Dining every night with a cloth napkin isn't just for landed gentry and restaurant critics. It can be a fun and practical tradition for your family. At the same time you'll save a few bucks and reduce the amount of paper products headed for the landfill. It's something European families have been doing for decades.
Each family member uses the same cloth napkin for up to a week (or until you have BBQ spare ribs). Each family member also has a unique napkin ring so they know which is theirs. After each meal, everybody puts their napkin in their ring and tosses it into a little napkin basket and it's ready for next time.
For this to work, you'll need several sets of napkins (including a few for guests) to rotate through. Making a cloth napkin is extremely easy with a serger or a sewing machine. Cut them out. Zip along the four sides and you're done.
The best fabric for napkins is 100% cotton. It's easy to find and absorbs nicely when you dab the corners of your mouth. For everyday use, you can decide on either plain or patterned napkins. (A pattern is easier to clean because it's better at hiding stains.)
Make A Cloth Napkin
- Cut your fabric into 18" squares (the standard size).
- Using your serger, finish each of the four sides. If you don't have a serger, your sewing machine may have an overlock stitch, which will finish the fabric in much the same way as a serger. You will need to use the special overcast foot when using this stitch.
- If you don't have a serger or an overlock stitch on your sewing machine, fold each side in 1/2". Iron like a hem, and sew with a straight stitch. Don't worry about mitering the corners.
- Repeat above steps until you have a full set.
Not every store carries inexpensive napkin rings. However, you only have to find them one at a time, making it a lot easier. You can pick them up at yard or garage sales, thrift stores, clearance stores, or even larger chains such as Ross, Target, Wal-Mart, or TJ Maxx. Just remember to keep a lookout and you'll find more than you need.
If you're really creative, try using things that weren't designed to be napkin rings. Almost anything you can pull a napkin through will work.
The Gift of Family Napkins
Once you've made a few sets of napkins for yourself, you can start making them as gifts. They're cheap; you can make a bunch and keep them on hand; and everybody needs a napkin with their dinner. For gifts, buy several complete sets of napkin rings and then mix them as you give them out.
Family napkin sets make appropriate gifts for housewarming, baby showers, birthdays, and Christmas. For a fancier touch, embroider the first letter of the family's last name in one corner of each of their napkins. Many sewing machines will do letters without requiring an embroidery hoop.
Save the paper for picnics. Make a few sets of family napkins and enjoy.