Things You'll Need
If your tablecloth has an embroidered or decorative edge that you don’t want to remove, you can shorten the tablecloth by making a tuck just above the trim. First, measure the width of the trim that you don’t want to remove, then add the amount you want to shorten the tablecloth, minus 1/2 inch. Fold the edge of the tablecloth up (right sides together) this amount. Pin the fold in place, then stitch along the fold using 1/4 inch seam allowance. If the tuck is very wide, you may want to cut off the excess fabric close to the stitching.
Use caution when working with scissors, pins, irons and sewing machines.
Tablecloths should be long enough to drape over the edge of the table. How much the tablecloth should hang over the edge, however, depends on the style you want (more formal tablecloths tend to be longer than casual tablecloths) and the type of table you have. You may want to shorten a tablecloth to make sure your guests don't have too much tablecloth in their laps, or to make it hang evenly around all the sides of the table. Since the thread you use when you shorten the tablecloth will show, make sure to use thread that matches the tablecloth as closely as possible.
Shorten a Tablecloth
Spread the tablecloth over the top of the table. Smooth out any wrinkles in the tablecloth to make sure your measurements will be accurate.
Decide how much you want to shorten the tablecloth. For a round tablecloth, you'll want to shorten it the same amount all the way around. For a square or rectangular tablecloth, you may want just one to shorten one or two sides. For example, if your rectangular tablecloth is the right length but 6 inches too wide, you can save sewing time by removing 6 inches from one side rather than 3 inches from both sides.
Subtract 1 inch from the amount you want to shorten the tablecloth. For example, if you want the tablecloth 6 inches shorter, only remove 5 inches. The other inch will be needed for the hem.
Measure this amount from the edge of the tablecloth on the side(s) you want to shorten. Mark this measurement with pins.
Cut off this amount from the bottom edge of the tablecloth on the side(s) you want to shorten, using the pins as a guide.
Turn the cut edge over 1/2 inch toward the underside of the tablecloth. Press the fold, then turn it over another 1/2 inch and press the fold again.
Pin the folded edge in place, then stitch along the folded edge using matching thread.
Kate Lee's how-to articles have been published in "Sew Simple," "Craft Stylish" and "Soft Dolls & Animals" magazines. She has been sewing for more than 20 years and has a master's degree in technical writing.