Table talk

Monday, March 12, 2001 at 12:00am

People often remark that my artwork reminds them of the fun colors and patterns used in vintage tablecloths, like cherries and checks.

I have to admit, I've always loved old tablecloths, and they've definitely been an influence. Lately, they've been popping up a lot in the pages of my magazine, too. With garage sale season ahead, I thought I'd investigate their newfound popularity.

One fabulous source for great old designs is Sue Loomer, a collector with a website (www.grandremnants.com; e-mail queries info@grandremnants.com) and a booth at Canal Park Antiques in Duluth, Minn. Though Sue originally started collecting just 10 years ago to decorate her kitchen, she soon became obsessed.

First the bad news: "In the last five years the prices have gone up," said Sue.

The good news?

"There were, however, tons of them produced, and in the 1940s it was very popular to give tablecloths for wedding or shower gifts. I often still find them in the original box. There were some who thought the gift was just too nice to use for every day. I find them now by appointment from people who are liquidating estates but not necessarily having an estate sale. You will find your best selection by going to big antique shows or on ebay," (where Sue also sells), she said.

Sue's collection is made up of 1930s and '40s fruit and floral cloths in primary colors. A woman after my heart, she especially focuses on cherries.

"I also like baskets, flowerpots, ribbons and a nice color scheme. Stains and holes do not disqualify a cloth for me. Of course, if you can find one with an original label, that is always exciting," Sue said.

If you come across a great old tablecloth that's a little worse for wear, just take Sue's advice and salvage the good parts as valances, shirt pockets, pillows, cushions or kitchen towels. You could also make clothing like jumpers, hats, vests and little girls

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