In becoming more sustainable, we are trying to eliminate disposable items such as paper products. A few months ago (where has the time gone?) I shared how we made a cloth version of a very important paper product (for ladies only) so we never need to purchase them again.
In a project with Grandma and the cousins we made cloth napkins to replace the paper ones we go through like wildfire. Since the girls are learning to sew, this was perfect to learn on.
We used a pattern from Amy at Homestead Revival which worked beautifully. First I found scraps of fabric saved over the years. There were leftovers from a favorite floral maternity dress, and also some solid burgundy used as lining for the living room curtains I’d made soon after we were married! Such memories! And the two complimented each other well.
I wanted napkins for every day, so preferred darker colors or busy prints to hide stubborn stains and imperfections. And of course they needed to match our table décor. We expect moving from disposable to re-usable to be an upgrade.
I used to wrinkle up my nose at the extra work cloth napkins would require. Paper seemed so much simpler. But we’ve worked out an extremely simple system. With a permanent marker I initialed the inside corner seams of each napkin with tiny letters. Each of us have two with a few extras left over.
Since most of us rarely soil our napkins in only one meal, they get folded neatly and placed back into a basket. At the next meal each personalized napkin is returned to its owner’s place. After several days or when they get grungy, whichever comes first, they get thrown into the wash and replaced with a clean set. Some of the little guys go through theirs faster, but that’s where the extra napkins come in.
By using this method we are not significantly increasing the laundry load. If we used a freshly washed set each meal, soiled or not, it would mean washing and drying over 150 cloth napkins each week for our family of eight! Using a conventional washer and dryer and normal detergents, this would not be sustainable or save in resources. By the time all that electricity, water, and processing time was used, it could be a loss. This way we’re doing only about 20 napkins each week with laundry we would do anyway, and line drying them with our other clothes. And we’re NOT ironing.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I avoid ironing like the plague. Most of our clothing is 100% cotton, but not the kind that normally needs ironing. If these napkins must be ironed regularly, they won’t get used. So far the fabric we’re using is doing just fine without, which pleases me greatly. :)
A beautiful set of linen napkins was given to me years ago, so we are also set for guests. Or we have the option of digressing to paper napkins, of course. We are part of a house church, so when it’s our turn to host church and the fellowship meal, paper will probably still be the norm.
I’d love to hear your experiences using cloth napkins or other sustainable non-paper products. The toilet paper necessity has me scratching my head, so I need ideas.