Making cloth napkins : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I read Cathy say that she has made a list of items they use everyday, and she is trying to figure out a way to make them. I thought that I need to make cloth napkins. This is an area of stubborness for me, as my husband just hates me buying paper napkins because he feels it is a waste of money. But I would always think that they are only about $1 a pack (although lately they are higher). So I have been married for 15 1/2 years. That is 186 months. If I spent only $2 a month on paper napkins, then I have spent $372. It makes me sick to write it. I would really like to have the money I have spent on paper napkins since I got married!

So I thought well the next time I go to the store, they have some nice plaid fabric on sale at Wal-mart for $2 a yard. I will buy several yards and make some nice matching plaid napkins to use. I like everything to look nice, so I am also too stubborn to use old t-shirts and such that wouldn't match. A bad habit, my stubborness, that I am humbly working on.

But, now for the good news, a very nice neighbor of mine called me a few days ago and said she had some fabric for me. She often purchases things at auctions and gives me what she can't use. She makes the most beautiful quilts. When I went down yesterday there was a box of fabic, and two bolts of blue plaid and green plaid!! Very country looking and the perfect texture for napkins!!! So I spent part of the afternoon yesterday cutting them out, and zig-zagging around them to prevent fraying. I am going to finish them today. I made them just the size that will fit in a very nice hand-made basket my Amish friends gave me, so they will look nice sitting on the end of my breakfast bar.

Now I know many of you probably do not have this problem. But maybe there is something you buy that can be easily duplicated at home. Each little purchase, a dollar here and a dollar there, really do add up. Just think I spent $372 on NAPKINS!!!! How dumb is that???

-- Melissa (, October 17, 2001


WOW!! Dejavu!!

I recently posted this topic on the CS forum. I, too, am tired of the cost of paper napkins and asked about types of fabric that would be the most durable. There were 15 responses about fabric, sizes, sources, you name it. Check it out! It's catagorized under crafts/hobbies. So, I took the long walk into my attic and dug out the box of fabric that I got after my Gramma passed away. She was a quilter, so you can imagine what was in this box. I found some nice gingham quarters and some other plaids and cut them 16" square and started sewing.

My husband has a little trouble using them, he feels that they're not sanitary. But, each person has their own napkin, and they use it until it's slightly yucky, then it's laundered with the towels. I admit, we do cheat and use paper when we have something messy like fried chicken. But in the long run, it's worth it already!

-- Charleen in WNY (, October 17, 2001.

I am thinking I will probably wash them after each use, because I made them on the small side, and there was enough fabric for at least 40 napkins. I will just add them with the towels, I don't think as small as they are it will make much difference in the wash loads I do.

-- Melissa (, October 17, 2001.

It is AMAZING! how much that stuff adds up!

Here's a couple of ideas that have worked for me. I started a couple of rag boxes-one up in the kitchen, one down in the basement Laundry area-completely rated out t-shirts, towels etc, and we (with someprompting) have started useing those instead of papertowels I've used one roll all summer-and that was mostly during a company weekend that featured a deepfry fish and chips and doughnut feast.

I bought 2 packages (6 total) of those Glad/Ziploc, whatever Sandwhich boxes (ON sale at BigLots for total of $4.00 plus for some reason I got free crayons) and reuse some old yogurt cups (I make my own now so don't get new ones) for our lunches so I don't buy plastic sandwhich bags anymore. The yogurt cups hold cookies, veggie sticks, fruit, trail mix whatever.

I saw a "tip" in a magazine the other day-to keep kitchens tidy, spread out a sheet of cling plastic and peel your veggies, prepare mixes what ever into that then throw it all away! How wastefull! I use a sheet of newspaper, then toss paper and peels into compost bucket. I've been on one box of plastic wrap for two years now.

I actually bought a long plastic under the bed storage box-no, I didn't pay $15 for a Rubbermaid wrapping-paper roll storage container, I paid about $5 for a generic box. Anytime we get a gift, I keep the gift bag, the tissue paper, bows etc-(I keep the paper too, if its in any shape)-plus we get free stuff all the time-I bet you do to-in the mail, as promotions at stores-all sorts of stickers, shiny kinds of paper, samples ect. I keep all that in the box and use it for gifts. I sometimes will get a roll of gift paper if I can use it for several things-for example-I knew several Ladies expecting babies plus several young children with birthdays coming up so I bought a nice "little kid" wrapping paper-on sale. Usaually, for giftwrap I use end roll paper-this is the paper left on the rolls when a newspaper is printing-they uasually throw out the end bits and you can get them for free. I wrap the gift in the plain white paper and decorate with stickers, etc from my box. I have saved tons of money with this.

I don't buy holiday "decorations"-though I love to spruce up the house on the changing off the seasons. The kids are allways coming home with turkeys and Santas and Valentines they make in art at school. I just hang that stuff up. I did buy a roll of clear contact paper that I cover the frount of the picture with and keep it for years-the kids love it they like seeing how their art work has changed and I would MUCH rather have My little Rachels pilgrim lady on the door than a storebought decoration.

-- Kelly in Ky. (, October 17, 2001.

Another one of my gripes when my son was a baby was baby wipes. They are expensive and throw away. I read some where to take a roll of cheap paper towel and cut them in half(sometimes if I found a sell of packaged those worked also), slide the card board out of the middle, put in some sort-of container(I kept a round baby wipe container but any would do) standing up is easier. Then mix 3/4 cup of water with 1tsp of baby shampoo and pour over. Put on lid and let sit. Shake every once in a while and presto- cheap baby wipes that work and are still no mess.Oh! it is easer to pull out from the center after you have taken out the cardboard.

-- Micheale from SE Kansas (, October 17, 2001.

Napkins. I have made them from cotton calico and homespun cotton plaid. The calicos are about 4 years old and look a little sorry, but then, I don't have 40, so they get washed every day. If you want them to stay nice looking, do not put them on the line; they fade terribly. I hang mine on a clothes rack inside. My plaid ones came from $2/yd fabric, and although they have held up to washing, they are badly faded after 15 months.

Baby wipes. Get a pack of 10 cheapie dishcloths at wal-mart. If you want, you can put them in some kind of solution; I just wet them with plain water to use them and put them in the wash with the diapers. (Well, I used to. Baby is potty-trained now. YAY YAY YAY!!!!)

Plastic bags. Canadians (and some Americans) can get their milk in really sturdy bags that can be re-used with a twisty--IF you can find twisties. I get mine shipped in from the states.

-- Cathy N. (, October 17, 2001.

When I was pregnant with my third child I decided to use terry nappies. Child one and two I was still spending money we hardly had like it was going out of fashion. I did huge amounts of reserch about the best folds, ways to clean etc and found out about homemade baby wipes. I couldn't, by then bear spending money on paper towels so I sorted through the masses of t-shirts we had and started cutting.

Cut off the neck seam and both arms, then cut the shoulder seam.(when I say cut I really mean hack!!!) The two body pieces are then cut in the shape of a cross, to make four pieces each side.

These rags have been great. No soap solution is needed. Just dunk a few under the tap and clean the botty. Wipes get thown in the bucket with the nappy and washed with them. When going out and about, dunk enough wipes so they are quite wet, put them in a poly bag and then inside another poly bag (2nd one ready for dirty stuff to bring home)

No fuss, no more mess than disposables, no mixing your own, no real hassle with the washing.

Hope this helps someone


-- Alison Homa (, October 17, 2001.

For our wedding we used bandanas for napkins. A friend that helped with the wedding knew where to get them cheap. We got 150 for $5.00!!! We used them to decorate,guest took theirs home, and still had about 30 left. So now we use them for napkins and I'm saved some to make a quilt!!

Melissa, now I can save money and not spend tons of money.Thanks for breaking it down over a marriage how we spend a buck here and there and not think of it till you think of it a life time!

-- Sandy(N.E.FL.) (, October 17, 2001.

where in the world can you get 150 bandans for 5.00!!Also, I just got to the half way point in my CSMag, guess everyone knows about baby wipes. Sorry.

-- Micheale from SE Kansas (, October 17, 2001.

Gosh, Melissa, I wouldn't get so worked up about it! Maybe those paper napkins saved $372 worth of your sanity over all those years!! LOL I also enjoyed Charleen's thread over on CS and about a week afterwards I decided we should make the switch, too. Usually anything fabric is so much NICER than scratchy paper! But when we do use paper napkins/towels we always put them in the compost. They count towards your "browns". Also, I only buy products made from recycled paper and I don't mean those very expensive brands from the health food store! By reading labels, I discovered that Marcal brand (which I find in my regular grocery stores) uses recycled paper to make their products. And I believe they do not use dioxin to bleach them. It says on their label but I don't have one right now. Any way, after we use them they end up in our compost so I feel pretty ok about that. I believe their package of 250 napkins costs around $1.79 and seems to last us a couple of months. Their roll of 180 small paper towels costs 99 cents and I find that size more convenient and not as wasteful.

Back to cloth napkins, now! I followed a suggestion from the other thread and pulled out all those finger tip towels my grandmother sent me to make bibs with. I had plenty of bibs and was happy to find a use for them. (Has anyone else seen the ads for the new disposable bibs?! What will they think of next!) They work well for multiple uses so as long as you don't have any major accidents or a terribly messy eater you could probably get away with giving each member of your family one to use for the day. Another suggestion was to check out thrift stores. I found the most beautiful blue plaid napkins for 50 cents a piece. I was thinking that was kind of high (considering what I pay for paper and that I could get fabric by the yard cheaper) until I went next door and priced Martha Stewart napkins 2 for $4.99!! So $2 for 4 barely used napkins which will last for years and are sooo pretty was a good buy.

But my favorite find is the 16 nice cotton napkins I found in a box that I had totally forgotten I even owned!! They are very thin so will only be good for single use and probably won't last very long but at least I have a good supply until I find/make more. So, I now have about 26 cloth napkins and only spent $2! (I can't believe I've gone on and on about cloth napkins! I guess I'm easily amused! LOL)

Has anyone else seen the "re-usable tissues" (i.e. hankies) in the health food stores and catalogs? I've been thinking about making my own out of soft flannel but wonder how sanitary they are, especially during cold season? Seems like it would be best to go ahead and throw those live germs away than to have them sit around waiting to be handled a second time. Unless you had some sort of soak bucket set up. But then you are looking at another chore and I'm a firm believer that my time is worth money so sometimes it is okay to spend a dollar here and there so I have more time doing what I WANT to do!

-- Bren (, October 17, 2001.

I started using hankies after we all got colds and had sore noses, especially the boys. i called my mom and asked if my Nanny's hankies were still around. My mom hunted through her cabinets etc and then sent them to me. its nice that my nanny's pretty hankies are still in use years after her passing. My sister bought some manly ones for my son to use ( I guess him whipping out the pink flowery one offended sensibilities?/LOL) and he prefers hankies to Kleenex. My best friend suffers from sinuses and allergies. after I gave her a couple of hankies she ripped apart an old white cotton sheet and made a batch for herself and her family. Cloth napkins are great. I have many that were given as gifts but we don't use them everyday. Guess we just aren't that messy or maybe we use our sleeves too much? Anyhoo, some of mine are antique from flea markets and auctions my aunt attends. when we have people over I always get a bunch out and it never fails that some one fusses and says"Oh no! Just give me paper one or a paper towel! This is too nice!" I just say that I can't and this is what we use. I get odd looks let me tell ya. Sad how disposible society is. Melissa, good for you that you won't be wasting another $300 on napkins! Pat yourself on the back!! I also used homemade wipes (flannelette) for quite a while but they all just kind of disappeared and I went to paper towel kind and then back to the cheap brand wipes. Cammie is now almost trained so a pack dries out before I use them all!! Wheeeee! Of course I don't throw them away when they dry out..I just wet them with water as I need them.

-- Alison in N.S. (, October 17, 2001.

When we have pizza, speghetti or tacos I use wash cloths. I bought a pkg of 12 cheap white ones and when I wash my dish towels I wash the "napkins" at the same time. I keep these seperate from my other wash cloths because they are all colored and I can bleach the white ones. When company comes I was fortunate to collect several at garage sales in groups of 4 or more and we use them. I have enough of a collection that I was able to get before cloth napkins started becoming popular again. I never paid more than 10 cents each. Except the linen ones I paid $6.00 for a beautiful linen tablecloth and 12 matching napkins. The woman sold her dining room set and said she didn't want them left after the sale. There were no stains and they were like brand new. I have also used cotton dish towels that have worn holes in them for some reason and either cut and make napkins out of them or cut them into squares, sew them together and cover with cotton terry towels that are worn thin to make potholders. Jenn

-- jenn (, October 17, 2001.

Melissa~ I bet chambray or soft denim from clothes to worn to wear would make cute lunch napkins or everyday napkins. These should continue to wear and launder well, since the clothes usually wear at the seams.

-- Ivy in NW AR (, October 17, 2001.

Thanks everyone for your responses! I do have about 30 very nice linen cloth napkins that my Mom gave me when the place she worked switched to a different color. I have always used these for company and holidays.

My stubborness was with the every day usage. I do use old rags for spills, and cleaning. Just hated to use them for napkins!! We have worked for so long to build our house and make everything nice (see log cabin thread) thet I always want everything to look good. So now at least I have figured out a way to save a little money!!!

-- Melissa (, October 18, 2001.

I dont like cloth napkins at all. I like paper napkins because they are sanitary and disposable. Large paper napkins work great as bibs when eating messy foods.We either tuck them around the neck or attach to a bib/napkin clip to proyect clothes.

-- Jeff (, January 02, 2002.

I would say they could be unsanitary if you re-use them, but we just use ours once and then wash them. they are not very big, so we just add them to the towels, and I notice no difference in the laundry.

-- Melissa (, January 02, 2002.

We have the kids wear two paper napkins at each meal. One goes around the neck tucked in and the other goes across the lap. This way all clothing is protected from splatters and spills.

-- (, May 06, 2002.

Napkins to bibs. We found a handy little gadget called the Bibkin.

We save a fortune. We have a dozen cloth napkins that we keep recycling.

We use the bibkin and turn the napkins into bibs. When they get dirty we wash the napkins. If they get real bad, we use carpet cleaner.

We found the bibkins on the internet at

M. Kelly

-- Max Kelley (, July 28, 2002.

Since my wife put me in charge of doing the laundry, the first thing I did was decide that we will use no more cloth napkins. I like paper. The kids are required to wear a paper napkin tucked in their shirt collars at meal times. This saves a lot of money on laundry and cleaning stains. One spaghetti dinner is enough to convince me that paper napkins and bibs are the only way to go!

-- Jack T. Williams (, October 22, 2002.

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