Choosing and Storing Table Linens
Before your guests come (and after they leave) you'll want to have a plan for your linens. They can add a lovely touch to the table, but storing them can be a little tricky. Here are some tips for making your linens work for you.
Before you purchase table linen, be sure to know the exact measurements of your table. Pay attention to the shape of the table on the package — it can be easy to find the perfect table linen that won't actually fit when you get home. A formal tablecloth should hang down from the edge of the tabletop approximately eighteen inches.
Refrain from storing fine table linen in the original plastic packaging it may have been sold in. A plastic container or bag will trap moisture and bacteria, which could eventually cause discoloration. Also, don't store your table linens so tightly folded that they crease. Keeping a tightly folded tablecloth in an overcrowded drawer, for example, will damage the fabric over time.
If you're about to invest in an expensive tablecloth, begin your table-linen collection by choosing a classic white linen or classic damask tablecloth, along with a matching set of napkins. You can later expand this collection with a solid-color cloth that matches an accent color in your dinnerware pattern, for example.
Linens alone will not protect your table. Purchase table pads to go beneath a tablecloth. These pads will greatly extend the life of your table and decrease your own panic when a hot item is set down on the table or a glass of wine spills.
Don't be afraid to wash real-linen tablecloths and napkins in your washing machine. Just set the washer to delicate and use cool water. Fine linen improves in appearance and feel with every wash. Just as you would with expensive bed linen, iron your table linen while it's still damp, on the back side. This will help prevent any shiny patches from forming. Make sure the iron isn't too hot. When storing fine table linens, always launder and iron (or professionally clean) them properly before putting them into storage.