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Easy-Peasy, No-Sew Cloth Napkins

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You could have a whole pile of cloth napkins in under 5 minutes!  No sewing, no special tools, all you need is a pair of scissors, some (hopefully reusable) fabric, and the desire to reduce your paper footprint.

The Paper-Free Choice

Going “paper-free” in the kitchen is not as hard as you might think, especially when you start with cloth napkins.  I know a lot of people are some-what overwhelmed by the commitment of standard cloth napkins, “there’re so big!”, “It’s too much extra laundry!”, “They cost too much money, just to get ruined!”  I know, I heard all these excuses in my own house.  We stopped buying paper towels years ago, but for reason, my husband had a hold-out on his paper napkins.  We had a giant stash of lovely cloth napkins, but I couldn’t get him to use them for “everyday”.  He didn’t want to use a fresh one with every meal because they were so big, and we couldn’t figure out a way to reuse them without mixing them up with the ones the germ-infested kids used.  When you work at home and eat at home, there are lots of sticky, crumby fingers that need wiping!

I started digging through my fabric boxes and came up with about a yard of some heavy cotton weave that I had purchased about 15 years ago.  I absolutely cannot remember why I bought it, but it was perfect for experimenting with new napkins.  I snipped and ripped the cotton into different sized squares, and we haven’t used a single paper napkin since!  It’s been over a year now.  I actually got the idea from the preschool where the kids go.  The teacher and a mom bought second-hand, standard-sized cloth napkins, and cut them into quarters, then ran them through a serger to finish the edges.  All the kids got used to using cloth napkins at school and the preschool drastically reduced their paper footprint and overall waste.

Here’s the doom and gloom on why you really should go paper-free:  Americans use more paper than any other people in the world, we average 7 trees per person each year!  Paper production uses an insane amount of energy and resources, and damages our environment with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used in the cultivation of harvest trees.  Chlorine bleaching creates some of the most dangerous pollution on earth, producing dioxins and furans known to cause cancer, infertility and many other health problems, not to mention the catastrophic demise of our environment.

Luckily, it’s pretty darn easy to reduce a lot of this waste, and it’s important.  You can do it!

Easy-Peasy, No-Sew Cloth Napkins

For these super simple napkins, all you do you is “snip and rip”!  In less than 5 minutes, you will have a pile of napkins that you can use and abuse even more than the paper version.  You can finish the edges with a serger or sewing machine, but I let mine “fringe” like a good pair of cut-off’s.  You’ll only have a few strings here and there after the first few washes.  Just throw them in the washing machine with everything else, they take up almost no room!

1. Find Some Cloth

The very best option is to look around your house and find a way to reuse what you already have.  Is there an old, stained tablecloth you don’t need anymore?  How about old dish towels?  Check that fabric bin for pieces you will never use!  100% cotton works best, but use what you find.  Head to the fabric store if you must, and hunt around on the clearance rack.

2. Size it Right

I experimented with several different sizes, and I found 8 inches x 8 inches was just the right size.  The smaller sizes tended to get lost easily and didn’t quite have enough “coverage” for a sticky job.  The larger pieces didn’t get used because it was too much of a “commitment”.  This size is exactly the size of a folded-into-quarters standard napkin, and coincidently, the size of a paper napkin.

cloth napkin copy

The napkin below has lasted a full year in our house, as you can see it held up pretty well to the constant use.

old cloth napkins

 3. Measure, Snip and Rip

The great thing about working with this cotton weave is that it tears in perfectly straight lines.  All you have to do is snip about an inch and give a good strong tug.

no sew cloth napkins

Measure 8 inches, snip about one inch, and tear off the strip.

rip cloth napkins

Mark off 8 inch segments, and snip and tear again into squares.

measure cloth knapkins

That’s it!  Now you have a fabulous collection of earth-saving cloth napkins!  How good does that feel?

easy napkin

Want to reduce your paper footprint even more, try these “30 Ways to Use Less Paper“.

I know sometimes it can feel pointless to make these changes, with the world being so vast and all… but taking steps like going paperless keeps you in the “save-the-earth” game, and spreads the consciousness of treading lightly on our delicate and fragile home.  At the very least, you’re passing the message of conservation on to the next generation.



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