This weekend I did a little project that changed the look of our deck and opened my eyes to the amazing transformative power of fabric and pattern, even when no sewing is involved.

I’ve had some oilcloth (aka laminate, see footnote for detail*) lying around for years. I bought it for a project that’s long past overdue. I intended to re-cover some outdoor chairs; I don’t even know where those chairs are anymore (at some thrift shop? the landfill?). So the oilcloth has been sitting in a closet, moved from home to home, and gotten a little crinkly in the way a stash does.

Then this weekend I decided to experiment. I have a little wood table that we keep outside; clearly it’s not supposed to get rained and snowed on, so it doesn’t look great.

But it is a perfect side table for an outdoor reading nook/lounging area on our deck, someplace away from the dining table and grill. So, I set up the table with a couple chairs — and then pondered how to brighten up such a drab space.

Oilcloth to the rescue!

My initial idea was to use the fabric to make a cover with elastic edges, so I could pop it on and take it off at will. I thought the old, closeted oilcloth would just be a test case, then I could buy some new oilcloth once I’d perfected the measurements.

But as it turns out, I love this good ol’ oilcloth from the stash, and it has completely transformed a drab little outdoor corner of the deck… without any sewing at all!

I love the look so much that I’m going to sew cushions to match the bright colors in the tablecloth.

Until this weekend, I never thought that something as simple as a yard of oilcloth — unsewn — could completely change the look of my backyard. Yes, it’s incredibly easy (maybe even a no-brainer, even though it got my brain going a little bit). So I want to share this with others – and I’m calling it a tutorial in case you need a little help along the way.

* Just a quick note: I use the terms oilcloth and laminate interchangeably, but they are not the same. The two are made differently, and I suggest you research what you’re using before buying any laminate fabric, particularly if you’re going to eat off of it.


Note: You can only get away with this no-sew if your table is smaller than the width of your oilcloth; that can vary, so go to your local quilt shop to check out the options.


1 yard (or more, depending on the size of your table) oilcloth or other laminated fabric


Sharpie pen

Measuring implement (ruler, tape measure)

First, measure your table. If it’s circular like mine, measure the diameter of the table. If it’s rectangular, measure all sides.

Flip the oilcloth over and draw your pattern on the wrong side of the fabric.

Flip your oilcloth over. Measure and outline a circle (or rectangle) that is 5 inches bigger than the dimensions of your table. Draw in Sharpie or some other dark pen.

Cut out the piece you just drew. Voila — oilcloth tablecloth! Drape it over the table and weigh it down with a decorative centerpiece (for example, the lantern above).

Tomorrow, I will post some of my favorite oilcloth patterns — ones I would have bought anew if I hadn’t had this stuff in my stash.

– Kristina