Tweaking the Party Table

If you’re bringing out the same linens and napkins you’ve used year after year, it’s probably time for a refresher. We know just the place …

A look that could span a variety of occasions includes fabric inspired by watercolor that makes for an elegant napkin, while a gray/navy/white tweed fabric delivers a table-top statement.

Special Occasions & Queen Street Linens has been dressing the tables of Lancaster’s most memorable, splashy parties for 37 years. For 30 of those years, Claudia Himes, the daughter of the company’s founder, Marcie Woodson, has been at the epicenter of the rental and custom linens business, finely honing her skills at tabletop fashion. However, her knowledge goes much deeper than selecting pretty fabrics: seams must be properly matched and aligned, and cloths must be thrown with precision alignment. Then, there are the details of folding, tying, underpinning and swagging to get just the right look for the party.

They are skills that Claudia loves to share with her clients, who range from the grand dames of charity balls to ingenue hostesses who are throwing their first social events or even planning their weddings. When Special Occasions offers an open house to showcase its latest collection of fabrics, it’s indeed a special occasion that attracts over 100 guests from throughout Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland and Delaware.

The effervescent Claudia Himes injects her contagious energy into all things tabletop.

At their recent open house, Claudia and her staff introduced their freshest finds. “We want to show different ways of thinking about linens beyond the event world as we celebrate our craft,” she explains.

From among hundreds of fabrics that are presented to Claudia and her team by representatives from the textile companies following their debut at High Point Market in North Carolina, several are carefully chosen each season to be pre-washed, meticulously pressed and seamlessly sewn to be included in Special Occasions’ extensive inventory. “Some choices are driven by a client’s need to outfit a future party,” says Claudia. Others are selected for their practicality. “Many of our college and university clients’ colors include navy,” Claudia explains of her choice of a beautiful metallic, ginkgo-leaf print woven on a navy background.

Guests at a recent open house were able to see the latest table linens as well as receive lessons in how to take them to the next level through pinning and swagging methods.

And, some selections are simply reflections of the current fashion trends, while others are based on intuition. “I’m sensing a gentle step away from rustic to a more urban feel,” Claudia predicts. “Not as much burlap in a barn but introducing more elegant linens into that rustic setting, like damask and sequins.” Creating some visual “tension” is a good thing, she observes. “Make the party dressed-up to say you care, but not so flashy that guests are intimidated and feel they don’t belong,” she says.

In her 30 years of experience, Claudia sees one constant: “Every host and hostess has the incredible role of making guests feel comfortable.” And of course, that’s what Special Occasions is all about: “No party is too small to do right. Always dress the part.”

Here are some out-of-the-box inspirations to consider for your upcoming party:

Pop Culture

Game of Thrones gets elevated to elegant with a woodgrain linen, chairs dressed in fur and chain, and a table accessorized with rustic candelabras, thorny branches and moody, deep-purple florals.

Haute Couture

Delicate organza roses, handmade by the Special Occasions team, cascade over gold organza for a hand-sewn, one-of-a-kind linen. Imagine this on your cake, champagne or entrance table!


Urban landscape paintings by retired Millersville University professor Robert Andriulli set the color story for an unexpected combination of aubergine with an “Indian Summer” botanical print in coral, moss and soft teal.

Recycle and Repurpose

What does a linens company do with scores of leftover scraps of fabric? Its colleagues create comforters, braided rugs and pieced tablecloths with borders, like this collage of blue tones, patterns and textures. Special Occasions routinely donates the ends of fabric bolts to Mennonite Central Committee, for seamstresses to repurpose, and NuLife at Nimble Thimble, where at-risk women are taught to sew.

Details: Specialo.com

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