Thursday, June 9, 2011

Frugal Luxuries: Cloth Napkins

I NEED this tablecloth!
Who out there owns cloth napkins? Raise your hands please. (pretend I can see you, and for those of you who are super paranoid, I do see you)

Those of you that own cloth napkins, good for you. Now answer me this: Do you use your cloth napkins?

Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Not many of you have your hands raised on that second question. (I’m looking at you, paranoid person. Really. You might want to double check your monitor.)

I have a set of gorgeous napkins by Vera Neumann that I got at an antique store. I LOVE HER DESIGNS. Wait, I need to say that again, this time in bold. I LOVE VERA’S DESIGNS. There, that’s better.

I love those napkins so much that I was afraid to use them because I knew they’d get stained, ripped, the edging would fall off, etc, and I didn’t want to ruin them. So they sat in my linen drawer for years. That’s just sad, folks.

So, I broke them free of their drawer and started using them. Yes, they’re a little frayed around the edges. But, you know what? I enjoy them so much more when I use them than when they’re stored safely away. If I can do it, you can too. Free those napkins, let them see daylight and food! (though you may want to avoid rib night)

Besides the obvious uses – wiping your fingers and mouth (and shirt front) while eating – there are other ways that you can use your napkins. Is your sandwich or snack not too drippy? Use a napkin instead of a sandwich baggie for lunches. I’ve seriously cut down on my sandwich bag use since I thought of that bright idea. Ideally, I’d like to make some reusable fabric baggies, but for now a few folds of a cloth napkin and the occasional rubber band do the trick.

I also use them at work - a cloth napkin wrapped around my utensils and stuffed in a cup looks relatively attractive on my shelf. I've had coworkers compliment me on my Vera napkins. (If only they saw my placemats and pillowcases!)

The benefits of using cloth napkins instead of paper? Well, let’s see. They’re reusable, and don’t take up much room in the washing machine. You can get them used, giving them a longer life and most likely keeping them from a landfill. I’d like to say they use less resources to make, but that could be argued. They’re pretty. They don’t fall apart and get little white paper bits all over your hands and face during especially messy meals. You can wet one down, wipe off a baby’s face (or your own), rinse and repeat.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money either – do you have a fabric stash? Break it out and make some napkins. If you don’t want to do tiny little hems around the edges, use pinking shears and/or do a zigzag stitch around the edge. If you have a serger, you’re golden (and you’re my current envy).

Antique stores and yard sales are other good sources, especially for everyday napkins that you don’t mind being stained. Ebay in particular is good if you’re like me and looking for a specific designer. (Have I told you how much I love Vera? Oh, I did mention it? Well, I just want to make sure I’m being thorough.) As with any fabric purchase, make sure to wash it, and I recommend using vinegar in the bleach rinse.

How do you use your cloth napkins?

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