Cloth Napkins ~ recycle, reduce, reuse beautifully

I must admit, I have a bit of a linen fetish (understatement there!) When I go to tag sales, I cannot resist a beautiful set of hemstitched napkins or a pretty tablecloth. One of my most treasured possessions is a collection of everyday tablecloths that belonged to my "Little Grandma".

Colorful and happy, they remind me of childhood mornings in her bright yellow and orange kitchen, hot cocoa steaming in front of me, and the smell of bacon and eggs frying up in her black cast iron skillet that lived on the back of her stove.

Please excuse my nostalgic indulgence, but here are a few closeups of some of my favorites.

These chickens crack me up!

 Fun retro colors.

Classic fruit.

This tablecloth feels like Crepe de Chine or possibly rayon.

I love this tiny butterfly and the bright green border.

This is probably my favorite. It's so fragile I'm afraid to use it, as I don't think it would survive the wash. See how lovely the pieces are stitched together? There's also a metal tag with numbers on it. Perhaps from a trip to the cleaners?

I try to reuse and recycle as much as possible, and feel quite guilty when I'm consuming things like ziplock bags and paper products. It just made sense that I put my pretty linens to good use, and make the switch away from paper napkins. When I started gathering together all those napkins, I was first amazed at how many I had accumulated over the years; and then I was amazed at how well they all went together, creating a harmonious grouping of colors, prints, and textures; such a cheery sight indeed.

I plopped the basket of napkins right in the middle of the dinner table, and informed my family that we were all going to do our part, and consume a little less, and start using cloth napkins. Puzzled faces, tilted heads, reaching hands, and that was done! It's been over four years with no complaints or regrets. I just toss all the napkins in with the kitchen laundry. Easy-peasy.

There's even a cache of rolled cloth napkins right next to the paper towel dispenser. I'm not quite ready to give paper towels up completely, but we've reduced our usage by about 85%. Now that's a switch I can live with.

My mother made some sweet napkins from odds and ends, remnants that she picked up at the op shop. They're really pretty, and are fun and easy to make, a good project for just about anyone. She used fairly lightweight, tightly woven cotton fabrics.

Cut out an 18 X 18 inch square. Grab a corner and find a loose thread at the edge of the fabric. Pull off one thread at a time, and unravel about 1/4" to 1/3" of the fabric. Do this to all four sides. When you wash the square the edges should fray nicely. Not only does it add texture, but it will stop any more threads from coming loose. That's it! It's a great way to use up extra fabric stash.

We've given up all bottled water, all paper napkins, and most paper towels.  I'm ready to make another similar commitment for change. 50% of the time I carry my own bag for groceries and such, but I could  will commit to 100%. Also, I'm looking into purchasing or making waxed cloth. I use food storage containers with tops, so I use very little plastic wrap, but would like to reduce that even further and cut down my ziplock bag consumption.

How about you? Have you made any commitments to reduce, reuse, or recycle that you'd like to share? Do you have any tips or tricks that would help us reduce household refuse?

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