amanda brownDIYdiy projectsUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: folding table makeover

by Amanda Brown

How many of you have an old folding table you use for overflow seating? Every time I get mine out, I immediately cover it with a makeshift linen to hide its ghastly appearance. This month on Upholstery Basics, we transform a weathered card table into a checkerboard, and whether you’re a checker champion or not, you’ll be inspired to spray on a new coat of paint and piece together your own design to create a table that’s ready to bare it all.  — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • pliers
  • staple remover
  • vinyl
  • chalk
  • square
  • yardstick
  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • t-pins or hand stapler
  • goggles
  • staple gun
  • 5/32″ staples


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


1. Remove the table top from the frame and use pliers and a staple remover to remove the old vinyl.

2. To make the checkerboard, we’ll need 32 squares of white and black vinyl plus 4 pieces that we’ll sew together to make the border around the edge. My table is 29″ square, so I have 3″ x 3″ checker squares with a 2.5″ border all the way around. The border pieces are 3″ thick (2.5″ border + .5″ seam allowance) with an additional 1″ flap on the outside edge for pulling and stapling to the back of the table top.

Always draw on the backside of the vinyl so it doesn’t rub off, and be sure to add a .5″ seam allowance to the sewn edges before cutting out the pieces.

3. Start by sewing each white square to a black square.

4. Sew together 2 pairs from step 3 with black next to white. Lay all seam allowances open and flat as you sew and repeat until all pairs are sewn to make groups of 4.

5. Sew the groups of 4 together to make groups of 8.

6. Sew groups of 8 together to make 4 groups of 16.

7. Sew the groups of 16 together to make 2 groups of 32. Then sew the last two groups together to make the 8 x 8 grid of 64 squares.

8. To get the seams to lay flat, topstitch the squares with the seam allowances laying open and flat on the backside of the fabric. Start by topstitching all of the vertical seams.

9. Then topstitch the seams in the other direction.

10. When the seams are topstitched on all 4 sides of every square, sew the 4 corners together in the border.

11. Attach the inside edges of the border to the outside edges of the checkerboard.

12. Topstitch the seams on the border.

13. Then topstitch all the way around the edge of the checkerboard.

14. When the top is sewn together, follow steps 9–12 from Dining Chair Do-Over to attach the fabric to the table top.

15. Attach the top to the frame to complete the transformation!

Table Tips

  • Use a non-porous material like vinyl for easy cleaning.
  • Since vinyl is stretchy, generously pin or hand staple your fabric pieces together to keep them lined up.
  • These table tops are usually made of thin pieces of Masonite. Adjust the length of your staples so they don’t go all the way through the board.
  • If your table top screws onto the frame, avoid covering the screw holes with the fabric when you staple.

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  • OMG! This is one awesome project! Just beautiful. Personally, I would go insane trying to imitate it, but it is exciting to see someone tackle something so involved.

  • wow. amazing. i love what you did. i am inspired to find an old card table and do the same. where do i get a sewing machine like your consew?

  • Is it just me or is anyone else loving that floor as well? Source? lol Great project!

  • Annette, the sewing machine is a Consew 206RB5, and the best deal I’ve gotten has been from eBay. You’ll need a sewing machine expert to come out and set it up, but it is a great workhorse and will sew through anything.

    Jessica, the flooring is made of recycled furniture (It was meant to be, I know!). It is made by EcoFusion, called Woven Poplar in color Desert Canyon. I found it in Austin at Treehouse. It’s a showstopper!

    Victoria, I ordered the checkers from Amazon ($15), and then I spray painted them blue and gold.

    Thanks for the all the comments! Keep ’em coming…

  • While your checker board is totally amazing, I am inspired simply by the idea of recovering the top of a card table. I have an old rusty one in need of paint, and a new vinyl top would be just the ticket!

  • Looks fantastic! I would use strip quilting, though, and just cut strips of black and white, sew all 8 together alternating, then cut into 8 long pieces, flip, and sew back together! Waaaaay faster than doing each one at a time!

  • I’m wondering – is there a way it could be painted and the paint wouldn’t chip off? My sewing machine would not be up for this project. I actually have an old 2′ x 4′ table that has warped so badly from being outside that I need to come up with somebody that could cut a new top for me and then I think covering it with a couple of game boards (Sorry & Checkers) would be so cool!

  • Wow! I just found your website and this project is just amazing! Who doesn’t have a wiggly, hideous card table that is only used in desperation and quickly covered up, when used at all! Thank You for sharing. I have an OLD Singer head machine that I think will do the job. My grand kids are in to Chess and this would be great for them to use and not the dining room table when the family gathers! Thanks for the inspiration! I can’t wait to get going on it.