Vintage Tablecloth Rescue: Redeemed from Life in the Linen Closet

They call it “voluntary simplicity” – that thing where you rid yourself of all but the items you need to function on a daily basis, freeing your family to embrace experiences rather than stuff.

While I envy the wiggle room this lifestyle provides to its adherers, I don’t think I’ll ever hop on board the minimalist train. For starters, what few items of my precious stuff would I pack for the journey?

I prefer to blame it on a combination of frugality and creativity. Eventually, I get around to doing way cool projects with the things I’ve kept and a pleasing part of the outcome is that I haven’t wasted any money.

I do, however have an artist/writer friend who keeps nothing. I recall her bare-bones medicine cabinet. If no one in the family had a headache, stomach ache or cold, she’d throw all the over-the-counter meds in the trash (expired or not). I saw this as an act of faith. I preferred, however, not to take the risk of waking in the middle of the night moaning, “Where, oh where is my Pepto!”

If I must erase the excesses from my life, I’ll skip the latest movie or restaurant and surround myself with books, antiques and fodder for my next creative whim.

For years now, I’ve had a stack of stained and tattered vintage tablecloths, given to me by my mom. Cute in their day, they’d long ago become something you wouldn’t want out for everyday, much less entertaining. Add to that the fact that they didn’t fit any of my tables and they’d become nothing more than closet filler.

Recently, I decided to do something about it. I gave a couple of the really tattered ones to a creative friend, knowing that they’d undergo some transformation that I couldn’t imagine. That left me with my favorite – an aqua blue tablecloth with pink and gray ferns and a white border.

I took my idea and my tablecloth to Hobby Lobby and spent under five dollars.

After hauling out the rotary cutter and mat, I released a deep sigh, promising Mom and the tablecloth that it was all for the best. Here’s how I dissected it.

Tablecloth Cuts


The white border was tattered beyond repair, so I trimmed it off. It is already gone in the above photo. There were no holes and stains on the corners because, having hung off the table, they’d been out of the way of spills. The center looked good, but the area surrounding it had plenty of wear and stains.

I removed the corner pieces, cutting them into 12” squares. Then, I cut the center into a perfect square around the fern pattern.

Next, I took the center square to my serger and finished the edge, not only to keep it from unraveling, but also to create the straight line of stitches that would give me an easy guide for turning over the edge for finishing.

Serged Edge

(If you do not have a serger, use any wide stitch on your sewing machine that will give a nice, straight line for folding.)

Now for my Hobby Lobby find. I happened across this gross-grain ribbon. It’s scalloped pattern in the colors of my tablecloth made it the ideal trim and the black edge gave a nice touch. Turning the serged edge of the cloth toward the RIGHT side of the fabric, I stitched the ribbon carefully along the edge so that when I finished, the edge of the fabric would be concealed under the ribbon.

Attaching Ribbon

Each time I reached a corner, I lifted the presser foot and rotated the fabric, pulling the ribbon around to keep the edge of the ribbon even with the folded edge of the fabric. Once I made it around all four sides, I stopped, cutting the ribbon straight across so that I could turn the end under.

Next, I attended to the corners, carefully cutting the ribbon almost to the stitching line, allowing one of the cut ends to lay flat while folding the other under at a 45 degree angle to give the corner a mitered appearance. I top-stitched over this, tacking the corners into place.

Stitching Corners

Now, just as I stitched the other edge of the ribbon, I changed my thread color and stitched all around the inside edge.

Inner Edges

This encases the edge of the fabric neatly inside the ribbon between the two rows of stitches and finishes this part of the project. How cute is that to place in the center of any table – round or square?

But what about those four corners I sliced off? I took those to the serger as well, adjusting it to apply a picot edging to all four pieces. You could do a rolled hem or just a narrow hem on the sewing machine if you prefer.

The result? A centerpiece cloth and four of the cutest luncheon napkins, minus all the tatters and stains!

Vintage Linen Set

I’m more than pleased. I especially like how the fern pattern, flowing from one corner of each napkin, gives them a different look depending on how you fold them.  Above, they’re shown four different ways.  Now redeemed from life in the linen closet, this lovely set is ready to be used, admired and passed on.  Mom would approve.  She was adept at making something out of nothing and you can get a glimpse of that here.

I won’t tell you, however, how many more treasures like this I own that hide way in the dark, waiting for my next brainstorm. I don’t really know how many. Another of my rescues, a battered, old clothes hamper, can be seen here. I’ve been known to rescue things that would otherwise be nothing but compost and you can check that out here.

You can help by sharing your ideas! Scroll back up to the beginning of this post and leave a comment. What treasures have you rescued and how did you do it?

Maybe I can help! Tell me what you’ve got and, who knows! I might get an idea. If you’d like to send a photo, go to the “Contact” page and email it to me.

Maybe together we can, as the old song says, “Rescue the Perishing”!

8 thoughts on “Vintage Tablecloth Rescue: Redeemed from Life in the Linen Closet

  1. Cousin, I want the centerpiece cloth and four of the cutest luncheon napkins. It is really beautiful. You did a wonderful job.

    1. Thank you! Those old tablecloths remind me of when we’d come over to your house on Sunday afternoons and Aunt Hazel Lee would have us stay for supper and she’d fix boiled weenies and “whatever”.

  2. I am so happy to say that I was given this special work of art for my birthday. It looks beautiful on my dining room table and brings to mind sweet memories of Mom and Barb. Thank you so much, Barb!

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