Entertaining Made Easy: Dress Up a Folding Table With a Fitted Tablecloth

(Photo by Bob Farley)

A folding table is a great solution for accommodating extra guests at an indoor or outdoor dinner party. It’s also useful as a serving table, or for displaying items at a festival or sale. Whether round, square, or rectangular, a to-the-floor fitted tablecloth dresses the table up to look great for any event.

I have a plastic rectangular folding table that I use for art shows, as an extra work table in my studio, and for outdoor suppers. In making the tablecloth, I like to use kick pleats at the corners to ensure guests will have plenty of leg room when seated. I put the tablecloth on the table, throw on a festive overlay, and I am good to go when company shows up.


Step 1

 Open GalleryChoose your fabric, and overestimate the amount you’ll need to allow for seams and for shrinkage during washing. (See step 2 for estimating help.) Prewash/preshrink the fabric. This is very important or you will not be able to launder without major shrinkage. I like to use canvas or a heavy raw muslin for my tablecloths. A neutral and natural color is always a great choice as a foundation when you know you’ll be adding a colorful overlay. These fabrics are also so laundry friendly. For ease of cutting and management of the fabric, roll your fabric neatly onto a cardboard fabric tube.

Step 2

 Open GalleryDo the math to figure out how many yards of fabric you’ll need for your table. My table is a standard five foot  (30″ X 60″) rectangular table. For the perimeter measurement of the table, use the formula Perimeter = 2(Length) + 2(Width). To figure for the 2-inch kick pleats on the four corners, count the two inches on each side of the pleat fold plus the matching four inches behind the pleat, and then multiply that number times four. To figure out the total length of fabric in inches for a five foot rectangular table, visualize cutting along the length of the fabric roll — length of table + perimeter + four kick pleats = total inches. Divide that total by 36″ (which is a yard) for the total yardage. Add extra for the seam allowance after the fact. For example, I rounded up from 7.6 yards to an even 10 yards for my tablecloth to account for seams and shrinkage.

Step 3

 Open GalleryPut the table face down on top of the fabric and trace it out. Rest the pencil at an angle on the lip of the table so that the pencil graphite will mark a half of an inch away from the edge of the table. The extra half inch is the seam allowance.

Step 4

 Open GalleryCut out the panels. You will have two panels, the top and the skirt. You marked the top panel in step 3, so cut it out and put it aside. Cut away the leftover bits so you have a straight end to start cutting the skirt. The remainder of the fabric will be for the skirt. Measure out what you’ll need plus the seam allowance and make a mark. The standard table height is 29″ but you’ll want a half of an inch for seam allowance for the top of the skirt so measure at 29 1/2″. Tip: Instead of figuring the hem allowance and hemming the bottom of the skirt, use the selvage edge as the finished hem. The selvage is a nice finished edge already so why not utilize it?

Step 5

 Open GallerySerge the edges of the panels with a serger (three or four thread overlock machine) or zigzag stitch the cut edges with a regular sewing machine. If you want to regularly launder the tablecloth, this is important to prevent fraying. Remember, since you are using the selvage edge, you do not need to serge that edge.

Step 6

 Open GalleryPin the top and skirt panels together. Place a pin in the middle of each corner of the table top panel to mark where the kick pleats go. Starting with an end of the skirt panel and one corner of the top panel, fold a pleat and match the fold to the center of the corner. (Pin this first pleat so that the joining ends will be hidden on the back side of the kick pleat.) Pin the table top panel to the skirt panel and continue around the perimeter of the table top, creating each kick pleat at the corners.

Step 7

 Open GallerySew together. With the top panel facing up as well as the pins on top, sew around the perimeter of the tablecloth. Take care around the corners when removing pins so that the fabric stays nice and neat and in line. Remember to lock your stitch by stitching in forward and in reverse for four or five stitch lengths at the beginning and at the end of your stitch line.

Step 8

 Open GalleryTurn right side out and put on tablecloth. Top with an overlay (or not) and enjoy a gathering with friends or family, indoors or out.


  • fabric (such as canvas or heavy muslin)
  • thread



  • pencil
  • measuring tape
  • straightedge
  • pins
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
About Michelle Reynolds 


I’m a slipcover maker who refuses to fill the trash with the cutaway bits of designer fabrics, so I strive to make use of every scrap. I live with my ...

More About Michelle Reynolds

2 Responses

  1. reader says:

    Re the kick pleat measurement graphic in step 2 – I believe 4"x8" = 32" , not 64".

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