I took on a little job over the winter break that gave me a lot of pleasure. I had reupholstered my parents’s dining room chairs. At the end of the job, I had a long strip of fabric left over. My mom had been looking for un chemin de table (uhn shu-mahn duh tab-luh), or a table runner, without success. We agreed that the strip of fabric would be perfect reincarnated into a table runner.
I decided that the runner should have a fabric backing rather than just turning the edges under. I remembered that several years ago my mom had given me a damaged linen tablecloth to turn into dish towels, but I could never bring myself to cut it up for such a mundane pupose. The tablecloth had been a gift from her mother and had a beautiful damask pattern of shamrocks woven in lustrous threads, a reminder of her homeland.
Every Saturday during my childhood, my Mom placed the freshly pressed cloth on our dining room table in preparation for our after church dinner. (Yes, a mother of five ironed tablecloths, tea towels, and even sheets!) One day, the cloth became caught in the agitator of the washing machine and a section of the cloth was hopelessly mangled. My Mom seldom cried, but she shed a few tears over the destruction of this sentimental link to someone she loved. I floated the idea of using part of the damaged tablecloth to back the table runner, and my Mom enthusiastically concurred.
When I got back home to Massachusetts, I unearthed the tablecloth. It was even more beautiful than I had remembered. All those decades of washing and ironing had made the fabric incredibly soft. No wonder my Mom loved this tablecloth so much. I cut and stitched enough lengths to back the table runner, sewed on some gimp to enhance the upholstery fabric and attached the two halves. I must say that I’m very pleased with the result. Now the cloth that used to grace the dining table will be back in service, but this time in a supporting role. As for the remaining pieces of linen, I think they’ll make great sachets for lavendar. That’s one way to combine my Irish heritage with my passion for France.