Sunprinted Tablecloth and Napkins

DSC_1076 (1)

Way back (ah, decades ago!) when I was in college in Madison, WI, I met a vibrant, adventurous, elegant woman whose bohemian and artistic outlook was a revelation and an inspiration.  One of those friends whose free-spirited nature stills shapes me to this day.  When she got married this summer I knew I wanted to make her something special as a wedding gift.  I decided to make a sunprinted tablecloth and napkin set.


In the college days, when the rest of us were scraping together chips and salsa, she would show up to a birthday party having baked a cake decorated with raspberry sauce and fern leaves. Somehow managing to put together a celebratory table to give you happy goose bumps.  And a table was never complete until it had a tablecloth.  It’s a tradition I have kept up with my own family.

After all the roads we travelled since, I knew she would use and appreciate an eclectic table setting of the handmade and love-filled variety.  Plus, I wanted to return the favor for all the wonderful meals we’ve shared together over the years.  I decided to try my hand at inkodying.   Normally, I wouldn’t try something new when I was making a gift, especially a wedding gift but  it just felt like I had to do it. She would love that I was winging it.


This was my first time using inkodye, so it was a bit of an experiment.  Inkodye works by reacting to sunlight, so anything placed over the dyed areas will not change colors.  I gathered some leaves from our garden and an antique duct cover I picked up antiquing.  I pressed my leaves while I was prepping my fabric (probably about 20 minutes).  The fabric is 100% linen and it took the dye really well.  It was a great choice.  I started by taping the fabric down on cardboard. I was working in my dark garage because you don’t want any light to hit the dye before you are ready.


Once I had the fabric taped, I prepped my dye.  I only had one bottle of blue dye and I was worried I would run out of it, which I did but it was ok because I was able to work with the design to make it look intentional.  I added one cup of water to my dye before I painted it on with a brush.  The water diluted it just a little bit and allowed me to stretch one bottle of dye into just enough.  While I was still in the garage I placed the duct cover and the leaves just where I wanted them. Then, I opened the garage door and pulled the whole thing into the sun for about 8 minutes.  It’s really stinky stuff but the smell completely dissipates.


It was fun to watch the color change from purple to blue and see the transformation happening.

DSC_1067 (1)


When the timer finally dinged I pulled the whole thing back into the dark garage and removed the leaves and tape to reveal the tablecloth! I threw it in the washing machine and dryer right away without any further exposure to the sun.  You are supposed to use an Inkowash product but I didn’t have any and it worked fine without it.


The print turned out really good.  You can see some areas where the dye bled under my painter’s tape and some where I applied too little or too much dye but I like that natural variation.






I paired the table cloth with cloth napkins made of the softest, woven cotton fabric in a variety of shades.

sunprinted tablecloth and napkins She has reported back that by some miracle the final blue border fits the dimensions of her table exactly. That’s the kind of whimsical, bohemian thing that was destined to happen.  

8 Comments on Sunprinted Tablecloth and Napkins

  1. Rachel
    September 8, 2015 at 11:19 am (2 years ago)

    Cool project!

    • Melissa Q.
      September 8, 2015 at 11:22 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you!! It was so much fun to make, I totally did a happy dance in the garage when I took the leaves off.

  2. Daniela D
    September 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm (2 years ago)

    This is fantastic! What a thoughtful and beautiful gift for your friend.

    I love the tablecloth tradition. We carry on the tradition at home as well. Got that from my mom, who got it from her mom, and so on, and so on and so on. 🙂

    • Melissa Q.
      September 8, 2015 at 3:16 pm (2 years ago)

      That’s so sweet Daniela! I used to think of them as unnecessary and now I’m a convert!

  3. Pat Burns
    September 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm (2 years ago)

    So beautiful!! What a great gift for dear friend. Really lovely.

  4. Sarah
    September 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm (2 years ago)

    So lovely and heartfelt, and I loved that you “winged it! “


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: