Paula Collects: Vintage Table Linens

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Paula Collects: Vintage Table Linens

By Andrea Goto

Collecting can be contagious. And when Paula’s dear friend, Savannah bakery owner Cheryl Day, showed off her collection of vintage table linens, Paula caught the bug and now has a number of these vintage beauties in her own collection.

Day’s colorful collection began as a family affair. With her mom and sister by her side, she browsed flea markets, yard sales and antique stores for bright, kitschy fruit and floral patterns to complement her retro-chic style. Together they found many textile treasures including Christmas linens and tablecloths imprinted with maps of California—Day’s home state.

It’s relatively easy to collect vintage linens like Day’s because rayon/cotton blends and four or more color combinations didn’t emerge until the 1940s. And in 1958, manufacturers made identification even easier by sewing in tags.

It’s more difficult to date textiles from earlier decades, but there are a number of characteristics that can help narrow it down. Victorian linens from the mid to late 1800s were often made from richly textured material, such as velvet and felt, and boasted deep colors like crimson and maroon. Crisp linen damasks emerged in the 1900s and sometimes included images of doves, hearts, ribbons and bows in deep wine and brown colors. By contrast, pastels and one-color stamped designs were produced during World War I. These linens often feature oriental patterns and images of longhaired girls. The 1920s saw an increase in the number of printed colors and by the ‘30s linens adopted bright repeating patterns that carried over into the ‘50s.

Collectors seek after souvenir linens featuring states or roadside attractions. Such designs first came onto the market in the 1920s, but became popular two decades later when the American car culture boomed, putting families on the wide-open road. At one point or another, every state was featured on a tablecloth and towel, but some are more difficult to find, such as Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, which can fetch over $575 at auction.

While some people store their vintage table linens safely away, others enjoy putting them to use. Day gives her table character by covering it with funky linens that are charming conversation pieces. But these whimsical textiles are more than a nostalgic walk into America’s past; for Day, they are personal. When her mother and sister passed away, she inherited their collections. Today, when she dresses her tables, Day has a special reminder of Saturday mornings she spent fingering fabrics with her two best friends and playfully fighting over their best finds.

With Day’s inspiration, Paula often sets a table with her ever growing collection. Her Design Director and dear friend, Brandon Branch, most recently used one of her strawberry laden favorites in this inspiring and silly Savannah Style table setting.

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

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I have the strawberry tablecloth on my table right now. I inherited my grandmothers and use them all the time. And use my Fiesta dishes (from her also) as my everyday dishes. They remind me of all the time I spent with her learning to cook!! My 2 favorite things: Eggs La Gonldenrod and Chocolate Peanutbutter Oatmeal Cookies!!

By Candy Ferren on July 25, 2013

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Paula, I loved seeing your tablecloths. They are so unique. I also collect tablecloths. I have some of the same ones you have. i love to use mine especially at holiday and special events. I also collect butter dishes and restaurant creamers. I do not have one from Lady & Sons, but someday I may find one. Wouldn't that be a treasure?

By Thelma Pace on July 23, 2011

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Hi Juanita, You can find all of those recipes here: http://www.pauladeen.com/show-schedule-day/2011/04/19/

By Jonathan Able on April 27, 2011

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You were on T.V. yesterday with your son and he made pita pockets and you made ribs and tata salad I'm looking for those recipes was on 4/19

By juanita pina on April 20, 2011

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I collect vintage tablecloths and I enjoy collecting with my daughter. I recently started a new website that promotes Tennessee and the vintage linen businesses in Tennessee. www.tennesseevintagelinens.com.

By Pat Allen on February 21, 2011

I collect vintage linen as well.  I love to set an elegant table.  My favorite linens are damask and madeira .  Would love to know how to properly take care of them including some ideas on storage as I am running out of drawer space.

By Gloria Johnson on August 07, 2010

I’ve just started collecting vintage tablecloths.  My mother just passed a couple months ago and I was thrilled to get a couple of ‘well’ loved ones of hers.  I’ve since then bought a few more.  I use one daily on my table.  I love the feelings they evoke of a simpler time.  I hope you enjoy your collection Paula as much as I am loving my few I have.

By Kim on July 31, 2010

Ya’ll check out this website, thevintagetable.net

She has some beautiful table linens.
have great day

By Lisa Goodale on July 30, 2010

Paula, to the girl who asked for help removing tea stains.She can safely try salt and lemon juice rubbed into the stain.  Let it lay for a while, an hour or overnight, and then wash with other whites. Also sometimes just a little while in the sun even wrong side out will take it out.  Hope this helps. I have done this with quilt tops and even quilts.  It is not safe to use reg. bleach. Biz is safe as well.

By Mary R. Abercrombie on July 28, 2010

I am an avid Raggedy Ann collector.  My collection numbers hundreds of dolls, including several porcelain and other Raggedy items.  The dolls remind me of love and happiness.  At Christmas time one of several trees I decorate is totally Raggedy Ann.  It’s beautiful! 

Speaking of vintage linens…I created a family heirloom using a hand tatted doily made by my Great Grandmother at age 90, including a card she wrote to my Mother, asking her to pass it down to one of her girls (card dated 1959).  I added a photo of my Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Mother, and me at about age 2, which I feel so fortunate to have.  The heirloom was professionally preserved and framed and will be passed down to my daughter, and granddaughter.

Enjoy your day and continue to share your love and happiness.

By Donna Mettler on July 28, 2010

I collect vintage linens including tablecloths.  I also have a large collection of Jewel Tea dishes in the Autumn Leaf design including a tablecloth. I don’t collect as much now as I have in the past.  I love having them but I have found out that the chase is the most fun.

P.S. I have a collection of vintage quilts and fabrics too including feed sacks.

By Mary R. Abercrombie on July 28, 2010

I’m a collector of all “old” things and my family often makes the comment that I have too much stuff and not nearly enough house! I have been collecting vintage tablecloths for years as well as ladies hankies, doilies, vintage aprons and a multitude of other “gently loved” items! If the tablecloth is damaged you can salvage it by making curtain toppers, napkins, tablerunners or even matting and framing a section of it and group together on the wall.

By Robin Herrin on July 27, 2010

I have a slew of them I will be using in my Airstream Kitchen called Mom’s Kitchen.  When they have a hole or bad stain sometimes I can turn them into pillow cases.
Thanks for sharing.
B†
@madreminutes
http://www.madreminutes.blogspot.com

By Barbara Collins on July 27, 2010

Hi Paula:
I have been looking for tableclothes of strawberry and of cherrys or mixed together. Can not find any here in Tucson at the few antique stores we have. Back in July 06 you caught my eye with your sweet smile and southern voice while flipping channels and recooperating from a stroke in which I say you saved my life from bordome and have not missed a book or program of you ever since. I love to see your boy’s with you.
Thank You for you. Rita Bowman 07-27-2010

By Rita French Bowman on July 27, 2010

I am the Membership Director of The Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club and would like to invite Ms
Deen to become a member of our club!! This is our 8th year and we have a large membership of vintage linen fanatics so she will be among friends!!

We are excited to hear that Paula Deen is collecting something we are all so passionate about!!
We have a database to help identify the cloths in our collections and we invite Ms Deen as well anyone else with an interest in these pieces of history to come join in!!

http://www.vintagetableclothsclub.com

Georgia Mallory
VTLC Membership

By Georgia on July 27, 2010

I have been collecting for years.  I love the Wilendur Strawberry tablecloth to the left of the stack.  Also a member of The Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club which is a great place to visit and learn online.

By KathyJB on July 26, 2010

I have been collecting Vintage Tablecloths for years and am a member of The Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club online.  A great place to visit others with my love for Vintage TC’s and to learn about them.

By KathyJB on July 26, 2010

I never thought about collecting vintage tablecloths, but my Aunt Mavis, 88, gave me one she had gotten as a wedding gift about 70 years ago. I Love it, and started thinking what fun it would be to find more! He son nor her granddaughters wanted it, and I couldn’t believe that. She also gave me an old tim cake plate with the top, that she had gotten as a wedding gift. They are so beautiful!

By Karen Doss on July 26, 2010

Though I am progressive in my thoughts, contemporary in my thinking,educated in my position,my friends refer to me as the “1950’s Throwback Housewife”. I have aprons,doilies, lace and printed tablecloths, glassware galore, picnic baskets, and recipes of good ole fill your belly and make your heart sing recipes. At 46, I know about old time style and grace, because my grandmother owned an antique shop and taught me the pleasantries of hostessing many different eras. I am so fortunate to have been taught ironing, cooking, baking, sewing, canning,knitting, crocheting, embroidering, and gardening. I wasn’t necessarily a fan when I was younger, especially when great outdoor adventure was calling my name. I appreciate that gift in having the knowledge,now. My favorite lovelies in my possession are Ladies Handkerchiefs. My grandmother told me as a young girl that every refined lady carries one with her,especially for weddings,funerals,graduations,and special events. I never use tissues and I also give them as endearing gifts for my girlfriends,too.  Love this post!

By Julie Hardesty on July 26, 2010

I enjoy planning vintage parties making memories remembering memories for special ladies in my life.  Latest party was vintage aprons - Lets Tie One on! Guest wore vintage aprons, walked under a vintage clothes line with aprons blowing in the wind, tables used vintage nostalgia to accent, even to button blessing charms woven together (yes I love buttons too) vintage lace, feed sacks, skelton keys, vintage napkins, dressed manikins etc. adorned the tables - after luncheon the afternoon is enjoyed shared memories - a special treat arrives by mail a week after the party to remind guest of the memories!

By Sandy Baker on July 26, 2010

I love old pyrex bowls and anything old. My husband and Mother were thinking of having me commmitted for collecting so many old bowls and linens. For two year that is all I did was go to antique stores. I love anything the color red also. I have cut back now. I am just a lover of the past and I do not think that we cherish it enough.. Love ya Pauls…

By Beckie Otwell-Wilcox on July 26, 2010

I guess I never really thought about it but I do have a collection of table clothes from my mom and my husband’s mother and grandmother. Some are quite intresting. I especially like the holiday one from the 50’s. I use them on occasion and probably shouldn’t. But it gives me a feeling of nostalgia and it makes me smile:)

By Linda McMahon on July 26, 2010

I love vintage linens too.  I have my mothers, mother-in-laws, and grandmothers.  I love the ones Paula shows her.  Mine are mostly damask and the ones I have like Paula’s were my mothers and are very well used, but I still love them.  I also love collecting blue and white dishes, teapots, and have just started collecting copper things as well as anything with a rooster on it.  I also love anything that has been hand made.

By Patsy Jones on July 26, 2010

I love to collect vintage aprons….I just love them. I have some that belonged to my aunt who was just like a grandmother to me.  She taught me how to cook and to really enjoy it.  I enjoy cooking for my family and wearing my aprons….

By Tammy Hess on July 26, 2010

I collect, McCoy dishes, bowls, cups etc… The dark browns with the lighter cream colors on the edges of the dishes remind me of hot fudge running off Vanilla Ice Cream… yummy… Seems to make food taste so much better to me to eat off yummy plates that make you think of good treats… lol

By PoppyK on July 26, 2010

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    Tickets available from Ticketmaster here!
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