Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tutorial: Cloth Napkins

Things in our home sometimes get names that make no sense.  It's a part of our language shorthand that we understand, but when you think about it, is unexplainable.  That weird place is where the name "face cloths" comes from.

These small squares of fabric were made to be used in place of paper towels for most of the things we use paper towels for.  I suspect the name "face cloths" refers to their use as dinner napkins, but I'm just guessing.

They are made from a queen-sized sheet I got at Urban Outfitters years ago during a 50% off sale.  I thought I'd use it as a purse linings, then I thought I'd use it as an actual sheet, but I never ended up using it for anything at all.  I've been saving it to become face cloths, it seems.

Here's the quick and dirty tutorial:

1. Cut cotton fabric into 12" squares.  I used my cutting mat, rotary cutter, and clear ruler.  So fast and easy to cut square with those tools.

2. Trim all 4 corners.  I cut them so the deepest part of the cut was about 1/4" from the corner.

3. Fold over 3/8", then 3/8" again to hide the raw edge.  I just eyeballed this step.

4. Sew a 1/4" hem on all four sides.  I used my fancy 1/4" seam foot for the first time on this project.

We do use them as dinner napkins.  We will also pile unwashed or washed vegetables on them during dinner preparation, or use them as spoon rests, and they are great for wiping all the cauliflower crumbles off the cutting board so you can cut other food without coating them in cauliflower crumbles.

I bought a small $1.50 trash can at Daiso (the Japanese one yen store in town) and put it next to the dirty clothes basket to hold the dirty face cloths.  They don't really get that dirty, though.  Anything supergross that needs to be done still gets done by a paper towel that I can throw away.

They fit in the same washer load as all the towels, so they don't make me do any extra loads of laundry.  So far, I'm really happy with them.
39 Comments (comments are disabled)

Seanna Lea said ...
Definitely cute and thrifty. I've never bought anything from UO. I had no idea that they could have something as pretty as that sheet on clearance.
5/5/2011 9:06 AM

Martha Winger said ...
I must make some of these. We went through a roll of paper towels in a week! So much more eco-friendly. Curious, are these 100% cotton?
5/5/2011 9:27 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Martha Winger ... Yes, indeed.
5/5/2011 9:46 PM

Sarah said ...
I always used face cloths to refer to cloths that you use to wash your face with or your body with in the shower. It never occurred to me that the term could come from using these odd pieces of cloths as napkins.
Also that is a cool looking sheet, and it makes for some funky looking, bright coloured face cloths.
5/5/2011 10:00 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Sarah ... Neither of us used the word before we started talking about making them. We don't call napkins face cloths and we don't call wash cloths face cloths. I sorta thought we made it up, but it seems that it's a common term to some people. Maybe we heard it somewhere?
5/5/2011 9:48 PM

Laura said ...
Hah, I grew up with cloth napkins! My mom has a huge drawer full of the things, she made about half of them herself. They last for the longest time, and you're right, they aren't a bother to clean. They're also so much less expensive than paper napkins, I have no idea why people use paper instead of cloth.

Even if you buy premade ones, the cost of use goes down each time you use them. So, if you buy a pack of napkins where one napkin cost the awful price of $2 and you use it once a week, it's down to about $.04 a use in a year's time. If you buy a yard of some fabric for, like, $6, you'd get nine napkins I'd guess, and just think of the cost of use on those after a year! I do think about this sort of thing too much, how did you know?
5/5/2011 12:04 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Laura ... Haha! We think about these things too much, too, but I don't think it's bad. :)
5/5/2011 9:48 PM

Janda said ...
I was thinking the same thing as Sarah about the face cloths for washing faces, but before reading your blog I thought maybe since the fabric pattern looks a bit like a face (I know, a little weird)...BIG eyes and freckles (like my face!!) that might be what you were referring to.
Those scissors are so cute! Where did you get them? Fiskars?
5/5/2011 1:28 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Janda ... Haha! I have freckles, too, but I don't think that's where we got the name. :) The scissors came from Walmart years ago. They are ultrasharp brand.
5/5/2011 9:50 PM

Anne said ...
Growing up in the UK facecloths are the same as washcloths he in the USA.
5/5/2011 5:01 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Anne ... Maybe we overheard someone using the term at some point in our lives and this is the time it decided to make it's appearance in our lexicon. :)
5/5/2011 9:50 PM

Birdy said ...
I love these! I'll definitely have to start looking at sheets on sale for this kind of stuff. I'll be honest, I never thought of it...

You're so full of good ideas. :D
5/5/2011 6:30 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Birdy ... Gah, you're a sweetie. :)
5/5/2011 9:51 PM

katie the kid said ...
"well, duh" the first thing that went through my mind. what a great idea...need to do that with some of our fabric that is too "old," but still too pretty to get rid of...always hard to get rid of (usually we pass it on) "old" fabric and we like to use paper towels for dinner - *much* better idea...thanks for sharing and "hitting me upside the head" : ) Peace!
5/5/2011 9:27 PM

futuregirl replied ...
katie the kid ... Oh, this would be great for left over fabric, wouldn't it? Great idea! :)
5/5/2011 10:09 PM

Vivi said ...
Oh my GOD thank you for this! I've recently pulled my sewing machine out of the closet and this will be great practice for my seams as well as super convenient (with a two year old, we go through a LOT of paper towels!).
5/6/2011 5:42 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Vivi ... Two? I know I'm incredulous every time I hear how old Fry is, but OMG, time is slipping down the drain, isn't it?! :)
6/3/2011 9:44 PM

Nicole said ...
Another great idea! We have been trying to cut down on "wasting" around the house..this will help for sure! Thank you!!

5/6/2011 2:02 PM

Elizabeth said ...
We call "washcloths" face cloths here in Canada too. I was so confused by this post! :-)
5/6/2011 5:26 PM

Margaret said ...
This is such a timely project for me. I've never been much into sewing, but I definitely am ready to reduce the number of paper towels we use in our household. Thanks for this great idea.
5/7/2011 12:53 AM

Kerry said ...
Very cute love these and what a great way thing to make xx
5/7/2011 3:23 PM

Melanie said ...
We always use "Face cloth" to distinguish the one you wash the kids (or your) face with after supper from the one you use on dishes or the table/counter. It is common among my friends but I am not sure where it came from.
5/7/2011 4:22 PM

I have been meaning to make some cloth napkins for ages, using up some of my stash items. It's a great project. It hadn't occurred to me though how many things you could use them for! We don't use paper in the kitchen, but we've been using dishcloths to wipe off the cutting board and then I always feel like I have to wash the cutting board! And we uses plates for almost every "holder" type application, but I'd really rather throw some extra cloths into the wash then overload the dishwasher (which is groaning under the strain of dishes anyway). So thank you for all those great ideas!!!! Genius!

5/9/2011 7:00 PM

kate said ...
just found your blog and I love it. You seem to have so much going on - wish I had half your energy!!!
5/9/2011 7:45 PM

Jennifer said ...
I've been thinking a lot lately on how to reduce all unnecessary waste in my home. This is a great project. I go through too many paper towels, and making my own reusable towels out of old sheets or fabric scraps is an awesome way to cut back on all the waste. Thanks for posting this!
5/10/2011 3:50 PM

Seanna Lea said ...
Congrats on speaking at Maker Faire Bay Area. I wish I lived in that area so I could go. I don't think there is any Maker Faire-type event in the Boston area.
5/11/2011 5:58 AM

Kimberli said ...
A number of my ESL pals ask me about why things have the names they do... I think you could be right about Face Cloth... but then how did it migrate into the Lu?
5/12/2011 7:17 AM

What a great idea! Good for you for cutting down on your family's waste =) That pattern is super cute too!
5/13/2011 3:38 PM

pam said ...
So now I am on the look out for a sheet or other fabric in yellow and French blue. Wouldn't that be perfect?
5/13/2011 5:26 PM

victoria said ...
lol at the cauliflower crumbles - man, those little things get everywhere!! :)
what an awesome project though! and i love that it used to be sheets! i've thought about buying sheets to use for crafty projects and always got the side-eye from people, like i'm crazy or something.. but what do they know, right ;)
5/15/2011 5:31 PM

Alina said ...
Thanks for the inspiration. And motivation.
5/22/2011 7:11 AM

Susie said ...
I LOVE this idea. Simple and brilliant!
5/22/2011 9:44 AM

Alexa said ...
Wow! And here I was about to buy some cloth napkins from the Katy Brown collection. Now I can actually make ones that I think are pretty! How long do you think machine-sewn embellishments would last on these?
5/23/2011 6:59 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Alexa ... Embroidery is much more resilient than you'd think. I did some hand embroidery on my craft bag and it goes through the wash just fine. Machine embroidery would fair even better. Just be sure to tie your thread ends so it doesn't just unravel itself.
6/23/2011 9:25 PM

jesslope said ...
I love this idea. the colors are great too.
5/23/2011 10:27 AM

Angela said ...
I have been holding out buying new napkins because they are so expensive. Thank goodness you are thinking outside the box for all of us. Time to get myself to the outlet store for a big sheet! My kids will be very happy that I'll finally let go of our ratty cloth napkins.
5/27/2011 9:09 AM

Kim said ...
What a great idea. I love the thrifyness of it. Thanks for taking time to post such adorable ideas.
5/30/2011 2:21 PM

Tanya S. said ...
HAHA @ "Face Cloths"! I can TOTALLY see that! That is much more original than my names for household items: Planty, Quilty, etc. LOL.
6/13/2011 8:55 AM
Emma said ...
I love this idea! My partner just gave me a pile of his old cotton shirts to recycle for crafty projects - definitely going to turn them into some funky cloths (he has a vibrant collection of shirts!)
8/30/2011 3:01 AM