cloth napkins + why i love them

I have something a little different that I wanted to share with you today. It’s not a recipe, but rather a small item that has become a big part of our everyday routine over the last year: Cloth Napkins

That’s right. Good old fabric napkins.

Around this time last year, I was beginning to feel like we were settling into a new family routine. The Baby wasn’t as much of a baby anymore. She was a bit over 2 years old, newly potty trained and getting big enough that she and the Buddy were really beginning to play together on their own.

In other words, we were exiting the baby stage of our lives, aka: survival mode, and moving into something a bit more relaxed

And it was (and still is) fabulous.

Well, in this more relaxed day-to-day living, which is to say several full nights of sleep a week and no more diaper changes, I found that I had some time to reassess our daily routines. The way we did things as a family. This led me to think about how I could do things a little more responsibly with our family budget, and in turn set a good example for the kiddos. And quite possibly save a tree or two.

All of these thoughts were going through my head as I’m scrubbing down my counter tops, wiping up sticky faces and drying my hands on mountains and mountains of paper towels. I’m not kidding. I am embarrassed to admit how many paper towels I used to go through. Let’s just say I was probably single handedly keeping Costco in business with my paper towel purchases.

It was a light bulb moment for me. I began thinking about the several sets of cloth napkins that had been sitting in a drawer for the last 7 years (wedding presents, really) that we only pulled out on ‘special occasions’, which is to say, never.

After a quick inventory I realized I already had about 2 dozen cloth napkins in my house, several of which still had the tags on. This was definitely going to be a solution to my horrible addiction to paper towels.

After making the decision to switch to cloth napkins I also made the effort to use my kitchen towels and dish cloths more for cleaning and drying counter tops and dishes. And before you ask, yes, these were other jobs that I had assigned paper towels to previously.

I was a mad woman with those paper towel rolls, I’m telling you.

My 2 dozen napkins were a good start, but unless I wanted to have to do laundry every 3 days (which I clearly didn’t want to do seeing as how I had just exited baby stage and wasn’t eager to go back) I knew I needed to beef up my supply.

I decided that sewing up my own collection of napkins would be simple enough and a good way to put a dent in my crazy fabric stash. I let the kids pick out fabrics they liked and didn’t worry about having large matched sets. I like to keep things casual and random. Kind of like me, if you think about it. I am about as casual a person as they come. Seriously, I own one skirt and one pair of non-jean pants. Casual.

It turns out that the kids love their crazy napkins. It gets them excited about helping set the table (yay for little helpers!). I put the Baby on napkin duty and she loves to assign who is getting which napkin at dinner. She is often drunk with napkin-choosing power.

Ever since we made the switch, we have gone about four times as long between paper towel purchases as well as significantly reduced our kitchen garbage (which was also helped by my new compost bin, but I’ll save that for another post).

I have to admit that I was nervous about the increase in laundry because I am a total laundry procrastinator. In all honesty, I have not even noticed an increase of laundry. I just throw the napkins in with the other loads and they haven’t made any noticeable difference.

One last thing to note when it comes to cloth napkins (and this is just us, mind you) is that we don’t necessarily get a new napkin at each meal. Now, don’t be grossed out! If we eat lunch, and I don’t even touch my napkin the entire time, I’m certainly  not going to throw it down the laundry chute and get a new one for dinner. I just leave it sitting patiently at my spot until the next meal rolls around.

It’s like sniffing a pair of jeans to determine if you can get another wear out of them.

No? Maybe that’s just me…

Does your family use cloth napkins? I’d love to hear your tips!

Happy Wednesday!!

7 Responses to “cloth napkins + why i love them”

  1. Anonymous — March 13, 2013 @ 4:40 pm (#)

    Those are toooooo cute…what a great idea…

  2. jamie — March 13, 2013 @ 7:32 pm (#)

    i can relate to every single point you’re making here. i have an almost 2-yr old and survival mode is exactly how we are living. i have had cloth napkins on my to-do list for foreeeeeeeeever, but again, the survival mode thing. so i’m curious about how you made these, and how the seams are holding up under repeated washings. are you an experienced seamstress, did you follow some online tutorial, or are you just plain awesome and made it up as you went along? also, i totally smell my clothes before i determine if they need laundering.

    • Emily Caruso — March 15, 2013 @ 5:47 pm (#)

      Hi Jamie! I totally get it. I was there, and some ways, still am. Don’t get me wrong, I Looooveed the baby stage, but there is a certain sense of calm that happens when you’re out of it. I do sew, but the napkins are crazy simple. I just cut a variety of squares (all different sizes, some just depending on how much of a certain fabric I had) and then folded under 1/4 an inch and then another 1/4 inch so that the raw edge was completely enclosed. Then a simple straight stitch all around the edge. Works like a charm and it couldn’t be easier. In fact, it’s a great beginner sewing project. You can get fancy and press the edges with an iron, but honestly, after a couple dozen napkins, i just eye balled it and folded it under with my fingers as I sewed. The lazy way, but it worked 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I hope to see you around soon!
      ~Emily

  3. Kate | Food Babbles — March 15, 2013 @ 3:42 am (#)

    e don’t use cloth napkins but after reading this post I want to make the switch! My husband will hate the idea, loathe it with every fiber of his being because he is a crazy man with the paper towels. I complain about it all the time. We go through a ton of them but I find this inspiring and I had plenty of cloth napkins. Love the idea of making mismatched, fun napkins too! My little girls will love it.

    • Emily Caruso — March 15, 2013 @ 5:53 pm (#)

      Ha, I know what you mean. It took a little getting used to, but my husband was glad to not have the added cost of so many paper towels, so that is a good point to focus on. We had to designate certain towel rods for hand towels and another for dish towels so there was no confusion on that front, as well.
      The patterned napkins are really a lot of fun. On occasion we have a sad kiddo if a favorite cat napkin happens to be dirty, though, lol. Usually there is another one though that will smooth things over.
      Let me know how it goes!

  4. Michelle — March 16, 2013 @ 8:53 pm (#)

    I absolutely LOVE cloth napkins, I wish I knew how to sew so I could make some fun new ones! Your stash looks awesome Em. I want to come over for lunch just so I could pick a pretty one to use myself.

    • Emily Caruso — March 23, 2013 @ 6:21 pm (#)

      Come on over! I am a little obsessed with the napkins. I tend to make them compulsively 🙂

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