Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cloth napkins

It seems that the advice to use cloth napkins instead of paper towels or paper napkins abounds in articles and on websites that proclaim ways to save the environment and your family budget. And yet, like so many of these things that have come slowly to our household, I didn't use them regularly for the longest time. And again, I don't really know why. We had a good two dozen stacked up in the dining room cabinet, reserved for special meals and holidays, but at least half were stained and not fit for such special occasions. I couldn't bring myself to throw them out, so why not use them on a daily basis? Inspired, I dragged out the stained pile for Earth Week this year. We used them all of that week, and we started using our cloth hand towels for drying our hands more, too. After a week or two, we had reduced our paper towel consumption considerably, so much so that my husband started apologizing for using them at all.

More recently, we had family in town, and I hadn't had time to retrieve all of the cloth napkins from the clean laundry pile, so I dug into the pile of "nice" (non-stained) cloth napkins. I realized then that I had only used them for one special occasion, and that they had sat, stacked, in the dining room cabinet, since that one dinner. Why? Because they were wrinkled. They're linen, so they need to be ironed before setting them out on a pretty table. Who irons? Not me, certainly. That wastes precious natural resources, like my time and attention. So, the "nice" linen napkins have made it into our regular rotation. A nice side benefit is that they make every meal seem a little more special, so we tend to slow down and act more civilized at meal time. At least, those of us over the age of 2 do.

There are instructions on the Internet for making your own cloth napkins. I won't bore you with the details of the last time I tried to use a sewing machine, but let it suffice to say that I won't be making any cloth napkins any time soon. If you're crafty, or have a crafty friend (Hi, Mom), knock yourself out. Cloth napkins are big at garage sales, estate sales, craft sales, etc., or they can be found at Target, TJ Maxx, etc. I'm pretty sure our original (stained) napkins were a wedding gift from Target. I like the fact that ours are fairly neutral in color, so they can be thrown in with a light or dark load of wash, whichever happens to be running at the time. That way, we tend not to run out of them too quickly.

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