Cloth Napkins ?Going Green?

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Uncategorized

 There was a time when a starched, crisply pressed, snow white damask linen napkin was the sign of fine dining at home or in a restaurant.  It was a time when silver, crystal and bone china were essentials for an elegant table service.  But, silver must be polished and those fragile crytal and china pieces are meant to be hand washed.  The damask linens are elegant but they required a lot of labour to bleach, startch and hard press.  Even then it is difficult to press large pieces to perfection.

It is no wonder that paper napkins, stainless steel cutlery and microwave friendly dishes are the norm today.  Some people have questioned the environmental impact of those paper napkins and the culture of discarding items instead of reusing them.  Ugh to reusing paper napkins! 

Here’s to the return of the cloth napkin in a form that is more casual, much easier to care for and a lot “greener” than the alternative.  That would be great for hand weavers.

Ann’s log cabin & twill napkin


Napkins are an ideal project for weavers.  They are relatively small.  In New Key to Weaving, Mary Black suggests “informal napkins” can be 14×16, 12×14 or a lapkin 12x 12.  If you prefer “formal” dinner napkins they are 22×22 (inches).  You have your pick of sizes, many of which can be woven on a small table loom.

Napkins make ideal samples and are often used as teaching tools because they can be woven on small looms in a relativcly short time.  They also give the student a better sense of accomplishment because they are actually a finished useful item.  The blue napkin in the photo was a sample.  The pattern combines twill stripes with log cabin rectangles.  The twill bands seem to float above the rectangles.

Perhaps you want to explore a design on your own.  In that case, you can do as Carol did and put on a long warp (but not too long) then play with different colours, treadlings or tie ups.  You won’t get bored and you will end up with a host of napkins that are unique but make a set because they share design elements and colours.  Carol’s guests will have their own distinct napkins.  She chose a colour and weave twill structure that uses 8 harnesses.  It produces a pinwheel design.

Pinwheel colour & weave

Napkins also make good group projects.  The napkins pictured below were woven on one of our guild looms as an introduction to the weave structure called “turned taquete”.

Linda’s turned taquete

The napkins pictured above are in a casual style that fits dining today but if you long for the elegance of a previous time you can always count on a lace weave structure.

Pat’s lace napkin

If you have a table loom or a rigid heddle loom with a 16 inch weaving width you might want to consider a set of table napkins for your next project.  You can use any fine cotton or if you are going for elegant, fine linen.  Have fun designing different colour combinations in a myriad of weave structures from plain weave to lace. 

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild has started off this year with both on-line and in-person classes.  We expect to have more studio based activities in the coming months.  We’ll check in with photos of student projects in future posts.

  If you are interested in participating check the workshop and events listings in the side bar.

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