Cloth napkin bouquet

Large families like mine tend to go through a lot of napkins at mealtime. A few years ago I got fed up with spending $8-10 on paper napkins every month and decided instead to use washcloths.  Several packets of the cheapo Wal-Mart wash-clothes later, we were in business.

For awhile we used one napkin/day/person, setting used napkins on chairs between meals.  But when the vacuum-person moved chairs, things sometimes got shuffled. I got tired of finding a kid-messed napkin at my place, and decided fresh napkins each meal were the better way to go.  But that made for a lot of napkin-washing, often of clean napkins.  Recently I decided that a container of napkins in the center of the table was the way to go.  That way messy folks could grab a napkin, and the rest would stay clean in the container til they were needed.

I spotted a cute little washtub- style  tin at a thrift store that was big enough for 15 or so napkins, and realized it would be great for the purpose.  When my 16 year old daughter got done rolling napkins and filling it up, I thought the arrangement looked a lot like a bouquet.  Wish I’d thought of this solution sooner!

If you don’t happen to have a cute tin, I think a wicker basket or a variety of other similar-size containers would work equally well.  One additional benefit of  wash-clothes napkins– they’re big enough to double as towels when mopping up the inevitable milk spills at mealtime.

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{ 13 Comments }

  1. We use cloth napkins as well. To keep the napkins straight we use different napkin rings. Each person has their own distinctive napkin ring, so we always know our own napkin. I wish I could take credit for this, but I completely stole if from my husband’s aunt who uses this trick in her beach house where she has a lot of visitors rotating through. One of the first things you do when you arrive is choose your napkin ring for your stay.

  2. We have used the distinctive napkin rings for years also. Each person can put on their own and keep track of whether or not it needs to be washed (depending on their age, of course.) :-)

  3. Deanne Robertson says:

    I love this idea! I have a terrible time finding napkin rings, so we’ve struggled with this for a while. I was tired of washing so many napkins when I suspected most of them could have been used again. We will be trying this, starting this evening! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love your napkin container! Since there are only four of us in our family, we have been using cloth napkins at dinner time only. I took the time to make cloth napkins and we don’t use napkin rings.

  5. Jessica says:

    We also use cloth napkins. We scour yard and church sales for them – they tend to come from homes of people who retire/downsize, etc. And we have gotten careful at finding the right fabrics – cheap polyester ones never become absorbent, and linen ones wrinkle too much from the dryer! Polycotton and damask are the best. Oh, and we don’t worry about stains – they are meant to be used! We keep ours in a wicker basket (along with baby bibs and baby washcloths) on the kitchen counter. Clean one for every meal.

  6. Reading along, nodding my head. Love the washtub. Got the word “inevitable” and laughed out loud. Oh yes, it will happen, dare I say, almost every meal. Great idea to get different colors.

  7. We use cloth ones too! I’ve collected them over the years–most of mine are tie-dyed West African ones. One set, in purple and green, have a batiked elephant on each one! The matching tablecloth wore out years ago.
    I love cloth napkins. So much cheaper! But I get tired of washing them too, by which I mean folding them–I just throw them in with other loads so the actual washing is no problem!

  8. I’ve been thinking about switching to washcloths for a while, but I keep running into the same snag:
    I also use cheapie washcloths for my kitchen counters and dish rags, and I wouldn’t want to mix them up with the nice ones for meals. The ones I use in the kitchen get a little dingy and grungy. Maybe I could get them all in one specific color and keep those separate from the others… aah, this is why it hasn’t happened yet.

  9. We use the same packs from Wal-Mart and it works great for us, too. My only problem is I seem to be the only one in the family who can differentiate between those and the ones for the bathroom so I have to sort them every time. We also subscribe to the grab one if you need one and wash them when dirty theory. Works for me.

  10. I recently heard of someone using an old bed sheet and using zig zag scissors to cut them apart so they didn’t even have to sew them! You could get quite a few from one sheet and would be easier to sort out from the rest! Just thought I’d pass it along…

  11. Kristin says:

    Thanks so much for inspiring me to break out my old cloth napkins. Putting them on the table is great idea! I’ve had bunches in a drawer for “special occasions” but never remember to get them out. I used to use them all the time before I had kids. I think I’ve left them put away so they wouldn’t get ruined…seems kinda silly now!

  12. Claire J Rogers says:

    Seriously??? You people have time to fool around with napkin rings and coordinated napkin colors and thinking kids will keep track of their napkin and also when it needs to be washed?!!!
    This must be a joke—HAHAHAHA!!!

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