In honor of Earth Day coming up on this Sunday, I’ll confess that I have a slight obsession with the more illustrious ancestor of the paper towel: the cloth napkin.
For a long time, we used paper towels for everything: as cleaning rags, as faux napkins in lunch boxes and at the dinner table, as impromptu “plates” for eating cookies or snacks, as disposable dishcloths to wipe down counters, and as fake hand towels to dry our hands on. If you could wipe it down, scrub it off, or occasionally eat off it, I was using a paper towel to do the trick. I was making runs to the store every week to stock up on them.
On Earth Day, 2009, I saw one of those checklists on “how to make easy changes to green up your life” and on it was switching from paper napkins to cloth ones. I must have had the sewing bug that day because suddenly I was obsessed with making my own cloth napkins. We would never use paper towels again! (Okay, so that was a little unrealistic. I still use them to clean the bathrooms because let’s face it — that’s pretty nasty). Off I went to JoAnn’s because, like now, they were having a huge sale.
Here’s the skinny on how I made them:
- I bought yards of coordinating 100% cotton quilter’s fabric, came home to wash it, and then spread it out all over the table.
- Using a giant drywall T-square, I marked off 11″ x 12″ rectangles with a pink Sharpie marker and cut them up. (Of course, you could make them any size you wish, but that seemed to be the easiest way to use up all the 44-inch wide fabric.)
- Then I matched up the “pretty” sides of two of the fabric rectangles and sewed a half-inch hem all around it, leaving a little gap to turn the napkin right side out.
- I picked out the corners to make them square.
- Using a hot iron (it is cotton, after all), I pressed that bad boy flat, tucking in the raw edges of the gap I’d left so they’d lay flat too.
- Then I sewed about a quarter-inch from the edge on the right side. DONE.
They were so easy to make, I think I ended up with over 60 of them. Voila! Napkins:
We’ve used these constantly for the past three years. And I mean, constantly. I put them in the kids’ lunches to take to school instead of paper napkins or towels. We use them to wipe off our hands in the kitchen and as a faux-coaster for our coffee cups in the living room. If something spills on the floor, we grab a handful of these napkins and sop up the mess, knowing that we’ll just toss them in the wash with whatever load happens to be next. We don’t ever iron them or treat them nicely, but they never fail to make me smile. I can’t even guess how much money we’ve saved with these little gems, but I rarely buy paper towels any more.
They are awesome.
Do you have a green obsession?