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Linen Tablecloths

Updated on June 11, 2013

There is something to the feel and look of linen tablecloths that cannot be matched by any other fabric. Linen has connotations of elegance and charm that go back to the old world and to the days of yesteryear. Linen tablecloths remind us of family dinners when everybody—aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother, and grandfather—was there, gathered to eat a special meal. But linen is also a timeless material, one that never goes out of style or fashion. The most contemporary table in the most contemporary home will look fantastic covered in a linen tablecloth. Your family dinners or dinner parties with friends will be the height of sophistication with the addition of a linen tablecloth.

A table is not really a table without being graced with a genuine linen tablecloth. Read on for a bit of history of this amazing fabric, how to care for your linen tablecloth, and where to buy this mot luxuriant of dining accessories.

Linen Tablecloths can really spruce up a table.
Linen Tablecloths can really spruce up a table.

What are Linen and Linen Tablecloths?

Linen is a fabric manufactured from the fibers of the flax plant. Although many fabrics made from cotton, hemp, and synthetic fibers are called linen in contemporary usage, especially when referring to home items for the kitchen, bathroom, and dining room, true linen is made from all flax fiber. Linen is one of the oldest fibers used for weaving in human history, with linen fabrics having been found in prehistoric sites in Switzerland and the Republic of Georgia. In ancient Egypt, linen was so prized that it was sometimes used as currency, and mummies were wrapped in linen cloth because it represented purity and light, helping the soul get to heaven.

Because linen fabric is so cool to the touch and keeps the skin dry, it has long been prized as a fabric for summer clothing. It is also a very strong fiber, and is two to three times stronger than cotton. The more linen is washed, the softer it becomes, making it an excellent material traditionally for undergarments and other clothing worn next to the skin.

What makes linen so well sought after for making tablecloths and other fine household items is its great beauty. Linen tablecloths have a very high luster and come in a range of natural colors including beautiful shades of tan, ivory, gray, and ecru. The texture of linen tablecloths is also extremely pleasing, seeming both soft and crisp at the same time. The finest linen is very smooth, although the imperfections found in lesser grades of linen fabric in fact make for lovely variations in your home’s linen tablecloth.

The water absorbing capacity of linen fibers is another of the factors that makes this cloth so good for the manufacture of tablecloths and other kitchen and dining wear items. A linen table cloth can gain up to twenty percent of its weight in water and still feel dry. What’s more, water quickly evaporates from linen. This is a benefit to making tablecloths from linen in the advent of spills or condensation on the dinner table. The underlying wood of the table will thus be protected by a linen tablecloth.

Caring for Your Linen Tablecloth

Linen is an easy fabric to care for but a few important tips should be followed when cleaning your linen tablecloth. Linen is resistant to damage from beetles and moths, so these insects should not be a problem when storing a linen tablecloth. It is a strong fabric and is resistant to abrasion. This means that it can be washed in a number of ways, including machine washed, dry cleaned, or steamed. The linen fibers can be damaged by repeated folding at the seams or by repeated ironing. It is one of the few fabrics that is stronger when wet than when it is dry, so it is often advisable to iron while the tablecloth is wet. This will also make it easier to iron out the wrinkles. Linen does wrinkle easily, although the natural wrinkles in linen fabrics are for many people part of its charm.

Linen does not pill and resists many stains and dirt. It has a high resistance to heat and only a moderate tendency to shrinkage. High heat drying should be avoided, both to protect the linen fibers and to reduce wrinkling of the tablecloth.

Buying Linen Tablecloths

Because linen is such a preferred fabric for tablecloths, you can find them at any number of retailers, both online and off. You can easily find such specialty linen stores as F and B Specialty Linen online or shop the catalogues of stores like Williams Sonoma, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Crate and Barrel. Any of these retailers and many more can supply you and your home with a beautiful linen tablecloth. A linen tablecloth is a small investment in elegance.


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