Getting crafty at the table

Re-purpose a selection of op-shop glasses and delicate doilies to create a fabulously dramatic late night table setting.  

Words Sarah Heeringa. Photography Aimee Carruthers

Doilies are highly intricate small, and often round, mats for the table. They’re typically made by crocheting, knitting or tatting fine cotton or linen thread, and were originally named after the fabric made by  a 17th-century London draper called Doiley. 

Their main practical function was to protect the best Sunday furniture from scratches or marks. But they also provided women with the chance to showcase tiny samples of their nimblest handwork.

Judging by the quantity and variety of doilies that my grandmother had at her disposal, doily making was a favourite pastime. She had doilies she’d whipped up herself and others made by women in the family, going back several generations. The word doily used to mean ‘genteel, affordable woolens’ and I wonder if for some pioneering women they represented a way of imposing a small bit of domestic order and feminine civilising influence over their challenging and often rough New World surroundings.

Although our ancestors might have only had a basic tea chest for a side table, if added a delicate doily it was made a little more refined – and must have helped afternoon tea to seem just that bit more like it was done back in the home country. Modern reincarnations of these old doilies on T-shirts, cushion covers and elsewhere seems a fitting tribute to the creativity of these women from times past. ​

Natty napkins

Choose a remnant of bright fabric and cut into six even squares. Fold 1mm over along each and iron flat. Fold over again and iron flat before hand or machine sewing along each edge to create a neat finish.
Find a doily that’s been made of a series of distinct crocheted or tatted shapes and use small scissors to separate them where they will not fray. Hand stitch a doily sample onto the corner of each hemmed napkin to make a set. Doily-tastic!  

Extraordinary table runner 

Shop around, and you can pick exquisitely crafted doilies for less than the price of a coffee. Look for a variety of sizes and patterns.
If necessary, soak the doilies in an eco-whitener to brighten them, before rinsing and drying flat.
Carefully iron them to get a really flat finish. Lay a selection out on a table and stich together in places to create a gorgeous table runner. Use it over a plain dark tablecloth for maximum impact.

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