A Thanksgiving Family Tradition Table Cloth

Friday, November 05, 2010
My friend Mary is the owner of my favorite craft idea...ever (and when I say 'ever' I mean at least 3 solid weeks of ideas)!

I've known Mary for years, but I didn't know about this until last year when we were crafting together, and she brought this beauty out to embroider. She can't remember where she found this idea, because it is 34 years old.
In 1976, she bought a king size, white sheet, and brought it to her yearly family holiday (her first spent with her husband) to use as the tablecloth. Each year her family (of 12 brothers and sisters, parents, kids, bunnies, and friends) get together for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and she wanted to remember who was able to make it to the dinner. She had everyone present sign a small portion of the sheet that first year. She then went over their writing with embroidery stitches, and a tradition was born. It began with names of the guest present, the year, and the location of the family dinner...

...and she added a seasonal embroidered picture each year,

and squared off the signed area at random.
When babies were born, she traced their hands, and parents wrote their information.

As babies became children, they attempted to scribble their own names,

and added pictures of their favorite sport of the year, or little seasonal pictures,

their jersey number...or silly 'ghost guest,' like Bubba, added by the 'children at heart,'

their pet's names showed up,


She said if there is a mark, she embroiders it all.
There are sweet messages, like this one from her Mom, who passed away a few months back who lovingly wrote, "I am blessed."

There are funny little messages that represent the year's happening, and dinner events. One year she forgot to bring her brother's favorite deviled egg....

Mary's oldest daughter, who had her baby hand traced on this tablecloth more than 2 decades ago, added her little boy's hand this last year.

There are stains that can't be removed, but I think they add to the story of this table cloth. The family now has to rent out a facility for the meal with 12 brothers and sister's...their children, and more than 50 grandchildren, and....I can't even imagine how many great grandchildren. No matter what the number is, I'm sure there will be one more by the time this holiday season rolls around! They now set the table cloth on a nearby table to look at, laugh at, and 'remember when.' I fell in love with this table cloth, and I'm pretty sure I could gaze at it forever. Mary assures me it's not a holiday without it present.

And now...I'm off to buy a king size sheet!
Linking To:
Just a Girl  Krafty Kat  Today's Creative Blog  It's a Blog Party
Fun to Craft  Trendy Treehouse  DanaJeanWard
Along for the Ride  Crafty Soiree  Passionately Artistic
Funky Junk
Tatortots and Jello
Be Different...Act Normal
Under the Table and Dreaming
Simpsonized Crafts
Sew Can Do
All Thingz Related
Ladybug Blessings
I'm Topsy Turvy
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Elizabeth said...

What a great idea...I think I will be pulling out a king size sheet this year. Better late then never!

Lori said...

Such a sweet idea and lot's of time and love stitched in there.

Sarah @HarriganHowdy said...

Ok. Buying a king size sheet ASAP! That is such a beautiful momento. :) Thanks for sharing your friends idea with us. I love this idea so much.

Not sure how to embroider, but I'm sure there are ways to overcome that obstacle. Maybe permanent fabric markers?


CaryManda said...

I absolutely love this idea. I can't embroider either. Ideas? perm. fabric marker? would it hold up to the washings?
What a fantastic story!

Christy said...

I'd use a permanant marker, that's what they use before she goes over it with thread. She goes several years sometimes before adding the embroidering. I didn't know how to embroider either until this summer when I made her show me, it's like coloring with a thread (I'm still not good at it). Someday you might pick it up, or someday, someone may join your family who knows how, and you can have them do it at that time.

Oklahoma Granny said...

What a terrific idea! Thanks for passing it on.

Jen said...

What a neat idea!!! I love how she embroiders over everything!!!

Anonymous said...

super, i never see something like this.

Unknown said...

that is plain lovely and touching

Alexis said...

So sweet, totally brought tears to my eyes. What a special heirloom.

kate said...

this is gorgeous! what a treasure! I'm sure i wouldn't have the patience for it but so I'm impressed!

Liz said...

So sweet...thank you for sharing!

Kathleen said...

What an amazing keepsake. I especially love the hand tracings and illustrations. Just a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing.

chris said...

Such a treasure. I think we might need to start something like this for our family. I'd love to start this next year when all four kids are old enough to contribute.

Anonymous said...

That is probably the Coolest idea I have EVER seen. My brother is getting married Dec 11. He lost his first wife to breast cancer and they had 8 children-ages 20 down to 4. His new wife has 1 daughter age 4; I think I'm going to get all the kids and wedding guests to sign and then embroider it for their 1st wedding anniversary. it'll give me 1 year to complete it. I'm so excited!!!!

Lorie said...

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love that idea!!!

Next year we will hopefully be in our forever house and starting new Thanksgiving traditions of our own and I am going to try to implement this in some way!!

Teri said...

Oh my gosh...this is one of the most heart-warming, beautiful holiday ideas I've ever seen. :) Thank you for sharing this! I hope to implement something like this in the near future. :)

Ella said...

love, love, LOVE this idea!! so thoughtful!

Ashlee Marie said...

What an AMAZING table cloth! I'd love it if you'd link up to Topsy Turvy Tuesday's!

the cape on the corner said...

my MIL does this with anyone who comes to the house for the first time. she started about 10 years ago when they bought a shore house, and anyone who visits needs to sign it. i really like this idea with the pictures, etc. looks great, and i know it is a hoot to look over the previous years!


Onica @ The Peasant Housewife said...

What a beautiful way to document a family gathering. I love this so much. It's so sweet, funny, and lovely.

hellesbelles86 said...

This is so absolutely beautiful and with my husband's ever growing family I can't wait to try this out this year for the first time. Thank you for sharing!

**** April **** said...

So what do you use to sign??? Permanent markers bleed on fabric? So, a fabric pen??

Shelli said...

I saw this on One Pretty Thing, and I am in love with the idea!!! Thank you so much for sharing---I can't wait to start this, and have my guests write something they are thankful for as well as their name and date. I noticed a few people who commented that they weren't sure how to embroider...I happen to have a free downloadable tutorial here that teaches all the basics of hand embroidery:
Also, permanent markers found in the scrapbooking sections of craft stores such as Zig brand have several colors of fine-tipped markers that might work nicely for those not wanting to embroider. What a fun idea!! Thanks so much for the inspiration.

Stephanie Lynn @Under the Table and Dreaming said...

Christy - This is such a fantastic idea! I would love to be able to pull something like this out year after year and be reminded of all the memories! I featured these today! Thanks so much for linking to The Sunday Showcase - I greatly appreciate it. Hope you have a wonderful week! ~ Stephanie Lynn

AllyDesigns Blogs said...

what a terrific tradition! I am going to get my king size sheet this week. (I think I need to learn how to embroider now) I hope you don't mine me sharing with my readers with a link to your blog. Check it out at

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this idea! I think I am going to have to steal it. We don't have big holidays but how awesome is this?!? If you have a chance come link up to handmade tuesdays @ ladybug blessings tomorrow. www.ladybug-blessings.com

Katherine said...

Oh, this brought me to tears! I am so sentimental! So sweet & lovingly made. That tablecloth has captured the history of the family for over 30 years-love the little tiny hands & the mother's message of being blessed! Thank you so much for sharing & linking this up! Now, I have to go wash my face!

Katie said...

Ohmigosh I LOVE this!!! I think I'm going to have to borrow it for a post on ABC & 123! K?

Unknown said...

What an heirloom. That is the sweetest idea!!!

Katherine said...

Also wanted to suggest that you link this up to Sentimental Sundays over at Sit Relax and Read


This would be perfect!

Tara said...

Wow! What a beautiful Story! I am going to go buy a sheet too! This looks amazing!

DANA said...

That is awesome! I would love for you to link up at my Strut Your Stuff Party!

Maggie Lamarre said...

omg what an amazing idea and legacy to leave.

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

We have a table cloth like this at my mom's house but ours is just done with permanent marker. Everyone writes their hopes, wishes, memories, what they're thankful for that year. It would be wonderful to embroider but I think it would take me a whole year just to embroider all of those messages and drawings!!

The baby hand prints (first thanksgivings) are my favorite parts of our table cloth too!!

xoxo pink and green mama,

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful. I'm including it in my Friday Favorites tomorrow!

Charity said...

You got me, you got me BIG, I have tears running down my face, this is a TREASURE and I will be copying it, thank you, thank you, thank you. I have never been so excited to start a new tradition, I can't wait until the day after Thanksgiving when I can sit down and sew over the lines of my family. You and your friend have blessed me.

Cha Cha

Sarah @HarriganHowdy said...

Christy, I am going to post about this idea today on my blog. I just think it is so meaningful, and I want everyone I know to see this beautiful tablecloth so maybe they can do one too! Have a wonderful weekend.


Katherine said...

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Ashlee Marie said...

Seriously BRILLIANT idea! I love it. I especially love the year after year addition this will be such a treasure for so many years. Thanks for linking up to Topsy Turvy Tuesday's!

Nicole said...

What a wonderful idea! I see the love inside this project ... stay on with this tradition!
Thank you for showing ...
BaNiSti (Germany)

Wendy @ Ramblings from the Sunshine State said...

That is AMAZING. What an absolutely priceless keepsake!

Moore Minutes said...

This is so AMAZING!! I have never seen anything like this. I would love to have this exact thing. It would be one of my most treasured possessions. Wow, what a beautiful idea. I just saw this on Days of Thanksgiving party and I voted for you. <3

CWimbish said...

I am a newly wed and was looking to start many traditions with my husband. A lady from my church gave me a similar idea. Each Thanksgiving everyone present writes something that they have been thankful for that year along with their name and 2011, etc. I will look into embroidering it to keep it longer.

Kansas Amy said...

Wow, I love it! I only wish I could embroider like that!

gracielynn's said...

Love the idea.. I came up with it over 15 yrs ago for my youngest dds first b-day party:-)
( great minds think alike )
it is esp. meaningful now b/c my brother & step father wrote on it & they have gone home to be with the Lord ..
in fact my brother being the funny guy ;) wrote Happy 16th Birthday !
bummer he won't be here for her 16th..
enjoy your memories ..:-)

Jaimee @ Havenwood House of Boys said...

This is absolutely beatiful!! I'm including this in a Friday Favorites that I'm running through November. So inspiring and precious!
Jaimee @ craft-interrupted.blogspot.com

Karina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

What a wonderful idea and since I'm moving into my new house in time for Thanksgiving it's a great time to start one.

Mrs. R said...

I was admiring this beautiful holiday tablecloth, when I thought I recognized some of the names! I am from Wilburton, too, and graduated with one of Mary's brothers!!! Small world...


Loved the idea! congratulations!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

This is on Pinterest and what a special tradition for a family to have. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us out here in internet land.

Adra said...

Where was this idea 16 yrs ago when we started our family???? Maybe I can still do it anyway. Better late, than never, right? Love, love, love this idea. Thanks so much

Brenda said...

I started this tradition about 15 years ago. I made the mistake of buying a tablecloth with different material. Some smooth, some woven, etc. We used black sharpies the first few years and I would go over it with fabric paint. Recently we've switched to colored sharpies and I leave it at that.
Like your friend we've signed names, traced hands, drew turkeys, wrote thoughts about the day: "Is the turkey done, YET?" "Kathi, where's the zuchinni?" "If that screen door slams one more time...". It's hard to find 100% cotton sheets or tablecloths, but it's worth it. We keep track of each year along the edge of the tablecloth: Place/Year.

Amy of While Wearing Heels said...

What an incredibly beautiful tradition your friend shared with you. How lucky, for all of us, that she allowed you to photograph her heirloom. Your post, which I found on Bonbon Break, has inspired me to start this as a tradition in my family now as well. Thank you for both sharing and inspiring. It is absolute perfection.

Kim said...

Just found you via BonBon Break. What a wonderful way to remember each Thanksgiving! I love that you have family on there who are no longer with you. What a blessing that tablecloth is!

Unknown said...

I know I am way late to this party but I love this idea! What if you used a canvas drop cloth instead of a cotton sheet? It may not be as elegant but would be more durable and may be more receptive to permanent markers! You could always dress it up with a runner and centerpiece :) Or sew a pretty chevron, or material of your choosing, along the bottom edges! Love, love this idea!

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Unknown said...

We've filled one tablecloth already and even perm marker will fade with every wash. I've mostly spot cleaned and I go over those that faded most after a wash but I'm def going to embroider with the new one that we'll start at Xmas. Also, color markers fade much faster

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