Picnic tablecloths?

crl_February 26, 2014

Hopefully this isn't too far off-topic. I am planning my daughter's birthday at a nearby park. We will have three reserved picnic tables. I will try to get the exact measurements today, but they are fairly typical rectangular picnic tables.

I'd like to cover the tables with something festive, reusable and machine washable. Dd loves bright colors so I am thinking a rainbow theme for the party. Perhaps the table clothes could simply be three different solid colors as I am thinking of custom made pinwheels that can be decoration and party favor and they can help carry the rainbow them, along with napkins in the rainbow colors. I wouldn't be totally opposed to actual rainbow tablecloths, but I think solid colors might be more conductive to reusing at future events.

And there is definitely a budget here. These won't get more than two or three uses a year I'd guess so I don't want to spend a ton on them. Maybe under $50 all in, if that's possible.

Any thoughts on type of fabric or places to look or links?

Thank you so much!

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After I posted, I thought maybe I should just do butcher block paper? The kids could color on it if they want to and I can throw it on the recycle or compost bin after the party. Maybe not quite as "green" as reusable, but would double as entertainment and table covering. Anyone happen to have a source to suggest? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Why not just get fabric from a fabric store and staple the cloth under the table rather than buying actual table cloths?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 2:45PM
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If you bought solid color oilcloth fabric, which is 47.5" wide, you could 'make' your own. This fabric doesn't need hemming, so it would be just cut and done.

Here are 10 colors at $6.05 a yard at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oilcloth Solid Oilcloth General Purpose Fabric

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Great idea, re: coloring. Although the space between the boards of the table might make coloring difficult.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 2:48PM
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Great idea M3D.....and oil cloth is heavy enough so probably not a lot of blowing around or flying up.

I also like the butcher paper idea, but I would probably double it up for a smoother surface to color on. You could also make colorful "placemats" out of poster board for the kids to color, put stickers on, etc..

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 3:13PM
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If you want blank paper that can be drawn on you might use unprinted newspaper. I buy this in rolls from companies that print newspapers. I don't know whether every printing company sells these but I've gotten them from 2 different companies. They apparently cannot use the paper to the entire end of the roll in their printing presses so sell the leftover rolls by the pound. I've gotten it in 2 widths - the widest is 30". It usually costs about $10. for a roll depending on how much paper is left. My Grands use it for coloring and I use it for packing paper and they last for years.

Alternatively you can find inexpensive polyester tablecloths at bargain stores. Or you could buy inexpensive flat sheets. No point in giving you store names as I'm not in the US but every city has bargain stores.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 3:43PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

A fabric store should have inexpensive remnants that could work. Another alternative is to go to the good will or salvation army and look at sheets. That way you won't care how much ketchup or fruit punch gets spilled....

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Is oil cloth machine washable? I thought it was wipe down only. The sources I have seen also tend to be a bit pricey for my budget for this event--I think usually at least $30-40 per table cloth.

I don't sew. At all. As in even my own mother would rather just make me curtains than sew with me. So fabric remnants don't really work I don't think. Without finished hems they would ravel over time, right? I also don't have a fabric store in my immediate vicinity. Would need to drive thirty minutes or so. Ordering online is very attractive to me.

I don't know where our local paper is printed. Guess I could try to find out.your price sounds just slightly cheaper than the online butcher paper I have found though so I might rather pay a couple of dollars more to have it delivered to my door.

I'd rather avoid placemats as IME the kids tend to just crowd in however they want for the cake and there's no good way to set individual places.

I thought about sheets, but they seem kind of thin? I could try goodwill for tablecloths, but that's hit or miss of course. Might have better luck if I am looking for plain white than for specific colors.

Would polyester be the best fabric for resisting stains and washing easily?

Oh and these tables are metal mesh type. So coloring might be rather bumpy. But still doable, I think. Maybe I should take some paper and crayons to the park and make my kids color to see what happens, lol.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Most likely a drapery type fabric will work...they are 54" wide and if the tables are 45" wide, you'll have about 4" on each side. The selvedge edges are fine and won't ravel. Depending on the fabric, raveling may or may not be a problem, but there are no-sew ways of dealing with it. You can just use pinking shears and pink the edges. You can buy stitch witchery which is a bonding strip about an inch wide. Fold up each end of the fabric by enough to cover the stitch witchery inside and press. Done. You can also accomplish the same thing with fabric glue or even a regular glue gun.

Most likely though the edges won't matter that much as you'll need to safety pin or use clothes pins on the corners to keep the cloths anchored to the picnic tables.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:49PM
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Flat twin bed sheets would also work. You can thumbtack them to the underside of the table so they won't blow away in a breeze. Most other fabric will need some seaming or hemming.

My mother started using sheets for casual tablecloths as we all moved out of the house. They really aren't thinner than most tablecloths and they wash well.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:17PM
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What about something like this from Amazon for $11.99? From the reviews it sounds like the quality is okay. (Not great maybe, but okay). And I think I'd be hard-pressed to beat the price even with fabric remnants. . . . .

Here is a link that might be useful: Polyester Tablecloth from Amazon

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:17PM
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Shower curtains?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:28PM
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Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 10:15PM
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For outdoor picnics we always use oil cloth that is gathered. It fits over the table and doesn't hang down, and stays put. On windy days it really comes in handy!

If you have something that hangs down, I can see the kids getting caught in the material and pulling it every which way.

I wouldn't have them color. If the party is at a park, coloring will be the last thing they want to do.

I think oil cloth is the best for outdoors.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 6:32AM
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Well, I certainly wouldn't MAKE them color. But a few of the kids we will be inviting are pretty shy and seem to prefer some time to warm up to groups. I thought it might be nice to have the option for them. Plus with a two hour party, some kids may like a quiet activity for a break. I find that most kids do end up taking a break from active play at a party of that duration (though not necessarily my kids, lol).

Is oil cloth machine washable? I thought just wipe down? And what is your source for the gathered tablecloths? Price point?


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:49AM
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Just a thought....we've used colorful beach towels for picnic table covers for our parties and they've worked great - any spills get absorbed, you can toss them in the washing machine to use again and again either as table covers or as beach towels! Not too expensive and come in a variety of colors and fun designs.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:14AM
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Might mention that I have seen tablecloth tie downs for picnic tables.....they are sort of a big plastic clamp. Not sure where, but probably at a hobby store, or a big box store. I have some colorful sailcloth tablecloths (fabric bought and hemmed) that I have put on the table and secured the corners with snap clothes pins. That seems to work if it isn't TOO windy.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 3:35PM
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Leave the tables naked. Pick up a half dozen posterboard, cheap, to plop down if kids want to color or draw. Throw them away. Done.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Beach towelsâ¦great idea!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:10PM
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Thank you for all the great ideas! I think I will try some paper on the tables to see how coloring goes. If it works okay, I will go with butcher paper. Cheap, suitable for a casual party, recyclable/compostable. That would also be easy to secure to the tables with tape.

If that doesn't work, I'm leaning towards the cheap white tablecloths on
Amazon. They seem cheaper than any of the other alternatives and seem like they would be good for reuse as well. I like many of the other suggestions, but I think most, if not all would price out higher than the tablecloths. Debating plain white (I might make a rainbow paper pennant banner for the cake/present table if I go with white) or three different solid colors. . . .

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:48PM
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cheap painters drop cloths could make the colouring smoother, as a lining.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:34AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If you have a Christmas Tree Shoppe or other similar kind of store, check it out. They carry vinyl-topped table cloths for a song. You can get a clear plastic protector for only $2.50.

Here is a link that might be useful: Christmas Tree Shoppe

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:36AM
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LOVE Christmas Tree Shops!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:11AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Since you asked for washable, I would agree with camlan, use sheets. Easy wash, lots of colors or patterns as well as white. I have done that and it worked great.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 5:31PM
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What about renting? Where I am located, it's cheaper than buying and they have lots of colors to choose from. I also like the drop cloth idea. You can get large ones on amazon and cut them to the desired size. Maybe use crushed paper bag "vases" or mason jars of flowers or something colorful and dd-appropriate for centerpieces to go along with the casual tone the drop cloths would set.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:30PM
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The suggestion to use sheets reminds me that I have used twin sheet sets for table cloths. I use the flat sheet for the table and then set the table in advance. Then I use the fitted sheet to cover the table, dishes and all, to keep dust, dog hairs etc off of the table. Works great!

I bought some of the cheapy amazon tablecloths a couple of months ago and you can't beat them for the price.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:22AM
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Clever ideas! Center pieces are taken care of. As I mentioned above, I am going to order custom pinwheels in the rainbow colors and will put them in mason jars as center pieces and then favors.

It's been raining so I have not been able to test the coloring on the picnic tables, but maybe we will catch a break today and can try it.

I feel pretty sure that buying the $11.99 table clothes off amazon will be cheaper than renting. And I would have the table cloths for future use so definitely cheaper over the long run. Not to mention not having to worry about stains on a rental table cloth since this is a preschooler's park birthday party. And I think the $11.99 price point is going to beat buying buying drop cloths as well given my memory of what drop cloths cost.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 10:06AM
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