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How to Measure for a Round Tablecloth

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One of the most common questions we get here at Sew4Home is how to measure for different projects. In particular, we had a number of folks who wanted to know an easy way to measure and make a simple ROUND tablecloth. Rather than go round-and-round with it ourselves, we turned to our friend and home décor expert, Donna Babylon for a few of her professional tips.

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We met Donna this year at a trade show and instantly bonded over our common goal of getting new people to understand how fun and easy it is to make their own home décor. Donna has taught and lectured on sewing for years. In fact, she holds the title of Master Sewing Instructor (one of only nine such recipients in the United States... I asked her if I had to bow when I met her, but she said no; she'd let it slide). Donna is also an indie publisher, and writes how-to sewing books and patterns under her brand, More Splash Than Cash®. Her most recent book, Decorating Sewlutions: Learn to Sew as You Decorate Your Home is her fifteenth publication. It's all about how to make simple, fashionable and creative home décor. How could you not love that?!

Here are Donna's easy steps to a perfect round tablecloth.

Measuring and calculations (aka: math)

  1. Measure the diameter of the table.
  2. Determine the desired ‘drop length', add 1½", then multiply this total by 2.
    Diagram
    NOTE: The ‘drop' of a tablecloth is the part that hangs down from the sides of the table. To determine your drop, you need to think about where and how the tablecloth is being used. For example, if the tablecloth will be used primarily for decorative purposes, you may want the skirt to be floor length. If the tablecloth is for a dining or kitchen table, the cloth should barely touch the seats of the chairs. Traditionally, a tablecloth for this purpose has an 8-12" drop. For formal dinner occasions (such as a gathering of the country's Master Sewing Instructors), the tablecloth can be floor length. When placing a dining table in a room, allow 2' for passage or at least 3-4' for serving room behind each chair. Plan a minimum of 24" for each place setting (if you have the room, 30" is preferable).
  3. Add the diameter of the table to the total number determined above in Step 2. This is the cutting measurement for the diameter of the tablecloth.
  4. Divide this diameter of the tablecloth by the width of fabric you are using. Round up to the next highest whole number. This gives you the number of fabric lengths needed to make your tablecloth.
  5. Multiply the number of lengths by the diameter of the tablecloth. This gives you the amount of fabric needed in total inches.
  6. If your fabric has a specific design repeat, multiply the repeat distance (the distance between the same design before it starts over again) by the number of lengths and add that to the total inches.
  7. Finally, divide by 36" to determine the total number of yards needed. Round number up to the nearest ¼ yard.

If you stopped paying attention and started doodling on your paper during all those instructions, here's an example with actual sample measurements.

If the diameter of your table is 42", the desired drop length is 17", and the fabric is 54" inches wide with a 7" repeat, the calculations would be:

Step 1: 42"
Step 2: (17 + 1½) x 2 = 37
Step 3: 42" + 37" = 79"
Step 4: 79" ÷ 54" = 1.46 (round up to 2)
Step 5: 2 x 79" = 158"
Step 6: 2 x 7" = 14" and 158"+ 14" = 172
Step 7: 172" ÷ 36 = 4.77 (round to 4 7/8 yards)

Construction

Note: Use a ½" seam allowance unless otherwise noted.

  1. Cut one length of fabric for your tablecloth to the measurement indicated above (for our example above, we'll cut a 79" long piece).
  2. If you need more than one fabric length, and you are matching the repeats along the selvage, you can use the first length as a guide. Place the first cut length on top of remaining fabric. Slide it up and down to match the motifs along the side edges exactly. When in position, pin to secure and cut your second length.
  3. Cut one of the lengths in half lengthwise.
    Diagram
  4. Trim the selvages from the edges of three fabric pieces. Then stitch the half-widths to each side of the whole width, matching design motifs as necessary. You can now treat this as one piece of fabric.
    Diagram
  5. Press the seams open.
  6. Fold the piece into quarters. Do this by folding it in half lengthwise, right sides together, then in half again widthwise. Make sure the edges are even and the fabric is smooth. Pin the layers together in a few places to prevent shifting.
  7. Measure from the folded corner, or pivot point, and mark with a fabric pen or pencil a distance equal to half the diameter of the tablecloth. In the example provided, this measurement would be 39½".
    Diagram
  8. You can use a tape measure to draw the arc by marking dots at regular points from the top to the bottom of your arc, then connecting the dots into a smooth curve. Or, you can tie a fabric pen to one end of a 39½" string. Have a friend hold the other end of the string securely at the pivot point. The string needs to stay taut as you draw the arc onto the fabric. It's like a little string compass.
  9. With a pair of large, sharp scissors, cut along your drawn line through all four layers. Use long, smooth cutting strokes.
  10. Remove the pins and open up your perfectly cut round tablecloth.
  11. Working in small sections, press under the raw edge of the circle 1" to the wrong side. Tuck the raw edge under again until it meets the crease (you are folding it back in on itself). You have formed a ½" double turned hem. As Donna explained to me, this is actually a home décor sewing technique. It's slightly different than how most of our tutorials on S4H deal with a standard double fold hem: folding ½", pressing and then folding again by ½". With this large curve, Donna's home décor technique is a better choice.
    Diagram
  12. Edgestitch the hem in place.

Hints and tips

  1. If all that edgestitching sounds intimidating, you could also use a fabric fusing tape. You would have to make your hem slightly deeper as the narrowest tape is ¾". Slip the tape under the fold of your hem, all the around the edge of the tablecloth, and press to adhere.
  2. Tablecloths can get a lot of wear, tear, abuse and spills. Keep this in mind when choosing the fabric.
  3. Make sure your scissors are sharp and strong enough to easily cut through four layers of fabric. Check our article on cutting tools.
  4. Work on a large, clean surface. A clean floor may be the best place so you can spread out your fabric.

Donna's More Splash Than Cash® Trash-Can Table

Create your own instant storage space with a plastic garbage can and a round piece of wood. Use the garbage can as the base and the round piece of wood as the top. Fill the garbage can with seasonal items (for example, sweaters or holiday ornaments). Disguise the 'table' with a floor-length round tablecloth you've made using the instructions above.

Our thanks again to Donna Babylon. You can contact Donna and order her books and patterns through her website: MoreSplashThanCash.com.

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Comments (17)

Lisa Christophe said:
Lisa Christophe's picture

Oh my goodness. Just made a cloth for a 60" table and guess what? When I measured and cut the circle, I cut my cloth in half! Now, I realize that you have to start at a certain corner to avoid this. Boo hoo

JoAnn D said:
JoAnn D's picture

I am making a lined round tablecloth.  Shall I make two seperate tablecloths and sew them together using the seam allowance.  That sounds reasonable to me but I thought I'd check.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ JoAnn D - there are several variables here - size and fabric type in particular. If your tablecloth is large enough that you have seamed pieces together as described above, your best bet would likely be to line up the seams on the lining and top and stitch in the ditch through all the layers. Then, you could hem the layers together. If the tablecloth is smaller, you might be able to get away with just sewing them right sides together all around the bottom, leaving an opening to turn, then slipstitching closed. Without knowing more details, I can't promise what will be best, but the two layers of a lined tablecloth will want to slip against one another, so keep that in mind when choosing your final option.  

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

Hi 

i think the instructions are superb, they are easy to follow.

Jaida's Hopechest said:
Jaida's Hopechest's picture

I have a folded round table cloth. it is folded in half then once again. the straight sides are 42 inches and the peak of the curved side is 46. How can I tell how large the cloth is without having to open it up and measure the whole thing? 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jaida's Hopechest - ha! that sounds a little too much like a 4th grade math story problem. Opening it up is your surest way to tell, but the "straight sides" should be the radius of your circle - half the diameter, which means the diameter should be 84". Now, if you have another problem that involves two trains leaving the station... I won't answer

Frieda54 said:
Frieda54's picture

I'm having a slight mental block, trying to figure out why the arc is only measured out to half of the total measurements

is it because the fabric gets folded in quarters instead of folded in half

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Frieda54 - because you are working with the radius, which is half the total (the diameter).

Joan Hendrix said:
Joan Hendrix's picture

I loved the part in your article when you said, " if you stopped paying attention and started doodling", here is an example! Great instructions!.  My new daughter-in-law is interested in learning to sew.. I think your books would be wonderful for her. 

Leticia Peacher said:
Leticia Peacher's picture

Thank you for the great images along with the instructions. Reading on how to do something is okay but I'm a visual learner so the pictures really help.

Mike V. said:
Mike V.'s picture

Can you tell me what size table cloth is needed for a round table seating 8 people?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mike V - if you have the table, you can measure it using the instructions above. Otherwise, there really isn't ay standard  since all tables are likely to be slightly different and how many people fit comfortably is really person prference. The only exception would be the round banquet rental tables - those are usually a standard size to fit 8 or 10. You could try a party rental company for a precise dimesion. 

marvelovong said:
marvelovong's picture
i love this method.so easy to follow i can make millions of these without getting bored. thank u.
Karen M. said:
Karen M.'s picture
Donna, Thank you for the great directions on the round tablecloth. I have been putting off my project for some time now (until I saw your instructions). I had an unusual size and it came out perfect!!!! Cant' wait to buy your book, and make more round cloths. I really appreciated your sample of calculations, that is what helped me. Thanks again, Karen
CourtneyAdams said:
CourtneyAdams's picture
I wish I had Donna\'s skills. She makes it seem so simple! I\'m definitely going to try to make one, and hopefully add my own special flare to it. Thanks for the article.
norskie3 said:
norskie3's picture
I met Donna at the SEW EXPO in Pullayup, WA. Her class was great and I am so happy to see you have her featured here on your website. I have her book and have learned alot from it. Your website is my favorite ever! Thank you for so many great ideas and tips. It has made my "coming back" to sewing so much fun! Now I can get started on the round tablecloth I have been putting off. Thank you! Thank you!

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