Going on a bender – with tablecloths

I started collecting tablecloths about ten years ago after I decided to sell some that were just sitting in storage; they were not the right size for my table and were colors that I really didn’t like. I know now that I sold them way too cheaply, but I had no idea then that tablecloths were as collectible as they were. The swift sale of those cloths intrigued me, and I began looking for them when I went to antique stores and hunting for them online. I learned the good brands, what made a tablecloth particularly collectible, and how to remove stains.

I decided to try my hand at selling them on Etsy, and that is where the whole stain removal process became very involved, and surprisingly successful. I had some cloths that were so beautiful but marred by stains. I learned how to soak, scrub, soak some more, and lay in the sun for total stain removal. It was a labor of love, really. It was a complete thrill for me to take a cloth that looked like it should have been thrown away and turn it into looking brand new.

Washing tablecloths was easy in the summertime, where I had room to lay them out on the grass. Why lay them in the grass? Well, for whatever reason, laying a slightly stained tablecloth right on the grass results in some great stain removal. I do not understand the exact science, but I do know it works. The key for me is keeping my dog from running across it. (Yes, she has done that. Too many times.) Anyway, in the winter, I really do not have anywhere in my house to hang tablecloths to dry (because you shouldn’t put them in the dryer), so it became difficult to launder them for sale. After a while, life just got too busy to deal with it and my collection stayed stagnant.

I found that it became rather difficult to run across good tablecloths in an antique store or consignment shop the way that I was once able to. The cloths were either ugly or ripped or just boring. Finding one with a good label was impossible.

Then my husband and I happened across a few antique stores that had loads of them, and I started experiencing the thrill of finding the good ones. This past weekend, we went to a few antique stores in Okoboji, Iowa, and felt like we hit the motherload. I couldn’t go too overboard due to needing to pay some bills, but I made off with some good ones. I had to pass up a couple ones that actually had tags still on them because they really weren’t that attractive, but they were tempting. Here are some of the ones I have gotten lately:

This one still had the tag on it. However, I had to make a difficult decision with this one. It was very yellowed from age, so I decided to remove the original tag so that I could soak the yellowness out of it. Beautiful, isn’t it?
This luncheon cloth is pretty faded on one side, but I really love the cheerful colors in it.
This embroidered beauty is bright and cheerful and is in perfect condition.
This one too had some fading on it, but that is the charm of vintage tablecloths; they’re not perfect, they were used, and they continue to bring color to a room.
Orange isn’t really a color that I like, but this combo seems to work well.
I have wanted the Wildendur verison of this for ages, but it always seems to be an expensive buy. This is a homemade version (I’m assuming, since there is no tag) and it will be my project cloth for stain removal. Lots of stains but I think they will come out. I adore the colors in this tablecloth!
Another homemade cloth. It is hard to see the exact color, but it is a pale pink. Pink with black polka dots! How retro is that?
Enjoy my foot as a part of this pic. This one is a beige-colored linen with a bright, orangey pattern. Again, not my usual colors that I like, but it was in such good shape that I had to nab it. I made the seller quite a profit, as I realized when I got home and found a garage sale tag on it for $1.00. You’re welcome.
This is my absolute favorite one. The colors work well together, it’s in perfect shape, and it’s a unique color combination that I do not have in any other cloths so far.
Interesting color combo of pink, red, and green. Somehow it works.
Again, another cameo by my Asics-clad foot. This cloth caught my eye because it has what I call “my” green in it – that jadeite color. It’s rare to find a cloth that has it, so I had to get this one.
Handmade and simple. I was drawn to this one for the pink flowered border – very shabby chic.
Another handmade gem. This embroidered cloth is linen and very simple, but I love the curvy, finished border.

In addition to the tablecloths, I made one more score this past weekend. I saw this chalkware fish sitting on a shelf and grabbed it immediately, thinking it looked like a Miller Studio creation. I was right. These highly collectible chalkware creatures decorated many a bathroom from the ’50s to the ’70s. A true Miller Studio chalkware item will be stamped with the date and the name of the company.

Well, that is my haul for now. Now that summer is here and I am mucking out my house, I am hoping to have nicer spaces to use some of these cloths to provide spots of color. As for the fish, well, he is going to live in my bathroom with my other Miller Studios chalkware fish, which I have written about here.

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