Monday, August 30, 2010

diy: vintage tablecloths as wall-hangings

Vintage tablecloths are an easy, cheap way to decorate a room. I don't feel art-literate enough to buy art (nor do we have much cash for investing), and I'm a dilettante photographer at best, so I fall back on these wall-hangings a lot. We currently have one each in our dining room and bedroom.

Materials and instructions follow.

You'll need:
a printed tablecloth of your choosing
1/2" (or thicker) heavy-duty foamcore, at least the size of your tablecloth
a cheap bed sheet or muslin, cut about the same size as your tablecloth
staplegun and staples
chipboard and glue (optional)

Vintage tablecloths are easy to find on eBay and in antique shops, and they can range from $5 to hundreds of dollars. (Mine were each about $12 each.) Choose tablecloths without stains, since you can't hide them with dishes and table settings. The one shown above actually has a couple of small holes on it, which I disguised by taking a colored pencil to the fabric below it.

Large pieces of 5/8" foamcore can be found at most large art supply stores, where they'll also cut it for you. I paid about $50 for a 4' x 8' sheet, enough for two wall-hangings. When picking out your foamcore, look for the heaviest-duty stuff they've got - mine is the color of craft paper, and the cover around the foam is more like cardstock than paper.

You could use stretched canvas in place of foamcore, which would be more durable, but it's difficult to find canvases exactly the size you'll need, and also expensive. I tried stretching this myself with canvas stretchers, but the result was a warped, fragile monstrosity.

To size your foamcore, lay your tablecloth on the floor, preferably on a rug, where you can stretch it out a bit. Measure to the edges of the pattern, not the edge of the tablecloth, and then add about four inches to account for stretching the tablecloth, as well as to allow for a white border around the pattern. Many square-looking tablecloths aren't exactly square, so you'll likely have two different dimensions. Have your board cut at the store, or do it yourself with a utility knife.

The edges of foamcore are prone to denting, so to make mine more durable, I cut strips of chipboard the width of the foamcore's thickness, then glued it around the edges, to toughen it up a bit.

Wrap your muslin around the foamcore: lay the muslin (or white sheet) on the floor, and place the foamcore on top. Stretch the fabric around the board by working from the middle out: Put about three staples in the center of one edge, then move to the edge opposite, then do the other sides. Then move back to the first edge, working your way gradually out to the corners. The fabric should be taut.

Now repeat, using your tablecloth, making sure the pattern is centered on the board. The staples shouldn't tear the tablecloth, and you can remove it (and use it for a tablecloth!) someday if you like.

To hang on a wall, install two screws and drywall anchors at a height corresponding with the bottom of your wall-hanging. Set the wall-hanging on top, and anchor in place with two screws holding onto the top edge.

Conversely, you can jury-rig loops onto the back, to hang it from a picture rail, as shown above. Glue two doubled-over strips of nylon grosgrain ribbon onto the back to serve as hooks (use a good bit of heavy-duty glue), then string a wire through the loops to hang it.


  1. I *LOVE* this idea! Thanks so much, I'll be linking.

  2. This is a wonderful idea. I have tons of vintage tablecloths and was searching for ways to display them. I will have to do this - thanks!

  3. You might try experimenting with 4x8 foot sheets of foam insulation at the hardware store. The stuff I use is pink, sturdy and dense (not the white stuff that looks like bubbles glued together and is a complete mess). Way cheaper than foamcore.