I’m not really into the ‘romantic’ style of decorating… all Victoriana and such. There are elements that I love, but it’s not my personal style. I do think the look is beautiful when done properly. So doilies aren’t particularly something I decorate with.
But I do have doilies… and a lot of them.
If you frequent Pinterest, you’ve likely seen DIY doily table runners. They are super pretty! But again, not quite right for me! So what’s a girl to do with 1, 2, 3, 6, 10….16….34 doilies?
Dye them a ridiculously awesome teal, then…
…make them into a tablecloth!
First things first, make sure all the doilies are clean and made of natural fibres like cotton or linen. Synthetic material doesn’t absorb dye as easily. My doilies ranged in colour from shades of cream, white and beige to white with colourful bits around the edges. Doing a deep colour helps unify them so the colour differences wont be quite as noticeable.
I dyed mine in the kitchen sink since it is stainless steel. I’ve done fabric dying in the washing machine before, but now that I have a HE washer, it’s not possible because of the low amount of water it uses. If you plan to do it in the sink as well, be sure your sink is clean and free of residue. I suggest using baking soda and some water to give it a good scrub, then rinse well. If it’s not clean, dye will stick to the residue on your sink. Lay some old rags around your sink to protect the counter top.
You will need very hot water for this. The water from my tap is super hot (we should actually turn the governor down!). If you don’t have super hot water, consider boiling some in a large pot on the stove or in a kettle.
I filled my sink 2/3 of the way full with hot water, then added 1/2 cup salt and stirred it until it dissolved. Then poured in half a bottle of RIT liquid dye in the colour teal. I wanted an intense colour. If in doubt of how much dye to use, check the packaging for instruction. If you want a pale colour, just use a wee bit, like a cap full and start from there. You can always go darker!
Using an old spoon (that isn’t used for cooking), stir the dye bath gently. Carefully lay in one doily after another. I just kept laying them in the bath on top of each other until all of the doilies were in and completely submerged, then let them set for about 10 minutes or so to just soak up the dye. I know, you’re supposed to stir and agitate continually but I wasn’t concerned about blotchy colour for this since the dye was dark and doilies are pretty forgiving.
After about ten minutes, I started stirring the doilies around frequently for the next half hour. I wanted the doilies to absorb the maximum amount of dye they possibly could.
Time to pull the plug! Using old rubber gloves (a plastic shopping bag over your hand would work too), I pulled the plug and ran cold water over the doilies to start rinsing out the excess dye. Filled the sink back up with cold water and added half cup of vinegar to help set the colour. Stirred and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Pulled the plug again and rinsed the doilies under cold water until the water ran clear.
If you do this, before going any further, go back to the kitchen sink and give it a clean with baking soda again to remove any leftover dye. You can wet the sink down, sprinkle baking soda liberally and give it a quick scrub. If you want, you can also use some bleach, but I find the baking soda works fine. I’ve got little boys and a kitty, so I try to avoid cleaning with bleach.
Once the doilies dry, you may need to press them to flatten and reshape them. Do this with a clean rag under and over the doilies (like a press cloth), to protect your ironing board and iron from leftover dye residue. Mine were pretty good so I didn’t need to do the ironing bit.
Moving on to assembly!
Laying directly on the table I wanted to cover, I played with the arrangement until the desired look and size was achieved. This took a few tries for me. If you do it… be prepared, you will more likely switch things around quite a bit, tweaking it until it’s just so. The goal is to have all the doilies connecting each other at some point. Preferably, touching in multiple spots. I’m not going to lie, I lost count of how many times I rearranged them, walked away, put it away ’til the next day… cursed at them and that one ‘gap’ left to fill was smaller than any doily I had left… the process was a bit painful lol…. I can laugh about it now that the mental wounds of trying to assemble this tablecloth have finally healed and faded.
Once they were all arranged, using a large needle (darning needle is perfect) and a matching thread (embroidery thread is another option), I began tying them together, using the needle to help get the thread through the doilies. If you are using regular thread, I suggest doubling like I did.
If you give this project a go, this is the point where the angels sing and you bask in the glory of the finished project… and not having to rearrange those damn doilies anymore. Doilies may look pretty and delicate, but they can definitely inflict some emotional scars. Be warned!
I only had enough doilies to cover the top of my table, which for me, works perfectly fine. It can always be laid diagonally or width wise across the table layered in with another tablecloth. Emotional scarring aside, isn’t it gorgeous?! The teal turned out beautifully rich, and will look ab-fab on our table for special occasions in the coming fall and winter months.
ps…Spot clean only!