I’ll-Do-It-Myself Tablecloth

We haven’t gotten very far on our patio pimping. Aside from a possible candle dish and our pillows of yore, the lack of sun and warmth have made things a bit difficult – but I refuse to let rainy days and gray skies tell me what I can’t do. No flowers have been planted just yet, but accessories and material stuff? Well, that I can do. And it starts with a tablecloth.

Okay, technically, it started with those pillows and a bright, red rug – all purchased last year, with barely a day of use. Knowing we suddenly had a theme of red and yellow, we began scouring the usual haunts for a punchy, fun, and outdoor appropriate tablecloth. But after online retailers and local stores let us down with too-frilly, fru-fru, and overly floral patterns, I decided to take my own crack at the design.

Using this nautical pillow as inspiration, we started with a (new) 4′ x 5′ drop cloth, fabric paint, a spouncer (but any foam brush will do), and a roll of blue tape.


My love and adoration for all things stripes made the pattern making process pretty simple. (Truly. Spotting a striped tee at Target can make me forget the eggs, which, by the way, I blame on the store’s decision to put clothing next to the groceries.) My blue tape was an inch wide, and because I wanted the alternating stripes wider (again, based on the nautical pillow), I decided on a 1 1/2″ painted stripe. I made a pencil mark every 2 1/2″ along one side of my drop cloth and repeated the process on the opposite side.


Once the measurements were made, I relied on the blue tape to create my line. Starting on one mark, I pulled enough tape from the roll to reach across the cloth, and carefully laid it on the opposing tick mark. My lines were surprisingly straight, and it was so far, so good. (Btw, I originally laid my drop cloth on top of another drop cloth, thinking I’d paint my stripes on the floor. But after a few rolls of the tape, my old lady back cracked one too many times, and as it turns out, that wasn’t going to happen.)


Oh, and because I’m a big dork, I had a bit of fun wadding up my big, blurry-eyed masterpiece. Feel free to skip this step, as it’s totally not necessary. (But it looks cool, yeah? Maybe it was one of those you had to be there kind of things.)


Rather than paint on the floor (we covered the whys on that one), I un-rumpled my drop cloth, and continued in sections on the kitchen counter. Wanting predominantly white stripes, I stippled the white paint onto the exposed cloth with the exception of two end stripes – which, surprise (!), I painted red.


Because we didn’t want perfect, solid white stripes, I watered down the paint significantly. (It sort of resembled coffee creamer.) Halfway through my execution, I realized there was no way I was going to get by on one bottle of white, and my amazing (gorgeous! awesome!) man volunteered to pick up more. Of course one bottle was not enough, but I only needed – literally – like, one more glob from the second tube.


I must admit, I was a bit worried upon painting completion. I could hardly tell that there was any color on the drop cloth at all (or were my eyes just that blurry?), so rather than wait any appropriate amount of time to rip tape, we began pulling it up right away. And phew, the results were just what we had in mind.


Following the instructions on the paint bottles, we allowed the colors to set for a full 24 hours – leaving it to dry on the patio table. But a bit of internet research told me I wasn’t off the hook just yet. Because our almost-there-tablecloth would most likely have to be washed, we had to “heat set” the paint. Really, I found that to be a fancy word to simply iron the heck out of our fabric, painted side down. (Find more info on heat setting, right here.)


And by some miracle, it was actually hot that day. Our painted-heat-set-drop-towel-table-cloth was ready! Ready for the random, hot day! Ready for… the grill! And drinks! And friends and gatherings and weeknight dinners!


While enjoying the first night of table-cloth-dom, our (lovely!) neighbors offered up overflow flowers. As ready as we were for everything else, we weren’t yet ready to begin planting (as we all know how black our thumbs are), but I felt safe enough to pot one little guy.



I’m thinking a spritz of fabric water-repellent will go a long way, too. I’ve yet to do that last step, but since it rained for 3 days after set up and it survived, we’re probably fine. As soon as the sun stays put, we have plans to wash the deck, scrub down our weathered patio furniture, and plant our little hearts out! (Poor, unsuspecting flowers.)

So. How are your outdoor spaces looking? Our bitty patio may be smaller than our office (and dang, that’s small), but at least 3 months a year, we will have an extra room! And we will use it every day until our toes (and flowers) freeze.

31 replies on “I’ll-Do-It-Myself Tablecloth”

  1. This looks amazing! When I saw the white getting dabbed on with the painter’s tape still on, I wasn’t too sure about it, but I absolutely love this and feel stupid for thinking that! I want to do this today!

  2. WOW! I have loved the simplicity of canvas for a long, long time and this project has definitely got my wheels turning… I want to make a bland canvas tote pop with some stripes! Thank you for the inspiration :) I’ve been a fan of your blog for a few months now and you never disappoint. Keep the creativity coming!


  3. This looks great! I’m mulling over the idea of painting some outdoor cushions that are faded beyond yuck and to replace them would be close to $200! This process may just work.

    1. Heather, that is some serious work you’ve got going on! The hardest part is completing everything before the weather turns cold – we know the feeling!

  4. I love it! I’m working on getting our deck spruced up this year too :) Can’t afford patio furniture so I’m piecing lots of things together. We’ll see!

  5. That does look amazing! Now I’m thinking maybe we should try a tablecloth too. Chicago has been so disappointing this year;just as we think the weather is nice, it dips down again. I’m excited to see your final space!

  6. Looks amazing! Thanks for the inspiration – I’ll be trying this one!

  7. WOW … it looks A M A Z I N G!!!! I love the way it came otu and of course on how economical it was!! FABULOUS!!!! I’m off to give my drop cloth the stare down ….

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