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Ironing Tablecloths and Napkins

Entertaining Good Things 2005, Volume 2005 Special Issue 2005

Ironing an unwieldy tablecloth or dozens of napkins is probably the last thing you want to deal with when you're planning a dinner party. Done properly, though, this task doesn't need to be stressful, and the result will be an impressive-looking table set with crisp, neat linens.

To iron cloth napkins, begin by setting the ironing board (if you're using one) to the right height, which will help prevent muscle fatigue. (If you can place your hand on the board while standing without bending your arm or back, the board is adjusted correctly.) Place a white terry-cloth towel across the ironing board to create a soft, smooth surface, and following the manufacturer's label on the item you're ironing, select the correct temperature setting on the iron. Lay a napkin flat across the ironing board, and lightly spray it with water. Keep the iron moving across the fabric, in the direction of the weave, to prevent scorching. To iron monograms, place the napkin face down, and iron the monogram into the terry cloth. When finished, the monogram should be puffy.

To iron a tablecloth, cover a table or other large surface with bump cloth, followed by a cotton sheet and then a terry-cloth towel. Spread a clean sheet around the base of the board or table to prevent the tablecloth from coming into contact with the floor. Make sure the tablecloth is uniformly damp but not wet. (After washing her tablecloths, Martha always dries them on a rack until they're just damp and ready to be ironed.) For a clean, crisp look, either lightly apply spray starch (recommended for natural fibers) or add a starch in the soak cycle when laundering the tablecloth; this enables the starch to deeply and thoroughly penetrate the fabric without getting washed out.

Iron in a back-and-forth motion over the entire length of the cloth, going with the weave; using a circular motion can lead to undesirable stretching. When you're finished, fold the tablecloth into thirds, hang on a sturdy, good-quality hanger, and store it in a closet. You can store less frequently used tablecloths rolled around an acid-free cardboard tube and wrapped in heavy cellophane.

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