Today I am excited to have Rachel from Reprezent98201 sharing a speacial story about cloth napkins. I’m sure you will enjoy her story as much as I have.
After congratulating me on our engagement, my grandmother asked me a question I had been waiting to answer since I started dating my now husband:
“What colors would you like for your cloth napkins?”
Okay, not everyone would get excited about this but in my family, it’s a big deal. Cloth napkins are a main component in sharing meals with friends and family on my dad’s side of the family. At my grandparents’ house, everybody has a napkin ring with their name on it, printed from my grandmother’s old label maker. When you’ve been dating awhile, you know your significant other is considered marriage material because at the next meal at Grandpa and Grandma’s, there’s a new napkin ring with their name on it. Most likely they’re seated across the table from you so an uncle or cousin can give them a hard time though. I also grew up with cloth napkins in my parents’ house – my grandma was always bringing over a new set of cloth napkins, especially if the Mariners had a few games in a row on television…she always hemmed napkins or quilted her latest project during baseball games.
Why are cloth napkins so important to me? They’re a legacy, a tradition, a mainstay in the fabric of our family [double meaning intended]. As long as I can remember, we’ve used cloth napkins. They’re financially responsible, they’re good for the environment, and they have love in them. Really.
In response to my grandmother’s question about colors, I told her I liked bright colors. At my bridal shower a few months later, I opened a box with a few of our dinner plates she had purchased but more importantly, a set of 8 hand-hemmed cloth napkins in the most wonderful print of bright oranges, reds, teals, and pinks. She also included a set of hand-turned wood napkin rings from her neighbor, another piece in the puzzle of cloth napkin love.
You see, my grandparents live on a river in the little Cascade Mountain town of Leavenworth. Their neighbor George was a master woodworker and would make the most incredible treasures from wood that the river would leave on the rocky shore. One of his many handcrafted creations were napkin rings. He would go into his workshop with a rough section of wood and come out with perfectly shaped, incredibly smooth works of art. I received a stack of 6 napkin rings on a custom built “tower” that stands proudly on the hutch in our dining room. Inside each one, he wrote the name of the tree species the wood came from, adding to the care and character of each napkin ring.
He put love into every project he completed; the few months before he passed away, he chopped and stacked enough wood to last their home-heating woodstove for several years and wrapped all the honey-do projects around the house. No one knew why he was working so hard but when he passed away suddenly, we all saw his efforts come together as a last gift to his wife and those he knew would be taking care of her. Since my cloth napkins are wrapped in his handiwork, these cloth napkins have love in them.
There is something quaint, in a simple yet beautiful way, about cloth napkins. They represent a time when planned obsolescence was not part of our collective psyche, when we made do with what we had (dresses from curtains, Sound of Music fans?), and when the homemaking arts were truly an artform. Mostly unrecognized, but still, an art. My grandmother makes the most amazing things and has told me even more stories about the items she has crafted for friends and loved ones through the years: the 4 fingered gloves for the little boy at church with a birth defect, the argyle socks for my grandpa, each wedding quilt for my cousins and I. That is why my cloth napkins have love in them.
Cloth napkins are making a resurgence which is why I have the honor of sharing my story with you. People still startle when we sit down for a meal at our house and I get out cloth napkins instead of a torn-in-half paper towel or paper napkins. But then I get to tell them about my grandparents, my parents, and now my own cloth napkins. For my sister-in-law’s birthday this year, I made her a set of cloth napkins as a housewarming present for her new apartment. What better way to enjoy a good meal than with the accompaniment of beautiful and functional cloth napkins?
Whether you’ve been using cloth napkins for a time or just considering trying them out, you have an opportunity to maintain/start a family tradition that signifies a warm, inviting, and sustainable gathering. They bring beauty to your table, cleanliness to your lap, and joy to your heart. Don’t believe me? Make a few and share them with family and friends…you might just change your mind. Still not convinced? Shoot me an email and I’ll tell you more stories.
Thank you, friends, for letting me share this piece of my life story with you. Here’s to many meals with cloth napkins by your side!
I’m a stay at home mom to a baby girl but will eventually go back to my career as a teacher when our kiddos grow up. My husband brings home the big bucks 😉 as a public school teacher and I help out by coaching girls basketball and coed rowing. I’m just getting into blogging and like to post about recipes, homemaking, adventures in the outdoors, and how my faith in Jesus Christ intersects every aspect of my life. I write atreprezent98201.wordpress.com.