Thursday, February 21, 2013

Part 2: Let's start measuring...Beginner's Table Runner

So, you've thought about it, and want to try your hand at sewing a little something for your house.  A table runner is a fun thing to make as it's not too big and requires only a small fraction of fabric compared with an entire quilt.  Plus, if you mess it up completely...which happens once in a while, you won't feel so distraught having wasted the fabric, time, effort...but don't worry, I am going to get you through this with something you will be proud of!

We're going to talk fabric in this post of the series.   But not necessarily the FUN stuff about fabric.  We're going to talk about measurements and how much fabric you're going to need for this little project.  The real fun stuff will happen in my next post...but this is very, very important to this project, so hang out for a bit.

My table is one size and yours is most likely different.  So, you have to decide how big you want to make your table runner.  Etiquette decries that a table runner should be 1/3 the width of your table and hang 12 inches off both ends.  This is basically just a guideline.  You don't want it to hang off the edges, fine make it the size of your table.  So, the quantities of fabric I'm going to give you are an estimate.  You'll need to do some measuring and calculating and take it from there.  I'll tell you how.  I will say, always estimate too big.  Much better than risking not having enough.  Although, sometimes that just means you have to figure something else out...and that might work out better in the end.  I am not the poster child for always starting with enough fabric.  Many times, I find something I like...start using it...and then have to figure something out because I didn't follow the 7 P's and ran out.  And that's okay.  I like living on the edge!  Maybe for your first couple of quilts though...start with enough fabric.

The Basics

-What kind of fabric do I buy?

You need to buy quilter's cotton.  This is a nice quality of cotton that will hold up well under heavy use.  If you go to a specialized quilt store, pretty much the majority of everything there will be quilters cotton.  If you go to a craft store, you can always ask somebody, where the quilter's cottons are.  Many times they'll have a sign that specifies what's what.  For my solid color fabric, I really like Kona cotton.  It is a nice heavy quilters fabric with many gorgeous colors....but, I also only use Kona white for my whites.  This is my personal preference, anything will work, this just happens to be very nice fabric.

-What's a yard?   

You buy fabric in yards or fractions of yards.  So, 1 yard of regular, quilter's grade cotton is 36" long by approximately 40" wide.  The width varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, sometimes it's an inch or two less and sometimes it's a bit larger.  You can fairly safely estimate that there will be at least 40 usable inches along the width.  Okay, so want to know how many square inches are in a yard? 1440.  For my enlightened foreign readers, when I say buy a's a metre..ish.  1 yard = .9144 meters.

-How big should I make my table runner?

Mine is 76" long by 16" wide. Which is 15 rows with 3 squares per row.  So, first what you need to decide is, how wide you want your table runner to be.  Each square including a portion of the white border comes to a little over 5 inches x 5 inches square.  If you feel that 16" is round about 1/3 the width of your table, give or take...then you want to go 3 blocks across as I've done here.  If you have a very small table, you might want to use only 2 blocks across and then your table runner will be about 12 inches wide.  If you've got a completely HUGE table, you might want to go 4 blocks across. 

Now you need to figure out how long you want it. Mine hangs off the edges approximately 8 inches on each side.  Clearly I didn't feel the need to go the recommended foot.   I would say make it a bit smaller at first and if you want to add more length go ahead.  Or if you've made too many rows, and don't want it to be so long, you can always un-pick and get the length you want.  You can always bring your table runner to your table and see what you think.  I did this several times until I decided on the length I wanted.

-What colors fabric do I need?

You need your main fabric.  It's nice if this has several colors that you can play off of and compliment with the other fabrics.

You need several complimentary fabrics that look nice with your main fabric.  I have used 9 different fabrics that look nice with my main fabric and repeated from those as needed.  Some are solids and some are patterns.  You don't need 9.  You can use less, or more, even.  For my size table runner, I used 23 squares of the various fabrics and 22 from my main fabric.

You need white fabric.

You need something for the back.  It doesn't have to be the same as you used on the front...and technically doesn't even have to match as you won't really see it.  Maybe buy something on sale for the back.

-So how much fabric do I need?

For the size of table runner I've made you need 1/2 yard of your main fabric.  1/2 yard of various different fabrics that compliment your main fabric.  1/2 yard of white fabric.  1 yard of fabric for the back.  I am lucky, I've got a load of scraps that I can rummage through to get the multitudes of fabric I've used.  You might need to buy a little bit of extra fabric so you can get a nice selection for your various fabrics. But, over all, you just need 1/2 yard of it.  You really could just use two fabrics if you so chose.  You are going to cut your squares out 5" x 5" so make sure that whatever you get is at least 5 inches long and 5 inches wide.  You can always ask the cutters to give you 1/4 a yard of several.  This will give you a bit extra as 1/4 yard is 8" you'll have a spare 3 inches.

-How much fabric should I buy if I'm making a different size than you?  (READER BEWARE...this is a lot of math stuff.  You can skip over this completely as your eyes might start to glaze over and just jump to the bottom...I would recommend it...really...I would.  This is explaining how you can very accurately determine how much fabric you need.  It's much easier to just estimate and get a bit too much fabric than to do all this...but if you want to figure it out to the inch...this is how)

Okay, so what you need to know is you can cut out seven or eight, 5 inch squares along the width of your fabric. Want to know how I know that?  As explained above, the average width of fabric is 40 inches.  40 divided by 5 (because that's how wide your squares are)=8... Thus you can cut out 8 squares from your width of fabric.

Now, as long as you know how long your table is, you can divide that by 5 (because our squares are 5 inches long) and you will get how many rows you are going to make.  So in my table runner I took the 76" long I wanted it to be and divided by 5 and I got 15.  (I have 15 rows of 3 squares).  Okay. 

So, then you take your 15 rows (or however many rows yours is going to have) and times it by how many squares wide you want it.  Mine is 3 squares wide.  So 15 rows x 3 squares per row= 45 squares in my table runner. 

Now divide that in half because you are using your main fabric for half the squares and your various prints for the other half.  So you get 22.5  squares that are using your main fabric and 22.5 that are using your various prints.  Well, how much fabric do you need if you're going to cut out...we'll round up and say 23 squares because one fabric will have 23 squares made of it and the other fabric has 22 squares cut from it.  Well, you know you can cut out 8 squares from your fabric take 23 and divide by 8 and you get 2.875... lets round up to 3.  So this means you need 3, 5 inch lengths (because that's how long your squares are)...which comes to 15 inches of fabric.  1/2 a yard comes to 16 inches of fabric.


Now for the sizes of the white strips...ahem...okay then...there are 4, 1" x 5" strips per row and there is one more horizontal strip than # of rows at 16.25" x 1".  So you'll have to figure out how many rows you're going to make and how many squares per row...for my quilt I have used a total of 320 inches of white fabric.  Take the 1440 square inches in a yard and divide that by the 320 that we're using here and turns out you really can get by with 1/3 of a yard of white and...time, just round up and get 3/4 a yard of white if you're in doubt.  The 1/2 yard I've recommended for the size I've made is a bit too much as it is. 


Holy crap. If that's beyond you...and it probably should be more math than you'll want to put into it...
just get a bit extra.  If you think your table runner is going to be considerably larger than a yard of each and a couple yards of the back fabric.  If yours is going to be considerably smaller than mine...still buy the amounts I've recommended and you'll have a bit to spare afterwards.  No sense depressing yourself by having to do all that math.  Quilting is fun...round up!

Next post I will talk about your fabric choices...the colors, the patterns the good stuff.  You might experience a little fabric euphoria...which is a good thing...especially if you just read all that math up above.

Thanks for reading!  Please see the other posts in this series.

Part 1...The Basics
Part 3...How to pick your fabric
Part 4...How to cut fabric without cutting yourself
Part 5: Time to start cutting and pinning
Part 6: How to Pin Properly
Part 7: Let's Press
Part 8: Leaders and Enders



  1. You had me at enlightened foreigner and then you gave me Math, very exciting ill be sewing along :)

  2. Thanks for posting this....OMGOSH I learned alot sister ... HUGS and blessings, Sherry @ The Rusty Pearl

  3. Holy smokes Heather! I didn't realize you had started already! And lucky me...I just got some JoAnn's coupons in the mail. I'm so going to be doing this and I'm a little excited! Looking forward to the next post so I can go buy fabric! Yay! (I'm pretty much planning on asking Sam to do the math for me this afternoon!!)


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Love ya! XOXOXO

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