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The Best Napkins and Tablecloth for 2023

Jun 13, 2023Jun 13, 2023

We tested three new napkins and tablecloths, and we found new picks: Pottery Barn’s Entertaining Essentials Cotton Napkins and Cotton Rectangular Tablecloth. We also replaced a former pick, Crate & Barrel’s discontinued Fete napkins, with the company’s Aspen napkins.

Nothing elevates a dinner table from everyday to elegant like crisp, clean linens. If you’re looking to freshen up your tablescape, we recommend the Williams-Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth. Made from 100% tight-weave cotton, these are the best-quality table linens we’ve found for the price, and they are available in the widest assortment of sizes and sets. The napkins are soft and absorbent, and the thick tablecloth looks smooth and elegant.

These soft and absorbent dinner napkins are finished with deep hems and clean stitching.

This well-made tablecloth is available in eight sizes, and features a tight weave that gives it a structured drape.

The Williams-Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth are as beautiful as they are functional. Made from thick, tightly woven cotton, these excellent-quality table linens will look great year after year. Both the napkins and the tablecloth are finished with deep hems and mitered corners, which give your table setting a polished and seamless look. The dinner napkins are available in sets of six or 12 and in three neutral colors. The tablecloth comes in eight sizes, and most are available in the same three colors as the napkins.


These textured cotton napkins come in sets of twelve in two colors—warm white and black.

This not-quite off-white tablecloth has a textured cotton weave that lends a warm and easygoing—yet still polished—feel to your dinner table

Pottery Barn’s Entertaining Essentials Napkins and Tablecloth are quality, 100% cotton table linens that cost slightly less than our top pick. Because of their thick, textured weave and warm, creamy white hue, the Entertaining Essentials pieces can easily be mistaken for flax linen (a plus in our book). Compared with our more-refined and buttoned-up top pick, the Pottery Barn linens feel more farmhouse-chic and cozy. The tablecloth is available in six sizes and only in white, and the 12-piece napkins set comes in two colors: black and white.

These inexpensive napkins come in over 10 color choices, the most of all our picks.

Crate & Barrel’s Aspen cotton napkins are thin, but they’re also absorbent and come in several vibrant color choices. However, there isn’t a coordinating tablecloth to make a matching set, like with our other picks. These napkins are an inexpensive way to add a punch of color to your table, especially when entertaining a crowd, and those colors should coordinate just fine with our tablecloth picks. (White is always trickier, but the Aspen white napkin is a decent match with our top-pick Williams-Sonoma tablecloth.)

Smooth and absorbent, this luxurious napkin is perfect for those who love the soft and relaxed texture of 100% linen.

Nothing comes close to the soft, relaxed drape of this 100% linen tablecloth. Yes, it’s expensive, but this tablecloth will last you a lifetime.

For those who love the look and feel of Belgian linen and don’t mind paying for quality, we think the Rough Linen Smooth Napkins and Tablecloth are a fantastic investment. These table linens are equally beautiful either rumpled for a dressed-down family dinner or crisply pressed for special gatherings. Of all the linen napkins we tested, these are the softest and most absorbent. And the substantial fabric, deep hems, and expertly sewn mitered corners give this tablecloth a fluid and seamless look when it’s draped over your table. We believe that with proper care, these heirloom-quality table linens will bring warmth and beauty to your meals for decades to come.

These soft and absorbent dinner napkins are finished with deep hems and clean stitching.

This well-made tablecloth is available in eight sizes, and features a tight weave that gives it a structured drape.

These textured cotton napkins come in sets of twelve in two colors—warm white and black.

This not-quite off-white tablecloth has a textured cotton weave that lends a warm and easygoing—yet still polished—feel to your dinner table

These inexpensive napkins come in over 10 color choices, the most of all our picks.

Smooth and absorbent, this luxurious napkin is perfect for those who love the soft and relaxed texture of 100% linen.

Nothing comes close to the soft, relaxed drape of this 100% linen tablecloth. Yes, it’s expensive, but this tablecloth will last you a lifetime.

In addition to covering table linens for Wirecutter over the past three years, I also was a food stylist for many years. I worked closely with prop stylists to help choose the tableware that best evoked a particular mood. I learned to drape, fold, and rumple napkins and tablecloths from some of the most talented people in the business.

For this guide, we also interviewed textile experts Preethi Gopinath, adjunct professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, and Shannon Maher, chairperson of Home Products Development at FIT. To get the best cleaning and stain-removal tips, we called on Jolie Kerr, host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person and author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha.

Whether you’re a dinner party pro or hosting a holiday meal for the first time, choosing a well-made and versatile set of table linens will elevate both last-minute gatherings and special occasions. A cotton or linen tablecloth and set of napkins are a warm and welcoming touch that instantly adds style to any table setting. Cleanly pressed white cotton table linens evoke the elegance of a fine-dining restaurant. A slightly rumpled linen tablecloth creates a warm and casual atmosphere perfect for a night in with friends.

A well-made and versatile set of table linens will elevate both last-minute gatherings and special occasions.

Practically speaking, a tablecloth is a simple way to hide an old, beat-up tabletop. Linens are also a great way to easily and affordably change up your setting to match the occasion or your current mood. And cloth napkins aren’t only a nice detail, they’re a reusable alternative to paper that you can use every night of the week.

If you’re new to the wide world of tabletop goods, we compiled a short glossary of terms to help you shop for napkins and tablecloths like a pro:

Table linens: Fabric napkins and tablecloths are called table linens. This term has nothing to do with the fibers used to make these goods, so a table linen can be made from cotton, linen, or synthetic fibers like polyester.

Drape: The drape describes how a tablecloth hangs from the edges of the table or the way a napkin settles in your lap. Crisp, tightly woven cotton cloth will have a stiffer drape that looks refined and formal. Linen has a more relaxed, natural drape that lends well to casual and comfortable settings.

Drop: The length of the tablecloth that hangs down from the edge of the table is the “drop.” Your preferred drop length is personal taste, but we don’t recommend going shorter than 6 inches.

Mitered corners: A mitered corner is a 45-degree-angle seam where two sides of a napkin or tablecloth meet. Mitered corners have less bulk than standard overlapping hems, which gives them a sharp, clean look, and also allows them to be ironed relatively flat.

Puckering: The occurrence of little ripples along the hemline is called puckering. This usually shows after you’ve washed and dried your linens. Puckering can happen if the fabric and thread shrink at different rates, the stitch tension is too tight, or if the fabric wasn’t laundered before sewing. All of our linens puckered at various rates, but the worst offenders came out of the wash with rippled and fluttered hems that were impossible for us to iron flat.

Warp and weft: If you picture a loom you’ll see the threads run in two directions. In the simplest terms, the warp of the fabric is the lengthwise threads that are stretched taut on the loom. The weft is the crosswise threads woven in and out of the warp, and not attached to the loom at all. You can’t tell which is the warp and which is the weft of a fabric just by looking, but because of the difference in tension when it’s woven, the fabric will shrink more in the direction of the warp (about 5%) than the weft (about 3%).

How you decide to set your table is mostly personal taste. Table linens are as subjective as any other design element in your home—to a point. No amount of ornate prints or embellishments can make up for cheap materials or bad workmanship. We looked for linen sets with tight weaves, attractive hems, and straight, even stitching. Tablecloths had to be available in at least three sizes, and napkins should be large enough for good coverage on your lap. We limited our search to linens available in white because it’s versatile and looks good with most decors. In all, we sought out sets with the following criteria in mind:

MaterialIt’s important to remember that dining at a well-appointed table is a feast for all the senses. For this reason, we immediately ruled out linens made from synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon, as well as poly-cotton blends, because they aren’t pleasant to wipe your face with or touch. While synthetics are more resistant to wrinkles and stains, we prefer table linens made from cotton or linen because these natural fibers feel good and absorb messes quickly. But the two fabrics have different qualities, and you may prefer one or the other depending on your needs.

No amount of ornate prints or embellishments can make up for cheap materials or bad workmanship.

The most common and affordable natural-fiber table linens are made from cotton. Prices vary depending on quality of the fiber, construction, and sometimes name brand. Cotton linens generally have the smooth, polished look of a fine-dining restaurant.

Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, is absorbent and has a more relaxed drape than cotton. Threads spun from flax fibers are thicker than cotton, and the result is the distinct visible woven texture that linen goods are known for. For more information about linen, see our guide to the best linen sheets.

DurabilityTable linens are susceptible to a lot of wear and tear. Most people need to wash napkins and tablecloths after each use because of the inevitable spills and drips, and all those trips through the washer can cause poor-quality table linens to fray at the seams. We looked for clean hems and consistent stitching, and avoided linens with loose threads or visible raw edges.

SizesCloth dinner napkins should be generously sized to cover your lap. We found that napkins in the 19-to-20-inch range are ideal. Since dining tables vary widely in size and shape, there’s no general “sweet spot” for tablecloths. Instead, we focused our search on table linen sets that offered the most tablecloth size options.

To find the right size tablecloth for your dining table, you can reference this chart from Williams-Sonoma, or use this handy calculator. Keep in mind that all table linens made from cotton or linen will shrink after laundering, around 5% in length and 3% in width. When buying a tablecloth, do the math so you don’t have any surprises after wash day.

Aesthetics and designTable linens come in countless colors and patterns to suit every taste. Tabletop aesthetics are entirely subjective, and it would be impossible for us to find something to suit everyone. We decided to focus on well-made napkins and tablecloths in white because they’re neutral, and look clean and polished in any setting. But most of our picks are available in other colors.

Hems with clean, straight stitching and minimal puckering are a sign of a well-made product. Deep hems that measure at least 1 inch, and mitered corners on square or rectangular linens add weight to the drape and give tablecloths a polished drop. But round and oval tablecloths should be finished with a narrower hem, about a ¼ inch or ⅜ inch, to avoid puckering.

ShrinkageYou should expect your table linens to shrink after washing and drying (even after following the care directions on the label). A square napkin won’t come out of the wash a perfect square, since the warp yarns shrink more than the weft. As long as you can still neatly fold the napkin corner to corner without any overhang, you won’t notice the slight discrepancy in dimensions. A problem arises when the napkin is cut “off-grain” (meaning the cut and hemlines don’t follow the fabric grain), and you end up with a wonky-shaped napkin.

As we stated above in our sizes section, a tablecloth will shrink more lengthwise than widthwise (around 5% in length and 3% in width). For example, a rectangular tablecloth measuring 70 inches by 144 inches will probably shrink 2 to 3 inches in width, and 6 to 7 inches in length. Some companies oversize their tablecloths to accommodate for loss after washing, but there’s no way of knowing this unless you measure the cloth yourself before buying.

Since 2014, we’ve spent more than 100 hours researching hundreds of napkins and tablecloths. For this update, we tested more sets from the company that makes our top pick (Williams-Sonoma), a couple of budget-friendly cotton options, and 100% linen sets.

Since your table linens will probably have to be washed after each use, they need to be able to stand up to the rigors of your washer and dryer. To test durability, we laundered the napkins and tablecloths five times and pressed them with a steam iron. We examined the fabric for pilling and the hems for puckering and fraying. We also measured each piece to gauge shrinkage after laundering.

We dabbed our faces and wiped our hands with each napkin to assess their softness and ability to quickly absorb moisture. We also draped the tablecloths over countertops, desks, and tables to examine the drape and drop of each one.

In the past, we performed stain tests, soiling each napkin with red wine, coffee, blood, greasy turkey drippings, and melted chocolate, but we found this test told us more about laundering techniques than about the products themselves. Below, you can learn more about our tried-and-true tips for keeping linens looking their best.

These soft and absorbent dinner napkins are finished with deep hems and clean stitching.

The Williams-Sonoma Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth are excellent-quality table linens made from thick, tightly woven cotton that’ll look great year after year. They’re soft and absorbent, and they evoke the beauty and polish of a fine-dining restaurant. The Williams-Sonoma Hotel table linen set held up to repeated laundering without excessive shrinking or becoming misshapen, and its deep hems with mitered corners pressed flat with minimal puckering. Dinner napkins are available in sets of 12 in five colors, and the tablecloth comes in eight sizes and up to five colors (depending on size).

Of all the cotton napkins we tested, the Williams-Sonoma Hotel napkins had the thickest weave and felt the smoothest against our skin. They’re substantial, absorbent, generously sized, and a suitable barrier between small dinner-table mishaps and your outfit. In our tests, we found the 20-inch-square napkins shrink to measure 19½ by 18½ inches—which is normal for cotton. Unlike the cheaper brands we tested, the Williams-Sonoma Hotel linens maintained straight hemlines after laundering and shrinking, allowing us to make neat, corner to corner folds. If white isn’t your style, these napkins are also available in ivory, charcoal gray, and red (12-piece set).

The matching Hotel tablecloth is made from the same cotton as the napkins, and the rectangular tablecloths have similarly deep hems and mitered corners. The round and oval tablecloths have a narrower hem, about ⅝ inch. Our 70-by-90-inch tablecloth showed normal shrinkage and measured 68½ by 84 inches after laundering. The Hotel tablecloth is available in a variety of sizes and colors to suit most people:

With proper care and storage, the Hotel table linens will serve you well for years to come. For stain removal, laundering, and storage tips, check out How to keep your linens looking like new.

Since this set is made from 100% cotton fabric, it will wrinkle after laundering. Ironing is an unavoidable task when using natural-fiber table linens. If you love to iron, great! If you hate ironing with a passion, take your linens to get laundered and pressed by a professional. We think this is a small price to pay for soft cotton table linens.

These textured cotton napkins come in sets of twelve in two colors—warm white and black.

This not-quite off-white tablecloth has a textured cotton weave that lends a warm and easygoing—yet still polished—feel to your dinner table

If you want table linens that look like linen but don’t cost nearly as much as our upgrade pick, check out the 100% cotton Pottery Barn Entertaining Essentials Napkin Set and Tablecloth. Since the Pottery Barn linens are more textured and warmer-hued, they’re less buttoned-up and lean more toward the cozy, casual side than our top pick. The warm white color is detectable even when we’re not comparing it side-by-side with a true white—but it’s not warm enough to call it ecru or ivory. Pottery Barn’s linens proved to be absorbent and sturdy, and they showed little shrinkage after several rounds through the washer and dryer.

The Pottery barn napkins are woven with thick yarns that mimic the texture and drape of linen. They’re finished with mitered corners and 1-inch hems. Measuring 20 by 20 inches after laundering, these napkins provide good coverage and lay comfortably in the lap. Compared with the Williams-Sonoma napkins, which maintained straight lines after washing and drying, a couple of the Pottery Barn napkins morphed into a slight parallelogram after emerging from the dryer. But we don’t think that’s too big of a problem, and the slight wonkiness is undetectable when the napkin is folded. The dinner napkins are available in sets of 12 in two colors (white and black).

Made from the same cotton as the napkins, the Entertaining Essentials tablecloth has a nice weightiness that creates a lovely drape off the corners of the table. It’s finished with a deep 1½-inch hem and clean, mitered corners. Out of the dryer, the fabric is a little puckered—reminiscent of seersucker. Aside from having to iron out a few creases along the hem, we found this tablecloth is low maintenance. It’s a great option for people who want a modern, slightly rumpled look. And if perfectly pressed is your style, the Entertaining Essentials tablecloth and napkins easily flatten out with a steam iron.

The Entertaining Essentials white tablecloth is available in two shapes and five sizes:

These inexpensive napkins come in over 10 color choices, the most of all our picks.

The Crate & Barrel Aspen Napkin is inexpensive and super soft, and comes in over 10 colors. These napkins are strikingly similar in size, construction, and color choices to our former budget pick, the Crate & Barrel Fete napkin set (now discontinued), but the Aspen costs about $2 more per piece when purchased as a set of eight. The Aspen napkin is absorbent and has a tight weave and soft feel. But compared with the Williams-Sonoma napkin, the Aspen is much thinner, and it has a limper drape, even when folded.

The Aspen napkins have a shiny, sateen-like look and feel when new. It’s worth noting that that sheen diminishes after the first wash, and becomes more matte with subsequent launderings. We don’t consider this a mark against the Aspen napkins, and for those who prefer a more matte look, it may even be a plus. They’ll also become more absorbent each time you wash them.

Sadly, the Aspen napkin doesn’t match the tablecloth bearing the same name. We tested the Crate & Barrel Aspen tablecloth, and we found it has a different texture, weight, and overall look (you can read more about it in the Competition section). But if your aesthetic is more “mix it up” than buttoned-up, these punchy-hued napkins can add vibrant life to your table.

Smooth and absorbent, this luxurious napkin is perfect for those who love the soft and relaxed texture of 100% linen.

Nothing comes close to the soft, relaxed drape of this 100% linen tablecloth. Yes, it’s expensive, but this tablecloth will last you a lifetime.

We found that the Rough Linen Smooth Napkins and Tablecloth are great for anyone who loves the look and texture of linen, and who doesn’t mind paying for outstanding quality. They’re very expensive, but the 100% Belgian linen fabric and thoughtful finishing touches place these above and beyond anything we tested. Rough Linen’s napkins and tablecloth have a relaxed drape with just enough structure, giving your table setting a seamless look that’s appropriate for both formal and casual occasions. Even though a set of Rough Linen is a big investment, with proper care and storage, it will likely last a lifetime and beyond.

Rough Linen’s cloth is the most beautiful, absorbent, and luxurious of all the 100% linen napkins we tested. Despite the name, the Rough Linen is soft to the touch and lays comfortably in the lap. It features the deepest hem of all the competition (just under 2 inches), and it pressed perfectly flat and puckered the least after laundering. Other little details like double-stitched hems and expertly sewn mitered corners with perfectly symmetrical seam allowance set this napkin apart from the competition.

Our 24-inch-square napkin measured 22½ by 23¾ inches after five trips through the washer and dryer. The Rough Linen Smooth napkins are sold individually and come in two sizes (20-inch and 24-inch squares), and two colors (white and natural).

The Rough Linen tablecloth has a beautiful, relaxed drape, generous 3-inch hem, and pointy mitered corners. Other linen tablecloths we tested were so thin we could practically make out the details of the table underneath, while Rough Linen’s tablecloth gave us the most opaque and seamless coverage. Our 60-inch-square tablecloth shrunk to 57 by 59 inches after laundering and ironing. It’s available in three sizes (60-inch square, 72 by 118 inches, and 90 by 144 inches) and two colors (white and natural).

Even though linen has a reputation for wrinkling easily, we had little issue pressing these with a steam iron. The added bonus with linen is that you can work out creases with a clothing steamer, if you’re going for a more rumpled, casual look. It’s important to note that the white color is warm and soft. If you’re looking for bright-white table linens, our top pick is your best bet.

We called on cleaning expert Jolie Kerr, author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha, for tips on the best techniques and products to remove stubborn stains and keep your linens bright and beautiful for years to come.

Stain removalThe best line of defense against stains is water. Start by running the stained area under running cold tap water to flush out as much of the discoloration as possible. Next, treat the stain with the right solution for the job:

Grease: Turkey drippings, butter, vinaigrette, or anything cooked in oil will leave a grease stain. The first step with grease is to treat the spot with dish soap, liquid hand soap, or liquid laundry detergent and a few drops of water to help work the product into the stain. After laundering the item, always let it air-dry because the heat from your dryer will set the stain permanently. Kerr told us: “Don’t even take the risk of putting it in the dryer, because a wet item will obscure a lingering grease stain.” Her advice is to, “Air-dry, then check to see if [the stain is] gone. If not, just retreat it. Sometimes just a second washing is required.”

The best line of defense against stains is water.

If you are dealing with a particularly large or tenacious grease stain, a degreasing solvent is your best bet. Kerr uses Lestoil, but she also recommends Pine-Sol. The two products have pine oil, an effective degreaser, but if you find pine cleaners acrid, Citra Solv is an orange-scented degreasing alternative. Dab the solvent of your choice on the stain and let it sit up to an hour, then launder in cold water.

When using one of these solvents on grease stains, we strongly suggest you use the “extra rinse” option on your washing machine, as these products have a strong scent. We’ve been known to run a second full cycle, sans soap, to make sure there isn’t any lingering residue.

Blood: Almost anything will get a blood stain out, but it's important to use cold water, because hot water can set the stain. Using hand soap, apply a generous amount to the spot and rub vigorously until it’s mostly out. Launder in cold water and air-dry.

Red wine, coffee, tea, and berries: For small spots and splatters, douse the stain with Wine Away and let it sit for at least five minutes before laundering in cold water. If the stain persists, move to the next step.

For large or stubborn stains, prepare a soak with oxygenated bleach (we used Clorox Oxi Magic) and hot tap water. Let your soiled linen soak for at least one hour, then launder in cold water and air-dry.

Lipstick: Dab lipstick stains with a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol. This might take a few passes, but the color will lift. Rub the area with liquid laundry detergent before laundering in cold water. Be sure the stain is completely out before tumble-drying the item.

Wax: Lifting candle drippings from your tablecloth is a different ball of wax (puns!). In an email follow-up, Kerr explained both hot and cold methods for removing wax:

“The hot method involves using an iron on the lowest heat setting and brown paper; lay the paper over the wax and apply the iron. The heat will melt the wax, which will then be absorbed by the paper. Rotate the paper as the section you're working with becomes saturated with the wax, and increase the heat if the wax isn't melting enough to absorb into the paper.

“The cold method involves freezing the waxed item, either by placing it in the freezer, or by applying ice cubes or packs to the wax. As it freezes, the wax will contract, making it easy to pop right off the textiles using a fingernail, spoon or butter knife (don't use anything sharper than a butter knife, as you can nick the fabric causing a hole).”

Keeping your whites brightKeeping white table linens their brightest is all about product moderation. Most laundry detergents available these days are highly concentrated, and you don’t need to use much to get your linens clean. And since high-efficiency machines use less water, your chance of residue buildup increases. Kerr suggested using the extra rinse function on your washer: “The great thing about the extra rinse is that people don’t realize how much product buildup effects the look, in terms of dinge. And the extra rinse is what’s gonna keep your whites white.”

StorageThe best way to store your linens is in a dark, dry place (like a linen closet or drawer). If you want to take an extra step to protect your napkins and tablecloths, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper and store in archival boxes. Never store your linens in plastic or cardboard. The compounds from those materials can migrate to the fabric and cause a chemical reaction that turns it yellow.

Crate & Barrel’s Aspen Cotton Tablecloth looks and feels nothing like its napkins of the same name, which we do recommend. The Aspen tablecloth is made from a thicker, more textured fabric than the Aspen napkins, and the former comes in just two colors. That wouldn’t keep us from making the Aspen tablecloth a pick if one of those colors were white, or close to it. But the bright white option for the Aspen tablecloth is firmly in the light gray category when it is compared side-by-side with other white tablecloths. And it looks downright dingy on its own. The Aspen tablecloth measures only 60 inches wide, which is 10 inches less than our picks, making the drop look a little too cropped when draped on a standard-width dining table.

We were eager to try Loom & Table, a company promising quality table linens in custom sizing at an affordable price. But when we received the Premium Cotton Napkins and Tablecloth, we noticed crooked stitching, loose threads, and one frayed corner. After laundering, some parts of the skinny ¼ inch hems started to fray, and the tablecloth became a lint magnet, attracting fuzz balls from any upholstered furniture in its path. Upon looking at the tag, we learned that it’s made from a cotton-poly blend, not 100% cotton as the website promises. After one look at these table linens, a fellow Wirecutter staffer quipped, “looks more like a bed sheet than a tablecloth.”

The Crate & Barrel Marin Dinner Napkin and Tablecloth are 100% linen and much more affordable than our luxury picks from Rough Linen. The Helena napkin and tablecloth are finished with deep hems and mitered corners. But they have a stiffer drape and slightly scratchier feel, and the fabric is so thin you can practically see through it. That said, if you want a linen set that’s less than half the price of Rough Linen’s options, this might be a good choice for you. Just keep in mind that you might be sacrificing longevity for the sake of cost.

KAF Home makes affordable, basic cotton table linens. Even though we loved the low price and six sizing options for tablecloths, they’re poor quality. The napkins and tablecloth aren’t the same shade of white, a difference just noticeable enough to be annoying. And one of our napkins came out of the laundry so misshapen that we couldn’t neatly fold it.

The Williams-Sonoma Hemstitch Napkin (the tablecloth is now unavailable) is made from the same cotton fabric as our top pick. The hems on these linens pucker after washing, which makes the edges flutter.

The Williams-Sonoma Linen Double Hemstitch Napkin and Tablecloth puckered even more than the cotton hemstitch linens from Williams-Sonoma.

The look and feel of the Sur La Table Herringbone Napkin and Tablecloth reminded us of the kitchen towels used in restaurants. The napkin is thin, and the tablecloth started to pill after five trips through the washer and dryer.

H&M Home takes the company’s budget, fast fashion approach to table linens. We looked at both the cotton and 100% linen napkins and tablecloths in the store and decided not to test them. The $18 cotton tablecloth comes in six colors yet only one size (57 by 98 inches), and the ones we saw in store had loose threads and wonky hems. The 100% linen offerings were thin, translucent, and like their cotton cousins, hastily assembled and sewn.

We stumbled upon World Market’s table linens at a brick-and-mortar location of the store in New York City. The tablecloths are available in two sizes (60 by 90 and 60 by 120 inches), and they also have an open weave that’s almost gauzelike. Ditto for the napkins. However the sloppy construction left these linens with loose stitches and uneven hems.

Lesley Stockton

Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wirecutter. Her expertise builds on a lifelong career in the culinary world—from a restaurant cook and caterer to a food editor at Martha Stewart. She is perfectly happy to leave all that behind to be a full-time kitchen-gear nerd.

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Table linens:Drape: Drop: Mitered corners: Puckering: Warp and weft: MaterialDurabilitySizesAesthetics and designShrinkageStain removalGrease: Blood: Red wine, coffee, tea, and berries: Lipstick: Wax: Keeping your whites brightStorage