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I am very proud to present my new tablecloth! Though it is not stitched, there are about 6 hours of work in it. I’ve knotted all the fringes on the sides by hand! Next time, we’ll dine in style at a medieval event.

Tablecloths gained importance throughout the medieval period and were especially important in the 15th century. It was even a status symbol: richer classes could afford very decorated cloths with woven patterns or embroidery, while the pourer people would do witha plain and course woven cloth. Having no tablecloth even meant that the persons around the table were impoverished!

Our version of a bord-cloth or board cloth (as it is often named in medieval texts) is that of a middle class working family. There are just a few colors used: the base color should be as white as possible, and there are often blue and red bands or patterns woven into the fabric. Our blue bands would have been dyed with woad, while the red colors come from madder. Both are indigenous plants for the European region.

The trick is to keep the colors bright and true! A discolored tablecloth is of course not very pleasing to the eye. To remove stains, both urine and lye would have been used, and the cloths were hung out in the open to bleach as well. Launderers would then use all kinds of things, like presses and earthenware tools, to flatten or pleat the fabric, to create the desired effect.

Tablecloths are shown with straight or fringed edges on numerous paintings and manuscripts. There are also extant examples with stitched edges. For this piece, I wanted to try a new technique and went for fringes. Don’t they look stunning on the edges of the table!

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