The Best Tablecloth Holder

So it took a camping trip to learn the best way to keep a tablecloth (or place mats) from trying to go airborne . . . geez!

Over the years, I’ve tried special clips sold in camping stores, thumbtacks, bungees, duct tape and several other so-called “ultimate” solutions.  None lived up to their billing.

As with many of my tips, I came up with this because I was forced to innovate.  I forgot to take any tablecloth holders with me.  So I dug through the car to see what we had that might possibly keep the tablecloth where it was supposed to be instead of tipping boxes of crackers onto the ground.  And the first thing I found worked better than all the fancy solutions put together.

What was it?  A simple piece of 1/8″ line, tied around the table.  We had a couple of nasty thunderstorms come through the campground that even blew a couple of tents down (not ours).  All the happened to the tablecloth was that the free end (top in the picture) folded over the tied down portion.  All I had to do was flip it back into position and wipe the rain water off the vinyl cloth.

To work well, the line has to be tight.  And that means starting with line that is not stretchy (not “no-stretch” in a boat-line sort of way, but everyday “not stretchy”).  The stuff we use is nothing special — the 50′ packages we buy at Home Depot or Walmart for less than $5.  We always keep a stock of it on the boat for all sorts of little stuff where we don’t need the really good, marine-quality expensive stuff.

To get it tight, I use a variant on a trucker’s hitch (there may be some other “proper” name for this). Numbers refer to the photo below the instructions —

  1. Tie a loop in one end of the line (bowline or the loop knot shown at right — don’t use a slip knot!).
  2. Pass the line around the table
  3. And around to the side where the first loop was
  4. 8″ to 12″ inches from where the end would meet the loop, tie another loop.
  5. Take the free end of the line and pass it through the first loop, completing the circle around the table top.
  6. Then take the free end back through the second loop and pull it tight.  Basically, you’re pulling the two loops towards each other, almost like a pulley system.
  7. When tight, secure with a couple of half hitches around the line, outside the first loop (the knot that forms the first loop will keep the half hitches from slipping towards the second loop and loosening the line).

If you’re not familiar with this method of tying a line, I’d first do it with the loops and half-hitches on the top of the table to see what’s happening.  But do it “for real” with the knots all underneath!

Put one line towards each end of the table — the size of the table will determine the exact placement, but for most cockpit tables, I’d put the lines 3″ or 4″ from each end.

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  • Sherri Jo McLemore
    Posted at 22 January 2014 Reply

    Great photo illustrations.

  • Debie Petersen
    Posted at 22 January 2014 Reply

    Sometimes you can find children’s Chinese jump ropes. They are a continuous springy band that 2 kids stand in then stretch out for another to jump in and out of. I’ve found them at Big Lots. They work GREAT for this.

  • jen
    Posted at 06 June 2015 Reply

    Great photo instructions! Thank you 😀

  • tami
    Posted at 02 February 2016 Reply

    Or you can sew a big hem/casing in the edges and create a drawstring edge, which is how my salon tablecloth is done.

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