Ditching Paper Napkins for Good (hopefully)


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I’m not the greenest gal on the face of the planet, but I like to do what I can.

We’ve tried using cloth napkins before, but it’s never stuck.

For one thing, we had supply issues. There simply weren’t enough napkins to last between launderings. Actually, we do technically have enough napkins, but most of them aren’t of the sort that I’d permit small, messy children to use on a regular basis.

Which leads to the other main problem: I got tired of treating stains and/or ending up with stained, sad napkins.

A third minor issue was that regular cloth napkins seemed SO huge for everyday purposes, especially for kids. (Think: more stains, more crumbs trapped in more folds).

Then I had an idea. I would look for inexpensive, colorful napkins and cut them into quarters.

We’d have an ample supply, the size would be perfect for everyday use and the colors would hide stains. Plus, they wouldn’t be my “good” napkins and I wouldn’t care as much about their fate.

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One large napkin, cut into quarters.

A few months ago, I finally found the perfect napkins at a local thrift store: one set of 4 over-sized napkins and another set of 2 regular napkins. All brand new, and super colorful, for about $6 total.

The only problem is that I don’t sew.

I wish I did, but I’ve tried a few times (granted, I was 12 years old for the first attempt, and for the second attempt I had an ancient, inherited beast of a machine that was simply worn out by the time it came to me) and have finally come to terms (I think) with the fact that I likely will never be a seamstress.

So a super-nice friend agreed to quarter and sew up our colorful napkins. I just got them back yesterday, and put them to use right away.  {Thanks, Alta!}

So far, so good!  The boys love them, and they are the perfect size to fold in half into a rectangle.

They also fit (sort of) in our napkin basket, with a little rearranging.

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Napkin basket with paper napkins

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Napkin basket with cloth napkins


I’m really hoping to ditch paper napkins for good this time!  (I’ll keep you posted…)  Anyone else use cloth napkins?  Any tips?

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Katie Enloe on 01/10/2013 at 7:06 pm

    I love this post. We have been doing this for several years in our house and have even made napkins as gifts for our friends. I have the kids go with me to the fabric store and go to the quilting sections and let them pick 3 fabrics each. I got a 1/2 yd of each and then cut and sew. We have pink frogs, cupcakes, tea pots, cowboy and Indians, bob the builder, fun polka dots, American flags, owl, tools, ships,hearts, Easter crosses, etc. We have more sophisticated fabric like yours for the adults. I definitely had to make more to keep the supply up with the laundry cycles. Friends love it when they come over and get to pick and choose their napkin pattern. I am so glad you shared this idea. Thank you!

    • Yankee Homestead on 01/10/2013 at 7:12 pm

      Katie, that sounds so fun! Really wish I could sew, but oh-well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing how you do it at your house!

  2. Lisa Morelli on 08/20/2021 at 12:04 pm

    I am on the same mission! Every time I go to a thrift store I look for cloth napkins. I’ve only found a few. I have gotten several sets on sale and even half price at Target and Pier One. I have some sets and mix and match colors. I like to use seasonal colors which spruces up my table. I love the idea from Katie about the variety of patterns. Next time one of my peeps has a baby I think I will make a set as a gift. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kathleen Henderson on 08/20/2021 at 5:32 pm

      Yes! A great gift idea and the possibilities are endless.

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