Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Craft Show Fitted Table Cover Tutorial

I just completed my first craft show using my newly made fitted table covers.  They worked out so well that I wanted to share how I made them.

Notice where the panels overlap to allow easy access to the under table space

When it came to covers I had a long list of must have features. I use 5 foot folding tables instead of 6 foot because I can fit them better in different size booth spaces.  Because I sell jewelry, I raise all the tables up 9 inches by putting bed risers under each foot which brings them up closer to eye level. This means that my tables need non-standard size covers to fit and reach all the way to the floor. I wanted them to be fitted so that I could quickly slip them over the tables at shows and not have to fuss with getting them on straight or pinning them. Additionally, I knew that I wanted them to be made with panels that would allow me access to the under table space from either end of the table or the back so I can access my storage totes easily.  I knew I would be pinning a banner to the front of the tables at most shows so I needed a way to do that without damaging the fabric over time.  Furthermore, I needed them to be made with a washable fabric that didn't wrinkle.  And, most of all, they needed to be a neutral color that looked somewhat upscale, but not so posh that people would walk right by thinking my items were not affordable. The price for the fabric had to be right as I would need 20 yards of it to cover 3 tables. I could either spend a fortune having them custom made or I could make them myself. Thankfully, I have basic sewing skills.

After much consideration I chose to buy two bolts (20 yards) of "silver" color panne velvet. Panne is simply that widely available, inexpensive, synthetic crushed velvet that people use for costumes a lot of the time. It has several benefits.  It has a low knap which makes it look a bit like suede and therefore less fancy than other velvets. It comes in a wide range of colors including the silver which is a very neutral grey color and fit perfectly with my displays. Because it has a crushed velvet look you can simply fold it away and put it in a plastic shopping bag or bin for storage.  When you are ready to use it, it looks pretty much like it did when you stored it away. And the price was right.  In stores it normally runs around $7 per yard.  On sale you can find it for half that.  There are a few potential drawbacks with the panne.  It's not thick so light will show through when it is back lit.  I don't think that it will hold up well to very heavy use, It's not something I would use for outdoor shows because it's not something you would want to wash after each show.  Also, it is quite stretchy so I knew I would have to take some extra steps to make it work for me.

Because of the stretch in the fabric, I knew I would have to line the tabletop section with a non-stretchy woven fabric so the covers would keep their shape. I chose inexpensive muslin and pre-washed and dried it so it would shrink as much as it was going to. I did not pre-wash the panne.

I placed some of the panne right side down on the floor and spread it out as much as I could and then covered it with the muslin.  I used the table itself as a pattern to trace the tabletop section.  Then I cut the top out of both layers at the same time leaving a generous seam allowance.

My sewing room is also my exercise room.  The cushy mats come in handy for crawling around on the floor

Because the panne is so stretchy, while pinning both pieces together along their edges, I pulled the panne out about 1/2 inch on all sides to further stretch it.  I would rather have it nice and tight across the tabletop than wrinkled. Once pinned, I transferred the whole thing to my sewing machine and used a long stitch to baste all the edges through the middle of the seam allowance to hold them together and allow me to remove the pins.

I then carefully measured the skirt length I would need by setting up the table on the bed risers. I figured where I wanted each panel break and allowed an extra 4 inches on each side of each panel so they would overlap and not leave a gap. I figured for 1/2 inch seam allowances and simple one inch hems on three sides of each panel section. I added an extra 4 inches wherever the panels would wrap around the corner of the table because I wanted to gather the fabric slightly at the corners to allow some extra fullness for the bed risers where they stick out a little. I left the rest of the skirt un-gathered for a more tailored look. I used a sturdy straight stitch while sewing the skirt panels to the tabletop section, but I used a zigzag stitch for hemming the panels because a zigzag stitch will allow for stretch. I trimmed the seam allowances down to about 1/4 inch with pinking shears after sewing all the skirt sections to the top.

Two tables in an "L" shape
The one other feature that I added to my table covers is a panel of muslin along the front of each cover under the panne that allows me to pin through to the non-stretchy muslin when pinning my banner in place. This is just a panel that I layered in and sewed right into the seam while sewing the front skirt section on. It hangs loose about one foot from the top across the entire front so I can position the banner where I want it.

 The covers were a great success at my show.  The other vendors were crazy about them and the customers noticed the jewelry as the covers were a nice neutral backdrop. After being stored for a few weeks before the show I pulled them out and they looked unwrinkled and slipped on and off in a minute for quick set up and take down.

Look for a new blog post soon on the incredible ornament display my dad made for me.  Also, I'll be working on ways to get a few more pops of my signature turquoise color into my display.  If you have any ideas, leave a comment.