilko’s (the new Woolworths) as their prices and range of Dylon is good.

  3. I’m sure that will look really pretty. Some of those old cloths are so nice it’s sad to be cutting them – but I don’t know anyone still using them regularly.
    I hope the Visla has more manners this time ?

  4. It’s lovely! I willed up enough courage to cut into a very similar linen/lace tablecloth this summer and made heaps of garments out of it in the end – a top and two pairs of shorts, with more to spare. I want to make a dress like this with the rest now!

  5. That’s a wonderful tablecloth Marijana, I’m glad you’ve snapped it up in the end! 🙂 The dress has a really interesting shape, I think it will be beautiful with the cutout details. I’ve never thought of the possibility of the thread being made of a different material and therefore would take up the dye differently, but it sounds like something to experiment with… Thanks for the mention, it’s really exciting to see what others come up with!

  6. Don’t you think you’ve given us enough challenges yet???
    Lucky find. I’ve made stuff from white linen bed sheets and love them all the more because they’ve had a previous life.

    • No, I don’t expect anyone else to rush into this challenge but I couldn’t resist!! I like your thinking about the previous life and the sturdiness of the fabric (which doesn’t fray) is certainly superior to the new linen I’ve bought.

  7. I love your tablecloth. The choice of style looks good, not cluttered with darts and seams which might hit the embroidery. I have an heirloom tablecloth, but it’s staying as a tablecloth – gets hauled out every Christmas.

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