Grandma's Tablecloth

Friday, May 02, 2008
It's been revived! My mom gave me a tablecloth that has been in our family since I was born. It was a present from her mom and during the years of my childhood it was an elegant fixture for special family occasions. However, through the years it was stained, had yellowed and a number of areas developed holes so it's been in storage for a long time. It came to me in rather bad shape, with the hope that it could repaired and used again.

Step 1: Clean. I filled up the bathtub with water, Oxiclean and a 5 day soak (it may have been longer.) Result: a clean WHITE tablecloth with NO stains!!
A long soak in a spare bathtub washed away
the years of stains & yellowing.

Step 2: Figure out what thread and pattern was used. I inherited my Grandmother's crochet books but none of them had the pattern for this tablecloth. Fortunately, the pattern is not complicated and it wasn't difficult to figure out the pattern for the motif. I also tested many different kinds of white thread for the best match, which turned out to be Aunt Lydia's Fine Crochet Thread, size 20, 100% Mercerized Cotton. I'm working on writing out the pattern for the motif and will publish it here when I have it.

A simple & elegant motif

Step 3: Assess the damage. The tablecloth measures approximately 56" x 70" and is made of joined motifs, each about 3.75" and a border had been added around the joined squares. The vast majority of the damage was a lot of broken stitching around the border (see photo). It was clearly a weak design area that did not stand the test of time. The damage to the border was too extensive and unrepairable. So with the blessings of my mom, I ripped it out (but not before I picked out and wrote down the pattern!!) I tried to save the thread so that I could reuse it in the repair of the motifs but the last two rows of the border were long chains and time and wear seemed to have fused the crochet and combined with the damage I couldn't get pieces long enough to be useful for repairs.

Example of the extensive damage around the border.
Only one corner area survived intact. (see photo below)

Step 4: Repair the motifs. This picture is an example of the typical damage to the motifs. Luckily it wasn't extensive or too difficult to repair. I took the crochet back far enough to be able to secure down ends and attach thread to work the new repair. The new thread is slightly whiter than the old but you'd have to have eagle eyes and a microscope to pick out the repairs so I'm quite proud of my conservation efforts.

Example of motif damage

Step 5: Decide what to do about a border. So the question becomes -- What do I do about a border? Here's a picture of the original border. It only looks good because it was opened up and pinned to paper -- see the Step 3 photo for the way the border actually looked.

The only corner of the border that was intact

1) Do I rework the original border? The Aunt Lydia's thread is a good match that is not discernible for the small repairs of the motifs but it would be noticeable once three rounds of border have been worked. The border was probably original to the pattern but with the test of time and wear it was not a great design. The first round is fine because it finishes off the petal design of the motif but the last two rounds are a series of long chains that during years of use got scrunched together and became a weak area where the most damage occurred (see Step 3 photo).

2) Design and work a new border? I would have the same thread difference issue as reworking the original border but perhaps some type of stabilizing border would be beneficial. If yes, what kind of new border? A simple round of single crochets? or reverse single crochets? Should I follow the first round of the original border and end there?

3) Leave it the way it is now with the original border removed? The picture below and the one at the top of this post were taken after the border was removed and all motif repairs had been worked. It looks fine. My daughters argument for this choice is that, except for restoration repairs, the entire the tablecloth remains crocheted by my grandmother and should stay that way! This choice would leave it a little unfinished by regular crochet standards and not in it's original state but may be the best way.

I need help deciding what to do! Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.

7/29/08 - Update
Grandama's Tablecloth - The Finishing Details