Make an Heirloom Table Runner

May 22, 2012 in handmade and vintage goods

Elizabeth Duvivier

Elizabeth Duvivier is a writer and director of the Squam Art Workshops. Squam is a lake, a gathering, and a community that is brought together by a series of retreats that aim to celebrate creativity as a way of life.

When my friend Jeanine Caron married her British boy, Joe, I knew I had to have something special to offer the newlyweds. As it happened, I had a set of four vintage napkins that had been in Jeanine’s Montreal apartment, which she gifted to me before she moved house to London. (She gave them to me because I loved them so much, so only two went into this runner. Two are still with me!)

As it happens, I knew just the person to help me incorporate this sentimental textile into an heirloom linen:  Maya Donenfeld. As Maya says, “I love taking something old and transforming it into something fresh and new.”

Thea Coughlin

Jeanine and Joe’s table runner features rescued coffee sacks on either end. The heavy weight keeps it in place and minimizes the likelihood of a breeze sweeping it up at an outdoor event. Burlap, a rustic and humble fabric, balances out the more decorative middle. Its durability and strength anchor the runner symbolically, as well as aesthetically. The focal point of the runner is a vintage linen piece that was once a part of a trousseau. The blue embroidery echoed the napkins’ blue floral fabric perfectly; the fact that it was replaying its original role as wedding linen felt just right.

As you gather elements for your project, consider using a ribbon from a mother’s wedding dress, a scrap from a grandmother’s favorite apron, or cherished vintage napkins from a dear friend, as we did in this case.

Tools & Supplies
Fabric scraps, approx. 16” wide
Coffee sacks
Sentimental bits of clothing/material
Lace or ribbons
A vintage sheet or table cloth for the backing
Measuring tape
Sewing machine
Universal needle and coordinating thread

Maya Donenfeld

Gather and Cut:
Gather all of the fabrics that will work their way into the runner. Decide on the finished width that would work best for your needs or the table it will adorn. Add 1”. The runner shown uses 16” wide pieces to make a finished piece that is 15” wide x 80” long.  Several of the pieces are created by patch-working scraps together to end up with a 16” width. Cut various lengths from your fabric selection to that chosen width + 1”.

Lay out all of your pieces for the front of the runner on the floor until you have approximately 81” or your chosen length. Enjoy the process of finding a combination that feels just right. Keep in mind that the middle of the runner will be the centerpiece on a table.

Put It All Together:

  • Step 1: Sew the front. Place the sections right side to right side and stitch along the width using the presser foot as a seam allowance guide.
  • Step 2: Turn to the wrong side and press open all of the seams.

Thea Coughlin

  • Step 3: Add lace or notions. These notions look especially nice covering the seam where two pieces are joined. I also used a decorative stitch to topstitch over the seams.
  • Step 4: Cut the back piece to match the dimension of the front. If you are using scraps of fabric you may need to sew several together. Use the same method as in step 1.
  • Step 5: Lay front and back on top of each other with right sides facing. Trim to ensure that the front and back are the same size and pin in place.

Maya Donenfeld

  • Step 6: Stitch around the entire perimeter using the presser foot as a seam allowance guide. Leave a 6” opening in the center of runner for turning.
  • Step 7: Clip off all four corners, taking care not to get too close to the stitches.
  • Step 8: Turn the runner right side out and poke out the corners with a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil. Press. Pin the opening closed and edge stitch around the entire runner, closing the hole as you go.

Maya Donenfeld

Monogram Variation: Add the bride and groom’s initials or a special word with a simple stencil. Cut a piece of freezer paper (available at most grocery stores) to fit your printer (8 ½”  x 11”) and flatten it overnight under a heavy book. Choose a font and size. Print directly onto the matte side of  the freezer paper. Cut out the letters with a craft knife. This is your stencil. Iron the shiny side of the paper directly to the runner or onto a small scrap of linen as shown here.

Apply textile paint. When dry, peel away the stencil. Heat set with an iron.

Thea Coughlin

Stitch right onto your table runner. Voila!

Thea Coughlin

Thea Coughlin

Time for a wedding celebration! Enjoy.

The Wedding Story Runner is an iteration of the Story Scarf, one of the 28 projects in Maya Donenfeld’s new book, Reinvention: Sewing With Rescued Materials, published by Wiley Craft. If you enjoy upcycling and clever reuse, do check it out right here on Etsy, on Amazon, or from your friendly local bookshop.