Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cloth Napkins

Let's talk about what Americans call cloth napkins, but every other English speaker refers to as "cloth serviettes".
My first motivation for switching to cloth serviettes was not entirely environmentally motivated. I had a problem with my then-two-year-old son using WAY too many paper napkins at meal times. He would also wad them up or shred them and the pieces would be all over the place.
I already had about 8 dark blue cloth napkins, made from soft cotton. They are hemmed on two sides and the remaining sides are kind of unraveled, like a pair of cut-off blue jean shorts.
After we started using them, I found that I preferred the softness and durability of cloth serviettes to paper. For one thing, you can get a lot of mileage out of a cloth napkin before you have to wash it. Paper napkins? You can really only use those once before they start falling apart or getting really nasty looking. And cloth napkins weren't as intimidating to use as I had pictured in my mind.
I guess I equated cloth napkins with extreme fanciness, like a nice restaurant or Christmas dinner. You CAN make it fancy and fold the napkins origami-style, but ours are just folded into squares and pilled in the middle of the table. Do I iron them? Never. Do I care if they get stained? Not at all.
I started to get a very casual attitude about my cloth serviettes. This led me to look around and see what else I could replace with cloth.
I came up with a solution for paper towel usage: I cut up some old white cotton undershirts and folded the resulting rags in a pile on the counter. Most of the pieces were cut into something resembling rectangles, but some of them cannot be geometrically defined. None of them are hemmed. Are the still capable of "wiping up stuff"? Definitely!
I also re-purposed a pair of holey flannel p.j. pants into some multi-purpose rags.
I can't sew. There, now you know. But if YOU can sew, even just a straight line, you can easily make your own cloth serviettes. You can even make them look cutesy, unlike my t-shirt rags. But the beauty is that you really can use any kind of cotton scraps (think old pj pants, curtains or pillow cases that are past their prime) and avoid purchasing NEW fabric from the hobby store.
If cloth napkins aren't pro-active enough for you, check out No Impact Man for more inspiration. He has sworn off even toilet paper for one year! I have no tips about that.

No comments: