Tablescapes. This word has risen out of the noise at me a few times in the last couple of weeks… and, being a Word Girl, I pay attention when words poke at me.

The first mention of it was a call from one of my distributors for the loan of quilt samples in one of a few categories for the upcoming Quilt Market in Houston (the last weekend of October). The second mention was last weekend, when I demoed at a local distributor’s big new stuff shindig… “Do you have any patterns for tablescapes?” Ummm… no.

So off to the modern day oracle for an image search to go with the word, and yikes!


(Yes, I picked an ORANGE image, because, well, ORANGE.)

Confession…. I missed this class in school, and I have avoided it like the plague on Pinterest. While I love to have friends over for food and board games, I put my energy into making things like pots de crème instead, and if we manage to eat off real plates with cloth napkins I feel like I’ve appeased Martha just a wee bit and call it a win. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of a table set like this (I love me some beauty), I just don’t care about creating it – I’d rather make more desserts. And if I had the space to keep all this extra kitchen/table stuff around (I don’t) I would have filled it with fabric long ago.

So back to the pattern requests for tablescapes. Another return to the oracle reveals that, yep, there are lots of quilted table runner and placemat patterns out there.

As it happens, I designed some cheeky placemats for Quilt Talk not knowing that they were part of the tablescape clan, but frankly, the idea that gravy could be spilled on something I bound by hand gives me the willies.

photo 5

I just can’t imagine putting a pretty table runner down the center of a big, noisy, family dinner and have it escape unscathed. And the last thing I want to think about during a big, noisy, family dinner is keeping the tablecloth clean… I’d rather eat and laugh.

And so… I have questions. Why are table runner patterns popular? Do the runners get used? Close to food, or only decoratively? Is it because, as a smaller project, they are easier to make? Easier to quilt/wrangle on a domestic machine? More affordable in terms of materials? Great/fast/small as gifts?

And if I did design one, what matters about the design? Size? Customizable size? Scrap or pre-cut? Or….?

And… should I be designing them? While I design mostly for what turns me on, I’m no fool. If my readers want something, I’m interested in seeing if I can point my design head towards it, with the understanding that it’s MY design head, which means if I’m not turned on by the idea I won’t put my energy there. Trust me, you don’t want things that are made by people who aren’t turned on by making them! Passion matters!

Let me know your thoughts!


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20 thoughts on “Tablescapes

  1. Why are table runner patterns popular? They are relatively quick to make – you can try a new technique and not be overwhelmed by it.
    Do the runners get used? Close to food, or only decoratively? I use mine…food goes on it and it has done its time in the washing machine!!
    Is it because, as a smaller project, they are easier to make? Easier to quilt/wrangle on a domestic machine? More affordable in terms of materials? Great/fast/small as gifts? Yes, yes, yes, yes!!

    And if I did design one, what matters about the design? Size? Customizable size? Scrap or pre-cut? Or….? Size and customizable sizes are important! The runner I use on my great grandmother’s table with all four leaves in it would be under the guests’ feet on my daughter’s little Ikea table! Scraps are nice, because you know I bought an extra half yard of every fabric for that last project!!

    I prefer to make table runners because if I were to make placemats, I would have FOUR things to bind…with the runner, I only have one thing to bind!


  2. I love table runners because I can play with fabric and finish something fairly quickly. Quilting is easy because I’m not dragging 6 feet of quilt under my needle. And cotton washes so easily, I don’t mind if something spills on it. Plus, I get to actually see something I’ve made and it’s not folded up and put aside somewhere. I like the idea that handmade things can serve different roles in our homes, and I really love seeing handmade things everywhere in my house. I also tend to get commitment-phobic when it comes to making full-size quilts, and with a smaller project, I don’t feel so much of the what-if-I-hate-its when I’m starting out. If I hate it, people are just gonna spill gravy on it, so it’s okay!


  3. I enjoy making them. As an art quilter, it’s not always something I enjoy to make pieced quilts. That said, there are blocks I find so cute and compelling I simply must try them. A table runner is a great way to do that and when done, they make great gifts. I have sold more than a couple on my etsy. .You can have them on tables year round with vases of flowers, etc. not just for meal times. During mealtimes I invested in a sheet of clear tablecloth laminate at joannes that can be cut to fit just over the runner (in my case, my gradmother made a cross stitch tree skirt that has three christmas angels on it that I wouldnt dare put on the floor!) So I use it on the table and simply cover it with the clear laminate. I have also taken glass tops and sandwiched tablecloths between the table top and glass. This is good for smaller works.


  4. I enjoy making them for all of the reasons already listed. That said, the opportunity to be able to stitch up something quick, that’s useable, that I can try something new, that I can trash and make a new one real quick if I don’t like it, they are all very good reasons to make table runners or table scapes.

    Yes I do use them, yes food is placed on top of them, yes they do go into the washing machine, and no I don’t worry if they get stained, they are being used!


  5. I think all the reasons above are good ones. Funnily enough I’ve started, but haven’t finished a tablerunner (christmas themed, every year once December passes the impetus to finish dies, and then I forget about it until the following Thanksgiving). But I’ve also had a fellow quilter share that she thinks quilted table runners will be our generation’s doily.


  6. I do love making table runners for all the reasons you listed above. Also, it is a chance to use up orphan blocks or try a fabric combination without committing to a whole quilt,. We do use them on the table, but I finish the binding by machine. Because they get washed often. I had an auntie that made lovely things and kept them in a drawer. My quilts big and small are meant to be used, loved and worn out!!


  7. I love table runners as projects. They are small projects that are easily finished. You get to try a variety of patterns and techniques without committing to a whole bed-size quilt. They provide a nice travel work in process, also. I do use them- daily and for big family deals. I don’t stress over the potential for mess, I have good spot remover and quilting quality cottons wash beautifully.


  8. the people who have gotten my long pieces say they are on the tables without food. One man stopping by the booth was looking for one over 5 feet, really long commanding table, I wondered about the view from the table, but I digress. And they do get thrown in a washing machine.


  9. NOOOOO! NEVER! Please don’t design table runners, ever! I will never make one, never use one, avoid admiring them for fear someone might make me one! I can’t stand the thought of eating on a work of art. I think they are popular mostly because they are small and quick, make easy and beautiful handmade gifts, and great patterns for them abound. Oh, and some people are fastidious housekeepers/decorators and have to put something pretty everywhere. My table is used for looking at mail, piling up stuff I don’t know what to do with, lounging (if you’re my cat Hazel), and rare big dinner gatherings which, like yours, would be risky for the poor runner. If someone gave me a table runner I’d appreciate it, love it, admire it, and honor it by hanging it on the wall. Never as a tablecloth (call it a “runner” if you must). That’s just disrespectful.


    • Runners are great ways to experiment with techniques and fabrics without the full commitment plus they make gifts for those who do like to decorate their table. I use them as wall hangings and demonstration concepts…..too much fuss for our actual table. I do confess I have a holiday runner that I think perks up the dining room at Christmas when I am too lazy to decorate! The runner comes off the table for eating.


  10. I don’t usually make home dec things; however, I made several table runners for friends, using my own designs, to give as Xmas pressies. I used batiks – I love batiks, they hide a multitude of sins. I added some machine embroidery; one had my friend’s new kennel name, and another had her family’s names, and they were very pleased to have something personalized, but not cutesy – they aren’t cutesy people.


  11. If you look at a meal as a performance (and as a performance studies scholar I can make the case that everything is ‘performance’!) it makes sense to ‘dress’ the table, just like you would for a theatrical performance. I don’t dress EVERY table, but I do think certain meals/events are heightened when I spend the extra time to add flowers, or little items that reflect the holiday. But I never got into table runners.


  12. I enjoy table runners as they are a great way to use stash, play with different fabrics, & techniques. I also think they make excellent gifts in that you can give something handmade, personalized, & yet affordable on the maker’s end.

    I regularly use the runners I make- I don’t worry about them getting stained or dirty. I consider them to be like my quilts in which I want them to be loved and used.


  13. Tablescapes aren’t my thing. I, like you, prefer to put my time and effort into making great food. And frankly, my friends wouldn’t appreciate the effort put into it. CLEAN, attractive but unfussy, that’s more important to me.

    That said, I’ve made a few placemats and table runners that were, IMHO, pretty great. But in truth I don’t much like making small projects.

    IF you choose to make table decor, I’d be most interested in occasion items, such as great words/designs for a birthday celebration, retirement, baby, wedding, holiday, etc. While those are items that might be used rarely, the people MAKING them (buying your patterns) would enjoy giving them.

    fyi — I submitted my proposal this week. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for a bit. :)


  14. I enjoy making table runners as gifts. I’ve never used one on my table because it looks weird to me to have this rectangular thing bisecting a round or oval table. Maybe I could round the corners, or make a round one. This could be an untapped market, too. I don’t know how much interest there’d be but I’d buy a cute rounded pattern… maybe even one with some bulk so it doubles as a hot pad for all the dishes at Thanksgiving.


  15. I’ve never made a table runner for these reasons: (1) I don’t want any spills on them, and (2) the cats would think it’s for them. I’m lucky–my sister creates all the tablescapes for our holiday dinners. The hubster and I cook, and she creates the tablescapes. We both think it’s a win-win situation!


  16. I am a big fan of noisy crowded dinners with family and friends. I have made table runners to experiment with fabric and quilting and I use them – on dressers and tables elsewhere in the house. I sometimes put one on the kitchen table where we eat because the table looks bare.. (I do admit that I then have wash the one I have used to remove the cat hair.)


  17. I make table runners…and give them away, so someone else can figure out what to do with them! I did make one last winter, that is now on the dresser in the spare room, but my table is round, so table runners don’t really work for me.
    However, I love how quick table runners are, and how they give me a place to experiment with new techniques (or master old ones).


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