Upcycled Vintage Tablecloth Women's Long sleeve Cotton Dress

Upcycling My Past

 As a very little girl I remember visiting my great-grandmother in her tiny home. My mother would bring her a box of colored cigarettes. The cigarette paper would be wrapped in different colors, and they always looked like candy to me. I remember her being very small compared to my mother standing next to her, and all her tables and bureaus were way above my head. I could see the edges of daintily stitched table runners, tablecloths and doilies draping over the furniture. 

I remember the tablecloths, so many tablecloths, and so many doilies! Many were passed on to my mother, and I grew up with them covering all our hand me down furnishings from my other grandmother. (These pieces today are called ‘Brown Furniture’ by our younger generations, these gorgeous cherry, walnut, oak, and mahogany solid wood pieces will be useful for generations.) 

I am not as elderly as my great-grandmother yet, but my eyes have aged into appreciation of these beautiful pieces of fabric from my past. Over the years, our modern world’s esthetics changed, so many of these beautiful works of art were donated to thrift stores. I have taught myself about different types of weaving, stitching, and fabric content. 

  • Damask Brocade 

  • Cutwork.

  • Stitching Faggoting

  • Net Applique

  • Cross stitching

  • Veil Needle Lace

  • Hemstitching

  • Embroidered

I have spent so much time hunting down thrift stores, and flea markets even happily traveling to Brimfield Flea Market, MA to scour the lands for vintage tablecloths. 


I am currently repurposing vintage tablecloths into women’s garments. I started last year and was so surprised with the positive response. I quickly sold out of all the summer bubble dresses and am so excited to take my stack of tablecloths and transform them into our wearable history this season.

There are so many elements with wanting to continue with this project. Being in the clothing business for many years, I have become acutely aware of the dark side of Fast Fashion. If you want a concentrated education about this subject, read “Secondhand”  and “Junkyard Planet” by Adam Minter. 

Sometimes, I will browse stores to explore what they have chosen for us to wear in the upcoming season. I immediately get overwhelmed with the amount of clothing being manufactured. No longer are we bombarded with new drops every 4 months, now, thanks to Zara, and companies like them, their constant worldwide production machine produces new drops every week. This is what has changed and indoctrinated our purchasing culture. Buy cheap, buy plenty, then when it falls apart after wearing it once or twice, throw it out!

I realize what I am doing is just a tiny winy drop in the bucket, but I am content with my contribution. I will be a drip. It will take many drops in a bucket to start making a change in the way our culture takes value in using what we have, and not thoughtlessly making more of what we don’t need. Slow fashion is a start.

I am happy to report there are so many of us creating upcycled clothing. This trend has caught on, and of course, recycled clothing companies are emerging.  Big name brands have jumped on board becoming leaders. From thrifting to buyback programs, companies like Eileen Fisher have been orchestrating very successful programs, like  Renew.

I will continue my upcycled clothing program. Next in line will be a stunning jacket. I made a pattern from an Indian kantha coat I have been wearing for years. I remember buying it at a market, and the iconic Iris Apfel was in the booth buying one as well. Although I trust my style, noticing Iris buying one didn’t hurt.

Using vintage tablecloths for these projects is very tricky. Sourcing them takes much time and the prices fluctuate drastically. So many have stains to attack and distressed areas to discard. I have become an expert in removing 60-year-old coffee stains out of vintage linen! My gramma would have been proud of me :) 

Deciding how to use the fabric depends on its dimensions and design details. Once I send it to my contractor, I hope my decisions will produce stunning garments. This is a nervous time for me. A lot of work, time, and money is invested in one batch of zero-waste clothing. So you can imagine how excited I am when I finally have the finished products in my hands, which have turned out so beautiful. You can find available vintage tablecloth garments located in Small Batch Love.

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