Along with pyrex, vintage tablecloths were one of the very first things I hunted for at flea markets and estate sales. I love the bright cheery color and floral patterns and the way they look pressed and folded neatly in my display cupboard. I used them for my sister in laws baby shower and it made all of the tables so bright and cheerful. The pattern options are endless and I have never found the same pattern twice even as my collection tipped the 300 mark. While we’ve been in quarantine I’ve been sorting through my collections and I have decided to part with a few. They are now available at the found cottage website along with a few other vintage treasures that we will be continuing to add to the site. I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about how and where to find vintage tablecloths and linens (other than the found cottage site of course).
Where to shop
At Estate Sales – They always seem to be buried in the linen closets or bathrooms by the towels. I always have to dig for them but typically they might have been saved for special occasions so they would be under the towels, sheets and whatever else people hide away in their linen closets. I find out about estate sales here.
At Flea Markets – They can get quite pricey if you found a dealer that has already done the work on them (cleaned, repaired and ironed) I like to find booths that have a vast array of random things because there I can typically find them for under $15. They need cleaning and some work but that’s half the fun.
How to clean
Tablecloths are delicate and durable all at the same time. They are typically thick woven cotton meant to withstand the wear and tear of every day use. However with everyday use comes stains. Personally, I don’t mind a mild stain because it makes me feel better about using them. If it’s not perfect I don’t feel as bad spilling red jam on the cloth. The most common staining I see are faint yellow marks. These are difficult to remove but often can be faded so that they are barely visible.
If you have these stains, try spot cleaning with oxy clean. I don’t like to wash the entire linen with oxy clean because you risk fading the floral patterns. I use a q tip to rub into the stain and lightly rinse and allow to dry out in the sun. I swear the sun helps remove and fade the stains.
I also will wash them on a gentle cycle if they are in good condition and lay them in the green grass out in the sun. This has also been helpful in removing stains and any odors (gross mothballs) from the linens. Washing them in the gentle cycle may fade them a little but I have not noticed a drastic enough difference to take them to the dry cleaner instead. Only if a tablecloth is in pristine condition will I take it to get professionally cleaned.
I avoid using starch when Ironing as these can fade your vintage linens yellow. If they are exceptionally wrinkled before ironing, wash them on a gentle cycle and tumble dry low. If they still have a crease or a wrinkle iron on the lowest heat setting you can or place a light towel in between the tablecloth and the iron.
We need to be practical here. Most will say not to store them in wood because it might seep into the tablecloths but I stored all of mine in a wood glass front cabinet and have had no issue. Most have been in that cabinet on display for over 6 years. I did place a piece of white tissue paper on the bottom of the piles to keep them protected. The cabinet is also in a dark room to prevent fading from the sun.
I folded each tablecloth in a uniform pattern so they lay flat on top of each other in the closet from heaviest to lightest to prevent extra creases and wrinkles.
Every few months I refold or alternate to prevent deep creases and make sure that they are maintaining their shape and staying protected (moisture, mothballs etc).
I think my favorite pieces of my collections are once from souvenir state trips (mostly 40’s – 50’s) or anything with a rose or iris on them. I hope you enjoy collecting as much as I do. If you are looking to start your own collection, we will be continually adding more to The Found Cottage vintage section.