Oil cloths were first created for use on the floors of eighteenth century English homes as rugs. They were also used as coverings for leaky roofs. Artisans stretched sheets of linen cloth on a frame and through a sizing process the cloth was prepared to be painted. This was the point where the oil cloths came to life and were transformed. Various designs evolved as artisans experimented with this new utilitarian art form. After the design was painted onto the cloth, it was sealed with coats of linseed oil. This made the material semi-waterproof. This art form traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, where it was used to grace the floors of Colonial homes.
Eventually, as the textile industry grew, the floor cloths were replaced with yarn rugs and the oil cloths eventually found their way onto tables. As the years passed, the most familiar use was for brightly printed kitchen tablecloths. Dull-colored oilcloth was used for bedrolls, and tents. By the late 1950s, oilcloth became a synonym for vinyl (polyvinyl chloride) bonded to either a flannel cloth or a printed vinyl with a synthetic non-woven backing
While the traditional linseed oil cloth is no longer produced, the modern versions are just as serviceable and the tablecloth material is a better quality product. Today's vinyl tablecloths are made out of vinyl that is printed with various colorful designs. The vinyl is then adhered to a felt/flannel backing to give it support and form. Some fabrics use PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) for the top side of the fabric and a mixture of polyester and cotton mesh for the backing. There are still some oil cloth materials that are just the vinyl with no backing. Vinyl material comes in a variety of different gauges. Higher gauge numbers indicate better quality. Gauges typically run from 2-13.
Go for the nostalgic look of vintage tablecloths but made out of modern materials. You can find quite a few ready-made tablecloths that reproduce the beloved vintage patterns.
The red gingham pattern is probably the most readily recognized vinyl pattern and is available in just about any color you could want. The next and probably most popular styles that were used on kitchen tables during the 1930s and 1940s are the fruit patterns. Vivid colors were used in the creation of a variety of patterns ranging from bowls of pears, cherries, apples, oranges, pineapples, and strawberries to individual fruit patterns. Floral designs often featured the standard favorite sunflower or colorful flower bouquets.
Today we offer thousands of different color and pattern options!