Friday, November 27, 2009

Army Navy Tablecloths

I am posting again this information concerning Vintage Army/Navy Tablecloths. I get questions every week about these very special linens. You might also read the comments for answers to some frequent questions. Thank you.

Army Navy Tablecloth 1950s

I have sold several Army Navy tablecloths and they are gorgeous. Many were made in Hong Kong or the Philipines. The identifying pattern is alternating linen and lace blocks. The lace can be hand or machine made. Many times the linen blocks are beautifully embroidered. I have seen embroidery in white and colors. The newer pieces I have acquired have machine made lace.

There are several versions as to how that name was acquired. They have been popular gifts for years.
Mothers and girlfriends have received these beauties from their service member husbands and boyfriends overseas. A sailor spending some time on Guam in the 1950s sent the one pictured above home to his mother. It is 68" x 90" with twelve matching embroidered napkins.

The price range is usually $60.00 and up to $300.00, depending on size and decoration. Keep your eyes open and you may find a deal on Ebay.

This is a picture of a new tablecloth. It is easy care 65% polyester and 35% cotton. This particular cloth bears no resemblance to the vintage pieces. The "lace" is cheap and stiff. The fabric has no body, no handwork and zigzag stitching joins the squares. I have nothing against zigzag stitches, they are very useful. But it doesn`t equal the elegant look and quality you find in a true vintage Army/Navy Tablecloth.

Polyester Cotton Army Navy Tablecloth

The vintage cloths are hand washed and air dried. Many times they are sold with matching dinner napkins. Once you get your hands on a truly quality tablecloth you will not settle for second best.


  1. hi catherine,
    do you happen to know where i can rent or buy (for a fairly low price) 6 or 8 72 inch army navy table cloths? i'm planning my wedding and this is what i want for my overlays. i'm having a really hard time finding these. they don't have to be vintage or "real", i just want this look.


  2. Hi bnr,

    You might try Ebay and Amazon. Broader search terms that are helpful are linen or linen and lace tablecloths and lace or lacy tablecloths. Many times people don`t know what they have, that it`s an Army/Navy Cloth. Also pretty are the Quaker Lace tablecloths except they don`t have the alternating pattern of fabric and lace. Good Luck!

  3. Hi Catherine. I have a large dining room table measuring 10 feet long and was hoping to find an army navy table cloth to fit but I have discovered it is hard to find ANY table cloth to fit. Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much!

    Mary Katherine

  4. Hi Mary Katherine,

    You may have to have your tablecloth custom made. I have not seen an Army Navy tablecloth that large. Sorry I can`t be more help.


  5. Hello Catherine ~ Can you tell me what constitutes a "vintage" table cloth? I am trying to value my mother's estate and she had about a dozen army-navy tablecloths that were all acquired before 1970 and do not have the polyester. My father was in the army and we were stationed in Europe and the Far East. All of the table cloths are for large tables. Any help you can give would be great. Thanks!


  6. Hello Sara,

    I consider an item "vintage" when it is at least 50 to 75 years old. At 100 and older I call it antique. I guess we can call 1960 items vintage now.

    Selling sites including Ebay and Etsy, allow a seller to call an item vintage that dates from the 1990`s and 1980`s. Most experienced sellers stick to the 50 year date as the starting point for vintage.

    All my vintage tablecloths are at a minimum of 50 years old, including the Army/Navy cloths.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Well... I never heard of these tablecloths. When I first saw the title of your post I certainly never thought Army Navy Tablecloths were so elegant.... I won't tell you what I pictured!! LOL!!
    See that... I learned something new!
    Happy Holidays!

  8. I used my Army Navy tablecloth last night and acquired a few spot stains. Do you know if I can wash the cloth or if it needs to be dry-cleaned?
    Thanks for your help and knowledge!
    Happy New Year!

  9. Hi Erin,

    If your cloth is polyester you could pre-treat the stains and machine wash.

    If your cloth is vintage,(40 or 50 plus years old), cotton with lace inserts, I would soak it in your bathtub with cold water adding a cup of white vinegar and soak till the spots are gone. If that doesn`t get the stains out you can soak it in Oxyclean or Biz then hand wash, rinsing till the water runs clear. Squeeze out the water and line dry if you can or lay flat to dry. I once put mine in a cool dryer and it distorted the shape. I`ve never had one dry cleaned so I don`t know how that would turn out. Tub washing is hard work but worth the effort.

    Good luck,

  10. I have my mother's from the 50's and i really love it
    She had a very large one for a table for 12-14 that she sold in 1997 for $400

  11. I have my mother's from the 50's and i really love it
    She had a very large one for a table for 12-14 that she sold in 1997 for $400

  12. Catherine, I have a beautiful army/navy dining tablecloth of the type you describe. Do you buy tablecloths? Sell them? I am looking to sell the one I have. Have other beautiful linens as well, but really not sure where to find a knowledgeable buyer. Thank you, Marcia P.

  13. I just unpacked some boxes I inherited from my mother. It seems she inherited an Army Navy 70 x 106 tablecloth and 10 matching napkins from my father's half sister. The note pinned to it states it was purchased in 1952 while they were stationed in Guam. The original label on it claims it was made in Hong Kong. My Aunt claims that when she bought this cloth they were selling for $135 in the United States. It has been kept wrapped in a cotton pillowcase so it had not discolored. From the feel of it it has never been used. What is the price range that is reasonable to sell this item?

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  15. My army navy tablecloth was burned by a sterno can that was tilted when caterer picked up the pan from my table. Purchased in Hong Kong in 1970 so am so sad. U know anyone who could repair? The burn is on a linen square

  16. As the tablecloths are delicate I didn't want to spend the day hovering over guests making sure they used a coaster etc. shop here

  17. My wife has an Army/Navy cloth inherited from her parents. They were stationed in Japan in the 1950s so we believe it was purchased there at that time. Her dad remained in the Army and the cloth was used often.

    Thus, the problem. Several of the linen and lace squares are deteriorating and easily ripped.

    Any advice on how to stabilize and preserve the cloth?



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