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Thursday, April 23, 2015

So, you know I use tablecloths . . .

Organizing my linen closet

I inherited a large box of tablecloths when my parents passed away. These are cloths from my great grandparents, both sides of my family, as well as some of my grandmother's and mother's table linens.

There's everything from cloths large enough for a table set for 10 (our table only seats 8 at the max), down to tiny cocktail/beverage napkins (from the days of cocktail parties and bridge nights, I presume). There are doilies, lace placemats, and card-table toppers.

The other day I found myself motivated to organize the closet where all of these are stored. I pulled everything out and set myself to the task.

I sorted the linens according to size and item. Then I bagged them up, using those zippered, plastic bags that sheet sets and blankets come packaged in. I have just one shelf in a closet under the stairs to dedicate to linens. So, if I do this right, it all fits.

The extra large table cloths now have their own bag, and sit on the bottom of the stack, rarely used. The napkins are sorted into 3 smaller bags, the white monogrammed ones (both sides of the family had last names beginning with "M",  lucky me), the ecru machine-embroidered ones (wedding gifts when my husband and I got married), and the assorted patterned and odd ones.  Then there's the bag of medium sized table cloths, the bag of placemats, the bag of kitchen table cloths, and the bag of table toppers, squares, runners and dinner roll basket liners.

On the end of each bag is a list of the bag's contents. I include the number of the various types of napkins on these lists. As the trend seems to be to mix and match linens, I can quickly see if I have enough of any given color, pattern or design on the napkins for whatever holiday or event, to go with whatever cloth, runner, table topper combo that works on the table.

I didn't bother precisely measuring each table cloth, but simply stated on the label how many people could be accommodated at the table with that table cloth. For example, "seats 10", or "seats 6". In my own head, I know how many leaves/additions to make to the table for each cloth, with that notation.

I try to use these linens throughout the year, in place of buying any new linens, or paper napkins. When we've hosted large soup/bread gatherings, I've been able to dig into this stash of napkins for our guests, instead of buying paper napkins. I even have enough of those smaller beverage napkins to fill my small square napkin container, in place of buying paper beverage napkins for when a few friends are over. They don't all match, but that can be some of the charm of using heirloom linens.

I try to be careful with the oldest of these linens. But I've been known to take them outside for dinner al fresco. It's just such a nice touch, with no extra cost, to spread a tablecloth on the patio table and add a vase of flowers, for a dinner in the glow of the setting sun.



  1. I love that you used the zipper bags, what a good idea.

    1. Hi Linda,
      I have such a stash of those bags! I've used them for sweaters and woolens (with cedar chunks inside), too. They're quite handy.

  2. Vintage tablecloths (and fabrics) are of a much better quality than current production. The integrity of the cotton, thread, weave, finish, etc. are all superior. Some years ago I bought "flannel" duvet covers for our comforter online that was very cheap. We didn't wash before use, yet funny how pills of fiber started pulling out. I remember flannel being very durable since sleepwear is made from it. I am glad I have crates of old fabric, many from 50 years ago and older. In retirement, I plan to go through these and sew, or pass them on to my granddaughter who is crafty. I'm sure your daughters will be happy to inherit your tablecloths one day!!

    Speaking of vintage, I have been looking for a food processor since I'm cooking more these days. Recently Costco has a sale for a very nice model, but I told my husband, I don't think I want to spend about $100 since it is my first attempt at using one. I would be willing to try a fairly new looking used one. OMG, practically that very day, we found a brand new in the box vintage Black and Decker food processor, one of the very first models I think back in the 80s (1986 copyrighted instruction book)...for $7.50. I told my husband this is probably going to last longer than any cheap model sold today.


    1. Hi YHF,
      It will be nice to pass these on to my kids, someday. It's odd to think that a couple of these cloths are in the hundred-year old range.

      Great deal on that vintage food processor! And you're right, it may just well last far longer than any new one. My own food processor was purchased in 1983, if you can believe that. I've really put it to use over the years. The wear on it is a crack in the plastic bowl. I've been scouring eBay for a replacement bowl, which would add many more years of life to this fp.

  3. I have inherited several old linens from various relatives. Unfortunately, most of them have stains that means they can't be used in their intended way. Now, I'm trying to decide to hold onto them for the projects I may get to some day, or give them away to someone who may use them now.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Many of mine are stained, as well. I do use table toppers over the cloths, as well as placemats. While those don't always hide the stains, they do distract attention away from them. But I understand your dilemma, hang on to them, in case . . . or find a new home where they would be used. Good luck deciding.

    2. I learned recently from another blogger that sunshine can remove some stains from fabric. The advice was given by a local professor of clothing and textiles.


    3. Hi YHF,
      I use this trick during summer, here. I sprinkle a little lemon juice/water combo on stains, then set in the sun for the day. It really works well.


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