A Delight from the Past

Applique Tablecloth

Applique Tablecloth

This is one of the most cheerful and striking tablecloths I have ever seen. It belongs to my cousin, who found it in an antiques centre, and brought it home to cherish.

It is crisp, and bright, and beautifully made, definitely by hand, and with some very ingenious Making Do. The lines of stitching marking out the edge of the central section are in a fine herringbone stitch, and in the case of the short ends they cover a join. Obviously the fabric wasn’t wide enough to achieve the length needed, so additional fabric was added at either end, and the joins camouflaged with stitching. This is just exactly the sort of trick suggested in some of my collection of “The Needlewoman” from the Thirties.

Applique Rose

Applique Rose

And this close up shows even more. I wondered at first whether this might be an example of bias binding used decoratively – another popular technique in the Thirties and Forties, and mentioned in several of my older books on needlecrafts.

Looking more closely, however, we don’t think so. The fabric used for the applique is rather finer than I would expect bias binding to be, and besides, there’s the unevenness of the colour.

Applique Tendril

Applique Tendril

That unevenness, although nicely graduated, is rather straight-edged, too. My cousin and I found ourselves wondering whether the pieces for the applique had been cut from the best bits of an old, sun-damaged piece of fabric, maybe a curtain-lining, or something similar.

Corner Motif

Corner Motif

If it is, it is absolutely the most striking case of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I have ever seen in my life.

The selection of the dark and light pieces of fabric, and the way that the large blocks of colour in the applied sections are lifted and highlighted by very delicate embroidery – and just enough of it – speaks of a very accomplished needlewoman indeed.

It is utterly enchanting.



  1. Lady Fi says:

    It looks so charming and cheerful! What a delight!

  2. Mam says:

    I’ve not seen this. Makes you want to have a go yourself! Not that Either of us need extra things to do! I would look good on a skirt?!!

  3. Wow, that is some skilful sewing and a wonderful eye for colour and placement. A gem!

  4. It’s just gorgeous – love those blue tones; what a treasure!

  5. Glenis says:

    Long may your cousin cherish it – something THAT beautiful deserves to be cherished.
    Brilliant “find”

  6. Dima says:

    So pretty! I love how the faded fabric adds shadows and lights to the flowers. A very nice find.

  7. coral-seas says:

    Absolutely delightful!

  8. The table cloth is lovely. I like the balance of blues in the corner motif.

  9. Sue Jones says:

    That is indeed enchanting. It does have a thirties/forties look, but it is most probably Chinese work from around the 1980s, when this kind of appliquéd cloth was widely available in British high streets – and at ridiculously cheap prices for the amount of work spent on them. Those shaded cotton fabrics are typical of these Chinese cloths, as is the general style. Some of these cloths are a bit too ornate for my taste, but this one is just right.

  10. Cynthia says:

    What a lovely find! I like the unevenness of the blue fabric, it gives the flowers and leaves a bit of texture and depth. It is certainly a treasure!

  11. Carolyn says:

    That is a lovely piece. I to think it might be Chinese, which takes nothing away from the charm of it. I wonder if it was 2 separate tablecloths that were stitched together by the owner to suit the size of the table?

  12. sharon b says:

    It looks a real delight – just lovely – and a great find

  13. Penny says:

    What a treasure! Its absolutely gorgeous and those of us who love stitch could look at it forever.

  14. Terrie says:

    Absolutely beautiful! The graduate color of blue is so beautiful and such a wonderful find.

  15. Anita says:

    Such a beautiful piece.. Blue and white is my all time favorite combination and it works always.

  16. Andy Lloyd Williams says:

    Lucky cousin to find such a treasure! Beautiful.

  17. karen says:

    gasp….gasp….gasp….wow! What a piece of amazing beauty!! Oh my….

  18. Sandy says:

    It’s *wonderful* – now I’m re-thinking my aversion to hand-dyed quilting cotton and variegated threads.
    Mam – yes, the shaded flowers would be wonderful on a skirt – a half-circle wrap, with flowers on the hem and trailing up the overlap edge – H’mmm, I now have another project.

  19. Janice says:

    It is beautiful. And I agree, if it is a faded piece of blue cotton, then it was a genius use of it – making something old and worn into something new and delightful.