Tablecloths can be used purely for decoration or they can have a practical role protecting a polished top, for instance, or covering up a less-than-attractive surface. They are easy to make. For the simplest of cloths, take a square of fabric perhaps with country-style checks or deck-chair stripes and simply machine sew a hem around the edges.
Jazz up a plain cloth by sewing on a central panel of fabric, adding a wide border and mitring the corners. Punched eyelets in the corners of a cloth add detail and have an added bonus in that they can be anchored to the ground with pegs if you want to use the cloth for alfresco meals or picnics.
Although there is probably nothing to beat a fine white linen tablecloth for formal settings, a less expensive version in white mattress ticking with a fine herringbone.
A massive, unjoined long table such as the one above shouldn't be hidden underneath a tablecloth.
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Instead, the points of colour are provided by the ceramic plates.
Weave can be just as effective – especially if it is starched. A rough-textured linen cloth in beige or taupe is equally attractive and creates a good neutral backdrop for colourful table settings. Many fabrics can be painted with relative ease. Stick to simple stencilled shapes, applied sparingly across the cloth, such as large, bold letters or images in keeping with a particular theme, be it Hallowe’en, Easter or Christmas. Keep the design uncomplicated and don’t use too many colours or the finished result will look muddled and messy.