Table runners are the perfect choice when decorating the dining table informally. They add a point of interest, enhance centrepieces and are easier to use and care for than tablecloths. While a runner can stay on the table between formal dinners, tablecloths tend to get dirty quickly and must usually be changed after every meal.
As the name implies, a table runner is long and narrow, and this shape lends itself to creative interpretation. Table runners can be as simple or as elegant as decorators desire.
Choose a Design
First, decide the placement of the runner on the table. A table runner typically lies in the middle of the table across the widest portion. However, decorators who want to try something different can run several matching runners across the narrow portion of the table, run one or more corner to corner (good for oval or round tables) or layer two or more runners.
Measure the Table
Once the placement of the runner is chosen, measure the optimum width, taking into account whether the runner is going to be used to display a single centrepiece or if it needs to also accommodate serving dishes. Length is determined based on whether the decorator wants the edges to hang over the table sides or rest completely on the table. A minimum of 15 centimetres of overhang on each end generally looks best.
Choose the Material
Table runners use only a small amount of material and thus lend themselves to experimentation at very little cost. Just about any fabric can be used, including woven, knit, felted or embellished. The more delicate the fabric and intricate the design, the less easy it is to clean, so decorators most often choose sturdy fabric that washes well for runners that are used frequently. Special-occasion table runners can be made of more fragile fabrics. Sewers often look for decorator fabrics, such as upholstery and drapery, and remnants may offer the best value in these expensive materials.
Another consideration in fabric choice is the table material. The type of fabric that looks good on a classic wood table may not enhance a modern glass and metal table.
Assemble the Tools and Prep the Fabric
This project requires only a few simple sewing tools: thread, scissors, measuring tape, pins, iron and ironing board, and sewing machine. Be sure to prewash a piece of the chosen fabric to check for shrinkage. If it's significant, wash all the fabric before sewing.
Sew the Runner
Once the tools have been assembled and the fabric prepped, it is time to sew the runner.
- Cut the chosen fabric to the desired length and width with an added 25 millimetres on all sides for hemming.
- Place the fabric right side down and, using an iron, press one-half the hem allowance toward the centre the fabric.
- Fold over the second half, and press again.
- Pay extra attention to the corners to make them sharp but not bulky. This gives a nice clean edge to the hem.
- If the runner fabric is thick, before pressing, use the sewing machine to zigzag stitch the cut edge to prevent fraying. Use only a 12-millimetre hem, and one fold, to reduce bulk.
- Using a sewing machine, topstitch the hem in place.
If adding embellishments such as fringe or embroidery, do so after the table runner has been cut, measured and sewn.
While table runners are most often used on dining tables, they also add a touch of elegance to coffee tables, bedside tables and hall tables. This easy-to-make home décor item lets people personalise their homes imaginatively and inexpensively.