Recycling Fabric Scraps into a Picnic Cloth

Simple sewing and quilt patterns turn fabric scraps into outdoor material.

| July/August 1983

While refinishing our picnic table and benches early this summer, I wondered just what I could use for a sturdy, yet attractive, outdoor tablecloth. I knew what I wasn't going to use: I'm tired of the plastic that's made its way into every aspect of our lives, so I refuse to buy any vinyl table drapes. I also refuse to buy a supply of flimsy, expensive paper covers that make me feel I'm destroying a tree every time I use one! On the other hand, new cotton tablecloths can be quite costly, and I don't like to use my "best" linens outside, where they can get irreparably damaged. So what else was left?!

By the time I'd finished re-doing the last bench, I'd finally reached a solution. I decided to go through my boxes of recyclable fabrics and sew my own table cover. One particular crate was nearly filled with old blue-jean material, including cutoffs, castoffs, outgrown shirts, and worn-out pants. Some of these were faded, some were discarded designer fashions, and some were used economy specials: I had them all. I'd been saving them with the idea of making a piecework camp comforter . . . but I needed that tablecloth.

I happened to have enough scraps to make a cloth that would cover my table, with room to spare. (If there had been too few pieces, however, I could have made a runner for the center of the table, instead. . .runners are fashionable now, as well as practical.)

A quick check of my quilt patterns brought to light the simplest possible basic motif a triangle. To make things easy for myself, then, I decided to make a pieced cloth, using triangles measuring 6-1/2" at the base and 6" on each side. It struck me that the sections would look attractive if they were zigzag stitched together with red thread, so I bought two spools on sale, at 39 cents each.

The whole thing took me three or four quiet afternoons at my sewing machine. The bright thread looked so nice that I finished off the cloth by banding it with a remnant of colorful red material I'd saved. As simple as that, there it was. . .a durable, pretty picnic cloth for only 78 cents!

When I spread the cover out, I must confess, the table looked so handsome that I splurged and bought a supply of red bandanna handkerchiefs to use as napkins. Actually, those squares are quite functional, too, since they're 100 percent cotton, and big enough to wipe fingers clean even after a meal of corn on the cob and barbecued ribs.

I should add that I'm still saving old Levi's . . . because my next project is to make cushions for those picnic benches! 
Alison Green
6/4/2011 11:48:27 PM

My family goes through a lot of jeans and after they have been mended and mended they are too ratty to give away so I have been cutting them in strips and weaving them into rugs, mats and table runners, but I still have many left. Your quilted picnic cloth beautiful and looks sturdy. I'm going to try that next. Thanks for sharing your idea.

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