Vintage Doily Table Runner

how to make a table runner from vintage doilies

If you have a collection of old doilies and linen that is just sitting in a drawer why not turn it into a useful and pretty table runner?

Over the years I’ve collected quite a box full of vintage doilies, table mats, tray cloths, handkerchiefs and bits of crocheted lace. It’s nice to take old fabric like this and give it a new life, make it into something new.

Some of my collection are in near perfect condition and some have holes or stains. Some are lacy and embroidered, some are more plain. Some are ones I inherited from my family and some have been gifted to me by friends who just wanted them to be used for something and not wasted. A few I bought at car boot sales and in charity shops.

I’ve made a few things with some of them over the years. I shared this tutorial to turn a vintage handkerchief into a sweet little travel pouch for jewellery a few years ago, a pretty patchwork bag made with scraps of my old linen collection and a sweet afternoon tea embroidery design for a doily with a fabric centre.

I’ve used a few to make bags and wall art which I list now and again in my Etsy shop too.

How to make a pretty table runner from old linen and doilies

To make a table runner from vintage linen and doilies you will need:

  • A collection of vintage doilies, cloths, table mats etc.

  • A piece of plain cloth to be the base fabric - I used the edge of an old white cotton sheet

  • Sewing machine, thread, fabric scissors and lots of pins!

A collection of vintage doilies

Prepare the base fabric

The first thing to do is decide how big you want your table runner to be and cut a piece of your plain base fabric to that size plus an extra 5 cm (2”) in both directions.

I cut my fabric to 97cm x 30cm (38” x 12")

A rectangle of plain cloth on a cutting board

Turn a double hem all around the outside and stitch. You can do nice neat mitre corners if you like to remove any bulk but this will be on the inside so it doesn’t matter too much. If your fabric has a right and wrong side then turn the hem to the wrong side.

turn hem .jpeg

Now the fun bit, but also the most time consuming bit! Place the base fabric table runner on a flat surface, wrong side up and start laying your doilies and cloths on the base fabric and just play around with it until you get a pleasing arrangement. Overlap to cover stains or holes, or cut those bits off if they are at the edges.

arranging vintage doilies on a long rectangle of fabric

This process will take time, it’s like a jigsaw with no picture on the box! One top tip is to take a photo quickly on your phone if you have a bit of an arrangement you like but are not quite sure of. That way you can take it all off and start again but you’ve not lost the ideas you quite liked before, you may refer back to them and see what was working. It is also sometimes easier to see if an arrangement works when you look at a photo instead of looking at it in real life. I’ve no idea why, but it seems to help.

Once you are happy then PIN PIN PIN! Secure all the pieces firmly and then you are ready to start stitching them into place.

doilies pinned to a base fabric

Stitch the doilies down

Just work your way along methodically, stitching the edge of each item. You can remove a top layer to secure underneath and then replace it if you like or simple follow all the edges.

stitch to secure.jpeg

If you’ve really layered things up you might find a walking foot is useful, but you should be fine without.

It’s really as simple as that. It’s not a quick project, but it’s not complicated at all.

Once it’s all stitched it’s finished! Ready to make your table look super pretty.

I would recommend removing it from the table if you are eating lasagna or curry, or drinking lots of red wine. You will be fine to wash and gently iron your table runner but there is no need to tempt fate is there?

lacey table runner.jpeg
table runner made from vintage doilies

As with anything long and thin, this table runner is really difficult to photograph well. I’ve done my best to show every bit of it off to you.

lacey table runner tutorial
how to make a vintage doily table runner.jpeg

Do you have an old doily collection that needs to be put to good use?

You could make a new tray cloth from old ones using this method, or a whole table cloth if your collection is huge!


I’ll be sharing this idea at these link ups