Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to Use and Make Cloth Napkins

PhotobucketI’m a recent cloth napkin convert. It’s not that I didn’t already have cloth napkins, quite the contrary. I already had two sets of cloth napkins that coordinated with my everyday tablecloths stashed in the back of a kitchen drawer. However, I rarely the casual cloth napkins because, using cloth napkins every day seems like a pain (as in the I’d always be doing laundry because we ran out of cloth napkins) and honestly, I could purchase a giagundo pack of paper napkins for a $1.00 at the store if I played my cards right.



Sure, we’d quickly tear through that huge pack of paper napkins because He Who Cooks My Dinner used to use them to clean the kitchen instead of the small army of wipes, towels, cleaners, and sponges that we store under the kitchen sink (Harrumph!) Annoying, but still cheap.

However on one snowy, icey, and all around cruddy December day we ran out of paper napkins. I didn’t want to slog through all of that yuck to drive to the store and buy just one pack of paper napkins. I pulled the cloth napkins out of the drawer. I figured I’d try using the cloth napkins for daily dinners until my next grocery shopping trip. Well, my laziness paid off. I found that the cloth napkins were easier, cheaper, and a whole lot classier to use than the paper napkins. Not quite the pain in the hoo-ha I originally imagined. And, yes, the cloth napkins are more environmentally friendly too. This goes double for me, because I already had them in that the-greenest-thing-you-can-do-is-use-the-stuff-you-already-have way. Bonus.



  • The cloth napkins I had already coordinated with all of my tablecloths, so no mismatched table linens here (a pet peeve of mine way before Martha hit the scene and informed the world that uncoordinated table linens are an Entertaining Diva No-No.)

  • The real key to making cloth napkins work for you is to just have more of them on hand, than you need for just one meal. For example, if you are a family of 4 = (2 adults + 2 kids) x 7 dinners = keep at least 28 napkins on hand for the week. Of course, you may be able to reduce that number if you use your napkin for more than one meal in a row before it’s time for the laundry hamper.

  • “Now hold on there,” you say, “I use paper because it’s cheap. Cloth napkins are way too expensive for me to kit out my house for me and my 17 children.” Well, I answer that by saying yes, the initial investment for causal cloth napkins can cost you a few more bucks up front. Of course, you can reduce that initial investment if you find cloth napkins on sale, at a resale shop, or like me, find some stashed in the back of a drawer, but after that, you’re done.

On the other hand, you could just make a bunch of inexpensive cloth napkins yourself.

How to Make Cloth Napkins

This tutorial will include directions for a Sew Method and a No Sew Method (perfect for crafting with kids or if you don’t sew). Here goes.

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Materials – for each napkin you will need:

1 piece of 16 ½ x 17 inch piece of cloth (Preferably cotton. Trust me, it shouldn’t wrinkle too much after washing and won’t need pretreating for stains as much or at all unlike a polyester or polyester blend.)
Ruler
Iron
Straight pins

Thread (Sew Method)
Fabric glue (No Sew Method)

Make it

1. Fold the raw edges of each side of the napkin over ¼ inch and pin into place with the straight pins.
2. Set the edge by pressing the folded area with an iron.
3. Optional Step:
Sew Method - Sew each raw side of the napkin down with a basting stitch removing the pins as you sew.
No Sew Method - Tack each raw side of the napkin down with a small line of fabric glue removing the pins as you glue.
4. Fold the edges of the napkin over ¼ inch and again, pin into place with the straight pins.
Set the seam by pressing the folded area with an iron.
5. Finish the seams:
Sew Method - Sew the sides of the napkin down with a straight stitch removing the pins as you sew.
No Sew Method - Glue the sides of the napkin down with a small line of fabric glue removing the pins as you glue.
6. Press the finished seams flat (No Sew Method – Wait until the fabric glue is dry or you may gunk up the bottom of your iron!) and iron out any wrinkles the napkin.
7. Put that napkin on your lap and eat some grub!

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