The average person uses around six paper napkins per day — that’s over 2,000 per year! And that doesn’t even count paper towels. I’ve always used cloth napkins at home, and make it a point to search them out at vintage, antique and second-hand stores — the patterns and textures always intrigue — so when I first saw that statistic, I thought “there’s no way I could possibly use that many!” but then I thought a little harder. There’s the napkin I always grab with my morning coffee, the couple I use at lunch, then the few I need to dry that freshly-washed lunch container… before I knew it, my number had grown far higher then that original six. So, in keeping with my Earth Month intention, I decided to take control of that number and make a few sets of my own cloth napkins to bring with me to work, on the road, and anywhere else I may have to contend with that all-too-convenient dispenser.
Unlike paper napkins, these can be used over and over again and, if washed in cold water and line-dried, are far more environmentally-friendly than their disposable counterparts. Try searching out organic fabric at the craft store or take your eco-friendliness one step further and source some natural-fiber fabric from the thrift store. Make a few sets and they’ll last you for years to come! Check out the DIY, below:
1 yard 100% natural fiber fabric (linen, cotton, bamboo, hemp…)
Iron and ironing board
Sewing machine or needle & thread
First wash and dry your fabric to remove any sizing and account for any shrinkage. Once removed from the drier, use a warm iron to press out any wrinkles. Cut or rip the fabric along the grain into 12 x 12-inch squares. I chose to leave the edges raw, but you could also easily create a folded hem if you wanted your napkins to look more polished.
Using your sewing machine (or a needle and thread), sew a straight stitch 1/4-inch in from the edge along all sides, pivoting the needle so the stitching does not run off the edge. When you arrive back where you started, tie off or back-stitch to secure the ends. Repeat with each napkin until you have a set.
These are so simple and quick to make, I can almost guarantee you’ll want to make a few different sets for different times of year and different occasions. Try using heavier-weight fabric to take the place of paper towels, too.
+ What projects are you working on for Earth Month?
Check out more Earth Month projects, tips and tricks from BLDG 25!