Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Table Decorations

( Originally Published 1932 )

Let's have a party!" Will we ever grow too old for those words to thrill us? When we were very young, a "party" always meant the refreshments, and few of us ever change our opinions on the subject. So a party is not a party without some sort of dainty and attractively served refreshments.

The fun of a party starts long before the guests arrive. First, the planning of it, and then making unique favors, decorating the table, and thinking up clever surprises for one's friends. As the reward for all the work is the success of her party, every hostess should give considerable thought to its details, the most important of which is her table and its decorations.

The nature of the celebration should determine the kind of decorations to be used. While it is impossible to discuss the table decorations of every known occasion in one chapter, three important ones are given as a guide for the girl who wishes her parties classed as great successes.

Let's start with that most spooky of parties—Halloween! Here is our chance for ingenious and fascinating table decorations. To understand its requirements, we should know something of its history, and the reason it is still marked on our calendars.

Halloween occurs on the evening of October 31st, and some say that the custom of celebrating it comes from our pagan ancestors of 2,000 years ago. The Druids, it is related, held autumn festivals at this time each year, and the Romans did honor to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and gardens, at the same time.

It was some time later—after the spread of Christianity—that November 1st was dedicated to the honoring of all saints, and its eve—October 31st—was called Hallowe'en, or All Hallow Even, which literally means the Holy Eve of All Saints' Day.

While we owe the name directly to the honoring of saints, the peculiar manner of observance comes from the old pagan customs. It was a day of witchcraft and superstitions. Some of them have been handed down to is, and so we crack nuts, bob for apples, and throw their peelings over our shoulders as did our pagan ancestry.

Its opportunities for decorating are great, as it may combine the wealth of autumn with its golden pumpkins and multicolored leaves with that ever mysterious symbol of the real witch—the black cat !

Experience has taught that table decorations of an inexpensive and temporary nature are to be preferred for all occasions occurring but once a year. No matter how beautifully made, how carefully handled, or how cleverly packed away, decorations never retain their original daintiness from year to year. For this reason, permanent materials, such as silk, satin, or organdie, have been replaced by crępe paper, card-board, and cellophane.

For temporary decorative purposes, crępe paper is coming more and more into favor, not only because it is convenient to purchase and saves laundry, but because it comes in colors and designs suitable for any occasion. Cellophane—that fascinating new product —lends itself beautifully to the festive table, as it can now be bought in many bright colors. It brings a tone of shiny brightness obtained in no other way, and serves as a splendid wrapping for objects otherwise dull. Stationery stores handle all these materials.


On our Hallowe'en table, we find a cloth with an amusing border of black cats, called the "Cat and Kettle" design, with napkins to match. The center-piece consists of two large cut-outs of a cat on a fence holding a mandolin. These are fastened together with small wire shanks. Such cut-outs may be purchased at any stationery supply store. If you wish, you may make your own by cutting the fence from stiff card-board, and using any picture of a black cat which appeals to you. Cut out the cat, mount it on cardboard, and tie a large bow of green cellophane or crępe pa-per around its neck.

At first thought, it may appear difficult to find pictures of pumpkins, witches, and black cats, but around Hallowe'en they will be plentiful. All magazines will have them on covers, illustrating stories, or in their advertisements, and as they are on the news-stands long before the required day, little trouble will be had obtaining any number desired.

This is true of any holiday of importance. Around Christmas, hundreds of Santas can be found; at Easter, bunnies skip across every page, and on Washington's birthday, cherry trees grow in abundance. So do not lose hope when told to find black cats, Santas, cherry trees, bunnies, or the green shamrock of Erin as decorative schemes for holiday parties. A popular magazine and a pair of scissors will solve your problem.

No Halloween centerpiece is complete without a pumpkin head. A real one is best, but if one cannot be obtained, a cut-out may be found or purchased. If the former is used, it must be hollowed out and holes cut for eyes, nose, and mouth. These should be covered with green cellophane, and a small electric bulb inserted in the pumpkin. When lit, the glaring green eyes add a touch of ghostly atmosphere to the table.

We serve our cider in paper cups which have been decorated with pictures of pumpkins. If you wish, these may be bought as "pumpkin seals." The candle holders are decorated with crushed gold paper, and a wide ruffle of gold cellophane is added. The pop-corn balls are wrapped in cellophane of the same color, and a garland of green pumpkin leaves is draped across the table. These may be made of crępe paper or cellophane, gathered in the middle, and held with a twist of spool wire. They extend from one end of the table, up to the top of one orange candle, down to the centerpiece, up to the other candle, and off the opposite end.

Even the humble doughnut takes on a new guise at our table. It is wrapped in a dress of plain transparent cellophane, and placed around the centerpiece. And there's our old friend—Mr. Cracker Jack ! See how nonchalantly he swings his legs over the edge of the table. Green cellophane or crępe paper arms and legs filled with sticks of candy make him quite popular. How saucy he looks as he sits there with his head on one side! The head can be easily made by cutting out a picture of a pumpkin and mounting it on card-board, or a pumpkin cut-out may be purchased. It is mounted on a twist of spool wire or match stick and glued in position.

This completes our Halloween table, and while the illustration shows it set for a buffet supper, its decorations need not be changed in any way when set for dinner.


The name "Valentine" springs from the Roman era. It was the name of a considerable number of saints. The most celebrated of these were two martyrs whose festivals were held on February 14th. Hence the name Saint Valentine.

As in the case of Hallowe'en, St. Valentine's Day obtains its name from saints, but the method of celebrating it comes from an entirely different source. During the Middle Ages—even as early as Chaucer—the young people of the hamlets of Scotland, England, and parts of France gathered on St. Valentine's eve and drew names by chance from an urn.

The name on the slip was supposed to be the holder's "Valentine," or sweetheart, for the coming year. But earlier than that, there was a somewhat similar festival held by Roman youths in February, called the "feast of Lupercalia." It is possible—some think—that the early Christians contributed the use of the name St. Valentine in an effort to improve an early pagan custom which they could not wholly obliterate.

In what manner these old customs were changed into the sending of valentines—comic and otherwise it is impossible to know. However, it appears to be the one day when we are supposed to "wear our hearts on our sleeves." For this reason, hearts are used as the symbol of St. Valentine's Day.

For this occasion, we have chosen a crępe paper table cover decorated with hearts and flowers. Such a cover can be purchased from a stationery store, or can be easily made at home. Hearts and flowers are cut from colored crępe paper, and pasted on a base of white cheesecloth, which has been cut the size of your regular table cloth. Set the table with the usual cloth and spread the cheesecloth over it. The effect is most attractive.

The napkins have large hearts for decorations to match the table cover, and can be bought from the same store. If they are difficult to find, cut large hearts from crępe paper and paste them to ordinary white paper napkins.

The heart-shaped centerpiece, made in the form of a beautiful flower, requires a little study, but if instructions are carefully followed, no trouble should be had in making one. A heart-shaped candy box without its cover makes a splendid base for the centerpiece. If one can be obtained about four inches deep, it will save considerable of the work. If not, one must be made.

To do this, cut a heart from stiff cardboard, making it ten inches from top to bottom. A strip from the same cardboard, measuring four inches wide and thirty-four inches long, is fastened around this base piece and held with gummed cloth tape or medical adhesive tape.

The ends of this strip overlap about an inch, and are held together with wire shanks or gummed tape.

The box is lined with crushed silver paper, which is turned over the edge of the box about an inch all around. The large petals around this heart center are very effective when made with cellophane and red crępe paper.

Two rows of these petals are used, each row being made of a strip of cellophane over a strip of red crępe paper. Cut these strips thirty-eight inches long and five inches wide. The cellophane strip is glued to the crępe paper along one edge only. Use clear mucilage, so that it will not show through the cellophane, which should be clear and transparent.

The petals are made by cutting a fringe along the unglued edge of the double strip. The cuts making this fringe should be 3˝ inches long, and 3˝ inches apart, which leaves an uncut border along the glued edge 1˝ inches wide.

Along the unglued side of the strip and between each cut forming the fringe, the edge is rounded with scissors. Study the illustration showing how this is done. Each petal is formed separately by curling it over a pencil. Curl each of the outer corners over the pencil until the curls meet in the center and form a point. Shape the paper with the fingers until it assumes the form of a petal.

As two rows of these petals are used, a second row should be made at this time. The uncut border of the first strip is now glued around the side of the box, which allows the leaves to extend up from it. As the box measures only thirty-four inches around, while the strips are thirty-eight inches long, four inches are provided so that the petals may be gathered a little to give them fullness. The second strip is now attached around the box in the same manner, although arranged so that the petals of it will come between those of the first strip. When complete, arrange the petals artistically. Finish the box by covering the sides and bottom neatly with crushed silver paper.

The candy basket shown in the illustration is made of red mat stock or light-weight cardboard. Cut from the material a circle with a diameter equal to the de-sired length of the basket. With your ruler, divide its diameter into three equally long parts by marking off two points on its surface. Draw parallel lines through these points, and bend the cardboard along them until the bent portions are at right angles to the center base piece. This forms a base and two equally high sides. The top side of each of the latter may be cut with scissors to form the top of a heart.

The handles are made of medium-weight wire covered with twisted gold paper and bent in the form of a heart. They are fastened to the sides with gummed tape cloth or adhesive tape, and the fastenings are concealed by large gold hearts cut from crępe paper. Smaller hearts of the same material decorate the edge of the sides.

The candle decoration shown in the illustration is a "Girl and Heart" cut-out, which can be bought under that name. If not, one can be very easily made at home. Obtain a picture of a doll—a Kewpie doll is preferred—and mount it on stiff cardboard. Cut out a heart from colored paper, and paste it over her dress. It is attached to the candle with ribbon. Tie a piece around the picture and the doll at the neck and bottom of the dress.


Undoubtedly, the most popular of all parties is the birthday party. The birthday we happened to pick occurs in June, so we find our table covered with lovely roses. Any other month can be carried out in the same detail. The June table is given here merely as a suggestion of what is possible with a little knowledge and ingenuity.

Three runners of pink crępe paper are used as a base for our table cloth. One extends from end to end of the table, while the two shorter ones run crosswise at each end, as shown in the illustration. Their edges are "fluted" to give a more graceful effect. To do this, unfold the paper and lay it flat on a smooth surface. Spread the forefinger and middle finger about one inch apart, and place them on the edge of the paper. Holding the fingers in this position, push in the pa-per edge between the fingers. This gives a graceful ruffled edge to the runners.

The table cover is of light green tarlatan, or dyed cheesecloth, and is decorated around the edge with pink blossoms, which are also sprinkled over the cloth. Each of these is a crępe paper rose, made by cutting out green and pink crępe paper in the form of petals, bunching them together, and wiring them. They are sewed to the tarlatan base.

The rose petals are made of a double thickness of crępe paper, "light blush pink" being used on the inside and "light rose" on the outside. They may be purchased by these names from your stationery store.

Cut about twenty-four rose petals of each color. A petal is formed by pasting the two colors together.

Each petal is now "cupped." This is done by holding it with the thumbs at the center and the forefingers on the opposite side near the edges. By pressing the thumbs down in the center of the petal, pull the pa-per into the form of a shallow cup. A number of petals may be shaped at one time by placing several thicknesses together when "cupping." When finished, the edges of each petal are rolled over a pencil to obtain the curled effect.

They are now arranged around a center made of yellow crępe paper. This is made by cutting a strip three inches wide and twelve inches long and fringing one edge with scissors. Bunching it together, the petals are placed around this center and fastened with wire. Add several sprays of rose leaves and set the flower in the foundation base. The outer petals should be pulled down to give the effect of a rosebud opening.

Smaller roses are placed around the centerpiece, as shown. The nut-cups are made from rose petals pasted around serving cups. These are made in the same way the large rose was constructed. Five petals will be sufficient for the small cups. Roses are also used to decorate the candlesticks. The base of each is covered with crushed silver paper, and the rose mounted around it in the same way the large rose is mounted around its base, which completes our table.

While it is possible to follow the exact decoration schemes for these three tables, the details given will probably suggest new and original ideas to the hostess. Original ideas are usually the result of suggestion, and it is hoped that this chapter will serve in this manner.

Home | More Articles | Email: