In my second post of my spring series, Entertaining 101: Stoking Up For Guests, I’d like toss out the idea of using cloth napkins… Here’s the first post on Water Goblets, in case you missed it!
I love cloth napkins. To me, they are like a special accessory you add to a party dress. Something pretty and colorful to set off the ensemble, making it unique and noteworthy. They come in prints, fancy colors, weaves, Jacquards… they even have beads and tasselled edges. They brighten up the table like flowers do. They are so cheerful!
Do I use cloth napkins every day? No. I’m not crazy! We eat tacos, spaghetti and sauce, BBQ … MESSY STUFF. And, I have a CHILD who likes to spill, smear and wipe stuff. No, we use regular, “Bounty brand” paper napkins every day. I even toss in some paper towels when we eat ribs and buttery corn on the cob. I do not like to be a slave to laundry and ironing. I know our environment could use a deep breath and deserves the dedicated people who do use cloth napkins every day, and I applaud them loudly — but honestly, I just don’t have it in me. (The following are from Target — Set of four under $10.00)
But on special occasions, when we have company over, or when we eat in the dining room, I break out my favorite table cloths and pretty cloth napkins. I love how they make the occasion a little bit more fancy, and I get to play with colors and pattern. Even if I don’t break out my fancy china, and we are just eating in the kitchen with my plain white dishes, I can still use my cloth napkins and place mats or chargers for special guests like the pastor, my in-laws, close friends, or for a special birthday. I actually even have some of the napkins I’ve pictured in this post, love them, and use them not only frequently but over and over again — even if it’s just to line a chip basket or a bread basket.
Cloth napkins aren’t as intimidating as they sound, if you purchase the right kind of fabric. Polyester is NOT the right fabric. It is very difficult to keep clean. Oils and grease stain easily and when you wipe your mouth with them, they really don’t absorb well. Liquids don’t absorb into the fabric, and just bead up and roll right off. It’s annoying and I just want to ball them up and throw them across the room whenever I use them at restaurants. They are not a nice napkin to use.
On the other hand, 100% cotton is a wonderful fabric to use for napkins. They absorb beautifully, and they come in beautiful prints and colors. And, while not my favorite, Cotton/Poly blend works well, too. They actually wash up nicely and easily with all the modern cleaning products we have. More on that later. (The following are from Wal-Mart — Set of eight under $10.00, set of 4 under $5.00)
In general, cloth napkins make your invited guests feel special, like you actually went out of your way to make the dinner table fancy for them… even though you didn’t. They fold nicely under the fork, or you can fold them into a fancy shape and place them on the dish or fan them out in a water goblet. Either way, they just say: You are special enough to bring out the best, and you will get “oohs,” “ahhhs,” and “oh you shouldn’t have,” and “everything is so beautiful” whenever you put them out, and THAT ALONE should make you feel good about yourself (even if you burn dinner)!
Cloth napkins aren’t only pretty and functional, they save money. You’re not constantly running out to buy colored paper napkins for special occasions. Sure, there is a place and time for colored paper napkins… say, a large graduation or other large celebration party, where you need 100 napkins. Yes, paper napkins always have their place (you can see I’m trying hard to convince myself). Actually, I do love to get pretty cocktail napkins, and I pass them out with the water goblets or with dessert. I also get colorful paper napkins for my little boy’s birthday parties. See? They do have their place. Keep in mind he was born in 2005. He’s a child that has child-sized friends that make child-sized messes. I however, am an adult, and I like to adult with other adults in the dining room on occasion. So when you have small, intimate parties, don’t be afraid to bring out the cloth napkins. Challenge yourself. I double-dawg-dare-you-to. As an adult, that is. Ehem. Spit shake on that? (The following are from Pier 1 — from $3.68 to $4.95 each)
Purchasing tips for cloth napkins: Always look for heavy cotton and woven cotton napkins. They wear better, and wash and dry better. They will come out of a hot dryer less wrinkled, and will only need a quick press of an iron. Lighter cotton and linen will need heavier ironing and possibly some light starching. Remember… just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better!!
Washing tips: As soon as your guests leave, pick up your napkins and table cloths, shake the crumbs off of them, and squirt them with my special Stain Removing spray recipe: in a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of blue Dawn dishwashing detergent, and one cup of hydrogen peroxide. Shake well until combined. Spray any stains you see on the napkins and table cloths. Let them sit while you put leftovers away in the refrigerator and load the dishwasher (or at least 30 minutes). Load your washing machine with your detergent and a capful of OxyClean. Allow your washing machine to fill with water. Toss in your table-cloth and napkins and allow them to soak over night in the water with the lid open (if you can). Close the lid to your washing machine the next morning and let the machine run. Dry them in the dryer, and take them out as soon as the dry cycle ends. Run the iron over them immediately and fold them neatly and put them neatly away so they are ready to use the next time you need them.
And really, that’s all … According to Giselle!