04 February 2015

Cloth napkining

Maybe you can call this "nesting."

There's a fun GI bug going through our house, and instead of laying down today, I spent my sick-at-home, can-barely-move afternoon sitting on the floor cutting out and hemming cloth napkins, my latest foray into phasing out disposable items around the house.

Bear with me for a little math... Buying store brand paper napkins, our family uses about $0.20 worth of napkins daily, more if I use napkins instead of towels or paper towels to clean up messes and spills. That comes to a minimum of $73 a year for a family of three, for the cheapest paper napkins available (numbers may be lower in areas with a lower cost-of-living). That's a lot of money for something you're going to use once and throw away! Paper towels are even more expensive, although it's harder to come up with an average number used daily. 

A family friend salvaged several lengths of sturdy cotton and flannel that someone was just throwing away, and shared them with me a while back. Today I pulled out two good-sized pieces of cotton yardage that Matt and I both liked for napkin-fabric, and in a couple of hours, I had the beginnings of a stash of everyday cloth napkins.

They unfold to about the size of a dishtowel, so they're bigger than paper napkins, but Matt wanted to make them on the larger side.

We already had two sets of nice, 'company' cloth napkins that we'd received as wedding gifts, but especially since having Little Bear, we've been too intimidated to use them at the table for fear of staining them and not feeling able to use them for company anymore. Because yes, cloth napkins are going to get stained, and maybe I'll be able to get the stains out but maybe I won't. Now, that's not a problem: with everyday-use napkins, it won't matter if they get stained, and the nice napkins can remain nice for the times we have company—and little ones can use the regular napkins when company is over, or maybe I'll eventually make a couple of kids' company napkins and any that get stained will just roll over into the everyday-use category. Or not, because the kids won't care anyway.

I was able to get seven napkins from the plaid, and hopefully tomorrow I'll get at least as many from that green material behind them. If I want to keep doing laundry just twice a week I should probably have at least twice that many napkins, but the thrift store often has yardage people bought for a project and then decided they didn't want, or else I'll watch for sales at the fabric store (or help my sisters de-clutter their fabric stash—that would work too!) Either way, I'm confident that I can fill out our fledgling napkin stash very economically.


  1. They look great! I like that our napkins are so big. You can have one and it'll last the whole meal, even for the messy 2yo!

    1. Making them large was definitely the right decision! Little Bear spilled a half-full cup of water tonight, and it only took one napkin to clean it up.

  2. Very cute! I have always used cloth napkins. Even with children, they really don't get stained very often. You are going to do laundry anyway, so it is no problem to throw in the napkins. I also have a rag bag full of rags for cleaning up. But I still do have paper towels for big messes, such as when someone drops a raw egg on the floor!

    Most of the rags are retired towels and washcloths.

    1. Thank you! Having a bag of rags for cleaning up messes is a great idea; I'd been wondering how people avoided ruining their kitchen towels cleaning up the particularly messy or likely-to-stain messes.