21 January 2017



Like so many ideas of dubious merit, this one began on Pinterest. A simple image with an excited caption about making an "easy" tablecloth by sewing bandanas together. So cute! Well...

Okay, so it's not a particularly difficult project but it's not as easy as it seems on the surface. Bandanas, as it turns out, aren't an ideal medium. They're not a uniform size or shape (at least the ones I used weren't), and the fabric isn't the best quality--ridiculously prone to wrinkles and warping. On the other hand, the resulting table cloth really is cute--perfect for a picnic table or other casual setting.

Want to make one? Here's how...

1. Buy bandanas. You can find them pretty cheap at Michaels, but you can find them cheaper elsewhere. I got mine at Bandanas Canada. Yes, this country doesn't have a local store comparable to Mod Cloth or Spoonflower (to my endless chagrin), but we have a dedicated bandana store!

2. Wash bandanas in hot water and dry them in the dryer on the hottest setting. Why? To pre-shrink them and lose some of the excess dye. You need to pre-shrink because otherwise your project will be ruined the first time you wash it. They will also bleed dye, so either keep washing them until the wash water rinses clear, or make sure to buy colours that won't ruin each other when they're washed together (it's probably best to avoid white bandanas in your tablecloth).

3. Iron. And get used to ironing. It turns out looking at bandanas wrinkles them.

4. For my tablecloth I used nine bandanas in total: three rows of three alternating colours. This size will comfortably cover a picnic table. You can make it bigger if you want to use it on a bigger table or as a picnic blanket, but I wouldn't go too much bigger.

5. Time to sew. Pin right sides together (be careful--it's not easy to tell right and wrong sides apart; at least, not until you've accidentally sewed a right side to a wrong side, at which point you will suddenly clearly see the difference and then have to fix it). I used 1/2" seam allowances and that worked well. Sew three bandanas together to make a row. Repeat two more times (or however many times needed to make enough rows for the size cloth you want). Then sew rows together (pin right sides together first, then sew long edges with a 1/2" seam allowance). When pinning two rows together before sewing, make sure to match seams (where two bandanas have been joined), not the outer edges of the bandanas. Uneven outer edges can be fixed but if the seams don't match up, your patchwork effect will be ruined. Don't forget to keep ironing as you go--wrinkled fabric does not a good result make.

6. Final step: finish the outer edge of your table cloth. I'd been hoping to skip this part since bandanas already have finished edges, but the lack of uniformity of the bandanas meant the outer edge was noticeably uneven. If yours is also uneven, fold under enough of the edge to straighten it out. Iron edge (pin in place if you need to). Sew (I topstitched with a 1/4" seam allowance for this part)--just make sure the needle catches the folded under edge as you go. That's it. Snip any loose threads and iron one more time (don't worry--it'll be wrinkled again before long).

I tried decorating the table with some nice glassware but it didn't look right. I finally realized it was a little too fancy for such a casual cloth. So...

Much better. No real lemons on hand, so I broke out the plastic one. There's nothing quite so hopeless as trying to evoke summer on a grey January day in Canada. I don't think we've seen the sun for a week.

Have extra bandanas left? You could try making pillows (place two bandanas, right sides together, and sew on three sides. Turn right side out. Fill with a pillow form or stuffing. Sew fourth side closed by hand).

You could make a quilt, although I wouldn't put too much work into it, given the quality of the fabric. Still, it could be a fun casual project. The three by three bandana configuration seems like a good size for a double bed (but measure to be sure).

Bandanas cut in half diagonally could be used to make bunting.

Two or three bandanas could be used as the basis for an apron.

Do you have any more ideas on how to use bandanas in crafts? Let me know in the comments.