All About Luncheon Sets

Have you ever come across a pattern with several sizes of doilies in the same design, and wondered which size you should make? Actually, the designer intended for you to make all of them, and at least six of each! Homemakers were encouraged to change their dining room table decorations at different times during the day, and the linen drawer was supposed to contain at least one of each: a luncheon set, a between meal centerpiece, and a dinner set.

Needleworkers in the early 1900s had some good questions about luncheon sets:
Q: Why are sets of doilies and centerpieces called “luncheon sets” rather than “dinner sets”? Are they not used at dinner?

A: The correct dinner table is laid with a cloth which comes well down over the edge, and there may be a handsome centerpiece of embroidery or lace, but no other ornamental pieces.

On the other hand, while for luncheon a cloth may be used, just covering the top of the table or coming a very little over the edge and as decorative as one likes to make it, the use of embroidered doilies on a polished table is favored by the majority of hostesses. Hence there is the matching set of centerpiece, plate-doilies, doilies for bread-and-butter plates, tumbler-doilies, and doilies in size between the two last named, which serve to place under the finger-bowl or are used with frappe- or bouillon-cups.

Q: Will you kindly tell me the number of doilies for a luncheon set and size of same?

A: As a rule, which is not a hard and fast one, since one must consider her own requirements, doilies of three sizes are used: five-, seven- and twelve-inch, and a centerpiece twenty-four inches in diameter, or larger.

The twelve-inch doilies are for the service plates, the seven-inch for bread-and-butter plates, and the five-inch for tumblers. The smaller doilies, too, may be used for frappe-cups, finger-bowls, and so on, as required.

Six of each size are usually considered a set, but it is an excellent plan to have at least two extra, making twenty-five instead of nineteen pieces.

I have edited a simple luncheon set pattern from 1930: Nottingham Apple Lace, which only requires you to make 4 corners for a centerpiece, and a single corner for each napkin that you need for your set. An insertion is included, which could be adapted for coasters. Or you could just use the edging around purchased place mats to match your centerpiece.