Thrift Store Score: Cloth Napkins

20 Jun

One of the things I totally love about thrift stores is that if you look long enough and at enough places, you’ll eventually find anything you could possibly need. This is true, and I’m sure there’s some mathematical theorem out there that could prove it. Case in point for me would be these cloth napkins.

I grew up with a cloth napkin hero. I mean, technically I was already an adult when I found this hero, but at 18 you’re really just a kid with permission to stay out late. My cloth napkin hero is named Gretchen, and she’s my friend Zack’s mom. She always had a basket on her counter filled with mismatched (but still, somehow, perfectly matched) cloth napkins, ready for use. I always wanted a basket like that on my counter or in my cupboards but cloth napkins can be expensive to buy new. Thanks to thrifting, I know have both the napkins and the basket in my cupboard.

I was able to pick up a few here and there while thrifting, but I scored the motherlode one day while out with my friend Stef, and purchased what was probably someone’s recently donated stash of cloth napkins. I keep a stash in the kitchen, but I also keep one in my purse for those times when Isobel eats a store sample of yogurt and ends up wearing half of it on her face. Oh, and if you have a cold? Using two or thee of these babies is way nicer on the skin than going through a thousand tissues. It’s also neater, because there comes that shameful part of the cold where you are too tired to even think about disposing of your used kleenex responsibly and you end up making disgusting nest in the used tissue. But I digress.

I am only showing you a small fraction of the cloth napkins I have amassed in these photos. I seriously have a large box that is nothing but cloth napkins. I rotate through the stack I have because I don’t have enough room to store them all in my kitchen, and because if I leave them out Isobel likes to cover half the house in cloth napkins and throws a fit when I try to pick them up because “Shh! Vacuum is sleeping!”

I probably don’t have to mention what a boon cloth napkins can be for a household budget. Especially with a toddler, I could potentially go through paper towels like crazy, and even though we buy them in bulk, it adds up. Plus the fact that cloth napkins are way easier on the environment–everybody wins. I am always especially thrilled when cute + thrifty + environmentally sustainable collide. Achieving two is the goal. Achieving all three is extra credit.

Typically I use one cloth napkin a day, and I share it between myself and Isobel. (Larger messes are handled by the cleaning rags, which I’ll talk about later.) Napkins used at one meal usually aren’t soiled enough to be washed, so I keep the same one for both of us around all day and toss it into the hamper after dinner.

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14 Responses to “Thrift Store Score: Cloth Napkins”

  1. Cameron June 20, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Loooooooove this! Now I want to go thrifting!

    • LittleBig June 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      I always want to go thrifting. 🙂

  2. Allie June 20, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    i love cloth napkins as well. We have a drawer in the credenza between our living and dining room and I love finding randoms at thrift stores, yard sales and on trips. I’m the same about dish towels as well (and we too use cloth rags – we have had the same roll of paper towel now for two years).

    • LittleBig June 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

      That’s awesome. I was just thinking the other day that I should write the date inside the tube of the paper towel to see how long it lasted.

  3. lilpyrogirl June 20, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    True confession. I eat in front of the TV most nights since it’s usually just me eating. And in an attepmt to prevent my food from landing on my shirt, I tend to use dish towels as napkins. And yes, I use them bib-style. Shocking that I’m still single, isn’t it? Anyway, cloth napkins might be a nice upgrade from dish towels. Will add to my “keep an eye out for” list.

    • LittleBig June 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      I should probably try this. I am a really messy eater.

    • Anne the Librarian June 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      YOU ARE NOT ALONE, lilpyrogirl. We use dish towels as napkins at our house, too, and especially while eating breakfast, I use one bib-style to avoid dripping egg yolk or other sundry messy things on my work clothes. If it’s reassuring, my husband has witnessed this a million times and has stuck around.

      • lilpyrogirl June 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

        I’m so glad I’m not alone.

  4. Sarah June 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    I’m with you. I love cloth napkins. There’s something so fancy about them…and something so every-day-all-purpose at the same time. Makes me think I should pay a bit more attention the linen section of my thrift stores! Great find! 🙂

    • LittleBig June 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      OMG, I totally agree! So fancy, yet so practical.

      They haven’t been easy to find in my neck of the woods, but I’ve noticed that different areas tend to have a whole lot of certain things. For example, I’ve bought about a dozen wooden and glass frames for prints and photographs, while a friend in Georgia can never find any.

  5. Anne the Librarian June 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    As I mentioned in my reply to @lilpyrogirl, we use dish towels as napkins. We eat most meals in the living room watching TV like the heathens we are, and we usually each have a dish towel hanging out on the arm of the loveseat, ready to catch our crumbles. I also use mine as a heat-shield when using my macbook on my actual lap. Most of our dishtowels have embroidered embellishments on them – when my mom and sister threw me a wedding shower each guest embroidered something while we sat around shooting the shit (I am the type of person who has a bridal shower at which shooting the shit is an agenda item). It was something my mom’s mom did at her shower, and I thought it was pretty cool. My sister did one with the design of my first tattoo (female symbol with devil horns) which makes me smile every time I see it. I now want more, more, more cloth napkins and dish towels!

    • LittleBig June 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      I LOVE embroidered dish towels! I started one myself but I’m quite a newb so I have lots to learn.

      Your shower sounds like it was super fun.

  6. Elizabeth June 21, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    We use cloth napkins exclusively, and have for years. In addition to being more green, it also feels more civilized! I wish we could have a napkin basket, but we have a pair of basket cats, so that’s not really an option. Alas.

    • LittleBig June 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      I totally agree with you that it feels more civilized, and I love that we’ve already started this example for Isobel.

      Peaches was a total basket cat. I miss him dearly.

      We need to set up that playdate for Isobel and Basil someday.

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