Guide to Choosing Table Linens | Best Table Cloths

Table linens are essential for setting the right tone to your event and they can really transform a space.  Choosing a tablecloth is easy; here are answers to our most frequently asked questions.
Determining Quality

What should I look for in fine linens?

Fine linens are characterized by a combination of beautiful materials, expert construction, fine workmanship, and design. Most fine linens are made from linen or cotton because they are durable, absorbent, and soft.
Sferra Acanthus Table Linens
What material should my table linens be made from?
Because they are strong and absorbent, we recommend cotton and linen. While they do require ironing, they are long-lasting and have the most luxurious feel and appearance.
For ease of care, there are high-quality easy-care table linen collections available that are either stain-resistant or wrinkle-resistant.
What is the difference between linen and cotton?
Both linen and cotton are natural fibers. Linen comes from the flax plant, which grows in the cooler climates of western and northern Europe. Cotton comes from the cotton plant, which grows in hot, humid climates throughout the world.  Both fabrics are highly absorbent, durable, and become softer with use.

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There are some subtle differences, however. Linen feels lighter and crisper and becomes whiter with use. It is also highly absorbent and lint-free. Cotton feels more substantial and is will shrink more than linen.

What determines the quality of cotton fabrics?

Quality in cotton is primarily based on the length of the fibers. This is because longer fibers can be spun into smoother, stronger, and much finer yarns, which can then be woven to create fabrics that are softer and more durable.  In particular, Egyptian cotton is prized because the humid weather and rich soil around the Nile delta produce especially delicate and long fibers. Cotton grown in Egypt has a staple length of over 2 1/4″, twice the size of that in generic cotton and 60% longer than Pima cotton.
What determines the quality of linen fabrics?
Like cotton, higher-quality linen fabrics are made from longer fibers because these produce finer and stronger yarns. In addition, these fibers have a very consistent thickness with almost no coarse knots or uneven slubs, resulting in a smooth hand.  Irish and Belgian linen are widely acknowledged to be among the finest linen in the world.
Determining Size

What are standard table linen sizes?

Formal table linens are generously sized for elegant entertaining. Sizes will vary among different collections, but they are generally as follow:
Cocktail Napkin 6″ x 6″
Luncheon Napkin 18″ x 18″
Dinner Napkin 22″ x 22″
For more information, view our basic chart of tablecloth sizes and the tables they would fit.

What size tablecloth should I buy?

For formal settings, the dining table cover should hang down 10″ to 12″ around the table. More elaborate occasions may call for a drop of anywhere from 15″ to 30″ (all the way to the floor). The longer the drop, the more dramatic the effect. In contrast, casual events call for clothes that have 6″ – 8″ drops.
To calculate the size of the tablecloth you need, measure the length and width of your table and add twice the desired drop to each dimension. For example, if your table measures 48″ wide and 84″ long, and you would like a 12″ drop on each side, you would add 24″ to each dimension:
48″ + 24″ = 72″ wide
84″ + 24″ = 108″ long
For round tables, measure the diameter of your table and add twice the desired drop. Following the example above, 48″ round tables would require 72″ round tablecloths.

What shape should my tablecloth be?

Rectangular table – rectangular tablecloth
Oval table – oval or rectangular tablecloth
Square table – square tablecloth
Round table – round or square tablecloth

My table has several leaves. What size tablecloth should I buy?

If the table is extended and shortened often, purchase separate tablecloths to fit each size. If this is not possible, you can buy a cloth that fits the size of the table that is used most often, and purchase more affordable banquet cloths for larger affairs. Another solution is to simply buy cloth to fit the largest table and use it at all times. A third possibility is to go with a nice set of placemats and napkins.

Are custom tablecloths available?

Yes. If you can’t find a standard-size tablecloth that fits your table, we are happy to offer custom sizes in many collections.
Suggested Quantities
How many table linens do I need?
We recommend that a basic collection of table linens include the following items:
1 Formal Tablecloth
12 Formal Napkins (usually to match the tablecloth)
1 Casual Tablecloth
12 Casual Napkins
12 Placemats
18 Cocktail Napkins
1 Table Liner

Sferra Juliet Easy Care Table Linens

Design Tips
What design should I choose for my table linens?
Generally, formal linens are either solid, woven with a pattern, printed, or embroidered. White and ivory are the most traditional colors.  Printed designs and more colorful embroideries, more suitable for informal settings.
What is a damask?
Unlike a print, a damask or jacquard refers to patterns that are woven into the fabric of the cloth, creating a subtle, yet elegant look.  Although it is a common misconception that the term “damask” refers to a heavy cloth, damask patterns may be woven into fabrics of any weight.