How to Make a Table Runner Out of a Table Cloth – for Everyday or the Holidays

December 5, 2019

With the holidays coming up, my husband asked if we had a table runner to go with our Thanksgiving decor. I thought about it and said, “nope, we only have a Christmasy one”. I looked everywhere I went but could not find anything remotely good looking plus nothing pre-made would fit our monster table. So out of necessity a new project is born and of course I said, “I can make a table runner!” (Yes, this post was started before Thanksgiving, and now it is after Thanksgiving, very astute observation.) Let’s make a table runner out of a tablecloth!

Monster Table that Standard Table Runners Won't Fit!
Monster table that standard table runners won’t fit! 96 inches fully extended.

I knew I would have trouble finding one the right length in a store so I decided to make one myself. Enter genius idea to take a table cloth and make it into a table runner. At first I thought it would be a great idea but I HATE wasting things if I don’t have to… So I decided I would make two table runners from one table cloth. Problem mostly solved. I brought home the table cloth from Kohl’s (it was free after all my coupons and Kohl’s cash – SCORE!!)

Short on time right now? If you want to save this for later, pin to your favorite sewing board on Pinterest!

Table runner on a table

The Table Cloth

Table Cloth to Table Runner Project
The short lived table cloth.

…and tried it out on the table, just to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake cutting into it.

Table Cloth to Table Runner Project
Ummmm, this isn’t going to work. Hate to break it to you…

So at least I made the right choice, table runner it is. The table cloth as a table cloth is just tooooo much. Our table is great and I want to show that off.

The Table Runner

Here is my way of testing out the table runner idea. I was going to just cut it down the middle and make two, but it was way too wide so I folded it in thirds.

How to make a table cloth into a table runner
This looks much better, don’t you think?

Ignore the sun glare, I was just so glad the sun was actually out! This plaid worked out well, when you have a woven plaid fabric, you know that the lines are straight. I could have measured everything and did a little more math to make the perfect sized table runners, but I prefer finished over PERFECT (click on the link to see how I feel about the word PERFECT).

You can measure all you want. Here is what you need to know:

● Typically you want a table runner to fall 6 inches off each end
● Typically you want nice neat edges
● Typically you have a hem on all sides
● Typically you would see a .5 inch double hem on a project like this

When you are cutting into a pre-made item, it will already have seams around the edges. When I cut into this table cloth, I did a quick measurement to make it into thirds simply by folding it into thirds the long way. I didn’t really take into account the fact that there are seams on the outer edges and that would affect my measurements. I just don’t need to worry about that this time. If you want to end up with three runners exactly the same width, you can do the math keeping in mind that each side has about an inch (measure your tablecloth just to make sure) that is taken up in the side hems. Measure twice, cut once!

I am thankful for plaid, no measuring!

Plaid Fabric

How to make a table cloth into a table runner
Folded in thirds, quick way to ‘measure’ your project.

If this were any other kind of pattern, I would have measured it properly. The fact that the tablecloth was the right color combo, plaid, and very affordable meant I was going to choose it no matter what to make a table runner. When I see a way to make something easier, I usually go for it. Not being lazy, but rather keeping in mind that FINISHED is better than perfect.

How to make a table cloth into a table runner
Using scissors along the plaid pattern.

Again, since it was plaid, I marked where the cut line was (after folding it in thirds, I literally held my finger there to mark the spot, always feel free to actually measure). Using my best scissors and a steady hand, I followed a nice white stripe the whole way through to the other side. (I keep thinking about the Doors song, ‘Break on Through to the Other Side’ when I read that…)

Not Plaid Fabric

To get a straight cut on a non-plaid fabric here is what you do:

Note: ‘Final Size/Measurement‘ means the size of the item when it is all done, after all the hems and seams are made etc. ‘Cut Size/Measurement‘ means the size you need to cut something in order for it to turn out the correct size (final size/measurement) after you do all the things you need to do to it.

Lay out your fabric on a cutting mat. Make sure the area you want to cut is actually on the mat (don’t ask why I’m reminding you). We are kind of assuming that the finished edge is pretty straight already since it was sewn at the factory. Take a 6″ by 24″ ruler if you have one and place the long edge of it on the mark where you need to cut. Line up the bottom edge (as seen here) with a row of dots or marks on the ruler. In this photo it would have been the bottom edge of those yellow lines next to the 10″ mark. You want that line perpendicular to the mark where you need to cut. Cut using a rotary cutter as far as you can without going off the mat or off the end of the ruler.

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Cut along the edge of the ruler, being careful with your fingers.

When you reach the end of the ruler or cutting mat, you can either move the fabric towards you and move the ruler up, carefully lining the cut you just made with the edge of the ruler. Or you can use another ruler butted up the side of the first ruler. It seems kinda silly to use an extra ruler, but I find it easier than lining up the one long ruler to the cut you already made.

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
With the two rulers next to each other and lined up, continue to cut with the rotary cutter.

You can pick whatever method makes you feel more comfortable and will make your cut more accurate. I have used this double ruler method on really long pieces by moving the mat down the length of the fabric. Then moving the rulers one after the other like leapfrog down the edge of the fabric while it is on a hard floor.

How to make a table runner from a table clothHow to make a table runner from a table cloth
Table cloth cut into thirds, two sections on the table, extra third folded.
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Hemming the newly cut edges

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Seam ripper in action

Once your table cloth is cut into thirds, we need to open up the hem on the pre-finished edge. We want to continue the same finishing method/order of operation as the original table cloth. The short sides were hemmed before the long sides. By opening up this seam, we can hem the short edge first and then the long edge, the same way the manufacturer made it in the first place.

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Opening up the hem in order to finish our newly cut edge.
How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Measure hem that is still intact

I measured and made note of the hem width on the finished side. We want to repeat that on the side we just cut. On this most helpful tool, which I do not know its proper title, there is a little blue sliding pointy thing. Move that to where the edge of the hem is and don’t touch it again, it will stay there so you don’t have to use the numbers on the ruler. The blue thingy just sort of rests under the thickness of the hem. Just line up the blue thingy again and it’s magically measured for you!

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Fold over once, slightly less than what your finished hem measured

When working with a finished project like this, you’ll notice that there are double hems. A double hem is an edge that is folded over twice then sewn to hide the cut edge, preventing the fabric from fraying. Most items we use and wear have a double hem. Look at your shirt hem, most likely no raw edge showing. It helps if the first fold is just a thread short of the finished hem width to allow for room when folding over the fabric twice.

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Fold over again to get that double hem and measure to make sure it is the same as the finished edge you measured.

This is one of my favorite sewing tools! Whenever I buy someone their first sewing kit, I include this handy ruler.

Now that we have our double hem measured, we need to pin it. This is the part where I cringe, I always poke myself with pins. No matter how careful, I’m just accident prone, I guess… Pin all the way down the length of the runner, leaving about 3-4 inches between pins. You can do them closer or further apart, the decision is up to you. I like this width because this is about how long the hem will stay where you want it to without wanting to unfold. I would suggest ironing the hem now or as you go along pinning the side. It will make the finished product look more professional, make it easier to sew and it’s easier to iron than your button up shirt! Just don’t burn yourself (don’t ask about that either, accident prone I tell you).

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Pin the edges to keep the double hem in place while sewing.


Jump over to your sewing machine that already has a matching color thread in the machine and bobbin. WooHoo, MAGIC! If you don’t have the PERFECT color, just use something that disappears when you hold it on the fabric. This one came with a bright red thread, which didn’t match anything closely yet was not visible. Make do with what you have, no one but you will notice that the thread on two hems is different than the other two if you find a thread that blends well.

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Take it over to the machine

I have my stitch set to a medium length, too close together and it will take all day to stitch it and look a little wonky. Too far apart and it will not have as crisp an edge. You can always test out the stitch length on a spare bit of fabric and compare it to the original seam. Neatly hem the side that is pinned, with the fold on the top side so you can see where you need to stitch. Keep your stitches in about 1/8 or less from the edge of the first fold, see the original hem if you want a good example of stitch placement.

Secure your stitches

This is a case where you want to start stitching from the very top edge, but stop after about 3/4 inch. Put your machine in reverse and sew along the stitch line you just created and stop at the first stitch. Start stitching moving forward again so the table runner moves away from you and continue until you reach the far end. You just secured the thread so it will not come out. When you get to the far end, do the same maneuver. From that last stitch at the edge, put the machine in reverse, stitch backwards for about 3/4 inch. Next, put the machine back into normal stitch direction and sew off the edge. I like to sew off the edge, I just think it feels like I’m living dangerously. We don’t want to sew onto the first edge, things tend to get messy and tangled when we do that, but sewing off the ‘cliff’ is ok…

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
Now onto the second edge

With the first side hemmed, take the second side and pin until you reach the already hemmed edge. There should only be a few inches of hem that was undone on this edge. Put another pin in past the last stitch that was cut. You need to sew past that last cut stitch, over the previous stitches/thread for a few inches in order to secure the old thread. We do not want this coming undone!

How to make a table runner from a table cloth
All pinned and ready to sew

Quickly zip the hem, just like you did on the last side.

How to make a table cloth into a table runner
The final product

Ahhhh…. much better. Now we can enjoy this for Fall & Thanksgiving (next year, ha).

How to make a table cloth into a table runner
Ta-da! Ready for next year!!

What questions do you have for me? Ready to make a table runner on your own?

Want to learn more about your sewing machine? See this post, How to Fix Bobbin Tension.

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Want to save this idea for later? Pin this to your favorite sewing board on Pinterest.

How to Make a Tablecloth into a Table Runner

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