Make this sun-printed table runner for peak summer entertaining

Al fresco fêteing that couldn't be more in season!

Al fresco fêteing that couldn't be more in season!

(All photography by Melissa DiRenzo)

Summer means it's time to move the dinner party to the patio! Is there anything better than eating al fresco? With a little help from the sun itself, you can easily make this printed table runner that couldn't be more perfect for decorating your outdoor table.

I love using table runners. They're less fuss than a tablecloth or placemats but still functional (they protect your table) while adding a stylish design element to your setting.

This is a great project to do either solo on a beautiful sunny day (with minimal breeze) or if you're looking for something to keep the kiddos busy during the summer months. Go for a walk in nature  — or to your local florist — to source the leaves, then watch the sun work it's magic.

Here's what you'll need:

*I used Monstera leaves because they're so big and graphic and instantly give the piece a tropical vibe. Another alternative is to cut out any shape you like from an opaque material that is water resistant such as vinyl.

  • Protective plastic table cover (a shower curtain works well)
  • Thumb tacks/push pins or straight pins, or tape
  • Pre-washed cotton fabric cut to the desired size of your table runner (inexpensive bed sheets cut to fit would wonderfully)
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Sponge brush
  • Plastic cup
  • Translucent fabric paint (available here)
  • Leaves or other opaque naturally-shaped flat items to act as a stencil*
  • The sun!

Here's how to do it:

Note: Because this process is light-sensitive, it's recommended to do all your prep work in the shade then move to the sun (or remove your shade) once the setup is complete.

1. Cover a large flat surface with plastic to protect it from the dye, then spread out your blank fabric and pin or tape down the corners so it doesn't move.

2. Spray the fabric with water until it soaks through to the plastic. This allows for easily application of the paint and more of a watercolour look.

3. Fill your cup approximately ¾ full of water and add your transparent fabric paint. Use as much or as little as you'd like to achieve the desired colour. Keep in mind that the more saturated your colour is, the more contrast there will be in the print, and also that the colour will dry darker than it appear wet. Mix the paint until combined to create a watercolour paint.

4. Using a sponge brush, generously paint the fabric. Feel free to add more pigment or brush strokes in certain areas for a more interesting look.

5. Lay down your shapes and either pin them to the surface (outdoor wood tables work great!) or use straight pins and pin them to the fabric so they don't go anywhere. If you used vinyl you can skip the pins and just adhere the shapes to the fabric.

6. Now it's time to move your creation into the sun and let it do its magic! Wait until your runner is completely dry before carefully remove the pins and the shapes and voila! Isn't Mother Nature cool?

7. Give your runner a good ironing on high heat to set the dye. The place on your table for the perfect base for the plates and accessories that will finish the look!

Melissa is an art director, stylist and designer with a love for all things colourful. She shares her creative DIY, home decor and recipe projects with the world on her website, The Sweet Escape. Follow along on Instagram for your daily sweet escape.