This is one of the few “feminine domestic” things I can claim I do regularly. We do not use paper napkins. I am a fairly recent (few years ago) convert. My previous reasoning had been: we have X children at the table and children stain napkins. Well, shoot, adults stain napkins too! So how do you do it?
Use colors and patterns!
I have seven different sets of napkins, enough for every day of the week (this was not by design, just chance). None of them are white or have white in the pattern.* And I didn’t pay full price for any of them.
Some were hand-me-downs (some of those we’ve been using our entire marriage and they’re still holding up), the rest I found at thrift stores. I have a set of eight Crate&Barrel napkins in summery colors that I found for $2. I found a set of four and another pair (different colors but same general idea) that look like the Provence pattern from William Sonoma. I think I paid $1.50 for those. You do not have to break the bank.
And don’t feel like you can’t put out cloth napkins because you don’t have a full set of, well, however many people are at your table (and for some of us that’s a decent number). There is nothing cuter than a table set with deliberately mismatched napkins, especially during the spring and summer. Make sure they really don’t match. One of my favorite set of mismatches is composed of single napkins I found at thrift stores over the years. One has a bold peach pattern in orange on a variegated blue background, one is a blue, green and lime stripe, two are solid lime, one is blue and green plaid…you get the idea. So don’t just pass up napkins you find because there are only one or two of them. They’ll be ten cents each!
For those who sew, what is more simple than hemming a square? One fantastic tip I’ve seen is to use fat quarters because they tend to come in groups of coordinating fabrics (and they’re already cut to a good size). Look at the fabric remnant cart at the store and scoop up a pretty print to make into a few napkins
. Only enough for two? If you don’t want to mismatch them, save them for dinners for two!
And just to be fun, what else can you do with cloth napkins?
Turn them into quick mini-tablecloths or placemats for children.
Use them as bibs.
Use a plain lightweight one as an emergency scarf for a little girl.
Use a group of multicolored ones in a basket as a table centerpiece.
Keep the baby happy while you fold the rest of the laundry
(he can throw them in and out of the clothes basket).
Substitute for a doily on an end table.
Use as a sheet for a doll bed.
Line a basket for rolls or muffins.
The uses are endless!
What are your cloth napkin secrets?
*Disclaimer: I do have one nice set of 10 white cloth napkins. However, I do not pull them out when I’m serving spaghetti to pre-schoolers.