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One of the fastest holiday makeovers is a tablecloth. There are really only three steps: 1) cut, 2) hem, 3) set the table. It’s so quick and easy, we decided to make tablecloth sets for both a long dining table and a small card table for serving. Each set features two elegant home décor fabrics: a thick and rich drapery or upholstery weight for the underlay and a gorgeous sheer for the overlay.

Our samples show two tables set for holiday magic, but this cloth-with-overlay style would also be lovely for a wedding or other special occasion.

We recommend using a solid color with an interesting texture for your underlay. Competing with a busy print can dilute the attractiveness of the sheer overlay.

For the small serving table, we wanted a coordinated yet distinct look. These days, there are so many lovely pre-embellished options in special occasion and bridal fabrics, such as the yarn-like embroidery shown below that added a creative, swirling look to this sheer topper.

Below are full instructions for measuring to fit your tables. Most home décor fabrics are 54″ wide, which is quite wide for many projects, but usually not wide enough to provide a decent drop for most dining tables. We show you have to seam together several panels to create a more formal, more beautiful 8″ deep drop all around.

Measuring for a long rectangular dining table

Our sample dining table was 100″ long x 47″ wide. Our tablecloth finishes at 116″ x 67″, allowing for a 8″ drop all around. The tablecloth is made from three panels, using the width of fabric (54″ in our sample) on the vertical in order to allow for a wider panel with a generous drop (6″ – 10″ is standard for tablecloth drop).

To figure the measurements for your table, start with the table’s length and width. To the width add the drop for either side (8″ on each side for our sample) plus 2″ on each side for a hem. With the heavier home décor weights of fabric, it’s best to use a wider hem. The fabric will lay flatter and the thicker hem acts as a bit of weight to hold the tablecloth in place. Our equation was: 47″ + 16″ (8″ drop on each side) + 4″ (2″ hem on each side) = 67″ width.

To the length of your table add the drop for either side (8″ on each side for our sample) plus 2″ on each side for a hem – just as you did with the width. Our result was 120″ (100″ + 16″ +4″). Because you are cutting as three panels that will be seamed together, you need a bit of additional math. For the best design balance, we recommend a full panel for the center with two identical but narrower panels for each end. Start with the initial total (120″ in our sample). Subtract the width of the fabric (less 54″ in our sample). In our sample, the equation so far is 120″ – 54″ = 66″. Divide this total in half to determine the length of each end panel. One more step is needed to account for the seam allowance. We used a ½” flat felled seam, which means 1″ total is needed at each seam. We can’t make the width of the fabric any greater than it already is at 54″, so that 1″ needs to be accounted for in each end panel. Each end panel will now be a 34″ cut.

Remember, the width across the table is actually the length of the fabric. This meant we needed 67″ in length for each panel or 67″ x 3 = 201″, which translates to 5.58 yards. We used 5¾ yards of 54″ wide fabric for our dining table.

For the sheer overlay, we recommend a reveal of about 5″ to 7″ to either side of the overlay. We used 6½”. The sheers available from Fabric Depot were almost all 54″+ in width, and we wanted to show as much of the motif as possible. In addition, the fabric is so wonderfully thin, even with a narrow hem, there was no problem bridging the overlay with a plate or stemware.

Start with your table width (47″) and subtract the reveal to each side (6½”) then add ½” to either side for a narrow hem. 47″ – 13″ + 1″ = 35″ cut width.

For the length, you need the table length (100″) plus a long drop to create the triangle hang point at each end. We recommend your drop plus 4″ (8″ + 4″). Then add ½” at either end for the narrow hem. 100″ + 24″ + 1″ = 125″ cut length, which translates into 3.47 yards. We used 3½” yards.

Measuring for a small square table

Our small table is a standard 33½” x 33½” card table. As with the long table above, figure your drop, we again used 8″, plus a 2″ hem all around. Our equation was 33½” + 16″ + 4″ = 53½”. This  also matched with our 54″ wide home décor fabric. We rounded up and simply used a 54″ x 54″ square, which will hem down to 50″ x 50″. 54″ is exactly 1½ yards; we recommend a bit more for safety. We got 1⅝ yards.

The overlay is also a square, but will be set on the diagonal. There’s some geometry involved here because of the diagonal, but in general, you can figure the finished overlay square at about 6″ smaller than the finished main square. In our sample, that came to a 45″ x 45″ cut square, which finished with a narrow hem (½” all around as above with the long table) for a finished size of 44″ x 44″. We got 1⅓ yards.

So… that was a lot of math and your head is probably hurting, but thanks to the beautiful fabric and the Clover Hot Hemmer, the rest of the project is a snap.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 54″+ wide Home Décor weight fabric for the underlay of each tablecloth set, use the measurement guide above to determine yardage
  • 54″+ wide sheer fabric for the overlay of each tablecloth set, use the measurement guide above to determine yardage
  • 3½” decorative tassels: TWO for the long overlay, FOUR for the square overlay
  • Clover Hot Hemmer, what we used to make all the hemming much faster and easier
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins; we also used Clover Wonder Clips, which held the narrow sheer hems in place securely
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Seam sealant; such as Fray Check

Getting Started

Long panel tablecloth

  1. Using our notes above, figure your measurements for the underlay panels and the overlays.
  2. As shown above, we cut the following from our underlay fabric: THREE 67″ x width of fabric panels – 67″ x 54″.
  3. Leave one panel at 67″ x 54″. Cut the other two panels down to 67″ x 34″.
    NOTE: We’re saving those great extra lengths of fabric to make some amazing faux Alligator pillows as holiday gifts.
  4. As shown above, we cut our overlay fabric to 125″ long x 35″ wide.

Small square tablecloth

  1. Using our notes above, figure your measurements for the underlay panels and the overlay.
  2. As shown above, we cut our underlay fabric at 54″ x 54″.
  3. As shown above, we cut our overlay fabric at 44″ x 44″.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Long panel tablecloth

  1. Find the three panels. Clip or pin a smaller end panel to either side of the main center panel along the width. We were aligning the 67″ sides.
  2. So the tablecloth will lay as flat as possible, we used a ½” inside flat felled seam.
  3. Stitch the seam at ½”. We used a Janome Even Feed foot to keep our layers from shifting across the long, long seams. You could also engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system.
  4. Press the seam allowance together and to one side. Trim back the lower seam allowance to ¼”.
  5. Fold in the raw edge under on the upper seam allowance to meet the lower. Press to one side again.
  6. Pin and edgestitch along the fold. We recommend continuing to use an Even Feed foot or your built-in feeding system if possible and lengthening your stitch.
  7. The thin, finished seam is now on the wrong side of the fabric, and you have just one line of stitching on the right side.

    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, take a look at our full tutorial on How To Make Flat Felled Seams.
  8. With the three panels sewn in place, create a 2″ double-fold hem all around.
  9. We used the Clover Hot Hemmer to make this step fast and accurate.
  10. First fold up the raw edge ½” all around.
  11. Then, fold up an additional 1½” all around for a total 2″ hem.

    NOTE: If you are new to using this handy hemmer, take a look at our full review and tutorial.
  12. Pin in place, creating a pretty 90˚ overlap at each corner.
  13. Topstitch 1⅜” from the finished edge around the entire tablecloth, pivoting at the corners. We continued to use a Walking foot for the ultimate precision.

    NOTE: Our Janome machines have great plate markings, including pivot marks, that extend out on either side. So, we were able to easily use these as our seam guides. You could also draw in a guide line to follow. Or, you could measure 1⅜” out from the needle drop and place a line of blue painter’s tape across the bed of the machine as an edge to follow. 
  14. Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to best match the fabric and stitch down the corners for a pretty finish.

Long overlay

  1. Find the long sheer panel. Fold it in half, aligning the short ends – the 35″ edges in our sample. Clip or pin in place.
  2. Place the folded panel right side up on your cutting surface.
  3. Measure 12″ in from the aligned ends. Mark both sides at this 12″ point. We measured first with our tape, then laid our ruler perpendicular to the tape across the panel to mark each side.
  4. Find the exact center of the aligned ends. In our sample, this was at 17½”. Place a marking pin at this center point.
  5. Place a clear ruler from one side point to the center point, creating a diagonal line. Using a rotary cutter, cut along the diagonal. You are cutting through both layers of the sheer.
  6. Repeat to cut a mirror image diagonal from the opposite side point to the center point. This creates perfectly matching points for the ends of the overlay.
    NOTE: If you don’t have a rotary cutter, you can use scissors. But it would be best to draw a line to follow, and you may have better/more accurate luck cutting one layer at a time. 
  7. Find the Clover Hot Hemmer or similar to make a narrow ½” double-fold hem all around the overlay panel.
  8. To do this, fold up the raw edge ¼” all around, pressing as you go.
  9. Fold up an additional ¼” all around to create the finished hem.
  10. Clip or pin in place. We found the Clover Wonder Clips held this tiny hem flat and secure.
  11. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the overlay in the top and bobbin.
  12. Topstitch all around, removing the pins or clips as you go. For such long, long seams, we like to use our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to help keep the most precise and even stitching.
  13. Find two of the tassels. Place one at the point of each end and securely whipstitch in place.
  14. Place a drop or two of seam sealant from the stitching out about ¼”.
  15. Once the seam sealant is dry, trim away the excess tassel hanger.

Small Square tablecloth and overlay

  1. The steps for the smaller tablecloth are very similar to the long tablecloth, but actually a bit easier.
  2. You are working with a full square so there are no panels to seam together.
  3. Simply use the Clover Hot Hemmer to quickly measure and press a 2″ double fold hem all around the underlay square.
  4. Topstitch in place all around, again running the seam 1⅜” in from the finished edge.
  5. Handstitch the corners.
  6. The overlay is also even easier as there is no point to cut. Create a standard narrow hem around all four sides of the sheer square.
  7. Again, the Clover Hot Hemmer makes quick work of the tiny folds.
  8. If you are new to the clean, miter-style corners, check our our easy step by step tutorial. The Clover Wonder Clips do a great job of holding the slippery sheer in place.
  9. Topstitch the hem in place all around, pivoting at the corners. As above, we used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
  10. Stitch a tassel to each of the four corners. Add a drop of seam sealant and trim away the excess.
  11. Set your beautiful tables!


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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