Monday, September 9, 2013

Vintage Tablecloth to Bohemian Style Dress

There are some fabrics you look at and just know what they are meant to be. They speak to you in a voice so loud, you have no choice, but to respond. While at an estate sale last week I had such an experience. I went in search of sewing patterns, notions and fabrics. The sale was promoted as having tons of sewing supplies but, the fabric prospects were less than stellar. I found myself in a room full of crocheted and embroidered holiday themed linens.

I was thumbing through a stack and came across a cream colored crocheted table cloth. It has ovals stitched in adorable groups of four and scallops along the entire edge. 

My cousin over at Bakerchet crochets and I am well aware of the time energy and work that goes into creating such a piece. The price was good so bought it and began to respond to what the fabric was calling me to. I was going to turn this tablecloth into Bohemian style dress or tunic.

I had the pattern for Simplicity 1757 in my stash and needed to figure out how to turn my tablecloth into it while maintaining the scallop details. I used view B as my base for this pattern.

First I folded the tablecloth lengthwise wrong sides together with the scalloped edges even. I wanted it wrong sides together to be certain my stitching lines were on the right side of the fabric. I then marked the center of the what would be the radius (Yes, you do use geometry after high school). Using the center line as a guide I lined up the top of each pattern piece to the fold. I did this to be sure the front and back would be the same length. You will see that the tablecloth extends past the sleeve and bottom hem. 

What you cannot see in this picture is that the front pattern piece was placed exactly like this on the opposite side. I used a disappearing ink pen to trace the top of the pattern on the fabric allowing the top sleeve extend to the end of the tablecloth. There is only one notch on the top so I was sure to mark it well before cutting it out. 

There are stitching lines on the pattern that need to be transferred to the table cloth. I found that those lines created a dress that had more ease than I wanted; it was too loose. If you want yours loose follow them and do not add the back casing, like I did.  For a more fitted dress, follow my steps explained later.

I cut the front and back pieces out along the top and followed the pattern instructions for View B. I used a longer stitch, about 4.0mm and changed my thread to mercerized cotton thread for sewing. This thread is stronger and thicker and I thought it had similar texture to the thread of the crochet.  When I  got to the elasticized  casing step, I repeated it for the back as well. With the excess length in my tablecloth sleeves, I found this step cinched the dress in more and made it less frumpy in back.

For steps 8-12 I used purchased bias tape to finish the neckline. I stitched it to the right side of the neckline, then flipped it to the inside and stitched it again.

Bias tape on the neckline
For the remainder of the steps, here is what I did (the photos show the wrong side of the dress, but this step should be done on the right side.) Using Bira, my custom dress form I pinned the side seams together and marked the stitching line. I took the lines up to just below the armpits.

If you do not have a dress form, you will need the help of a partner. Put the dress on and have your partner line up the edges of your trim or scallops and secure them with pins or clips. Then, have them pin the side seams along your body to suit your fit and pin and mark the seam line on front and back.

Pinning and marking the side seams
Side seams from underarm to dress bottom.
Once marked I took the dress off the form, realigned the stitching lines, pinned aggressively and stitched the side seams. I them stitched the side seams a second time to be certain it was secure. Voila! All done and ready to wear! I am wearing a black (nude ;-p) slip dress underneath.

I really like this dress! It turned out exactly as I hoped it would. If you make one come back and let me know; I would love to see it!

Happy Sewing,


  1. Beautiful dress! You did a great job!

  2. Bianca, I am so proud of you. I want to make a duster like I have seen Ralph Lauren make. I am afraid the lace will start to unravel.

  3. I used a lace table cloth many years ago and made a beach cover up out of it. I might try to make another one. Yours turned out great!!