The term "Linen" is generally used to describe a class of woven and knitted fabrics used in and on beds, bath, tables, and in kitchens. Originally, many household items were made out of linen, but today, the term has is more often applied to related items that are not true linen; other items made of cotton or various synthetic materials.
Use of linen textiles dates back thousands of years, making them some of the oldest textiles in the world. While function may have changed throughout the years, linen is still a prized textile and is used for both simple and elegant purposes. One of the most common uses for linen is on the dinner table. Multiple forms of this fabric are used to decorate an eating-place, giving it a welcoming and relaxed feel. Some of the common types of table linens are listed and discussed below.
A tablecloth is simply a cloth that is used to cover a table. There are many factors to consider when choosing a tablecloth. Typically, tablecloths are made of cotton or an artificial fabric, so that they wipe clean easily. There are other more expensive options as well, including cloths made from silk, lace, or linen. In addition to the fabric used, one must decide on the quality of cloth needed, as well as the style and shape. The basic function of a tablecloth is to protect the table underneath it from being scratched, stained, or damaged in some way, but they may also be used for decoration. By placing the tablecloth on the table in a certain way and by coordinating with other items on the table, a unique dinner setting can be achieved. The possibilities of how to position the tablecloth are many, but once decided upon, coordinating the rest of the table is a little easier.
Similar to a tablecloth, a table runner may also be used as protection and decoration for a table. A table runner is like a small version of a tablecloth, so it only covers part of the table. It can be placed in a way that allows part of the surface of the table to be revealed, or it can be placed over a tablecloth to give an added decorative flair. Most commonly, runners are used as placemats when placed across the width of a table, or as a protected spot for other decorations down the center of the table.
If a runner is not used, traditional placemats may be placed at each seat instead. A placemat is a protective pad usually made out of cloth, paper, or plastic. Their primary function is to protect the table from food, heat, or water damage, but they are also used for decoration. Cloth placemats are used more commonly for decorating, especially ones made of lace, silk, or other fine fabrics.
Adding to the decorative theme of a table is the napkin, or serviette. In many cases the napkin is a simple rectangle of cloth or paper that is used for wiping the mouth and hands while eating. While it is simply folded and placed to the left of the place setting, in high-end restaurants and at fancy dinners, the napkin may be folded into more elaborate shapes and displayed on the plate.
It is clear that linens have a wide variety of forms and functions in the world. The quality and comfort that they can offer is unmatched as they continue to be a part of the dining experience. The fact that they have become such a large part of that experience shows how engrained they are in society. Meal times are one of the most important times of the day, so it is no wonder that we would want the calm look and relaxed feel that linens can bring to the dinner table.
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