A Napkin Revolution


I love old things. Vintage linens make my heart skip a beat. I love floral vintage cotton tablecloths and search for them whenever I am junktiquing. I have purchased many tablecloths and napkins along the way and think they bring a beautiful and lived-in look to a table. I have 3 young children so currently I am using my vintage linens in locations other than the kitchen table (since that would be a disaster).
Last fall my son was studying the 3 R’s of Recycling (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) in 2nd grade and had a big project to complete detailing how his family practiced the 3 R’s and how we might stretch ourselves further in this pursuit. (No pressure!) I loved this project because I am an avid recylcer. So much so that I have been known to offer to take people’s cups or plastic bottles home with me to recycle them (rather than tossing them in the nearby trashcan) when out somewhere.
So I was all about this project. As we began to think of a stretch recycle goal for our family, the idea of using cloth napkins, rather than paper at meals, seemed like a fun goal of reusing and reducing waste.
Now, I wasn’t sure if it was practical, or how much extra laundry it would add (I do not need any added laundry- that is for sure!), or if I would feel the pressure for the napkins to match or be nicely ironed (which is out of the question). But we gave it a try and the result was unexpected and wonderful. We love it. I love it the most. It has given me a chance to use that drawer full of quirky cotton napkins that were being neglected. They have now been given a new life at our lively dinner table and I smile each time I pull them out of the drawer. A way to celebrate the beauty in the ordinary.
And I can happily report that:
1. it does not add much to the laundry at all
2. they do not need to match, though it is fun to coordinate, or give each person at the table one that matches their personality or level of messiness
3. we are saving $$ and the planet 🙂
4. it makes me feel like my grandmother, Ruth, who always used cloth napkins at the dinner table, as every dinner was an occasion
5. and a bonus observation: cloth napkins cover more messes-they don’t fall on the floor as easily, they are thick and help my kids to actually use their napkin rather than automatically wiping their hands on their shirts.
So…give it a try.
You might join the revolution and make weeknight dinner an occasion!

16 thoughts on “A Napkin Revolution

  1. John and Allie Fields says:

    I have an obsession with linens, especially vintage ones. The sad thing is, I never use them! I'm so afraid of ruining them so they end up tucked away in drawers. What is a good way to get stains out them? I might be more inclined to use my pretty little collection if I knew they would not get ruined after a couple uses.

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  2. Julie Hunt says:

    Mom, i need you to post about stain-removal!! Calling for stain-queen to comment in response to Allie's question! 🙂 My first line of attack is Shout spray while stain is fresh, then white vinegar and liquid dish soap. Those are my best tools. If your linens are too lovely to really use then cut up an old sheet that you have or buy at a thrift shop or Target (especially if you have messy eaters).

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  3. Elaine Williams says:

    I used a good napkin this week-end for my bread cloth. When I washed it, it still had a greasy stain, so I used Greased Lightning spray, then washed it and the napkin was as good as new.

    I'm with Julie–my favorite tools for food stains are white vinegar with liquid dish soap. And the sooner the better. Never dry the stained item if the stain persists. Just move on to an alternative product. Most stains seem to be either grease, tomato catsup, or chocolate. Okay, lots of MY stains are CHOCOLATE! 🙂 Anyway, vinegar is an amazing thing. Start with dishwasher soap and vinegar together. If stain is still there, make a paste of vinegar and soda. Many times, the stain seems to remain, but when the item is washed, it is actually gone.

    I'm with Julie, for everyday use you might avoid your very favorites. Julie has an amazing effect on me. She makes things so appealing. I have several sets of napkins which I use for company, because they really need ironing to look their best. I AM discovering that if they are washed enough, they begin to soften and don't seem quite as wrinkly after washing. Anyway, today I rushed out to the fabric store, planning to make some everyday napkins. (I had made a few of Julie's years ago. Well, Joann's is gradually going out of the fabric business. The only tablecloth fabric they could offer was PLASITC. I don't think so! So, I moved on to Home Goods, where I bought some solid ones, and some terry cloth washcloths, and a set of dish towels. None cost more than $1.25 each! I discovered that the dish towels, when cut in half, fit nicely across my lap. (They are not exactly square, but that is okay. They are as wide as a normal napkin, but the rectangle works just fine! Guess I'll have to post again when those actually get hemmed!

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  4. karin says:

    We started using cloth napkins for all of our meals, including on-th-fly-solo meals and snacks when we moved down here. I am right there with you…it's actually really easy and not a burden at all. I don't even buy paper towels anymore, either because it's really just as easy to use the dishtowel for the spill and throw that in the wash, too. I am planning to get a stack or white washcloths to put in each bathroom and in the kitchen when I move back to use for cleaning and such and then launder those, too. It's becoming an addictive habit, really! Thanks for sharing and encouraging and I am soooo excited to see you online Elaine!!!!

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  5. karin says:

    Oh…and thanks to you, Julie I am an Oxyclean and Zout fan, although I have been using vinegar for laundry and other cleaning needs, so I will have to try it out for stain removal.

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  6. kristi says:

    i love cloth napkins. we started using them a couple of years ago, and i haven't been able to find any that i like until recently. (i guess i haven't been so lucky to find really pretty vintage ones like your stack!). i just found a really awesome print that i love at target, and usually we can reuse them a couple of times before i have to launder them (of course, i always give company clean ones…).

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  7. Elaine Williams says:

    Julie's grandmother, Ruth, kept them in napkin rings. When they were soiled, they got left out to show they were dirty. If they were still “clean enough”, they went back in the napkin rings. Good to know, Kristi, that company gets clean ones! 🙂

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  8. Lisa says:

    I am thrilled that I am not the only one still using cloth napkins. In Switzerland we were given a large white envelope {it had our name on it} with a crisp folded linen napkin…it was ours for five days…I loved it and think it is a great idea!

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  9. Heinzfeet says:

    What a great idea! I'm totally motivated to try the cloth napkin thing…mostly b/c I'm pretty convinced my kids would think it's their shirt and go ahead and wipe as normal!

    Love your blog!!!

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  10. Janet Morgan says:

    Julie, I have been thinking about using cloth napkins for awhile but was worried about the added laundry, stains, & did not want to iron. This makes me want to seriously do it! It would save money! I think we'll definitely give it a try!! THank you! I love your blog by the way!!!

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  11. Kristi says:

    I love your old things. I wanted to pocket the coffee cup I used yesterday, but alas, I forgot my plan of thievery. I love OxyClean spray too, and am excited to try the others listed here. Love the Cup-A! 🙂

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