How to make a tablecloth for a garden table

In this article, we are taking an in-depth look at how to make a tablecloth for a garden table, from how to measure and cut the fabric to pinning a hem and finishing with the sewing machine.

About a year ago we published our how to make cushion covers for outdoor furniture post and it has proven to be very popular. This month we thought it would be nice to look at another DIY project and explore how to make a tablecloth for a garden table.

Our garden tables are made of pretty tough stuff, they feature a durable painted finish that protects the metal from the elements. A tablecloth, however, can be added to provide a little extra protection if you’re hosting guests. 

They’ll keep any spills off to save on cleaning, and if somebody was to drop something heavy, such as a knife, it would reduce the likelihood of it scratching or chipping the paintwork. A good tablecloth is not just about providing a little extra protection though, they also look great too... 

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table

A well-dressed table lets you showcase your personal style and is a great way to make guests feel like you've rolled the red carpet out. If hosting a garden party or BBQ, then a good tablecloth can also help pull a theme together. 

Of course, you could purchase an outdoor tablecloth or get one made-to-measure for a more bespoke fit or unique shape such as our oval garden tables.

However, if you’re not afraid of the sewing machine, then why not make your own? That way you can pick the perfect fabric and ensure it is the perfect fit for your garden table. Plus, you can save a little cash and it's a fun thing to do.

In this post, we want to look at how you can tackle the project, and we’ll focus on what we think is the best way to make it with basic sewing machine skills.

How to make a basic tablecloth for a garden table

If you can run a nice straight-running stitch with a sewing machine, then you can make a tablecloth for a garden table in a couple of hours. 

In fact, as someone with (very) basic sewing machine skills, the hardest part is not the stitching but more the cutting and measuring the table to work out how much fabric you need, etc.

However, take your time, follow these steps, and the process is relatively straightforward.

1. Pick your fabric

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Pick your fabric

Picking your fabric might sound like we are starting with an easy one and you can just go for whatever you like, however, there are a few things you need to think about.

Many of the garden tablecloths you can purchase are designed to offer good water/stain resistance such as acrylic and PVC. But, for us, they lack a little in the style department and do you want to say to your guests that you’re worried about them spilling food and drinks? 

A good middle-ground is an oilcloth fabric which is made from woven cotton and coated with polyvinyl chloride to provide stain resistance and waterproofing. It is a little softer (although still has a definite outdoor fabric feel) and will sit on our garden tables much better.

Oilcloth can be a little tricky to work with though, so you need to be confident with the sewing machine. The coating gives the fabric a rough texture that can be a little 'slippery' so we would suggest a Teflon foot and a heavier-weight of needle (such as a 90/14 or 100/16 denim needle) if you go down this route.

If you’re a beginner, then our advice would be just to work with good-quality cotton or linen. It won’t stand up to the elements and will probably need a wash after use but it is easier to work with, will look great on our garden tables and they'll be perfectly fine (and easy to clean) if there are any spills anyway.

2. Measure your garden table

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Measure your garden table

When we talk about measuring on this blog it is usually the spot you want our garden tables to fit, however, this time it is just the tabletop itself. You will find the dimensions for each of our tables on the product pages in our shop. Just scroll down past the gift to the Description section.

For example, our bestselling June set the table's dimensions are shown in the diagram below. In terms of the measurements you need to make a tablecloth, we would still advise you to measure yourself.

June Garden Table Dimensions

Our diagrams are for patio placement only (see seating space and working space shown above) and they could have been rounded up or down by a few millimetres. To ensure you make a perfectly fitting and hanging tablecloth, measure the top of the table as follows: 

  • Rectangle Garden Tables
    With a tape measure, measure the length and width of the tabletop down the centre. Note them down on a piece of paper as you will need them for the next step where we add the desired drop and calculate how much fabric we will need.
  • Square Garden Tables
    For a square table do exactly the same as a rectangle. With a tape measure, measure the length and width of the tabletop and make a note for the next steps.
  • Round Garden Tables
    If you have a round garden table then rather than measuring the width and length, you just need the diameter. This is defined as the “straight line segment that passes through the centre of a circle”, so basically the length from one side to the other right down the middle of the table. 
  • Oval Garden Tables
    Oval tables are a sort of combination of all the above and are effectively half rectangle/half circle. At this stage we are simply looking to calculate the amount of fabric we need, so you simply measure the widest and longest parts like a rectangle but down the centre like a circular table.

3. Calculate your drop

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Calculate your drop

Once you have the tabletop measurements noted down, the next step is to calculate how much "drop" you want, and the drop is simply the length of the fabric that will hang down from the edge of your garden table.

As a general rule of thumb, for casual outdoor dining, we would recommend a drop of between 8 and 12 inches (approx. 20 and 30cm).

However, the drop very much depends on the look/style you are going for. If you want a more formal look, then they are generally longer and will touch the floor, so simply adjust your measurement for how long you want the drop to be. 

Most fabric is sold in the UK by the linear yard. One linear yard equals 36 inches and the width will vary based on the roll of fabric.

So, our advice is to take your measurements in whichever unit you are comfortable with but then use a converter such as Unit Converters to have the final figures in inches.

4. Calculate how much fabric you need

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Calculate how much fabric you need

We now have the tabletop dimensions of width + length + drop for square, rectangle and oval garden tables or diameter + drop if you have a round table.

The next step is to use a formula and calculator to work out how much fabric (the yardage) you will need for the tablecloth:

Square, Rectangle and Oval Garden Tables

The best way to calculate how much fabric you need is to work out the length and width separately and then multiply them to get the total amount you need.

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | June Oval Garden Table

If we take our oval-shaped June garden table as an example, the tabletop is 59 inches x 37.5 inches (150 cm x 95 cm), so the formula for calculating how much fabric is:

  • Width = Table Width + Drop x 2 + Hem x 2
  • Length = Table Length + Drop x 2 + Hem x 2

This formula will give you enough fabric to cover the tabletop plus the drop on all 4 sides and enough fabric to create the hem so the fabric doesn’t fray. 

If we say we want a 9-inch drop and a ½ inch hem, then our calculation is:

  • Length = 59 + 18 + 1 = 78 inches
  • Width = 37.5 + 18 + 1 = 56.5 inches

We would also, to be on the safe side, advise that you round up, so for June the tablecloth dimensions are: 78 inches x 57 inches.

The next step is to calculate the yardage of fabric required.

First, work out the number of widths. We do this by taking the tablecloth width and dividing it by the width of the fabric and then rounding it up.

If the width needed is wider than the fabric supplied, then you need to purchase multiple pieces long enough and sew them together to get the width. 

If we use a roll of Polycotton Gingham from Online Fabrics as an example,  it is supplied as a 44-inch wide roll, then the number of widths we would need is:

  • Number of Widths = 57 inches / 44 inches = 1.29 so we round up to 2

Rounding up will also give us enough fabric for any seams we need to join the two widths of fabric together.

To calculate the total number of yards we need for our June table, we take the table length, multiply it by the number of widths and divide it by 36 to convert inches to yards:

  • Total Yards Needed = 78 inches x 2 = 156 inches / 36 = 4.33 yards

Rounded up that means we need 5 yards of fabric to make a tablecloth for our June Oval Garden Table, which will cost you around £20.

Ideally, you want to look to purchase a roll of fabric that is 57 inches or wider and then there is no need to join pieces to get the correct width, so shop around or speak to your local shop.

The same formula would apply to square and rectangle tables, the difference being there would be less waste when it comes to cutting.

Round Garden Tables

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Mia Round Garden Tables

For a round garden table, you will need a square from which you can cut the circle, and the formula for calculating the area (and therefore the amount of fabric you will need) is as follows: 

Start by measuring the diameter of your table. For this example, we will use our best-selling Mia 4-Seater Garden Table in Antique Bronze (pictured above), which has a 88 cm (or 34.7 inches) diameter top.

The next step is to add on the drop and hem, so the formula this time is: 

  • Diameter + Drop x 2 + Hem x 2 

For our Mia table, if we work in inches, and add a 9-inch drop with ½ inch hem again:

  • Mia = 34.7 inches + 18 inches + 1 inch = 53.7 inches which we would round up to 54 inches

Again, as the table is larger than the 44-inch wide roll we used as an example above, then we would need multiple pieces to create the correct width.

To calculate the total number of yards we need for our Mia table, we take the table diameter, multiply it by the number of widths needed (2) and divide it by 36 to convert inches to yards:

  • Total Yards Needed = 54 inches x 2 = 108 inches / 36 = 3 yards

5. Cut the fabric

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Cut the fabric

This is maybe the most stressful part. Even if you make a mistake when sewing the hem (easily done with a sewing machine) it is often easy to correct. Make a wrong cut and it’s not so easy to fix.

So take your time and make sure you have a good (and by good we mean tight and sharp) pair of dressmakers shears/scissors such as the Dos Plumas Tailors Shears from H Webber & Sons.

Place your fabric face down and mark out the area you want to cut with Tailors Chalk. To cut out and mark up the circle or the curves on an oval table, Tina Herringshaw has a great hack for cutting a perfect circle out of fabric in the video below: 

Take your time and cut smoothly and slowly. Don’t worry if it is a little jagged as you will create a neat edge when you hem the tablecloth.

If you are a little worried about cutting, then most fabric suppliers will often cut to size if you supply them with the yardage you require/dimensions of the tabletop.

6. Pin your hem

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Pin your hem

This for us is the fun part. This is when you see it take shape and really see what the finished tablecloth will look/hang like. 

For the simple ½ hem we specified in our dimensions, fold the edges of the fabric ½ inch under and press it down with a steam iron and a little spray starch to get a nice crisp crease if need be.

Fold it under again by another ½ inch to hide your cut edge, press again with the iron and pin the hem in place as you work your way around.

7. Sew hem and finish

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table | Sew hem and finish

Start by picking a good quality thread that will either match, complement or contrast well with the fabric colour.

Set up your sewing machine and position the sewing machine needle a ¼ inch from the top of your half hem.

Sew a medium-length straight stitch around the tablecloth hem and remove the pins as you work your way along the hem.

If you are new to a sewing machine or have not used one in a while, run a few practice lines on some scraps of fabric to get a feel for it before you tackle the job on your actual tablecloth fabric.

How to make a tablecloth for a garden table videos

I’m sure this is a subject we will revisit in the future for the DIY section on our blog, so please watch this space as they say. 

We have a whole host of tips and tricks to share, from making a garden tablecloth without the need for a sewing machine to converting an old indoor tablecloth for outdoor use.

In the meantime, if you wanted to do a little more research, then the following videos are a great place to start.

First up, we have the OnlineFabricStore with this great overview of how to make an easy-to-clean scalloped tablecloth.

If you’re in a hurry, then Amaryllis show you how to sew a fitted tablecloth in less than 30 minutes.

Sewing Craft DIY have produced this great video if you want to know a little more about how best to sew a tablecloth for one of our round garden tables.

And last up, we have Hello Sewing, which has this great overview on how to make a tablecloth to fit any table shape that’s super easy to follow.

If you have any photos of your Lazy Susan garden tables in situ with a tablecloth you’ve made, then we’d love to see some for our Do Some Good charity campaign. You can tag us @LazySusanFurniture on Instagram or Facebook or email them to us at [email protected].

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