How to Make an Ombre Table Runner

Of all of the crafts we made at the APW Craft Extravaganza, I can say without a doubt that this is hands down my favorite. First up, it’s shockingly easy (I mean, way, way easier than I’d anticipated, and easy enough that it’s no problem to do this for 10 or 15 table runners). Second of all, it’s dead cheap. But mostly? It’s just stunning. I mean, gasp when you walk in the room stunning. Don’t put centerpieces on the table stunning. In fact, I desperately want to see it on a bunch of tables end to end, so you see the ombre color fade in and out, and in and out, and in and out.

For us the most labor intensive part of the project was sewing the table runners. That said, if you can find cotton table runners (they have to be cotton to take the dye properly!) in the size you want, you can cut out that step all together.

Pre-wash your runners before you dye them (you want all the shrinking out of the way). Then, wet runner thoroughly—this will help the dye absorb evenly. Mix your fabric dye according to the instructions. (We used RIT, which is easy to both find and use.) Then fold the runner as shown and submerge runner in dye bath. Slowly pull it out, in stages. The longer it sits in the dye the darker it will turn, so you want the ends to be in for only a very short time, the middle to be in for longer, and the center to be in for the longest. Rinse thoroughly to remove all excess dye. Hang to dry (machine dry with caution—if you didn’t rinse thoroughly you can get dye in your dryer and the color will potentially fade). Iron again if needed.


(Seriously folks… it’s THAT GOOD. And I can’t wait till you see it in the full table scape in the big reveal in a few weeks…)

Photos by Emily Takes Photos, Crafting by Elizabeth of Lowe House Events and APW Editor Kate, Graphic Design by Michelle Edgemont

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  • If hemming is onerous (which it is particularly when you don’t have a sewing machine!) I recommend pinking shears. Pinking shears are those scissors that cut a zigzag pattern into fabric. If you use pinking shears on your fabric, you won’t get any runaway strands at the cut edges of your fabric, and you can skip the hemming process. I used pinking shears on 20 muslin tablecloths for my wedding, they looked adorable (zigzags! cute!) and it made the craftiness EVEN LAZIER. Awesome. Plus: no need to track down a sewing machine.

    Here’s some basic pinking shears:

  • Snow Gray

    I want to try to do this with round ones… I think it might work if you folded it into a wedge shape and did it lightest to darkest at the center (point) like this one.

    • JEM

      OMG beautiful.

    • Maddie

      Ooooh I want to see that one done!

    • Snow Gray

      Anyone have a good source for round tablecloths?

  • JEM

    These are REALLY gorgeous. I think I’m going to make some just to have…and for presents…

    • JEM

      and also? APW is making the WIC look so bad because these look like they should be SO EXPENSIVE.

  • JenM

    Yay! This is perfect! I’m doing ombre details in these exact colors…want to just ship it to me ;)

  • Awesome.

  • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

    Worth saying that this is one craft that looks even better in person!

  • Lturtle

    This looks great! I’m going to have to give it a try.
    A note about using the dryer; heat setting the dye can actually make more colorfast. (which means it fades and bleeds less when you wash it later) If you’re concerned about getting dye in your dryer, and I would be, you can hang dry your dye project and then run it through the dryer on high heat just to set it.

    • Jenny

      Using an iron works as well! :)

      • Jen

        This was exactly my question.
        I really want to do this and put the runners on top of the white tablecloths that our venue is providing, but I’m worried that if they get wet at all that the dye will seep through onto the tablecloths and leave dye all over them.

        Do you think that if we do this, hang them dry and then throw them in the dryer on high heat or iron them that will prevent the dye from bleeding through?
        Otherwise…do you know if bleach would take the potential dye out of our venues tablecloths?

  • Stacey


    Not sure I will use this for the wedding, but I am going to make one for the kitchen table.

    • aine

      My first thought was “Could I do this to a skirt?”

      • dysgrace

        My first thought was actually ‘Can I make this into a skirt?’

  • Just a note about the folding: The pictures shown are to make a lengthwise ombre pattern (as in the colour goes down the length of the table (hot-dog style) and the table we showed is hamburger style (did that make any sense?).

    Basically, just make sure when you fold, that the edges you want lightest are all facing the same way, so you can pull the cloth out of the dye evenly.

    • Jen

      I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this…

      so, lets say your table runner is 96″ long by 12″ wide and you want to make it look like it does in the last photo.

      Should your first fold be to make it be 96″ long x 6″ wide or to make it 48″ long x 12″ wide?

      Or am I completely off base?

  • Ana

    This is gorgeous! For home and wedding!

    You guys are amazing! Seeing the pictures of you all on your deck in California makes me want to be there hanging out with you smart, talented women! I suppose cyber-friendship will have to suffice, and weather jealousy out here in New England.

    Thanks for sharing this and all your other projects and thoughts!

  • francine

    this is fantastic!!! :) thank you, apw!!!

  • Judy

    I work in theatre as a dyer/painter and I wanted to add a few things.
    First-be safe! RIT can stain your skin if you get it on your hands so gloves are your friend. Working outside or in a designated craft area is great, working in your kitchen not so much. RIT is a powder and when you are mixing it teeny tiny particles can fly up in the air. If you’re in your kitchen those particles can settle on your food and dishes. RIT is a chemical and I wouldn’t want to eat it. For the same reason you should also only use containers and utensils to mix your dye in that you’re not going to use for eating/cooking.
    Second-Be sure when you’re getting your fabric that it’s cotton or silk and not polyester. Polyester or a cotton/poly blend may tint, but probably won’t take the dye as vividly as Meg’s example. An easy way to check if you’re not sure is to take a small piece and light it on fire. Cotton will burn and smell like burning paper, silk will burn and smell like burning hair (UGH!), and polyester will melt into a hard plastic ball. Dharma Trading Company ( sells undyed silk and cotton scarves in various widths and lengths (with finished edges) that aren’t too expensive and might work as runners. They also have lots of information on dyeing as well as lots and lots of crafts/art supplies.
    Some other random hints- Always pre-wash! It will help get any sizing or finishing out of your fabric so that it will take the dye more evenly.
    If you do find some cheap china silk at the store or order some china silk scarves adding some white vinegar to the dye bath will help it dye better.
    To clean the washers and dryer in the Dye room at the theatre I just wash some cruddy towels (the only kind I have in the Dye room!) with some bleach and detergent. Then dry.
    I just wanted to share what I know :-) Happy dyeing everybody!

    • Jen

      This comment just made my day! Thank you for sharing your insights!

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  • dysgrace

    So, um, this may be a slightly daft question. But I am an Extremely Practical Sturdy Person, and am having An Extremely Practical Wedding, and really need to know: what does one do with table runners ombre and non-, ombre place cards, bajillions of flowers, and the WIC-y rustic mason jars that the bajillions of flowers are arranged artfully artlessly in, AFTER the party is over?

    (In the WIC I believe there are elves who clean up after you.)

    • low talker

      We had all that stuff and, shockingly, people asked if they could take them home at the end. Not the runners – because they weren’t as cool as this! – but I made a lot of little kids happy with my wacky driftwood centerpieces and flowers.

      The runners and tablecloths we just stuffed into garbage bags, and I washed and sold them on ebay later.

      The real work was putting up chairs, and also picking up all the little pieces of garbage that made their way onto the ground (somehow). I had some awesome friends who helped me do this the next morning, and my family also helped. Now that I look back, it sounds insane, but they were glad to do it (the rest of our party was so fun, I think people were in the DIT spirit).

      • Parsley

        Sisterhood of the traveling tablerunners? ;-) Seriously, though, there are a bunch of websites where you can sell used wedding paraphenalia. Or you could give them to someone crafty you know to make into other things.

  • Meagan

    I keep checking the post again and again because I love it so. I’m committed. We’re doing this! My mom, aunt and I are already using your veil tutorial, now this… you’re basically planning the wedding for us. Thanks!

    Now, can we just have the big reveal please? Please? I’m impatient! Shower me with reasonable, sane beauty!!

  • Can I ask specifically what kind of fabric you used?

    • it was just cheap white quilting cotton – *any* fabric store will have it (as well as most craft stores), and it’s super cheap (I want to say we paid something like $2.50/yard?)

  • Amy D

    Feeling so inspired (all the way from the UK) I jumped straight into this yesterday evening! So easy and pretty! The ones I did are for my friends baby shower but I’m gonna experiment for my wedding doing it on circular cotton crochet table clothes and doilies – lacey loveliness + colour = bliss!!!!

  • Awstinite

    If you have access to a sewing machine with a hemming foot, save yourself the pinning and just use that. If you have a friend with a serger, bribe her with wine to borrow it and give you a quick lesson. TRUST.

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  • ART

    I am gearing up to make these (roughly the same color, too) for our long end-to-end tables! I’m going to make them 28ft long…CAN’T WAIT. Protip: I will be using procion fiber reactive dye on cotton. It’s great stuff, and cheaper/more colors than RIT (which is an all-purpose dye). Takes a bit more doing but not much!

  • Abbie

    I know this was written a year ago but I have a question. What if you want to use more than one color? Would you do this entire process from beginning to end for each color? Or can you do one color then the next prior to drying?


    Hi this is a great idea I’ve been wanting to do for months ! I have finally tried it today for my friend who is getting married. It turnet out great but we have to do it again so it’s perfect. Thanks for sharing your idea :)

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