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


cay said...

What a great job! Very patient. My idea is to put just one row of sc around it. Just to stabilize it so it will last another 50+ years. And great pics, too.

Anonymous said...

Your restoration/repair work is lovely. I agree with your daughters... leave it as is.


Julie R said...

Your restoration work is great. As far as the border, I personally would design a new border and put it on. I think it would stabilize the piece and would give you a visual stopping point. I would not use the original as it didn't apparently hold up as well. JMHO. Julie Kansas

melissa said...

I would personally add a different border that you designed yourself , it could become a family tradition ya knw you could do 1 part and if your daughter crochets she can add her part to the border. I think your grandmother would love this idea because then it would be more of a family "progressive" .. table cloth kindalike round robins in quilting but this is with crochet :) as for what kind of border hmm im partial to a simple shell but thats just me lol (im really girly ) but i think it would hold up well


Anonymous said...

I love the Tablecloth and think your restoration work is fantastic! I'm thinking the original border was not finished, as the long chains seem to beg for a row of shells or some other design. Maybe, Grandma got tired or ran out of thread and just left it there? LOL I think a row of single crochet would add weight and help the TC to drape to it's best advantage. Of course a row of shells that a previous posted suggested does sound good. Such lovely work.

Anonymous said...

you've done such a wonderful job with great respect to the original workmanship. i think i'd leave it without a border. looks great the way it is.
jd in st. louis

Mitzy said...

What a beautiful tablecloth Joyce! You did an excellent job of repairing it! I tend to feel that you should add a simple border to it to stabilize it & help it drape better. I like Melissa's idea of doing it so that your daughter can add on later. Whatever you do, I'm sure it will be stunning!
Mitzy :)

Anonymous said...

The tablecloth is lovely! And you've done a wonderful job restoring it. I would add a simple sc row to stabilize it and help it drape better. Plus, it would keep it from getting damaged again. You want it to last several more generations.

Christena said...

What a great job of restoration. I agree it is beautiful as it is but I think a border is necessary. It will stabilize the edge and keep the motifs from being damaged again. I really think that will happen with the open work now at the borders of the tablecloth. I would keep it simple as in a row or two of sc.

HindyB said...

If you want to have a family tradition of adding onto the tablecloth when it's passed to another generation, then a single crochet border is best. A shell stitch border would be prettier, but of course more difficult to add onto at a later date.

Sylvia said...

I know this is a very old post and you have very likely already done whatever you needed to do.

My suggestion is to put a new border on. Perhaps in a different color, make some flat flowers to place around on the tablecloth to draw it all together.

I know your daughter wanted it left as it was but there is the possibility that it will some day come to her and wouldn't it be more precious to her if it were from both her great grandmother and her mother?

If your mother crochets, perhaps she could make the flowers, you do the border and then your daughter would have a tablecloth from 3 generations of her family.

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