ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Protecting the Dining Table With Tablecloths and Table Runners- a Historical Account

Updated on February 26, 2022

The dining table is called “the centerpiece of social functions.” It is where we gather to eat, drink, and communicate with others daily or on special occasions. Since the 8th century, we have protected it from spills, drips, stains, and other damage in accordance with our social and economic status. First we used the tablecloth (called table linen in earlier times) then we added the table runner.



The use of the tablecloth can be traced back to 8th century-Europe. The French and Italians popularized it in the 12th century. But by the 15th century, it was firmly ensconced in households of both aristocracy and commoner. Tablecloths were originally white and considered to be rather large napkins because diners would wipe their hands and mouths on the ends. Soon tablecloths were protecting the entire table from food and beverage stains and spills, and other damages.

Tablecloths for households were usually fancier and more valuable than those for restaurants and other settings as picnics. In the first quarter of the 17th century, they were folded for more thickness and protection. Later, they were made with layered backing. The Victorians (19th to early 20th century) were the first to create elaborately designed, thick tablecloths from the finest fabrics. By the 1920’s and 30’s, designs became simpler. They were decorated with flowers and fruits. In the 1950’s, some designs took the form of cartoon characters.

Today’s tablecloths run the gamut: expensive, fanciful, handmade, embroidery, silk, damask, linen, cotton, wool, polyester, vinyl, and paper. Some are even designed to complement dining room color schemes, drapery, and other types of décors. They appear in various geometric shapes and sizes to fit any table. They have also become collector’s items.

Table Runner
Table Runner

Table Runners

Table runners originated in the Middle Ages, according to the article “About Table Runners” from Like tablecloths, they were found in every household by the 15th century. They were used on the bare table or on tablecloths to protect or add a bit of style, especially for that special occasion or holiday. They were also used to create visual balance for full place settings.

Table runners are usually placed lengthwise in the center of the table or tablecloth to cover the full length, and fall over on opposite ends or shorter length to compliment a centerpiece. Sometimes, more than one runner is placed schematically as the decorator desires.

The fabrics and designs we see today are simple or ornate, depending on use and user. Runners made for early nobility, for instance, even had fancy tassels on the ends. Now they are made from all sorts of materials: cloth (silk, linen, cotton, and polyester), vinyl, plastic, and paper; in a variety of ways: handmade, machine-made, embroidered, quilted, and beaded with myriad designs, patterns, colors, and sizes.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)