A selection of table runners on a wooden table, showcasing various fabrics like silk, cotton, linen, and velvet.

Best Fabric Choices for Stylish Table Runners


Decorating your dining table with a beautiful table runner is an easy way to add color, texture, and style to your tablescapes. Table runners come in a variety of designs and fabrics, ranging from rustic cotton to elegant silk. Choosing the right fabric is key to creating table runners that are both fashionable and functional. This guide covers the most popular fabric options for table runners along with their key characteristics, advantages, and best uses.

Cotton Fabrics Offer Classic Style and Practicality

Cotton is one of the most common and versatile options for table runner fabrics. Cotton has been used for table linens and home furnishings for centuries, prized for its breathability, softness, and absorbency. Here are some of the main cotton fabrics used for sewing table runners:

  • Quilting Cotton - This lightweight plain woven cotton fabric has a smooth finish on one side and a slightly textured surface on the other. With hundreds of colorful prints available, quilting cotton is an excellent choice for casual, playful table runners.
  • Cotton Canvas - Made from tightly woven cotton fibers, canvas has a sturdier hand and low stretch. It can be used to create table runners with more structure that will hold their shape well. The natural off-white color lends itself to embellishments.
  • Cotton Duck - Similar to canvas, duck cloth is woven tightly but is lighter weight. It works nicely for table runners that you want to have body but not be too heavy. Duck cloth often comes in solid colors and subtle prints.
  • Flannel Cotton - With its warm, brushed nap finish, flannel cotton makes wonderfully soft table runners perfect for fall and winter. It has a bit more bulk than regular cotton and adds cozy texture.

Overall, cotton table runner fabrics have many benefits: they are very easy to sew and care for, launder well, and provide good absorbency. Cottons also come in a wide range of attractive colors, prints, and weights suitable for table runners. The affordability and availability of cotton fabrics add to their popularity.

Elegant Linen Table Runners Add Rustic Charm

Linen is one of the oldest textiles, made from the fibers of the flax plant. It has long been valued for tablecloths and runners thanks to its lightweight drape, subtle luster, and durability. Some specific types of linen fabric make excellent choices for table runners:

Plain Linen - These classic linen fabrics have minimal slubs and smooth texture. They can be found in a spectrum of neutrals and pastels perfect for understated table runners.

Damask Linen - Damask fabric features decorative woven patterns on table runners like florals, geometrics, and paisleys. This reversable fabric makes stunning table runners on both sides.

Embroidered/Embellished Linen - Linen runners can be further enhanced with hand embroidery, beading, lace inserts, or trim accents. Great for a touch of ornamentation.

While prone to wrinkling, linen's natural fibers allow it to absorb spills and stains well. Linen table runners bring an organic, informal feel with their relaxed wrinkled texture that softens over time. The luxury of 100% linen will elevate more formal table settings. For a more affordable option, linen-cotton blends provide a similar drape.

Luxurious Silk Table Runners for Lavish Tables

Silk fabric instantly brings richness and elegance to any design. While more delicate and expensive than cotton and linen, silk runners make show-stopping accents for special occasions and holidays. These are the main types of silk used for table runners:

  • Dupioni Silk - Made from thick, lustrous threads, dupioni silk has a lightly textured, iridescent look. It makes indulgent yet durable table runners.
  • Habotai Silk - A lightweight, sheer silk with a soft hand and beautiful drape. Often used for backing in quilted runners.
  • Raw Silk - Silk fabric in its untreated form with irregularities left in for texture. It's commonly used for "shabby chic" table runners.

With its opulent sheen, silk fabric lends glamour and luxury to table decor. The fluid drape and lightweight feel of silk make it ideal for gracefully dressing tables. However, silk requires gentle laundering by hand or dry cleaning. While an investment, quality silk runners become heirlooms.

Synthetic Fabrics Offer Easy Care and Durability

Table runners made using synthetic fabrics provide some advantages over natural fibers. They are typically more affordable, easier to care for, and wrinkle resistant. Here are some of the most common synthetic fabrics found in table runners:

  • Polyester - Prized for its stain resistance and durability, polyester is often used for outdoor table runners. New microfiber polyesters mimic the soft drape of silk.
  • Acrylic - Acrylic fabric resembles wool with its fuzzy, nubby texture but is machine washable. Fun for whimsical table runners.
  • Nylon - With excellent strength and stretch resistance, nylon is useful for runner trims and accents. It adds structure when blended with other fabrics.

While synthetics lack the artisan quality of natural fibers, they make table runners that are versatile and low maintenance. Very thin synthetic fabrics like faux silk provide an affordable alternative to pricey real silk. For casual everyday use, synthetic fabric blends work beautifully.

Blended Fabrics Combine the Best Qualities

Many contemporary table runner fabrics blend natural and synthetic fibers to create the best of both worlds. Modifying the percentages in blends offers design flexibility. Here are popular blended fabrics for table runners:

Cotton-Polyester - Widely available and affordable, cotton-poly blends nicely balance durability, easy care, and softness. Great all-purpose fabric.

Linen-Cotton - Mixing linen and cotton results in fabrics that are lightweight yet substantial, with natural fiber character. The cotton content helps control wrinkling and reduces cost.

Rayon-Polyester - Often used to produce faux silks, rayon-poly blends drape well and mimic the sheen of real silk for less.

The beauty of blended fabrics is the ability to customize the properties you want. A 60% cotton/40% poly fabric will feel softer and be more absorbent than a 60% poly/40% cotton blend. Experimenting with blended fabrics allows you to create unique table runners.

Tips for Choosing the Best Fabrics for Your Table Runners

With the wide range of table runner fabric options available, how do you select the best choices for your needs? Here are some things to consider when deciding on fabrics:

  1. Durability - How much wear and tear will the runner need to withstand? Delicate silks require greater care than sturdy canvas.
  2. Absorption - If using the runner under dishes, juices, and condensation, natural fibers like cotton and linen work best.
  3. Wrinkling - Fabrics like linen and rayon tend to wrinkle more than synthetics or blend fabrics treated with wrinkle-resistant finishes.
  4. Laundering - Decide if you want the convenience of machine washing and drying versus hand washing or dry cleaning.
  5. Season/Theme - Lighter fabrics in bright colors for spring/summer, warmer fabrics in deeper hues for fall/winter. Holiday themes may suggest fabrics like satin or velvet.
  6. Pairing with Tablecloth - Choose fabrics in the same or complementary colors and weights that will layer together attractively.

Take time to touch and feel fabric swatches, observing how they drape and handle. This will ensure your handmade table runners have the perfect look, feel, and functionality.

Sew Your Own Stylish Table Runners

One of the joys of sewing is being able to create custom table runners using your choice of beautiful fabrics. Follow these tips for success:

  • Select fabrics with suitable weight, drape and structure. Very limp or very stiff fabrics pose challenges. Quilting cottons work wonderfully for beginners.
  • Pre-wash fabric before cutting to allow for shrinkage and ensure colors don't run. Preshrinking helps fabric relax and lie flat for easier assembly.
  • Understand the grainline and pay attention to fabric layout. Cutting on-grain results in table runners that hang straight and even.
  • Read through all instructions before starting. Organize materials. Take your time and be meticulous during cutting for best results.
  • Practice key techniques like achieving precise 1/4" seam allowances, properly securing ends, and reducing bulk. This makes finishing steps easier.
  • Add interesting details like ruffles, contrast trims, corner tassels or decorative buttons. Accent fabrics with ribbons, decorative stitching or applique shapes.
  • Proper pressing during construction helps make seams lie flat and crisp. Always read pressing directions.
  • Finish by steaming or ironing your table runner on both sides for professional results that will have it laying nicely on the table. Enjoy your handcrafted creation!

Caring for Table Runners: Washing, Ironing, Storing

To keep table runners looking their best for years to come, follow proper care and cleaning methods:

  • Read Fabric Care Labels - Instructions vary widely by fabric content. Follow them carefully.
  • Washing - Most poly/cotton blend runners can be machine washed warm and tumble dried low. Fold gently and remove promptly to reduce wrinkling.
  • Ironing - Use appropriate heat settings and steam levels. Iron on fabric's reverse side to avoid flattening pile or texture.
  • Professional Dry Cleaning - Dry cleaning is recommended for silks, embellished linens, or heavily soiled table runners.
  • Spot Cleaning - Immediately treat spills and stains by dabbing gently with a damp cloth. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.
  • Storage - Roll or loosely fold table runners. Store flat in cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Protecting - Use table pads and placemats under dishes during meals to prevent soiling and water marks.

With proper care, a quality handmade or vintage table runner can serve your family for many celebrations ahead. Follow fabric washing guidance and give fine linens specialized dry cleaning or hand washing to preserve their beauty over generations.

Get Creative with Fun Table Runner Crafts!

Beyond basic table runner patterns, there are endless creative ways to embellish and customize your own unique runners:

  • Ribbons and Ruffles - Use ribbons, lace and rickrack to make super feminine ruffled runners. Add bows and rosettes for extra flair.
  • Stamping and Stenciling - Stamp patterns or stencil designs onto plain cotton canvas before sewing it into a runner. Use fabric paints or ink pads.
  • Applique and Patchwork - Cutout shapes from printed cottons in different scales and motifs then applique them onto a solid background fabric for interest. Or piece together fabric scraps in patchwork style.
  • Embellishments Galore - Sew on beads, buttons, pom poms, tassels and charms across runners for quirky charm and tactile texture.
  • Mix and Match - Play with coordinating and contrasting prints. Or combine different textural fabrics like lace and cotton. The options are endless!
  • Holiday Themes - Make table runners from seasonal fabrics like black cats and pumpkins for Halloween or red and green textures for Christmas.
  • Upcycled Runners - Re-purpose vintage scarves, curtains, or bedsheets by cutting and hemming into runner sizes. Add your own creative touch with trim and embellishments.

Let your imagination run wild and have fun with DIY table runner projects! Customize runners to match your table linens, dishes, and overall decor scheme. Change them up by season or holiday to refresh your tablescapes. With so many fabrics and embellishment ideas, you can create an endless variety of stylish yet functional table runners for your home.


The fabrics used for table runners provide almost limitless possibilities to reflect your personal style. Natural fibers like cotton, linen and silk offer timeless quality and beauty. For easy care and durability, synthetics like polyester and nylon or blended fabrics are ideal options. Consider the look, feel and functionality you want when selecting runner fabrics. Follow the care instructions to keep them looking fresh. With creativity and skillful sewing, you can fashion table runners out of gorgeous fabrics that will draw admiration and become family heirlooms. Adorn your tablescapes with the perfect handcrafted or thrifted finds to impress guests at your next dinner party or holiday gathering.

Frequently Asked Questions About Table Runner Fabrics

How wide does fabric need to be to make a table runner?

Most table runners are 12-14 inches wide. To allow for proper grain and cutting efficiency, purchase fabric that is at least 54 inches wide, or wider if making very long runners.

What weight fabric is best for table runners?

Medium-weight fabrics from tightly woven quilting cottons to linen or cotton blends are recommended. Very lightweight or heavy fabrics can lack structure or drape poorly.

How are different fabrics used on the front vs back of table runners?

On reversible runners, use the same coordinating fabric on both sides. Or use a pretty print/solid on one side and lining fabric like muslin on the reverse side. Some people add contrasting fabric borders or binding.

Should you iron or steam table runner fabrics before sewing?

Yes, pressing and steaming prepped fabric makes it easier to handle and helps remove any wrinkles for smooth cutting and stitching. Always follow the fabric's heat settings.

What's the best way to hem table runners if not adding binding?

For thicker fabrics, folding a double hem with topstitching provides nice weight. For lighter fabrics, sew a rolled hem using a narrow rolled hem presser foot attachment. Or topstitch a very narrow hem.

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