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Sewing tablecloth with PVC fabric - can you help?!

Hi all - can I pick your brains?

I’ve got one of those white plastic tables in my garden - a big oval one that seats 6 and is nice and sturdy… but ugly! It’s ancient and the tabletop has got really discoloured. Scrubbing it with bleach etc has no effect, so at the weekend we bought some white spray paint to go over the top with. But, even once we’ve painted it back to bright white again the problem is I still won’t like it! I don’t want to just get rid of it because it’s a really good table, I just don’t really like it and I find the bright white glares so much on a sunny day its blinding.

So… I had an ‘aha’ moment: what about making a tablecloth that can basically live on it all over the summer: something made from PVC oilcloth type stuff, but something that’s fitted (elasticated probably) so that it stays put and just moulds itself to the tabletop. But I’ve never sewn with this stuff before and I’m not sure if my ancient sewing machine would be up to the job. Have you ever worked with it? Would I need to buy some sort of heavy duty needle to go through it?

What I have in my head is basically: buy fabric, lay table upside down on top of it, cut around fabric following shape of table and leaving enough allowance to wrap around the edge of the table and make a turn up, sew a turn up/channel and thread elastic through the channel, and finally sew the ends of the elastic together and finish off the channel by handsewing. Would that work? Would the fabric gather OK given that it’s PVC stuff do you think? Is there a better way of doing it?!

This is the kind of thing I wanted to achieve (but with an oval shaped table):

Or this, which makes it sound very easy!:

Any advice gratefully received! :wink:
Sarah x

You can get 2 types of pvc oilcloth, the thinner fabric is perfect for covering your table, the thicker laminated cotton might be a bit too thick to gather. I have sewn both with a bog standard sewing machine and a normal needle. Have a practice before you make the real thing. Show us a pic when it’s completed. Happy sewing.

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I have used the thick and thinner pvc. The thinner would be easier to turn over the channel, test your machine using probably a size 16 needle would be ideal. When making the channel for the elastic, tape at intervals round the turn under. You may have to pleat in the excess at intervals but once elasticated would not be seen. Hope that makes sense.

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Some machines don’t like the ‘stickiness’ of pvc fabrics - mine doesn’t - so if your’s doesn’t either, you can buy a Teflon sewing foot that is basically non-stick, or you can try covering the bottom of your normal sewing foot with masking tape or sew through some tissue paper and tear it away afterwards.


I’m not really sure how neatly or well it would gather but if you don’t mind it being a bit bulky or lumpy at the edges it’ll do the job.

The one thing I’ll say is that it can be difficult to sew as the surface is slippy and the feed dogs and presser foot on the machine can’t always grip it. You can solve that problem by sticking some masking tape on the plate around the feed dogs and another bit on the bottom of the presser foot.

Hope that helps.

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Lol Christine - we were both typing this at the same time! Great minds eh?! :rofl:

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Oh you are all lovely! I didn’t realise that there are two different weights of fabric: I’ll definitely look for the thinner one, thanks for that tip! My machine is ancient (and I mean, ancient: over 30 years old, I’ve had it since I was a kid) so I don’t think I’d be able to buy a special foot for it but I love the idea of the masking tape, that sounds genius - I’ll definitely bear that in mind.

@Caroleecrafts, when you mention about taping at intervals, do you mean not running the elastic all the way around the table cloth? I was just planning on making it like a giant oval shower hat sort of thing (!) - do you think I should do it differently?

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No Sarah, what I meant was when you turn the casing over tape it in place otherwise it can slip when stitched

Ah, I’m with you - good thought, thank you! x

Alternatively could you not use some tablecloth clips to hold it in place rather than trying to gather?

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That would certainly make a good plan B Kim, yes - especially as I’ve just found some fun pink flamingo shaped ones!

I’m also starting to think about whether I could actually glue it on rather than sew…

Honestly, I’ve spent far too much time thinking about this today, I’ve fallen down so many Pinterest & Google shaped rabbit holes!!! :rabbit2::timer_clock::wastebasket:

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