Camp picnic tables are great gathering spots for meals, visiting with friends and playing card games, but I never sit down without my picnic table bench covers. I love setting the table at the campground and creating the gathering space where we will make memories. What I don’t love is a dirty table. First, I start my set up by grabbing my broom and dusting all the spiderwebs and dirt clinging to the underside of the table. Then I give the top of the table and seats a brush down to get rid of bird droppings and any sticky residue leftover from the last campers’ meals. Finally, I hit it with a hot soapy rag before moving it on top of my camp rug and covering it with a favorite tablecloth.

Once my table is cleaned and situated, I add my homemade bench covers and call it done! I made this set of bench covers many years ago after getting a painful splinter on the back of my leg from an old picnic table bench. They are easy to make, wash and store, and look great, too. 

Step One:

Choose the fabric. I used an old cutter quilt that had seen better days but was still beautiful to me. You can also use store-bought table runners, an old set of cut-up drapes, a salvaged blanket or even an old cloth shower curtain. I preferred the quilt because it had a bit of a cushion to it. Whatever you decide to make your covers out of, be sure that the material is machine-washable and something that will dry quickly if they become soaked in morning dew or get caught in a downpour. 

Step Two:

Cut the quilt or fabric into strips that are at least 12 inches wide. Most benches are 12 inches at the most. You can go wider if you want a cover that will drape over both the front and back of the bench. The 12-inch strip sits right on top of the seat and is secured at the ends. How long your cover is will depend on you. Mine are 6 feet long because that is what the quilt happened to be, but they have worked out great as most picnic tables are 6 to 8 feet long. 

Step Three:

To make the seat covers machine-washable, bind off the edges of the raw material. If you bought table runners, this has already done and you can skip to Step Four. When cutting your own, you have a few options. I simply used the zig zag stitch on my machine and enclosed the raw edges that way. It’s not fancy, but has held up to dozens of machine washings. You can also fold them over and top stich them down. If you do this, you will need to make the cut larger than 12 inched to accommodate the hem. You can also add thick bias tape stitched down over the raw edges. This encloses the seam and adds a decorative element as well. 

Step Four:

There are a few ways to fasten these to the bench, so they don’t blow off with every breeze or shift around when people get on and off the bench. You can sew elastic strapping in four places that will secure beneath the seat and keep it snug. Or you can also sew thick grosgrain ribbon or fabric scraps on each side that tie beneath the seat keeping it from sliding off. Another option is to cut the length of your seat cover longer than the bench and create a rod pocket on each end that will hold a piece of plumbing pipe heavy enough to keep the cover from moving in a wind gust. If you own tablecloth weights that attach to the corners of your tablecloth, you can use those on your seat covers as well.

Tada! Pretty picnic table bench covers!

This article, written by Janine Pettit, first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Girl Camper magazine, Subscribe here.

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