The Secret Costumier - #Usedtobeatablecloth sewing challenge

It used to be a tablecloth…

I was so amazed by the many comments that post about a tablecloth turned into the Little White Dress received, that I decided I will take Marijana’s (from Sew2Pro) advice and set up a little challenge. The aim, quite simply, is to encourage everyone out there with some old linen in the bottom of their drawer, to turn it into the ultimate summer piece.

The prize to be won is that feeling you get when someone asks where you bought that awesome dress/cute top/lovely skirt, and you get to say that you’ve made it with your own two hands…and that it #usedtobeatablecloth.

If you are interested (and I really hope you are!), here is a quick breakdown of the challenge:

The objective:

Turn an old piece of cloth (curtain/tablecloth/napkin/bed linen/etc.) into a garment. To me, nothing says summer more than a heavily embroidered, lacy, romantic summer dress/top/skirt. I think upcycling is the most rewarding way to create a garment. In this case you get to work with some beautiful fabrics, and you are actually doing good by giving a new life to something long forgotten.


  • You will need an old tablecloth/bed linen/curtain/cloth napkins/etc. You could either use something you find at home, or you could buy an antique/vintage one from a charity shop, or from online (eBay is fantastic for this).
  • You can also add trimmings, pompoms, ribbons, or any other materials you have at hand.

What to look for:

  • Your search words should be something like: embroidery, lace detail, drawn threadwork, Madeira, Irish lace, linen, etc.
  • When using vintage materials it is very likely to get some stains or tears on the fabric. Do check for these, but don’t worry too much, with careful designing and cutting, you can get away with most of them.
  • You should also consider the shape and size of what you are buying. For example, a circle tablecloth might work beautifully with certain designs, but it could be very challenging with others.

And here comes the exciting part: what should you make out of your tablecloth you ask?

I made a dress and an off the shoulder top (see above) from mine, with some fabric still left over, but the possibilities are endless. The bigger linen you can get your hands on, the more options you’ll have.

Here are a few inspirational images of clothes probably not made of curtains or tablecloths, but they could have totally been 🙂

12, 3456,  78,  9, 10,  11121314, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 2021, 22,  2324,

Where do I sign up, you ask? In the comments please! I’d love to see what everyone is up to (not just tablecloth refashioning wise, btw), and if you let me know once you’re done, I would love to share your creations here. If you could  just put down your name and your blog’s url/your email address, and say if you’d like to be added to the Pinterest board -so that you can pin there too-, that would be awesome! For now you will find some more inspirational images, but I’m hoping it will fill up with your photos.

You can also use the #usedtobeatablecloth (or curtain/bed linen/whatever it used to be) hashtag on Instagram or Twitter if that’s more your thing.

Since “the ultimate inspiration is the deadline”, here is one:

Saturday 27th August 2016

If you finish your piece earlier, you’ll have more time to wear it and you’ll be able to take some great holiday photos in it. If you finish it just in time, you’ll still have the Indian summer to take it for a test run.

I am making another piece and I’ll share my progress here every week, so if you’d like to follow along, in the next 5 weeks I will post about how I:

  • select the material;
  • choose the design with the fabric in mind;
  • choose/draft the most appropriate pattern;
  • cut and sew the garment.

If you have any questions, need help with anything at all, I am more than happy to help. Happy sewing! 🙂


16 thoughts on “It used to be a tablecloth…

  1. Yes, count me in for sure! I’m almost finished with a slip style dress from a jersey bedsheet I picked up from a thrift store and I’m dying to make something lacy and pretty with the old linens in my collection. Fun idea 🙂

  2. This is such a lovely top, and your dress was gorgeous too! Hmm I’m now thinking about what vintage tablecloths I’ve got at home, and now have yet another thing to look for in charity shops. If I have anything suitable then I’ll definitely join in!

    • Thank you Kathryn! It would be awesome if you could join! The second dress I’ll be making will be from a salmon coloured tablecloth, but I was considering dying one too. Maybe that would work for something you may find as well…

  3. Pingback: The off the shoulder top | The Secret Costumier

  4. Hi Etemi
    I read this while on holiday but couldn’t comment. Yes, I would totally love to do this and will start scouting the charity shops soon as I finish my Six Napoleon dress. I would love to find a tablecloth just like yours and maybe dye it indigo. I know exactly the design I’d go for (again, similar to yours: no originality planned 🙂 ) If I don’t find anything, there’s back up: my mum has tye-dye traditional Sierra Leoneon table cloths I could probably steal (the food stains are hidden in the colours and patterns)

    • That would be so great!! I have now added a panel to the front of that dress for decency’s sake, but I think it is one of the most straight forward styles and you can really show off the decorative edges. I love indigo dyed clothes, I think that’s a brilliant idea, and the Sierra Leonean tablecloth sounds really interesting too. I have focused so much on what I already know (European style embroidered ones), that I haven’t even thought about all the other possibilities!

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