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Simple, inexpensive, every day cloth napkins

February 1, 2012

Do you feel guilty about the number of paper towels/napkins you and your family waste in a week?

I do.

Every time I put a new roll on the holder, I feel bad. I even tear mine in half or quarters, since we rarely need the whole napkin.

It just seems like a lot of paper to waste!

SOOOOOO…….I decided to make some simple cloth napkins!

I actually also bought a couple packs of simple, cheap, wash cloths from Walmart ($4 for 18 towels) that I use for cleaning up, or when R is painting etc.

So to make these, I took the EASIEST paths I could manage.

First of all: I used fabric that I had and didn’t care for any more.  For some reason, the first time I went to the HUGE Joann’s near me, I had been sewing for all of about 2 months, and didn’t know what I was doing.  Once there, I was so over whelmed by all the fabric choices, that I went a little crazy and bought DOZENS AND DOZENS of different fabrics.  Not only that, but I had not concept of yardage, and bought 1-2 yards of each!  Needless to say, my wallet was completely deflated, and I have been using that stash ever since (that was 3 years ago!).  Not surprisingly, there are several fabrics in there that I don’t really like any more and can’t see myself making anything out of.  SOOO…that’s what I used for my napkins.  I definitely would rather have fun, bright colored napkins, but I figure I might as well use what I have.  Plus they are dark colored, so should hide all the crud!

Second shortcut: Since I wasn’t really worried about making the napkins pretty or making them match (remember, the main purpose of these napkins is to be FUNCTIONAL), I cut the fabric on the folds.  I basically folded it up into halves over and over again, and cut along each fold.  That way I didn’t waste time measuring.  I just new I wanted small napkins, so I made them all pretty small – I think they are about 8 x 10 inches or smaller.

Third “shortcut” (but not really): Instead of using my rotary cutter, I thought I would be really smart and use my new pinking shears.  I figured I wouldn’t have to sew anything!  WRONG!

This is what I ended up with after I washed them.  A big frayed mess!  I thought pinking shears were supposed to prevent fabric from unravelling!  Ummm…not so much.

As you can see in these pictures, it looks like one side didn’t fray as much, while the other did.  But regardless, I ended up with a lot of stringy mess!

So, I had to go back and sew the edges.

Third (real) shortcut: I serged the edges of the napkins instead of turning them under and sewing them.  If you don’t have a serger, you could do a zigzag stitch around the edges with your sewing machine.  Looking back, I wish I would have done this because now my seams are at risk of unravelling since there is no way to backstitch on the serger.

Fourth Shortcut: Instead of sewing each side and cutting the thread each time, I serged in one contiguous line from start to finish.  I know you don’t really turn corners with sergers, but I figured, why not??

Plus, my serger knife decided to STOP working!  ACK!  I wasted about 3 hours trying to figure out what was wrong – to no avail.  Then I wasted another 2 hours cutting all the frayed edges and threads off the napkins before serging them since the serger wouldn’t do it for me.  So save yourself some time – do NOT pink your napkins and then wash them!  If anything, you can pink them, but sew them before washing.

As you can see in these pictures, I basically sewed to the edges, then before the fabric and stitches came completely off the stitch finger (i.e. before it went too far) I stopped, and turned the fabric 90 degrees and continued sewing!  As you can see in the picture below, they didn’t always turn out perfectly.  Honestly, I wasn’t willing to put more time into these than I already had, so I didn’t worry about it.  Given that I am extremely type A, this is a big step for me.

When I got back tot the starting edge, I tucked the beginning thread under so that it would get sewed in at the end.

Unfortunately, I think these seams are at risk of unravelling.  There are things you can do to secure them – some people say they thread the tail into the stitches, others use seam sealant on the corners.  I think I might buy that and add it to the napkins.

That’s it!  It will be much faster the second time around, when I think I will probably use more fun fabric.  =)

So I encourage you to make some green, sustainable napkins for your family too!!

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