Turning a tablecloth into a skirt

Our assignment last week was to make a skirt from an old tablecloth. It was important to treat the tablecloth as a tablecloth rather as fabric sold by the metre. In addition to the tablecloth we had to find a clothing style with roots in a music genre and add elements from both the tablecloth and the music style clothing to the skirt design.

I started out with a large tartan woven tablecloth with fringes on all sides. I wanted to do a bit more than cutting a whole in it and make a circle/hanky skirt, and opted for a variation of this where I cut the cloth into four pieces and sewed them together with the fringed seam allowances showing on the outside. My tablecloth reminded me too much of Norwegian folk costumes (Bunad) that I was comfortable choosing folk or country music of any kind for my inspiration. Then I thought of the emo/goth enthusiasts who seemed to live outside in the parks in Leipzig when I moved to Germany and all their tartan skirts and dresses, and decided to go with their punk ancestor as my main inspiration.

Apart from the big problem of the skirt’s waistline expanding almost 10 centimetres during the construction, I’m pleased with the outcome. Not sure I’ll want to wear this skirt, but the process has been interesting and fun, and upcycling is always good. I’m playing with the idea of turning the skirt into a dress, as I keep visualizing a fitted black bodice to go with it.


Anyway, if anyone wants to make this skirt, here are the instructions:

My tablecloth was about 120*170 cm. During the construction process I made my skirt square (about 120*120 cm).

You need to construct two pattern pieces, which I’ve just called 1 and 2:

Measure your waist circumference and divide this over 2π to find the radius of the circle (as I’ve shown earlier). Subtract 1 cm from this (you can always make it bigger, the trouble is to make it smaller once you cut) and trace a quarter circle on a piece of paper. Draw up the lines outlining the quarter circle at a right angle and add 1 cm seam allowance along the sides. Trace a fold line across the quarter circle (which is your sewing line). This is pattern piece 1. For piece 2, you just make a copy of piece 1, fold it along the fold line an cut out the quarter circle.


1. Cut your tablecloth into four equal sections (be sure to label right side of the fabric on all pieces before cutting them apart).

2. Place pattern piece 1 on the corner (wrong side of the fabric) and fold both the pattern piece and the corner toward the wrong side as shown below. Press or finger press the fabric in place (right-angled corner)

tn_P1030357 tn_P1030358

3. Place pattern piece 2 on the folded-down corner and trace the quarter-circle outline on the fabric with chalk as shown.

tn_P1030359 tn_P1030361

4. Remove the pattern pieces and pin the corner down as it was pressed and sew the quarter circle. Trim down the seam allowances, cut the seam allowances and turn and press each corner/quarter circle.

5. Overlock the seam allowances and understitch them to the skirt (not the folded-down corner). Make sure that the corners lie in a straight angle to avoid the expanding waistline I described earlier. Optional: Add stay tape to the understitched seam allowances to make sure the waistline keeps its circumference.

6. Stitch the back seam wrong sides together and fringes on the outside of the skirt, leave room for a zipper (invisible).

7. Fasten the zipper on the inside of the skirt.

8. Stitch the rest of the pieces together, wrong sides together and seam allowances on the outside.

9. Adjust the skirt length and cover the raw edges with bias tape.


10 Press the skirt and you’re ready to go!


Optional: Use safety pins to give the skirt shape and a somewhat punky look. I ended up with a skirt which my teacher called “the Nordlands-bunad goes punk”


tn_P1030379red tn_P1030378red


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Filed under Sewing, Tutorials

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