Wednesday, 19 June 2013


French people have very precise ways of serving meals in their homes and much of it is part of old family tradition. The table is almost always covered with a cloth, and the china, cutlery, glass, serving dishes, are chosen carefully. In the farmhouses, the tables were long and narrow, often poplar, pine or fruitwood. The cloth would be linen or hemp and run the length of the table. You can always tell a table cloth from a 'torchon' (see my blog 'what is a torchon?')It can be rather large in a good plain linen with hand-stitched seams, or it may be in a damask weave, large and elaborate, or sometimes in small 'diaper' patterns which are geometric shapes repeated over the main part of the cloth. One of the most famous is the 'l'oeuil de perdrix'or partridge eye which is a diamond with a dot in the centre which was much used in the late 18c. for bath towels and napkins. - lovely glossy fine linen, usually with miniscule red cross-stitch initials and/or numbers in a corner.
The more rustic cloths, usually in heavy hemp, always have a border weave of heavier, coarse thread at each end and they make lovely breakfast and kitchen table cloths, rather similar to the harvest cloths. These latter can still be found and are distinguished by a red border at each end and the material is usually a heavy henp drill. The one illustrated has an exceptional 'fancy' set of initials - most unusual on a harvest cloth. These cloths were used to carry the 'dejeuner' of the working peasants, particularly in the vineyards, and were unpacked and spread on the long trestle tables put up under a shady tree during the wine harvest - a hot and sticky affair. Each person had their own cloth and sat at the table on a long bench, no doubt with a few bottles of last years' vintage in front of them. I always have a stack of all these cloths as they are so sturdy and attractive for everyday use.  Alas, now all sold, but I can point you in the right direction for a good source for these and other domestic cloths.

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