It thrills me that in recent years the trend of cloth napkins and other table linens have been making a comeback. Some might point to the “green” movement of recent years of not wanting to produce a lot of waste with disposable goods, but I like to think it’s because women are beginning to come to back to a place of embracing homemaking of the past. Cloth napkins, tablecloths, and placemats are making their way back onto dining room tables across the country. They add a touch of class and elegance that has long been forgotten being replaced by paper towels and napkins. An everyday, ordinary night’s dinner can be taken up a notch with the simple touch of a cloth napkin.
Not only do they add a bit of glamour to the dinner table but in retrospect, they are also much more frugal in the long run to invest in some simple classic table linens that last for years, then to be constantly purchasing packets of paper napkins every time you go to the grocery store.
I was a child of the 80’s so I grew up on paper products due to the convenience they provided to the working mom but I always loved simple dinners at my grandmother’s house. She would cover an old folding card table with a simple, white linen table cloth (that I have since inherited) and at each place setting was a cloth napkin. I loved the way she was able to dress up an otherwise ugly table. I made the decision at an early age that when I would keep a home, I wanted table linens as well to use every day. And to my luck, the return of the cloth napkin and table clothes have since returned in popularity.
The stocking of table linens in my home creates the need to store them in a way that makes sense. Some are everyday napkins and tablecloths, while others only get pulled out for seasonal or special dinners. Organizing and properly storing your table linens will help to not only keep them lasting for years to come, but will also maximize your storage space which is incredibly useful if you don’t have very much storage to begin with.
I love a simple and elegant tablecloth. Not only do they protect the table but they also dress the table up with a bit of flair. In my family, we eat at our dining room table for every meal and since we have little ones who are messy eaters, I knew I would need to invest in a stain proof tablecloth that would also protect the table. Since it is used every day, once it is washed it is placed back on the table. For simplicity purposes I only keep one on hand, but I do have a small collection of seasonal tablecloths that I keep neatly folded in the linen closet. The best way to care for nicer or seasonal table cloths is to learn to fold them correctly. After each holiday or dinner party, I promptly stain treat, wash, fold and put away the table cloths so they don’t get ruined.
I currently only have one set of fancy dinner placemats and two personalized vinyl placemats that my children use for every meal to help protect the table cloth. Placemats require a bit more special care since they are usually large and rectangular or circular in shape. They are usually best not to be folded but rather stacked to prevent wrinkles.
I keep my one set of fancy placemats on display as decoration in my dining room alongside my white dishes. They fit perfectly on the open shelf but you can also easily store them in a china cabinet drawer or on the same shelf in the linen closet as your table cloths. For my children’s vinyl easy to clean placemats, I attached a magnet to the back so my kids can easily retrieve and attach them to the refrigerator after meals.
Pro Tip: Attach magnets to the back of your kid’s placemats and have them store it on the fridge! Gives your toddler a way to help set and clear the table!
My favorite table linen is the classic cloth napkin. Since we use cloth napkins for every meal, I have a small stash of everyday napkins that are multi-colored. They are easy to wash and don’t stain, plus they were pretty inexpensive to purchase. I keep them stored in the same drawer in my kitchen where I keep my hand towels and dishrags. To maximize space, I fold them in half first, then in fourths. This allows them to stack nicely and look pretty when placed on the dinner table.
I have two sets of fancier napkins, a crisp white set that I keep stored in the linen closet folded in a small basket, and a set that matches my placemats that I keep on display in the dining room. One of my favorite storage solutions is to actually display favorite pieces instead of hiding them in closets or drawers. If you already have a nice set of napkins or placemats why not display them on the table or in a china case to enjoy and add to your decor?
Tablecloths, placemats and napkins are probably the main kitchen linen items you have stored but there might be a few other accessories you have on hand, including table runners and napkin rings. I keep my napkin rings attached to my nicer napkins so that way they are ready to be put on the table when needed, but I only keep on set of napkin holders that can be used for different napkins.
As you are sorting through and organizing your linens to maximize space, take the time to also evaluate if you need all the items you have stored. Some are family heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations. Those are special linens that I cherish and have no desire to every get rid of until I can pass them on to my daughter. However there may be some seasonal tablecloths or placemats that the time has come to retire and discard. For example, when I sorted through my small collection of tablecloths I discovered that I had two fall themed ones. I certainly don’t need two, so I kept one and gave away the other.
Organizing, properly caring for, and storing your table linens can help them last. Correctly folded tablecloth and napkins can help you maximize your limited storage space. When cared for, your table linens can easily be transferred from the linen closet and placed on the table with little to no fuss. It may take a little effort to organize and store your table linens but it is well worth the investment to spend a few extra minutes to maintain your cloth napkins, tablecloths and placemats.