March 5, 2009

Cloth Napkin Report

I am happy and surprised to report that so far the cloth napkin experiment has been an unexpectedly smashing success. I was thinking the best possible outcome was "Yeah, I guess I'm willing to cope with this hassle, especially because it's so fun to buy cloth napkins"---but in fact the outcome is "OMG WE LOVE THESE." So fond of them are we, in fact, that if they were shown to be WORSE for the environment than paper napkins, we would furtively continue to use them and I would have to switch them over to one of my examples of how we all have things we do that could get us shot by environmental extremists.

The ones that turn out to be perfect for the kids are the "cocktail" napkins. They're smaller and more manageable than the regular kind. There were two sizes of cloth cocktail napkins: one was the size of a folded paper cocktail napkin (5 inches square?) and I didn't get any of those (for one thing, they were WHITE). The other size FOLDS to the size of a folded paper cocktail napkin, so it's more like 10 inches square which is perfect. (The regular size of cloth napkin is 20 inches square, which is HELLA GENEROUSLY large.)

My next shopping quest (and I do love having a shopping quest: even if I buy only cat litter and toilet paper, the shopping trip is still fun because I had something fun to look for) is napkin rings. I bought two sets of four at 75% off, but each set is matched. Paul chose one of the wooden ones for his napkin, and I chose one of the metal ones for my napkin, but now we're out of Different Rings. So I'm going to keep looking for more. There are always a lot of them on post-Christmas clearances, and I am patient. Well, no, I'm not patient (you should have seen me FREAKING OUT for information about my newly-born niece), but I'm patient about bargains.

I also love Devan's idea of making some, and I'm going to see if I can get some big chunky gaudy beads for mine. And I also-also love the idea Jac left in the comment section about looking on eBay for old personalized napkin rings. I went looking but found that the ones I wanted (silverplate engraved "Beatrice," for example) are the ones that are covered in bids and going for $40 each, whereas the ones I would pay NOT to own (geese with country-blue ribbons around their necks) are ending with no bids.

31 comments:

Amanda said...

The cloth napkin experiment has been a smashing success here as well. We all just switched with hardly a fuss. We have four different napkin colors and everyone seems to gravitate to THEIR color and is happy as could be!

We're also having great fun with the Chicken Game. I even hid him in the freezer once. He was chilly but didn't seem to mind!

Kristine said...

When I was 10 and demanded my family switch to cloth napkins, I made the napkin rings using that plastic sheet of little square holes and "cross-stitching" them with names on them with yarn. Something you could make where the kids' all match and have their names on them.

Hotch Potchery said...

At our house cloth napkins are for d├ęcor and holidays... For everyday use we are paper towel users...does that make us white trash?

LoriD said...

When I first started out with cloth napkins, I had a few napkin rings that I received as wedding gifts, but not enough. Then one day I was in the craft store and found some mini grapevine wreaths for $0.25 each. Originally I thought I would decorate them with berries and beads and things, but all these years later, they're still plain and I love them as napkin rings!

Devan said...

oooh, chunky beads would be even better!!

Jen said...

Pier 1 often has very fun napkin rings on clearance

Smiling Mama said...

So glad to hear you are loving the cloth napkins! I completely agree that the regular size is TOO big. We like the cocktail size, too!

Jess said...

When I lived in France my host family had a set of plain wooden napkin rings that someone with artistic talent had painted with each of their names and a cute little design. When I first arrived I didn't have a napkin ring at all, and it was when they went out and bought me my own special one that I first really felt like part of the family.

Maggie said...

Pier 1 is a great place to get napkin rings - they usually have some that are cute, and often are on sale.

Misty said...

Ok, I am going to wave my ignorance about a bit: What is the point of a napkin ring?

Thank you.

Alice said...

if i ever sat down to dinner (instead of, um, eating by myself and my friend the dvr) i would be very tempted to switch to cloth after reading about your success :-)

Today Wendy said...

What about letting the kids decorate some of the extra rings?

Claire said...

I agree with the Pier 1 suggestion, as well as World Market. Super funky and cheap! I got some super cute green grasshopper napkin rings a while back at Pier 1 and I love the way they look against my red plates.

Claire
Tutus for Toddlers

Rah said...

Three years ago I got a new sewing machine with lots of fancy stitches, so I bought some multicolored fabric that was on sale and cut it half widthwise, then into squares. That made them about 20" which makes a wonderfully generous napkin. I hemmed them using a different fancy stitch and thread color on each, which was fun and a good way to check out how the stitches would look on other things. Still using the napkins--guests always comment about them. People have been known to use them as bibs tucked into collars over fancy shirts, when I'm serving something like spaghetti or soup.

Environment? Well, it's not like you are creating extra loads of laundry with them--you just pop them in with the towels or whatever. I never iron them, because by the time I smooth and fold them, they are just fine.

Mommy Brain said...

It's almost yard sale season! And yard sales are way more fun when you have a mission and get to scour yard sales for stuff like napkin rings.

Elizabeth said...

Lots of nice napkin rings in the vintage section of Etsy. Here's five different ones in one lot!

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_list_2&listing_id=19834857&ga_search_query=napkin+ring&ga_search_type=tag_title_vintage

Elizabeth said...

Also, they have very nice napkin rings for cheap at Crate and Barrel, and you can buy them individually.

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/search.aspx?query=napkin%20rings

Melissa H said...

We're cloth napkin converts too (switched about 2 years ago). I haven't used napkin rings but that might be fun! I made some napkins out of linen and they wash up great.

Nowheymama said...

Mommy Brain beat me to the yard sale idea, which I think could be very successful.

The kids and I have made the switch to cloth (in anticipation of my Swistle Box, I pulled out some old ones that I HATE but therefore don't care about when they get ruined). Daddy is the last holdout. Also, I found some wedding-gift napkin rings in our china cabinet. I just need to polish them. :)

Swistle said...

Misty- There are two uses for napkin rings:

1) The most common usage, which is to decorate the napkin when using cloth napkins once or twice a year on a fancy holiday table---in which case you want the rings all to match each other, so they are sold in matched sets of four or six.

2) What I think is the ORIGINAL and REAL usage, which is to mark whose napkin is whose so the napkins can be reused for multiple meals. For example, if I use a napkin at dinner but I basically only dab my mouth one time, the napkin doesn't really need to be laundered---but on the other hand, nobody really wants my mouth-dabbed napkin, either. So I put MY napkin ring on it, and everyone knows it's mine next time.

Linda said...

Do all your kids use napkins? I guess we're a messy, non-napkin using household because our kids just eat, make a mess, and then we wipe everyone down with a washcloth (changed daily).

Dr. Maureen said...

I bought two sets of cloth napkins at Kohl's yesterday! One set matches my kitchen curtains which pleases me far more than it probably should. And four different napkin rings! The rings were $0.39 each, on clearance of course. I looked for more to send to you, but there were only four that were not horrible tacky Christmas ones, and I needed four, so... you were out of luck.

Swistle said...

Elizabeth- Just placed an order at Crate & Barrel---thanks! Got two napkin rings (the plastic ones that were 95c each, one green and one teal), and, um, a million cloth napkins. LIKE I NEED MORE.

Linda- Oh, er, YES! Yes. They use napkins. Er...as of Tuesday, yes. (But not before, so we'll see if this works out now that we have cute little cloth ones.)

Dr. Maureen- OMG MUST GO TO KOHL'S NOW.

Merrily Down the Stream said...

I LOVE cloth napkins - been using them awhile. What freaks me out is at my mother-in-laws they use NO napkins. Hmmmm....

Like when you go to someone;s house and there are NO towels in the bathroom - eek!

Kim said...

I'm so happy about the fact my cloth napkins are winging their way to my house as we speak. I LOVE looking for things like napkin rings and now I'll have a real reason to!
Our chicken game is off to a slow start. I hid him in Brian's sock drawer, he found him and hid him from me...four days ago, or so he says. I just checked the drawer to make sure he really moved him and he did - I may never find Tyson again. And that makes me sad.

Michelle said...

At least eBay is proving that you've got some decent taste, right? :) And ummm my mom used to have those stupid goose ones.

jac said...

Um, yeah, I should probably point out that the last napkin ring I bought off ebay was literally years ago. Those suckers have got expensive. My next thought was to buy a plain set and get them formally engraved... with nicknames. I'm seeing an elegant silver napkin ring with a cursive script saying, "Damo". Oooh! You should do the kids' favourite book characters! Or Cluedo! I bags "Colonel Mustard".

Kelsey said...

I am not ready to do a cloth napkin experiment yet, but I'm inching closer, now that I know it is going so well for you. :-)

Stimey said...

I've been collecting cloth napkins with the goal of switching, but haven't quite made it. My big thing is: do you wash them after EVERY meal? Or do you just sort of gauge how dirty they are? And if so, does that mean that mostly clean but second use napkins go into their rings on the table and wait for another dinner? And, if so, do the napkins ever get mixed up or do the napkin rings have people's names on them? And even if they don't get mixed up, if you keep some napkins around for a second use and not others, do your kids freak out on each other, like, "I want the green one!" "No I want the green one!" and then you have to be all, "Well, if you hadn't spilled juice on your green napkin then you would still have it, but ya' did, so now you have to use the brown napkin."?

These are the concerns that have kept me from switching to the cloth napkins.

Stimey said...

And now I see that you've already answered all of my questions higher up in the comments. Except for the crazy-sibling one. Which may be solely my family's issue.

Swistle said...

Stimey- So far there hasn't been any bickering about the napkins, but we've been giving the kids the boring black ones and I have some pretty ones on their way to me in the mail, so WE'LL SEE.