Picnic tablecloths are practical additions to your picnic equipment, as they guarantee a clean surface for your food. Most cloths are designed to be easy to care for and washable. If you are making your own cloth, remember that it will need frequent washing and must be strong enough to stand up to outdoor life. Lightweight material is the best choice, as it is not too bulky when folded and will dry quickly in the event of a rainshower.
Plastic or PVC-coated material is a practical choice and is available in a range of colors and designs. Any spills can easily be wiped off with a damp cloth, and the thick material is durable and will stand up well to wear and tear. The cloth will also be completely waterproof if you want to use it on damp ground. However, the thick plastic material can be difficult to sew, and you may not be able to use a domestic sewing machine. It also looks less elegant than a traditional fabric cloth and is prone to going moldy if put away damp.
Traditional Check Cloths
Check material, also called gingham, is a pretty, traditional choice. This is a very easy fabric to sew, as the checks make it easy to fold an even hem and sew a straight line. Fold and sew a double hem to give a neat finish. Look for a washable fabric in cotton, polyester or a blend. Apply a stain-resisting spray to help prevent the cloth getting marked, although this coating will be gradually removed in the wash and need reapplying.
Plastic-backed cloths are really designed for use on the ground rather than as a table cloth, but can also be used on a table. They consist of a layer of washable, waterproof material such as goretex, and an upper layer made of fleece or cotton. Cut both pieces of material to the same size and sew around the edges to hold them together. Hide the join by sewing on the binding to give a neat finish. Sew ties to two opposing edges of the cloth so that it can be tied together for carrying.
For a truly personal cloth, make your own patchwork tablecloth from scraps. Try to use scraps of material that are a similar weight and blend, as this will make the cloth not only easier to sew but also to wash. Cut 6-inch squares from various fabrics and machine sew them together, pressing the seams open after sewing to give a neater line. Once the cloth is finished, line it with a cotton to help protect the back and stop the hems from unravelling.
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