So... it's no real secret that I have dishes all over the place in my house. I use my dishes (yes, even the "rare" ones), so it makes sense that I need a tablecloth or two...
I can remember my grandmother always using a tablecloth for family dinners. Mostly it was one big white damask cloth or another, but occasionally she'd use colorful old printed cloths, and I thought even then that there was something special about them. She didn't even care if something got spilled on them. She just worked miracles and got the spots out. Maybe I can blame my fascination with linens on genetics? This is my great-great grandmother...and gee, look at that nice new linen she's propped on... I do have some of her linens, but I don't have that one.
I've found that I really enjoy getting cloths that others have given up on (or never even tried to save) and salvage them. Like my Gran, I've found that I'm fairly good at getting stains out. There's something really satisfying about taking something that someone else didn't think was worth saving and making it useful again. My neighbors likely thought I had lost my mind the day I washed a big lot of old cloths, and put them in the grass to dry in the sun...
I even have a Plan B for those cloths that resist my efforts: They travel cross country to live with my friend R. She sees that they get new life as a bag or some other useful thing.
At any rate, after I started collecting Fiesta, I picked up a cloth or two at estate auctions. I found some other folks online who loved Fiesta and other Homer Laughlin China. I joined HLCCA, and an online messageboard called Collectible Medium Green. Those folks posted pictures. I drooled over those images. Somehow, over the last few years... my one or two tablecloths multiplied and multiplied, and multiplied.
I really didn't think I had *that* many cloths. They lived in various totes and bags, on shelves in my linen closet, and in a drawer in my dining room. When my son moved into his own place a couple of years ago, I suddenly had room in my house for things. I turned his bedroom into a guest room. One problem: he had left the massive cherry gun cabinet that he made in high school here with me. Inspiration struck, and I put plastic shelving from Wal-mart inside the cabinet and started pulling linens out. I had enormous fun, sorting and folding those cloths. Somehow, they filled the cabinet.
And still, I'd find another one that I "needed", or wanted to rehab. I bought books. I gave cloths as gifts. I even had a booth and sold some this year. I expected that to be hard, but instead it was fun seeing someone else getting excited about a color or pattern. It was even more fun knowing that the cloth would be used, and maybe the person would think of me when they did. And that might even be more fun than actually using the cloth myself.