So much of restaurant design doesn’t make sense outside of restaurants: No one (I would think) is going to install a booth tree, 2020’s first major design trend, in their dining room. Sure, certain design trends, like the current tendency towards maximalist walls, are meant to be aspirational — but isn’t nice when you can exactly replicate the thing that makes a restaurant dining room so inviting?
Consider the oilcloth tablecloth.
These colorful tablecloths are nothing new. The material itself was first used as a floor and roof covering in the 18th century. In the 1950s, with the advent of vinyl, oilcloth made its way to tabletops in patterns we’d now call retro, and since then, their utilitarian nature — they’re waterproof and stain resistant while being more durable than plain-old plastic — has made them staples at outdoor restaurants and market-side food stalls around the world. For years now, Thai restaurants like Pok Pok and Nong’s Khao Man Gai in Portland and Night + Market in LA have used oilcloths in tropical patterns to reference Thailand’s thriving hawker culture, recreating the feeling that you could be eating this food outside, just a few feet away from the entrance to a market.
Oilcloth tablecloths are popping up at other kinds of restaurants, too. There are vibrant oilcloths covering the tables at South Philly Barbacoa and at Michael Solomonov’s latest Philadelphia restaurant, Laser Wolf, where the look was inspired by vendors at the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, who, at the end of the day, would grill meat over charcoal to be served at tables covered in oilcloths.
At Laser Wolf, the oilcloth expands beyond the tropical patterns most often favored by restaurants to include zebra, houndstooth, and cherries: They blend with stately bare wood tabletops for an eclectic aesthetic that calls to mind summer camp dining halls. According to a rep for Laser Wolf, the tablecloths came from two oilcloth specialty sites — Oilcloth by the Yard and Oilcloth Alley — and the restaurant notes that affordability is another draw.
As more restaurants bring oilcloths into their dining rooms, they begin to feel like an enviable design statement — not to mention a vibrant backdrop for overhead food shots, which might make them more relevant now than ever. Here are just some of the many, many options for dressing your table in the tradition of these sensible-but-fun restaurants:
Bloom Oilcloth Tablecloth
Prices taken at time of publishing.
Florals are perhaps the most common oilcloth tablecloth motif these days.
Pink Cherry Oilcloth
Prices taken at time of publishing.
These cherries make an appearance on the Laser Wolf tables.
Prices taken at time of publishing.
Zebra is one of a few nontraditional oilcloth tablecloth patterns at Laser Wolf.
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Eater at Home
- COOKING 44
- EATING 25
- STOCKING UP 38
- The Ultimate Guide to Fruity, Milky, and Other Specialty Soft Drinks
- Confessions of a Takeout Container Hoarder
- Why Don’t You Have a Bread Box?
- The Any Occasion Add to Cart Gift Guide
- These Ikea Serving Trays Give My Pandemic Meals Some Much-Needed Variety
- The Most Ingenious Kitchen Tools, According to Chefs
- Everything You Need to Picnic, According to Picnic Professionals
- Everything You Need to Make Matcha at Home
- 11 Useful Items to Keep Hidden Away in Your Freezer
- The Best Products for Organizing Your Fridge, According to Organization Experts
- The Socially Conscious Shopper’s Guide to Buying Coffee and Tea
- The Most Essential Pasta-Making Tools, According to Professional Pasta-Makers
- Everything You Need to Make Cold Brew Like the Pros
- Eater Staffers on the Kitchen Tools They Can’t Live Without
- 21 Best Grilling Gifts for Every Type of Grilling Enthusiast
- How to Organize Your Fridge
- Everything You Need to Start Fermenting at Home
- Stock Up on ‘Indian-ish’ Cookbook Author Priya Krishna’s Pantry Staples
- The Ultimate Guide to Instant Noodles
- How to Stock a Pantry
- Stock Your Spice Rack With These Chef-Recommended Essential Spices
- The Best Miso to Keep in Your Fridge, According to Chefs
- A Starter Guide to Buying, Eating, and Cooking With Tinned Fish
- Chile Oil Is So Hot Right Now
- The 52 Canned Goods Chefs Keep in Their Pantries
- Stock Your Pantry With Ingredients from Around the World, Care of These Online Shops
- Everything You Need to Make Ice Cream at Home
- The Tools to Make Your Kitchen a Better Place to Cook
- Stock Up Your Pantry Like Samin Nosrat
- The Pantry Staples ‘Top Chef’ Judge Gail Simmons Keeps Stocked in Her NYC Kitchen
- Everything a Recipe Developer Uses to Organize Her Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
- Everything You Need to Stock an at-Home Bar, According to Bartenders
- Why You Really Only Need Three Knives
- Kitchen Towels Are My New Savior, and Other Lies I Tell Myself
- The Products Chefs Use to Save Their Hands From Constant Dishwashing
- You Don’t Really Need a Pasta Machine to Make Your Own Pasta
- How to Get Started Brewing Your Own Kombucha
- Where to Purchase Restaurant Merch in Various Cities Around the Country
- READING 16
$100 World Market Gift Card
Book Signing Note: Rexburg, ID- you’re our next stop! June 15th, 5pm: Deseret Book 485 N 2ND E # 104 June 16th, BYU-I Book Store 4-5 pm.
My love affair with World Marketstarted when I was just a kid. I think I was in 6th grade when my friend and I would sometimes get dropped off at the mall to hang out and we’d always walk over to World Market. They used to sell the most amazing little rose-flavored candies. Yes, roses- as in the flowers. They were so so good. To this day every time I walk into a World Market store, I keep my eye out for them. Now that I’m grown up and actually have use for the amazing household items in the store, I buy more than candy! I buy much more than candy. I love World Market like Kate loves Target. We’re talking serious business here. Some might classify it as an obsessive relationship. I mentioned in a photography post that I did a while back that a huge number of the dishes and table linens you see in my food photographs, including the photos in our cookbook, have come from World Market. They sell an amazing selection of cookware, dishes, and specialty items. Remember the adorable little mugs you all were raving about in my hot chocolate post? Yep. World Market. They also sell a great selection of furniture, housewares, gifts, jewelry, accessories (see the cute floral headband I’m wearing in the next pic? World Market!), over 500 international wines, gourmet foods and specialty drinks imported from more than 50 countries. It’s seriously one of my most favorite places, which is why I jumped at the chance to host a party compliments of World Market and Foodbuzz. I had the perfect occasion this past weekend while I was in my home town of Seattle; my favorite sister (okay, she’s my only sister, but for reals, she’s my favorite) was having a birthday!
That’s my sister Becca. She’s awesome. She’s an amazing cook (I actually photographed her making something this weekend that I’m going to post soon) She’s insanely creative (we’re talking like, she built a to-scale replica of my parents house in gingerbread last Christmas. Okay, and she has a college minor in art, but seriously the gingerbread was sweet) and she does crazy cool stuff like rescue orphaned animals and train them to release them back into the wild. No joke. She taught a half-dead bird how to eat. And then fly. She’s like an animal whisperer. She’s also single. In case you know someone. Just sayin…
I had a perfectly lovely backyard meal in my mind and I found everything I needed at World Market. Sometimes when you envision outdoor entertaining you immediately think of paper plates and plastic tablecloths. I love to mix and match and bring some of my indoor things out. I started out with a crisp white tablecloth, and added a bamboo table runner. I love how the bamboo is kind of rustic and fits in with an outdoor theme.
Then I used some plain white plates. This is a fabulous thing to have. World Market sells a lot of these buffet sets; plain white dishes in all sizes that come in these nice holders. They’re affordable, and great to have on hand for big group meals.
I didn’t want them to get lost on the white tablecloth though so I used these awesome chargers. Aren’t they fantastic? This is my most favorite color so I couldn’t resist. They’re a heavy duty plastic so they’re super easy to clean too. I love these.
On top of the white plates, I placed these fun melamine dessert plates. They’re light weight and inexpensive; perfect for outdoor entertaining! I love the colors in them, and found cloth napkins in a matching color too.
One of my favorite things to do on an outdoor table is light candles. There’s something about a breeze, and summer weather, and flickering candles, that makes you want to stay at that table for hours. I LOVE these purple glass lanterns. Those things are big, and only 8 bucks! They matched the purple in the plates perfectly.
World Market has a gazillion different styles of little votive holders. I’m madly in love with these blue square ones. I grabbed a bunch of different styles and colors and scattered them around. All the colors tied into the plates so they all matched when put together.
See those cute drinks? One of my favorite things.
World Market Italian Sodas. They have a bunch of flavors; my family loves the Blood Orange. The Mango Passion Fruit is yummy too.
The personal sized bottles look so cute on a dinner table. Sort of casual-chic.
My sister bought her own flowers (okay, and she made half of this meal herself too. She’s rad like that.) How crazy beautiful are these peonies??
Seriously I couldn’t stop staring at them. I love fresh flowers on a dinner table, especially an outdoor one.
Just make sure when you’re entertaining that you use shallow vases or bowls so you don’t block people’s faces.
Okay I’ll stop swooning over the flowers. Back to food. For an appetizer, I grabbed a great pesto, and also a Piquillo and Artichoke Bruschetta spread. Both were amazing. I could eat that artichoke stuff with a spoon. Okay I sort of did. Both came from World Market. Did I mention they have food there? Food from all around the world? Ya, they do. And lots and lots of chocolate and treats too.
I need to make a knock-off of that artichoke spread asap.
My family also loves these chips. They taste similar to those Pop Chips that are popular right now.
My kiddos love ’em! They also have lots of fun trinkets, toys, and novelty items at World Market. My kids beg for stuff every time we go there and I usually say no, so this time I grabbed a bunch of toys to keep them busy while the grown-ups ate. It worked brilliantly.
We also grilled up (and by we I mean my husband) one of my all-time-favorite summer meals, Italian Chicken and Vegetable Skewers. Per my sister’s request we (and by we I mean my sister) also made Caramel Toffee Fruit Dip. (Are you starting to wonder if I cooked anything at all??) And a yummy Pear and Gorgonzola Salad.
My sister also made an awesome Orange-Teriyaki Steelhead, which I’m going to share her recipe for soon! Heaven knows our Seafood Section can use all the help it can get. I’m thinking I should have her do a monthly fish feature!
For dessert (seriously I made this one myself. I mean, I bought this one myself. It counts, I swear.) I picked up some Seattle-famed Trophy Cupcakes. I have to be honest and say that when it comes to gourmet cupcake shops, I’ve been disappointed way more times than I’ve been pleased. But Trophy came through! These babies were amazing.
All in all it was a gorgeous night with fantastic company. Nothing better than friends and family on a beautiful summer night at a beautiful summer table!
Since I had so much fun on my own little shopping spree, I thought I’d share the love! Kate and I would love for one of you to get to have a shopping spree at World Market as well so we’re going to give away a
Holla! Take a look at the World Market e-catalog right now and you’ll find a $10 off $30 coupon you can use right now. To enter to win the gift card, just leave a comment below and tell us what you think you’d spend it on. Food? Jewelry? Furniture? Dishes? BBQ supplies? A little of everything?? For extra lucky-dust, click the links below this post to share this on Facebook and Twitter! (And make sure you like us onFacebook and Follow us on Twitterto keep up with all the fun!)
Note the only way to enter this giveaway is by leaving a comment on this post. Entries via email will not be counted. If you are reading this post in a feed service or email, click hereto be directed to the post where you can leave a comment to enter.
Giveaway will be open for one week, winner announced June 20, 2011. Open to US residents only. Disclosure: I received the funding for the products in this post compliments of World Market via the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program. The opinions expressed are my own. Gift card giveaway provided by Our Best Bites.
Our runner-up set, the Crate and Barrel Abode Napkins and Tablecloth was discontinued. We’ve removed it from the guide, but we stand by our other picks.
April 12, 2021
Over the course of four years, we spent 75 hours researching almost 100 napkins and tablecloths, and tested 22 to find the best for most people. We like the Williams Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth because they are made from 100 percent tight-weave cotton, available in the widest assortment of sizes and sets, and the best-quality table linens we found for the price. The napkins are soft and absorbent, and the thick tablecloth looks smooth and elegant.
The Williams Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth are as beautiful as they are functional. Made from 100 percent cotton fabric, they’re soft, smooth, and absorbent. Both the napkins and tablecloth are finished with deep hems and mitered corners that give your table setting a polished and seamless look. The dinner napkins are available in sets of six or 12, and in three neutral colors. The tablecloth comes in eight sizes, and most are available in the same three colors as the napkins.
The Crate and Barrel Fete cotton napkins are thin, but they’re also super absorbent and a great value. However, there isn’t a coordinating tablecloth to make a matching set like with our other picks. The Fete set is an affordable choice if you need enough napkins for a crowd.
For those who love the look and feel of Belgian linen and don’t mind paying for quality, we think the Rough Linen Smooth Napkins and Tablecloth are a fantastic investment. These table linens are equally beautiful either rumpled for a dressed-down family dinner, or crisply pressed for special gatherings. Of all the linen napkins we tested, these are the softest and most absorbent. And the substantial fabric, deep hems, and expertly sewn mitered corners give this tablecloth a fluid and seamless look when it’s draped over your table. With proper care, we believe these heirloom-quality table linens will bring warmth and beauty to your meals for decades to come.
Everything we recommend
Why you should trust us
In addition to covering table linens for Wirecutter over the past three years, I also was a food stylist for many years. I worked closely with prop stylists to help choose the tableware that best evoked a particular mood. I learned to drape, fold, and rumple napkins and tablecloths from some of the most talented people in the business.
Who should get this
Whether you’re a dinner party pro or hosting a holiday meal for the first time, choosing a well-made and versatile set of table linens will elevate both last-minute gatherings and special occasions. A cotton or linen tablecloth and set of napkins are a warm and welcoming touch that instantly adds style to any table setting. Cleanly pressed white cotton table linens evoke the elegance of a fine-dining restaurant. A slightly rumpled linen tablecloth creates a warm and casual atmosphere perfect for a night in with friends.
A well-made and versatile set of table linens will elevate both last-minute gatherings and special occasions.
Practically speaking, a tablecloth is a simple way to hide an old, beat-up tabletop. Linens are also a great way to easily and affordably change up your setting to match the occasion or your current mood. And cloth napkins aren’t only a nice detail, they’re a reusable alternative to paper that you can use every night of the week.
A table linen glossary
If you’re new to the wide world of tabletop goods, we compiled a short glossary of terms to help you shop for napkins and tablecloths like a pro:
Table linens: Fabric napkins and tablecloths are called table linens. This term has nothing to do with the fibers used to make these goods, so a table linen can be made from cotton, linen, or synthetic fibers like polyester.
Drape: The drape describes how a tablecloth hangs from the edges of the table or the way a napkin settles in your lap. Crisp, tightly woven cotton cloth will have a stiffer drape that looks refined and formal. Linen has a more relaxed, natural drape that lends well to casual and comfortable settings.
Drop: The length of the tablecloth that hangs down from the edge of the table is the “drop.” Your preferred drop length is personal taste, but we don’t recommend going shorter than 6 inches.
Mitered corners: A mitered corner is a 45-degree-angle seam where two sides of a napkin or tablecloth meet. Mitered corners have less bulk than standard overlapping hems, which gives them a sharp, clean look, and also allows them to be ironed relatively flat.
Puckering: The occurrence of little ripples along the hemline is called puckering. This usually shows after you’ve washed and dried your linens. Puckering can happen if the fabric and thread shrink at different rates, the stitch tension is too tight, or if the fabric wasn’t laundered before sewing. All of our linens puckered at various rates, but the worst offenders came out of the wash with rippled and fluttered hems that were impossible for us to iron flat.
Warp and weft: If you picture a loom you’ll see the threads run in two directions. In the simplest terms, the warp of the fabric is the lengthwise threads that are stretched taut on the loom. The weft is the crosswise threads woven in and out of the warp, and not attached to the loom at all. You can’t tell which is the warp and which is the weft of a fabric just by looking, but because of the difference in tension when it’s woven, the fabric will shrink more in the direction of the warp (about 5 percent) than the weft (about 3 percent).
How we picked
How you decide to set your table is mostly personal taste. Table linens are as subjective as any other design element in your home—to a point. No amount of ornate prints or embellishments can make up for cheap materials or bad workmanship. We looked for linen sets with tight weaves, attractive hems, and straight, even stitching. Tablecloths had to be available in at least three sizes, and napkins should be large enough for good coverage on your lap. We limited our search to linens available in white because it’s versatile and looks good with most decors. In all, we sought out sets with the following criteria in mind:
It’s important to remember that dining at a well-appointed table is a feast for all the senses. For this reason, we immediately ruled out linens made from synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon, as well as poly-cotton blends, because they aren’t pleasant to wipe your face with or touch. While synthetics are more resistant to wrinkles and stains, we prefer table linens made from cotton or linen because these natural fibers feel good and absorb messes quickly. But the two fabrics have different qualities, and you may prefer one or the other depending on your needs.
No amount of ornate prints or embellishments can make up for cheap materials or bad workmanship.
The most common and affordable natural-fiber table linens are made from cotton. Prices vary depending on quality of the fiber, construction, and sometimes name brand. Cotton linens generally have the smooth, polished look of a fine-dining restaurant.
Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, is absorbent and has a more relaxed drape than cotton. Threads spun from flax fibers are thicker than cotton, and the result is the distinct visible woven texture that linen goods are known for. For more information about linen, see our guide to the best linen sheets.
Table linens are susceptible to a lot of wear and tear. Most people need to wash napkins and tablecloths after each use because of the inevitable spills and drips, and all those trips through the washer can cause poor-quality table linens to fray at the seams. We looked for clean hems and consistent stitching, and avoided linens with loose threads or visible raw edges.
Cloth dinner napkins should be generously sized to cover your lap. We found that napkins in the 19-to-20-inch range are ideal. Since dining tables vary widely in size and shape, there’s no general “sweet spot” for tablecloths. Instead, we focused our search on table linen sets that offered the most tablecloth size options.
To find the right size tablecloth for your dining table, you can reference this chart from Williams Sonoma, or use this handy calculator. Keep in mind that all table linens made from cotton or linen will shrink after laundering, around 5 percent in length and 3 percent in width. When buying a tablecloth, do the math so you don’t have any surprises after wash day.
Aesthetics and design
Table linens come in countless colors and patterns to suit every taste. Tabletop aesthetics are entirely subjective, and it would be impossible for us to find something to suit everyone. We decided to focus on well-made napkins and tablecloths in white because they’re neutral, and look clean and polished in any setting. But most of our picks are available in other colors.
Hems with clean, straight stitching and minimal puckering are a sign of a well-made product. Deep hems that measure at least 1 inch, and mitered corners on square or rectangular linens add weight to the drape and give tablecloths a polished drop. But round and oval tablecloths should be finished with a narrower hem, about a ¼ inch or ⅜ inch, to avoid puckering.
You should expect your table linens to shrink after washing and drying (even after following the care directions on the label). A square napkin won’t come out of the wash a perfect square, since the warp yarns shrink more than the weft. As long as you can still neatly fold the napkin corner to corner without any overhang, you won’t notice the slight discrepancy in dimensions. A problem arises when the napkin is cut “off-grain” (meaning the cut and hemlines don’t follow the fabric grain), and you end up with a wonky-shaped napkin.
As we stated above in our sizes section, a tablecloth will shrink more lengthwise than widthwise (around 5 percent in length and 3 percent in width). For example, a rectangular tablecloth measuring 70 inches by 144 inches will probably shrink 2 to 3 inches in width, and 6 to 7 inches in length. Some companies oversize their tablecloths to accommodate for loss after washing, but there’s no way of knowing this unless you measure the cloth yourself before buying.
How we tested
Over the past four years of covering table linens for Wirecutter, we’ve spent more than 60 hours researching hundreds of napkins and tablecloths. For this update, we tested more sets from the company that makes our top pick (Williams Sonoma), a couple of budget-friendly cotton options, and 100 percent linen sets.
Since your table linens will probably need to be washed after each use, they need to stand up to the rigors of your washer and dryer. To test durability, we laundered the napkins and tablecloths five times and pressed them with a steam iron. We examined the fabric for pilling and the hems for puckering and fraying. We also measured each piece to gauge shrinkage after laundering.
We dabbed our faces and wiped our hands with each napkin to assess their softness and ability to quickly absorb moisture. I also placed each napkin in my lap throughout the workday, taking frequent breaks to handle it for softness and comfort. We draped the tablecloths over countertops, desks, and tables to examine the drape and drop of each one.
We performed stain tests to see if the fibers could stand up to the strong pre-treaters and rigorous scrubbing involved when removing tough stains. In addition, this research and testing let us deliver tried-and-true tips for keeping your linens looking their best. We soiled each napkin with red wine, coffee, blood, greasy turkey drippings, and melted chocolate, then treated the stains with Wine Away, Zout, and Clorox Oxi Magic, and laundered everything in Tide Ultra Stain Release. All the napkins emerged completely spotless after treatment and washing.
Our pick: Williams Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkin and Tablecloth
The Williams Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth are excellent-quality table linens made from thick, tightly woven cotton that’ll look great year after year. They’re soft and absorbent, and evoke the beauty and polish of a fine-dining restaurant. The Williams Sonoma Hotel table linen set held up to repeated laundering without excessive shrinking or becoming misshapen, and its deep hems with mitered corners pressed flat with minimal puckering. Dinner napkins are available in sets of six or 12 in three colors, and the tablecloth comes in eight sizes and four colors (depending on size).
The 1-inch hem and mitered corners on the Hotel napkin.
The Hotel napkins neatly fold corner-to-corner.
The Hotel tablecloth’s wide hem and tight weave give it a handsome, structured drop.
Of all the cotton napkins we tested, the Williams Sonoma Hotel napkins had the thickest weave and felt the smoothest against our skin. They’re substantial, absorbent, generously sized, and a suitable barrier between small dinner-table mishaps and your outfit. In our tests, we found the 20-inch-square napkins shrink to measure 19½ by 18½ inches—which is normal for cotton. Unlike the cheaper brands we tested, the Williams Sonoma Hotel linens maintained straight hemlines after laundering and shrinking, allowing us to make neat, corner to corner folds. If white isn’t your style, these napkins are also available in ivory, charcoal gray, and red (12-piece set).
The matching Hotel tablecloth is made from the same cotton as the napkins, and the rectangular tablecloths have similarly deep hems and mitered corners. The round and oval tablecloths have a narrower hem, about ⅝ inch. Our 70-by-90-inch tablecloth showed normal shrinkage and measured 68½ by 84 inches after laundering. The Hotel tablecloth is available in a variety of sizes and colors to suit most people:
- 70-inch round (white and ivory)
- 90-inch round (white, ivory, charcoal gray, and red)
- Rectangular sizes 70 by 90 inches, 70 by 108 inches, 70 by 126 inches, and 70 by 144 inches (white, ivory, charcoal gray, and red)
- 70-by-90-inch oval (white and ivory)
- 70-by-126-inch oval (white only)
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Since this set is made from 100 percent cotton fabric, it will wrinkle after laundering. Ironing is an unavoidable task when using natural-fiber table linens. If you love to iron, great! If you hate ironing with a passion, take your linens to get laundered and pressed by a professional. We think this is a small price to pay for soft cotton table linens.
Budget pick: Crate and Barrel Fete Napkin
The Crate and Barrel Fete Napkin is crazy inexpensive and super soft, and comes in 13 colors. At $3.50 per napkin (when bought in a set of eight), you won’t care if they get splashed with red wine. (But if they do get trashed, check out our tips for stain removal.) The Fete napkin is very absorbent and has a tight weave and soft feel. But compared to the Williams-Sonoma napkin, the Fete is much thinner, and has a limper drape, even when folded. That said, you can’t beat the price for a set of cotton napkins.
Sadly, the Fete napkin doesn’t have a coordinating tablecloth. But if your aesthetic is more “mix it up” than buttoned-up, these punchy-hued napkins can add vibrant life to your table without breaking the bank.
Upgrade pick: Rough Linen Smooth Napkin and Tablecloth
We found that the Rough Linen Smooth Napkins and Tablecloth are great for anyone who loves the look and texture of linen, and doesn’t mind paying for outstanding quality. They’re very expensive, but the 100 percent Belgian linen fabric and thoughtful finishing touches are above and beyond anything we tested. Rough Linen’s napkins and tablecloth have a relaxed drape with just enough structure, giving your table setting a seamless look that’s appropriate for both formal and casual occasions. Even though a set of Rough Linen is a big investment, it’ll likely last a lifetime and beyond with proper care and storage.
Rough Linen’s cloth is the most beautiful, absorbent, and luxurious of all the 100 percent linen napkins we tested. Despite the name, the Rough Linen is soft to the touch and lays comfortably in the lap. It features the deepest hem of all the competition (just under 2 inches), and it pressed perfectly flat and puckered the least after laundering. Other little details like double-stitched hems and expertly sewn mitered corners with perfectly symmetrical seam allowance set this napkin apart from the competition.
The visible smooth weave of the Rough Linen tablecloth shows the natural texture of the fabric.
Rough Linen’s tablecloth provides near-opaque coverage with a fluid drop.
Obsessive details like double-stitched, extra-deep hems and mitered corners with symmetrical seam allowance set Rough Linen’s napkins apart from the competition.
Our 24-inch-square napkin measured 22½ by 23¾ inches after five trips through the washer and dryer. The Rough Linen Smooth napkins are sold individually and come in two sizes (20-inch and 24-inch squares), and two colors (white and natural).
The Rough Linen tablecloth has a beautiful, relaxed drape, generous 3-inch hem, and pointy mitered corners. Other linen tablecloths we tested were so thin we could practically make out the details of the table underneath, while Rough Linen’s tablecloth gave us the most opaque and seamless coverage. Our 60-inch-square tablecloth shrunk to 57 by 59 inches after laundering and ironing. It’s available in three sizes (60-inch square, 72 by 118 inches, and 90 by 144 inches) and two colors (white and natural).
Even though linen has a reputation for wrinkling easily, we had little issue pressing these with a steam iron. The added bonus with linen is that you can work out creases with a clothing steamer if you’re going for a more rumpled, casual look. It's important to note that the white color is warm and soft. If you’re looking for bright-white table linens, our top pick is your best bet.
How to keep your linens looking like new
The best line of defense against stains is water. Start by running the stained area under running cold tap water to flush out as much of the discoloration as possible. Next, treat the stain with the right solution for the job:
Grease: Turkey drippings, butter, vinaigrette, or anything cooked in oil will leave a grease stain. The first step with grease is to treat the spot with dish soap, liquid hand soap, or liquid laundry detergent and a few drops of water to help work the product into the stain. After laundering the item, always let it air-dry because the heat from your dryer will set the stain permanently. Kerr told us: “Don’t even take the risk of putting it in the dryer, because a wet item will obscure a lingering grease stain.” Her advice is to, “Air-dry, then check to see if [the stain is] gone. If not, just retreat it. Sometimes just a second washing is required.”
The best line of defense against stains is water.
If you are dealing with a particularly large or tenacious grease stain, a degreasing solvent is your best bet. Kerr uses Lestoil, but she also recommends Pine-Sol. The two products have pine oil, an effective degreaser, but if you find pine cleaners acrid, Citra Solv is an orange-scented degreasing alternative. Dab the solvent of your choice on the stain and let it sit up to an hour, then launder in cold water.
When using one of these solvents on grease stains, we strongly suggest you use the “extra rinse” option on your washing machine, as these products have a strong scent. We’ve been known to run a second full cycle, sans soap, to make sure there isn’t any lingering residue.
Blood: Almost anything will get a blood stain out, but it's important to use cold water, because hot water can set the stain. Using hand soap, apply a generous amount to the spot and rub vigorously until it’s mostly out. Launder in cold water and air-dry.
Red wine, coffee, tea, and berries: For small spots and splatters, douse the stain with Wine Away and let it sit for at least five minutes before laundering in cold water. If the stain persists, move to the next step.
For large or stubborn stains, prepare a soak with oxygenated bleach (we used Clorox Oxi Magic) and hot tap water. Let your soiled linen soak for at least one hour, then launder in cold water and air-dry.
Lipstick: Dab lipstick stains with a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol. This might take a few passes, but the color will lift. Rub the area with liquid laundry detergent before laundering in cold water. Be sure the stain is completely out before tumble-drying the item.
Wax: Lifting candle drippings from your tablecloth is a different ball of wax (puns!). In an email follow-up, Kerr explained both hot and cold methods for removing wax:
“The hot method involves using an iron on the lowest heat setting and brown paper; lay the paper over the wax and apply the iron. The heat will melt the wax, which will then be absorbed by the paper. Rotate the paper as the section you're working with becomes saturated with the wax, and increase the heat if the wax isn't melting enough to absorb into the paper.
“The cold method involves freezing the waxed item, either by placing it in the freezer, or by applying ice cubes or packs to the wax. As it freezes, the wax will contract, making it easy to pop right off the textiles using a fingernail, spoon or butter knife (don't use anything sharper than a butter knife, as you can nick the fabric causing a hole).”
Keeping your whites bright
Keeping white table linens their brightest is all about product moderation. Most laundry detergents available these days are highly concentrated, and you don’t need to use much to get your linens clean. And since high-efficiency machines use less water, your chance of residue buildup increases. Kerr suggested using the extra rinse function on your washer: “The great thing about the extra rinse is that people don’t realize how much product buildup effects the look, in terms of dinge. And the extra rinse is what’s gonna keep your whites white.”
The best way to store your linens is in a dark, dry place (like a linen closet or drawer). If you want to take an extra step to protect your napkins and tablecloths, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper and store in archival boxes. Never store your linens in plastic or cardboard. The compounds from those materials can migrate to the fabric and cause a chemical reaction that turns it yellow.
The Crate and Barrel Helena Dinner Napkin and Tablecloth are 100 percent linen and much more affordable than our luxury picks from Rough Linen. The Helena napkin and tablecloth are finished with deep hems and mitered corners. But they have a stiffer drape and slightly scratchier feel, and the fabric is so thin you can practically see through it. That said, if you want a linen set that’s less than half the price of Rough Linen’s options, this might be a good choice for you. Just keep in mind that you might be sacrificing longevity for the sake of cost.
KAF Home makes affordable, basic cotton table linens. Even though we loved the low price and six sizing options for tablecloths, they’re poor quality. The napkins and tablecloth aren’t the same shade of white, a difference just noticeable enough to be annoying. And one of our napkins came out of the laundry so misshapen that we couldn’t neatly fold it.
The Williams Sonoma Hemstitch Napkin (the tablecloth is now unavailable) is made from the same cotton fabric as our top pick. The hems on these linens pucker after washing, which makes the edges flutter.
The look and feel of the Sur La Table Herringbone Napkin and Tablecloth reminded us of the kitchen towels used in restaurants. The napkin is thin, and the tablecloth started to pill after five trips through the washer and dryer.
H&M Home takes the company’s budget, fast fashion approach to table linens. We looked at both the cotton and 100 percent linen napkins and tablecloths in the store and decided not to test them. The $18 cotton tablecloth comes in six colors yet only one size (57 by 98 inches), and the ones we saw in store had loose threads and wonky hems. The 100 percent linen offerings were thin, translucent, and like their cotton cousins, hastily assembled and sewn.
We stumbled upon World Market’s table linens at a brick-and-mortar location of the store in New York City. The tablecloths are available in two sizes (60 by 90 and 60 by 120 inches), and they also have an open weave that’s almost gauzelike. Ditto for the napkins. However the sloppy construction left these linens with loose stitches and uneven hems.
The Relaxed Cotton Tablecloth at Bed Bath & Beyond has a relaxed look and appears like it’s made from flour sack material. It was on our “maybe” list to test until we saw the coordinating napkins’ raw edge fringe. We’re not opposed to that look, per se, but the unfinished hems are limited and wouldn’t work in more formal settings.
About your guide
Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wirecutter. Her expertise builds on a lifelong career in the culinary world—from a restaurant cook and caterer to a food editor at Martha Stewart. She is perfectly happy to leave all that behind to be a full-time kitchen-gear nerd.
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- has reached 7 billion on October 31, 2011.
- is projected to reach 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion in 2037, and 10 billion people in the year 2055.
- has doubled in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion).
- is currently (2020) growing at a rate of around 1.05 % per year, adding 81 million people per year to the total.
- growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2.09%.
- growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years (reaching below 0.50% by 2050, and 0.03% in 2100) .
- a tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history up to the year 1800 for world population to reach 1 billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), the fifth billion in 13 years (1987), the sixth billion in 12 years (1999) and the seventh billion in 12 years (2011). During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
Sources for the world population counter:
For more detailed information:
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"this year" = from January 1 (00:00) up to now
"today" = from the beginning of the current day up to now
"net population growth" = births minus deaths
Government & Economics
- Total global healthcare expenditure represent around 9% of world GDP
- Government portion of healthcare expenditure is around 60%
Sources and info:
- Public spending on education in the world is around 5% of global GDP
Sources and info:
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- As recently as 1965, bicycle and car production volumes were essentially the same, at nearly 20 million each per year, but as of 2003 bike production had climbed to over 100 million per year compared with around 50 million cars produced that year.
Sources and info:
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Society & Media
- The number shown above is net of reforestation
- Withdrawals for irrigation are nearly 70% of the total withdrawn for human uses, those for industry 20%, and those for municipal use about 10%
Sources and info:
- Global Water Outlook to 2025 - International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
- World Water Council
more info >
- Renewables Global Status Report - REN21
- Barrel = 42 Gallons = 159 Liters
Sources and info:
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- If consumed at current rates
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- Boe = barrel of oil equivalent
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- Every year an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die in the world due to complications from seasonal influenza (flu) viruses.
- This figure corresponds to 795 to 1,781 deaths per day due to the seasonal flu.
Sources and info:
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