The Family Tablecloth

Family Tablecloth
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There are not many things much more fun than gathering around the table to enjoy a meal with family or friends. Over the holidays we visited my in-laws on their farm in North Carolina. I was happy to see this family tablecloth on the table when we arrived.

Family heirloom

My mother-in-law began this in 1995. Every year, when we all gather together around the table, each family member who is present, with pencil in hand, adds a little more.

Family heirloom

Sometimes it’s a poem about what happened that year.

Family Tablecloth

Sometimes it’s a drawing. Or maybe it’s a simple outline of their hand.

Family Tablecloth

Whatever the author chooses to add they sign their name and date it. Then, before the next holiday season arrives, Nanny needlepoints each mini artwork, readying the tablecloth for more. Nanny made the tablecloth from simple sheeting and attached red trim along the edge.

Family heirloom

It’s been such fun to see it fill up over the years. The kids really get a kick out of looking back to what they had to say years ago. What a great idea. I hope we continue the tradition until there are no more white spaces left.

Do you have any cool traditions you’ve began with your family or friends?

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  1. 1


    How cool is that? That’s the neatest thing I’ve seen in a while. I may have to start that tradition with my family since we have a grandchild now.

    I trace my children’s hands on paper every year, date them, cut them out, laminate them and hang them on a ribbon. I have 16 prints for each of the older children (they made me stop after that – their hands aren’t growing anymore they said) and 9 for Ethan so far. It’s becoming quite a long garland nowadays, but I love it!

    • 4

      mattie says

      We have a simple green tree skirt and each year we put paint on my daughter’s hand and/or foot and add it to the tree skirt….

  2. 6

    SMITH BITES says

    this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!!!!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this so much – wish i had a Nanny!

  3. 8

    Fran says

    What a great tradition! How fun to have something in addition to photos and stories to remind you of the past. I absolutely love the idea. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 9


    What a great idea! We often host college students during the holidays, med students who cannot go home. What an interesting way to remember each of them by making a tablecloth like that!

  5. 10

    Christina says

    Thanks so much for sharing this. What a beautiful tradition and such an awesome idea. I’d love to do something like this.

  6. 12


    I love this idea. My mom did dishtowels with all of the kids when we were younger, and I love the ones she did recently with my kids, but a tablecloth that everyone participates in is perfect. What a great keepsake.

  7. 13

    Robyn | Add a Pinch says

    What a wonderful tradition! I love this idea. Such a beautiful heirloom.

    A friend of mine has birthday tablecloths for each of her children. Each year they paint their hands and place a print along the hemline. She then dates it for them. Her eldest is 16 now and still loves it when she pulls it out each year. So special.

  8. 24

    Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says

    What a simply splendid idea your mother-in-law had, and thank you so much for sharing it with us! If and when (??!!) I ever become a grandmother, I want to try this.

  9. 28

    Satori_Image says

    This is an adorable idea! I absolutely love it… and what a wonderful tradition. :)

  10. 29

    Wenderly says

    Oh how I LOVE that idea Amy! Just beautiful! What a piece of art to treasure for years to come!

  11. 31


    Amy, I love this. How charming! Thank you for sharing your family’s tradition….. Happy New Year, my dear!

  12. 37

    Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes says

    this is just lovely! So nostalgic and creative…:)
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  13. 39


    This is such a great idea1 I wish I had heard about it when the kids were smaller – they draw more complex pictures now:) But, my mom is an artist and very good with crafts, so I’ll try to initiate this next time we visit. Thanks for the inspiration:)

  14. 40


    This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Nanny is awesome as are all those bits of memorable art :) Happy New Year!

  15. 41

    Megan (Best of Fates) says

    That is the most precious idea I’ve ever seen – I love how it can be added to and then kept forever. Though I fear around my family it would soon be covered in disgusting food stains!

  16. 42

    Gina says

    I love the tablecloth! I knew a family that had an old oak table in their kitchen and everyone carved their name/initials in it. This way wouldn’t ruin the table and would be more colorful, too!

  17. 43


    Wow! What a great idea. I love these kinds of traditions. That tablecloth will be so meaningful for so many years. Love it!

  18. 44


    This is great! I love the fact that you added the detail of writing/stitching on it every year. So meaningful and how touching to look back each year.

  19. 46

    Mary Batson says

    What a beautiful Gran-inspired idea… I may just have to adopt this one. Also thinking how it could be expanded – imagine a wedding or graduation or baby shower {or any other celebration}, where each guest contributes, and then one {or many} do the stitching and later present the gift of memories, a snapshop of a moment captured forever in a scrapbook of cloth… love it – thank you for sharing.

    • 47

      Cynthia Pitman says

      I have done this for three of my daughter’s weddings, They are precious keepsakes.

  20. 48


    I LOVE this idea! What a wonderful keepsake!! I could get my mother-in-law to sew the table cloth (I’m sewing challenged) but I could needlepoint the art work myself. Oh man! I need to do this. Thanks for a one-of-a-kind idea!

  21. 50

    Shannon says

    What a wonderful tradition! I love it and wonder if I can manage to start something like that? Thanks for sharing!

  22. 52


    That is amazing – what a wonderful tradition. We have a few traditions, but nothing that compares with this wonderful tablecloth. This year I’m putting together a tree decorated with childhood pictures of every member of the family. As each new child is born, their picture will be added.

  23. 53

    Debraly says

    We have been doing something similar. Several years ago my best friend and I both bought large white table cloths and a package of colored permanent markers. Then everyone gets to choose their favorite color and write what their blessing is. We call it the blessing table cloth.

  24. 56

    Cynthia Pitman says

    I have been making several of those since 1993. I put them out on each of my children’s birthdays, now it is also grandchildren. I got way behind and didn”t finish, so this year I am finishing them and turning them into blankets.

  25. 57


    I actually heard about a similar tablecloth tradition and started mine this week. Today I finished embroidering all the signatures of those present at our Thanksgiving feast! :) I ADORE this tradition and can’t wait to see the tablecloth fill up with loved ones names over the years. :)

  26. 58


    What a wonderful idea, I love that she does the needlepoint, it really adds quite a finished look to it. What a special blessing to your family.
    We move around quite a bit (military family) so I try to find an ornament that either reflects something special that we did that year or the new place we are living. As we pull the ornaments out it is a great time of remembering, and also talking to the younger ones about these special times and places.

  27. 59

    nicki says

    This is a beautiful idea. I actually wanted to do a quilt when my babies were born. I planned to send out a square of fabric with each birth announcement and have each family member write their hopes for the child and send it back to me to embroider. I never managed this so I would love to take on your tablecloth idea now that I have a bit more time and energy to actually do it!

  28. 60


    I need some traditions like now! This is such a crafty, fun and great way to hold onto those precious moments :)

  29. 62

    sweetsugarbelle says

    Amy, this is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO neat! I am so excited to begin my own! Thank you so much for passing along the idea. Its so neat, but I’d have never thought of it on my own =)

  30. 63

    Sunny Hernandez (@foryourpiesonly) says

    Awww, this is so, so sweet…What an awesome tradition :)

  31. 65

    Brandie (@ Home Cooking Memories) says

    Love this idea so much….just imagine all the memories this will hold over the years!

  32. 66

    DonnaS says

    What a special idea. I love anything that brings back memories from year to year. This has given me the inspiration to start a tablecloth like this of my own. Thank you for sharing it.

  33. 67

    Maggie @ Snag A Bargain says

    OMG…..This is such a wonderful idea. I am such a sap when it comes to things like this but I may have to adopt something similar with my family. Now all I need to do is learn needlepoint.

  34. 70

    mrsmo5 says

    I’ve been doing this since 1997 and my tablecloth is my favorite Christmas tradition.

  35. 71

    Jerry Johnson says

    One of many reasons why I love my mom so much! The tablecloth, the annual Christmas programs with the kids are great memories. Thanks for posting this!

  36. 72

    Haley @Cupcakes and Sunshine says

    OH WOW! What an awesome tradition and a great memoir. that is amazing! :)

  37. 73

    Terry-Ann says

    That is a beautiful tablecloth. It will be a beautiful heirloom to pass down. I wish my family would visit me.

  38. 74

    Sandy S. says

    We have been doing this tablecloth tradition for years and I treasure my tablecloth. My grandmother has passed away but her memories live on with the tablecloth and all the memories with the children and our holiday visitors throughout the years. We use fabric markers on the tablecloth and cover it with a clear tablecloth so we can dine on it during the holidays and admire the years past. With my first grandchild this year, another generation will be added to this tradition.

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