With my acceptance of the impermanence of things has come an increasing rejection of disposables, in particular paper napkins. For many years I’ve collected vintage kitchen linens that amassed in my cupboards. I’ve been using my vintage tea towels for nine years now to dry my dishes after I moved here (no dishwasher), but napkins, however, were off-limits because I was worried about them getting stained. I enjoyed keeping them “new” and simply admired them from time to time except for use on special occasions. However, when I broke open the still packaged mind-century cloth napkins to use on the honeymoon harvest table earlier this week it got me thinking: Why not enjoy what I have right now? Isn’t being alive and well enough to eat and having a full plate of food a special occasion?! Isn’t that a way to not just say grace at a meal but show it?!
Pretty things don’t need to stay sealed and safe because life can get dirty. It’s because life can get dirty that I want to stay clean, with style.
Here are some other great reasons:
Cloth napkins are elegant. No matter how nice a paper napkin can be, it’s still just a paper napkin that kind of cheapens things at a special sit-down meal even though they don’t save money in the long run. Of course paper napkins have their place; moving forward we just don’t want that place to be at our table.
Cloth napkins are good for the earth. It means fewer toxic byproducts of paper napkin production in the environment and less garbage in our landfills.
Cloth napkins are retro and fun! Until the 1950s, paper napkins we’re the norm.
Cloth napkins are easy to maintain. Our napkins are 100% cotton or linen, and as long as I fold them straight from the dryer set to medium, wrinkling is minimal.
Cloth napkins are good old Yankee Thrift in practice. Check out your local garage and rummage sales for vintage napkins, or go online and shop for the best deals. They should give years of good service, going by how long my kitchen towels are holding up. According to this Energy.gov calculator, our cost for washing and drying a load a week is only about $25 a year. We were spending about $50 a year on cloth napkins. Yankee Thrift wins!
Vintage and retro cloth napkins are pretty! We’re using colorful napkins that not only add flavor to a place setting but will help camouflage inevitable stains.