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  1. #1
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    Help me find waterproof tartan material

    I'm almost done building a custom table for my engineering department area at work. Aside from being a conference/meeting table, it will also house a 65-inch monitor in the tabletop that we use for viewing engineering drawings. But at certain points during the year we have an office luncheon, and we will need to eat at that table. I'm designing the monitor to crank down below the top of the table and be covered by a drop-in wood panel to cover it.

    For obvious reasons, I don't want anyone to be able to spill food or drink into the electronics when we have our luncheons. So I need to provide a waterproof table cloth that I can cover the entire table with. I'd like to make it with a material that has a traditional-looking tartan pattern, but I'm having a hard time finding suitable material. Here are my requirements:

    1. The table is 48"x144" (4ft x 12ft). I'd like about a foot of drape on all sides, so I need a piece of material at least 72"x168" (6 ft x 14 ft). I suppose I could join two narrower strips together lengthwise, but I'd rather avoid the work of sewing it and not have a seam down the middle (possible leak point). If all I can find is a 54" or 60" wide bolt, then there's also the option of sewing a border along the edges to gain the width. Still, that's a lot of work I'd rather avoid. I'm not ruling out these options, but a nice clean single piece of cloth at full width and length would be ideal.

    2. The material needs to be waterproof or water-resistant, of course. Vinyl or oilcloth (cotton-backed vinyl) seem like typical table cloth materials, but I'd also be interested in a waxed cotton or other material, as long as it won't let spills come through. In fact, the more natural and authentic-looking the material, the better. As long as it's suitable for use as a table cloth and able to be cleaned off. It will see not only liquid spills but greasy food as well, I'm sure.

    3. I don't necessarily care if it's an official named tartan or not, but I want it to look like a traditional tartan pattern. Some of the "plaid" table cloths out there look pretty cheesy, and I'm not interested in pseudo-tartan or hokey versions. I'd actually prefer a darker tartan instead of one with a lot of light colours.

    4. Cost per yard can't be ridiculous. My company is paying for this, so I have to be able to justify it as reasonable. For the approximately 5 yards I'd need for this project, keeping it at or under $25 USD per yard is ideal.

    Does anyone have any idea where to look for such a material, or have leads on a supplier? So far I've found what seems like a decent waxed cotton in two tartan patterns, but it's only available in 60" width and it's at the top end of my price range. Are there other materials I should be considering that will serve the purpose, which might be more available in tartan patterns?

    *edited to add: here's another waxed cotton canvas that could be a contender. But again, only 60" wide and slightly over my ideal price.
    Last edited by Tobus; 11th May 18 at 10:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    I have not done a search myself but perhaps restaurant supply houses for tablecloths.

    If it were me I would start with a good solid colored vinyl table cloth and put some cheap tartan over that as a runner.
    Last edited by Steve Ashton; 11th May 18 at 10:42 AM.
    Steve Ashton
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  3. #3
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    Well, that's not a bad idea, Steve. I suppose I could always just use any sort of waterproof material as an under-layer and then top it with whatever I want, as long as it's washable. The tartan topper needn't be waterproof, just stain-proof. A PV tartan or even acrylic might work for that.

    But on that subject, it's difficult to even find a cheap table cloth of any material that's 14' long. That might still require buying material and making my own.

  4. #4
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    If you chose to go with a fabric glued onto another polymer type covering, I recommend using this as a binder. See photo. I have used this before attaching cloth to vinyl and wood on different jobs. I did find that it will darken some cloth (cotton) and not others. I found it in the automotive section but expect a "big-box" home construction supply store carries it in their adhesive section.
    There are similar products available than this one. I just have experience with this. Hint: allow a drying time of a few minutes before attaching the two fabrics. Be careful with wrinkling while smoothing out the area.

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  6. #5
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  8. #6
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    Good hunting on the fabrics you listed Jim. If time is an issue, a finished product to choose from is the best option.

  9. #7
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    Quasi Black Watch tartan Oil cloth, similar to what Barbour uses for its coats is produced from time to time. Ive seen it for sale on the 18th Century reenacting circuit in the last 3 decades. Orvis recently brought a coat to market made of it as well.

    I can not provide you a source, but a search of tartan oilcloth might give you some results

  10. #8
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    I wonder if having your tartan UNDER a clear waterproof layer might not work? I'm thinking back to one of my favorite restaurants, where their lovely tablecloths appear to be pretty fabric with some sort of clear waterproof layer fused over the top.
    Here's tae us - / Wha's like us - / Damn few - / And they're a' deid - /
    Mair's the pity!

  11. #9
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    When you have a moment, do a search for "outdoor upholstery fabrics". Those products are inherently waterproof (thick vinyls and the like...) and are supplied by a number of companies. Some list hundreds of choices on their sites; you're almost certain to find something tartan-like in one of them. Good luck and we'd be interested to see whatever you end up with.
    "Simplify, and add lightness" -- Colin Chapman

  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Katia View Post
    I wonder if having your tartan UNDER a clear waterproof layer might not work? I'm thinking back to one of my favorite restaurants, where their lovely tablecloths appear to be pretty fabric with some sort of clear waterproof layer fused over the top.
    Thanks, that's another idea worth exploring. I can buy cotton or flannel fabric for less than $10/yard, then top it with a clear vinyl cover at around $7/yard. That may be the most cost-effective option, and opens up a lot more possibilities for the tartan material and patterns. I'm not overly fond of the thick clear vinyl covers on tables since they always feel sticky to me, but it would sure be easy to clean up and I'd never have to worry about the decorative material (or electronics) underneath.

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