Do you use a table cloth?


Do you use table clothes these days?

Are they in or are they out of fashion?

My mother always had a table-cloth on the table, it was common practice when I was growing up in the 1970s. We used it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These days many people do not use them at mealtime instead using place mats or nothing at all.

My mother had quite a collection of table-clothes, I think I own one.

According to Your tablecloth.com (who have written the history far better than I could):

The earliest proof of the existence of tablecloths, is drawn from the work of a poet named Martial who died c.103 AD who mentioned them in his writing, so tablecloths are believed to have come into use in Europe in the first century AD. Prior to this high-ranking Roman households are thought to have possessed tables that were exquisitely carved and therefore too ornate and beautiful to be covered by cloth!  By looking at early artwork that still survives, it appears that the very first cloths appear to have been very plain and used simply for catching mess and wiping up spills.

Tablecloths gradually became more popular, particularly among European nobility and aristocrats. By the fifteenth century, every household apart from the very poorest would have used a tablecloth of some description, even if it was hessian sack. The middling folks (there was no middle class at the time) would have had plain, cheaper cloths while the poor would have used hemp cloth and the destitute would have had no table coverings at all. During the Medieval period, it was de rigueur to use the finest linen tablecloths. The linen had to be as white as possible. The higher ranking you were, the whiter your tablecloths were expected to be. This is because conspicuous consumption was the order of the day. If you think about it, this was a time long before chemicals, washing machines, dryers and irons, so you had to employ lots of people to keep your household linens clean. By having the freshest, whitest tablecloth you possibly could laid out on your dining table, you were effectively saying, “Look at me. I have lots of money! I have lots of workers!”

At the time linen was a hugely valuable commodity that cost a great deal of money. It had to be harvested, handspun, bleached and then hand-woven into cloth by a Master Craftsman. It was then bleached and calendared. During its existence it had to be carefully looked after in terms of washing and pressing. Linen was so valuable in fact, that it is present in wills and probate inventories right up to the twentieth century, and was seen as a family heirloom.  Households often kept their linen on display, either in a linen press, or stacked somewhere where it could be seen by visitors. As ironing was not widespread until after the late Middle Ages, a smoothed tablecloth was also a sign of a well-run household.



Below are some lovely examples of table-clothes and even though I don't use them very often, I think they really do add something extra. Thankfully it is no longer important to have the whitest of white table-clothes, which are both impractical and rather boring.

I asked my lovely Facebook friends if they used table-clothes and most said yes (it was, however a very small sample). Interestedly, the purpose of the table-cloth was more about protecting the table rather than for decorative purposes. And the table-cloth remained on the table between meals when it was used for other purposes. 


One of the reasons for the decline in table-clothes is our busy lives — finding the time to all sit down to a meal together (many families eat in shifts or in various locations around the house) and the fact that it adds to the washing chores and many families are time poor and really don't want "another" thing to wash and iron in their week. Place mats are much easier to keep clean and can be quickly stacked away when not in use.



This one is to make you laugh!! What do you think?



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Comments

  1. Dear Jo, What a fun post, now for my thoughts, I love using table cloths and I use them all the time! I change them and the place mats often with my color mood or the season theme. I will have to go back and reread the post for all the interesting information. I do like to use them to protect the wood of the table, but as you said my Grandmother always used one! I often look for them while thrift shopping. Hope you are well, I have not been around visiting as often, as I have just getting busy with crocheting and reading and just fun things.
    Blessings, as I think we are all not visiting as often as we use too. Hugs, Roxy

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    1. I found a quilt made from old table clothes that the lady had found at thrift stores, i thought it was a beautiful idea, but I have never seem that many old lovely ones at the thrift stores to even think about making such a quilt. My elderly father has several old table-clothes made by hand by his mother which he treasures as he doesn't own very many things from her. They are perhaps the sort of clothes I wouldn't want to use incase I stain them.

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    2. I am gradually collecting old hand embroidered Christmas cloths to make a large patchwork table cover. The thrifted cloths are often quite small, even tray cloths or odd napkins will work, and the frayed or stained parts can be avoided when cutting patches featuring the embroidered motifs. I have a large table, so it's going to take me a while to complete!

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    3. I hardly ever see the old clothes in our thrift stores, perhaps I haven't been looking well enough - but I most certainly will start to look as they would make the most beautiful patchwork cloth table :)

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  2. Dear Jo,
    I always use a tablecloth. I have three or four ordinary ones for weekdays and I keep two - one I made myself from a lovely curtain fabric, apples everywhere, and the other a gift from a dear friend - for Sundays and special ocassions. My kitchen table is made of granite stone, and it feels so cold in the mornings! I definitely need use a tablecloth and besides, it is like a caress for my cups and plates. It minimizes the noises on the table and it feels much more "homey". After lunch or dinner you only have to wave it outside and your table is perfectly clean. I couldn´t do without them. And if I think seriously about it, each and every one of my tableclothes tells me old family stories. I see them in old photos and bring me great memories. :)

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    1. I really agree with you that table clothes make a room so much more homely and they remind me of my childhood as my mother was an expert at creating that homely feel in her home. Those granite tops are so popular in kitchens these days but I think they are cold to look at and cold to touch and I am not overly fond of them in kitchens.

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  3. My dearest Jo,
    I don't use a tablecloth on my tables, they're so very old an I like to watch them so as they are, each with their centerpiece, I use it just when I lay the table for lunch or for dinner.
    Thank you for another wonderful and interesting post, my darling friend,
    have a blessed Monday, sending dear love
    Dany

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    1. Isn't it interesting how people do different things in their homes - some people use clothes, others place mats or nothing at all!! It is what makes us all so interesting.

      have a wonderful weekend dear friend :))

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  4. I love a clean tablecloth on our table. It’s simply a warm and inviting place to be or just to look at, whether you’re home all day or after a long day away. I was brought up to eat dinner at the table, we brought up our children in the same way, so I always make sure it is a cozy, happy place with a clean tablecloth and small vase of flowers or a plant. I like simplicity and have some new but mostly old and even vintage tablecloths with many memories. Some are worn, but if they are clean or even pressed if need be, they are always inviting to look at on the table. This also reminds everyone not to use the table for a drop-off spot. (They wouldn’t dare.) When projects or school work needed to be done, the table was used for that and then immediately cleaned off and “dressed up” again. Even the kids appreciated the simplicity and beauty of the kitchen table, and still do when they come home to visit.

    Some people need purse therapy (changing purses frequently), some have too many pairs of shoes. I’m guilty of probably more linens than I actually need, but I love to change them often, at least once a week. Our dining table has a special place in our home, and in our hearts.

    And your post on this is both beautiful and timely. We should never let table linens go out of style.
    ~ Gwen in Arkansas

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    1. The picture way above of the green table cloth with flowers on the table is such a lovely scene to me - so friendly and inviting and describes the homely scene you write of. I love your hobby with linen :)) it made me smile - thanks for sharing.

      I am so glad you are one of the few that still treasures their linen and table clothes - it is a dying tradition sadly.

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  5. I use both table cloths and place mats.
    Usually the mats are for lunch and the cloth for dinner. I have a variety of both mats and cloths.
    There is alway a cloth for company.

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    1. I agree that a cloth when company is visiting is much nicer than no cloth at all :) As for place mats, there are some lovely ones about and I have some beautiful patterns I would love to make for different occasions.

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  6. A very interesting post. I use both table cloths and table mats. There is only my husband and I at home now so we always eat our meals together but even when the children were small we ate together at least one meal a day.

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    1. Table mats are handy during the week and are easy to clean and put away! It is only my husband and I and I have to admit we don't always eat together because my husband likes to eat very late (sometimes at 10pm at night) and I can't wait that long and I eat earlier.

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  7. I love dressing up our table for dinner, and sometimes that means a table cloth. I have new ones and very old ones, all of which arse very different from the other others. Dressing up the table is my way of celebrating the blessing that is our meal.

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    1. I have to agree that a table-cloth really does make a table look so much nicer, especially when entertaining . It goes from looking ordinary to smart.

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  8. Wow, I am definitely in the minority! No cloth here - thankfully! Hated them when we were children - so fussy! Someone was always pulling them, or messing them. What is the point of a table top if you can't see it??? =)
    love,
    Bets

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    1. I don't use one during the week (partly because hubby and I don't always eat at the table), but if I have guests or for special occasions I will dress up the table and make it look a little more fancy. But it does appear that you are in the minority !!

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  9. I bought a table cloth for Thanksgiving. While ironing it, I realized it was made incredibly cheap. I doubt it will make it through a washing. Too bad I liked the look.

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    1. Since writing this post I met a older woman at the store and she said "you young women wouldn't use table clothes, they are all out of fashion these days". I had to smile as I had just published this post and discovered that there are women using them - even younger women. Also, I am much older than she realised and not really young at all!! Look secondhand, there are so great ones I eBay I noticed - as long as they aren't stained - or perhaps the charity stores might sell old and better quality.

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  10. I use both cloths and place mats. I want to protect my pretty table that I saved up so long for. Of course, with 7 children, most of them little, it already has scratches and some hot pink streaks that are from either a hi-lighter or paint--I don't know which!

    I wish I could say that my table is prettily dressed, but that isn't the case. At this point in my life, I'm strictly utilitarian. The placemats are mismatched since I've bought most of them at yard sales, and not many come in sets of 9! The tablecloths are stained; I just don't have time to treat ALL the spots since I have some messy eaters. I do have a couple of "company" cloths and try to keep them neat.

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    1. There is nothing wrong with being practical!! and did you know that mix-matched chairs are now very trendy and I have been a few restaurants to see all the furniture mix-matched along with plates and cups/gasses. You are all the rage!!

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  11. I've got lots of children and an absolutely huge table - tablecloths big enough to fit my 12 person table are rare (and expensive) and when I do use one, they quickly get stains. I have a lovely wood table with lots of detail that I prefer to be seen anyways, so I just use a runner in the center of my table (changes depending on the season) and I have decor items on the runner. It looks warm, cozy, and well-cared-for without the fuss of a whole tablecloth. The only time I use a tablecloth is for our Passover seder, as a matter of fact.

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    1. I do like table runners and plan to make a patchwork one as they look so pretty and as you say, much easier to manage with a big family compared to the table cloth that gets dirty far too quickly!! And you can change the runner depending on the season or if something special is happening.

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  12. We usually only use tablecloths for special occasions, but I've seen people use them all the time. Thanks for sharing!

    I found you at The Art of Home-Making Mondays

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    1. Its really interesting why and when families use them - it does seem quite varied!! Its an interesting topic!

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  13. I've always loved table cloths and still use them! Very cool how they started! Thanks for sharing! #SmallVictories

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    1. It is so interesting who uses them and who doesn't and its encouraging to hear that so many do still use them :))

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  14. I love using my tablecloths and am always on the lookout for interesting and pretty new ones!

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    1. I really must have a closer look at what is available!!

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  15. This was really interesting - I would never have thought to look into the history of tablecloths!! :) I always use tablecloths. I prefer to protect my table, especially with children and particularly a boy in the household! I would love to use more decorative ones, but they aren't very practical at this stage!

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    1. I think my mother used table clothes due to 3 messy boys :))) she used cloth that washed radio and dried quickly . it is interesting to look at the history and I certainly found it really interesting.

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