Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SusieQT collects: Printed Tablecloths

One of my most dear vintage collections is my linens. I love all linens, from vintage embroidered fingertip towels to quilts. But probably my favorite are my printed cotton tablecloths from the 1940s and 50s. I simply adore them, and cannot resist them wherever I find them. I've been collecting them for years, and they were one of the first vintage items I owned.

There's just something so sweet about a printed cotton tablecloth that brightens up my mood, especially during a cold winter. I guess they really remind me of carefree summer living. And the great thing is, they're readily available, fairly cheap (usually in the $12-$25 range, thrifted) and come in many sizes that can fit a modern table. (Lately I've made sure that they fit my table; that helps me resist the temptation to buy everything!)

Printed tablecloths were mass-produced beginning in the 1930s as a way to freshen up the breakfast or luncheon table. More formal occaisions (like dinner) demanded damask or linen and the dining room table. That is why most printed tablecloths are on the small side; 48-52" square or 60" oblong. The larger of these will fit a modern size table, barely. But I still use some of the smaller ones, I just turn them in a diamond shape or let there be bare spaces at the head and foot of the table.

They were produced throughout the 40s and 50s, and later. You can even find some with matching napkins or table runners for a buffet. I am not usually so lucky; if I find a set of matching napkins
I buy it, whether the tablecloth is there or not- I figure that will be the easiest piece to find later! Most commonly they have flowers or fruit, or a Christmas theme.

Here are my favorites:

This one was my Grandmother's. It is still my favorite of them all. I love the lattice design and the apple blossoms; so 1940s.

The roses I have in yellow as well, but that one is round. Since the only round table I have is my picnic table, I use it outside.

I love the colors in this one- kind of unusual.

This is my most recent acquisition- a red, white and blue color scheme plus polka dots! Who cares if it doesn't quite fit????  A steal at $3.50, too!

Sometimes the faded ones have just the right look. Kind of shabby chic, I guess. (Don't judge me by my ironing skills, though!)

This one was a gift from Zootsuitmama, and one of my favorites!

This one is so 50s, with the pink and the teapots.

Another pink one- I have this same design in yellow as well. But I decided to use it on the table today because Valentine's Day is approaching.

Some people really collect state tablecloths. This is the only one I have, but it's a good one- Alaska. It was just on my table last week in honor of all the snow we've gotten!

Here's one of my Christmas tablecloths "in action" ;) . I have printed glasses that match- that will be another "SusieQT collects..." feature someday.

This is a little different- it's a set of 4 placemats, 4 napkins and a tablerunner. I love this; it seems really 1930s to me. I often use just the tablerunner, since my kids are still very messy eaters. We usually put ugly plastic placemats out to protect the good tablecloths when we eat, so they last at least a couple of days before needing to be washed (and ironed, ugh...)

I store them folded in a glass-front cabinet that used to be my Grandma's. You can see some of the tablerunners on the right and the Christmas ones on the bottom.

It's nice to have them somewhere where I can see them and enjoy them, plus the cabinet reminds me of Grandma's house.


  1. Love, love, love them! I need to get more of them myself.

  2. The floral ones remind me of family reunions at the park and birthday parties.

  3. Love your collection! My mom gave me a few of hers, and grandma lets me borrow and they will someday be willed to me! My favortie is one that Mom gave me, Its red blue yellow and white and has a mexican theme, She says her great grandmother got it from a "Fiesta Ware" Display way back when. My favorite one of moms is purple, red, with a little blue and green in it,its HUGE and can cover a rgualar siszed table with 2 additional leaves it it!

    Liek everyone else i need otg et some more too haha!

  4. That is a great collection! I especially love your Christmas table, very nice!

  5. Oh I love all of them! Thanks for showing the one I sent. It makes me feel happy when I see someone enjoying them! You know, some (most) of mine aren't perfect, but my favorites are the ones that someone embroidered a little flower over a flaw. I've been thinking about doing a blog entry for tablecloths and matching dishes, etc. like over at Mother's Kitchen.

  6. Thanks for sharing your wonderful collection! They are all amazing...I think my favorite is the red, white and blue...I mean, your grandma's...I mean... oh forget it- I love them all!

  7. Oohhh those are lovely, i really like the pink one with the tea pots on its almost has an art deco feel to it to, what a huge collection ;-)) A table cloth really captures the mood of the meal. dee x

  8. Love them. I have been so very tempted to start my own collection of vintage tablecloths, but fear that I lack the space to store them. So, I just drool on them at the antique store and on other people's blogs!

    When we were going through my grandmother's things I found a state kitchen towel from Hawaii, I think. I wonder if Hawaii and Alaska items are more or less common than most, due to the who exoticism factor?

  9. Well, tablecloths take up much less space, than say, radios (another one of my collections)- you can even hang them up in the closet! Don't let the space issue keep you from collecting ;)

    I have actually seen quite a few Hawaii tablecloths; probably the least common are the states not known for vacationing, like PA! LOL

  10. Lovely collection!! I haven't found a vintage tablecloth to add to my collection in ages :(