Custom-decorated cloth napkinsBy Lori Bongiorno
Using cloth napkins instead of paper is a great way to cut down on waste. The laundry can pile up, though, for a family that uses them at every meal. That's why I was thrilled when I unwrapped my friend Jill Bouratoglou's creative homemade gift.
Inside was a set of cloth napkins with a clever eco-friendly twist. A different image was screen-printed on each napkin. She told everyone in my family to choose the napkin with our favorite design and use it at every meal.
Now that we've all been "assigned" a napkin, I'm told I don't have to wash them after each use. That's the best part, of course (think about it: you don't wash a hand towel after every single use either). Although, it doesn't hurt that the napkins look like they were purchased in a stylish boutique.
Jill assures me that these are easy to make. (I'm still impressed.)
Here are directions she adapted from several sources:
- Gather the following supplies: White cotton napkins, nontoxic fabric paint, a silk-screen frame, a squeegee or spatula, an X-Acto knife, masking tape, and 8 1/2 x 11 inch white paper.
- Make paper stencils. Draw or choose designs that you like, photocopy, and use an X-Acto knife to cut them out.
- Tape the stencil to the underside of the screen.
- Set the screen (mesh side down) on a napkin, mix the paint, and spread it on with a squeegee or spatula.
- Remove screen, wash it, and let your napkin dry.
- If you're looking to take a short cut, bypass screen printing and use rubber stamps instead. Dip them in paint, stamp on napkins, let dry, and follow the rest of the directions.
- Iron fabric well (for about 3 to 5 minutes) after it has thoroughly dried to make it washable.
- Wrap a stack of napkins in recycled colored tissue paper and tie them up with paper raffia ribbon. Check out more green wrapping options. Of course, using stuff you already have on hand is the greenest way to go.
See these screen-printing instructions for more details on the process.
For other projects, clear instructions, and gorgeous photos check out Printing By Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens, by Lena Corwin.
Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.