No Quilting Skills Required
It was a warm, May evening in my sleepy, coastal town in the Carolinas. I suggested one of my favorite local hangouts, and being the consummate gentleman, he agreed. I wouldn’t have long—my dinner break from my TV station was an hour—an hour and a half if I pushed it a little, and I’d have to get back to prepare for the 11:00 news. Didn’t matter. Both of us would have jumped on just 10 minutes to be together. When you know, you know, right? And we both knew we’d found something special.
We rendezvoused at a little seafood restaurant on Middle Street in downtown New Bern. I don’t remember what we ordered—knowing me, it was steamed mussels or a steak. Knowing him, it was whatever I ordered. The conversation was easy—like we’d known each other our entire lives. Drinks, smiles, some light laughter, that magical feeling that I was dining with a special human…
Then the meals came. They were piping hot, beautifully presented, and accompanied by… paper napkins!
“Paper napkins? What the hell is this?”
Somehow, life had failed to teach me that particular litmus for nice restaurants. We weren’t eating cold mashed potatoes from a buffet that didn’t have a sneeze guard. It was a dine-in restaurant with a courteous, professional wait staff. The food was piping hot and had always been good in the past. And looking around, I didn’t see anyone eating bloody hamburgers on plain, white bread, so I was good. But my date?
I mentioned he was a gentleman, and as a gentleman, he noted his horror and moved on, but it was obvious that this napkin thing was no small issue. I was somewhere between this guy is too good to be true and this paper napkin aversion is ridiculous. And I was also mature enough to know we had amazing chemistry and I wasn’t throwing it away for a silly hang up—we all have at least one—or a hundred.
Several dates later, I learned that his cousin owned a fine, Italian restaurant in Nebraska. He’d grown up seeing trucks drop off and pick up cloth napkins and tablecloths for weekly laundering—an expensive service his cousin insisted on to give his customers a fine dining experience. No strapped-on feed bags, no buffets, and no paper towels at Tony Domino’s Italian Village restaurant. No way! It was old school manners, and old school class.
I married that classy, sometimes fussy, wonderful guy two decades ago. Lord, has it been that long? Now, I can’t sit down at a restaurant without noticing: are they paper, or are they real? I’m certainly not too good for paper napkins. Our family of four uses paper towels on quick meal days, and we have a lot of those days. But when we’ve planned, prepped and spent considerable time and money to make a nice meal, cloth napkins are front and center, twisted into cute little napkin rings and perched on top of plates to polish off a beautiful table setting. They make the statement that extra effort was put into this meal. It says someone cares and wants the meal to feel as good as it tastes. I like that. No, I love that. And restaurants that add that special touch get my attention. As an added bonus… it saves trees!
Yes, after all these years, I’m an unapologetic napkin snob. And now that it’s out there, you’re ruined— this is something you can’t unread. You’ll never see paper napkins in the same light, I promise. So take an hour out of your life and whip up some quick napkins. They’re easy, take little fabric, and they’re meal changing.
Welcome to team Napkin Snobs. You’re welcome.
Two yards of fabric, or eight fat quarters, make four napkins with a front and a back, no raw edges.
- Layer two yards of fabric on top of each other. Remove the selvages and cut the yards in half to make four 18″ by LOF [length of fabric] cuts. *Note: You might want a fresh rotary blade to cut through four layers of fabric.
- Now turn them lengthwise and cut them at 18″ again, which will give you four squares. You’ll have a few inches left over for the scrap pile.
- Take a front side and a back side, right sides together, and sew them together using a quarter inch seam. Leave a 3″ opening for the turn.
- Turn the napkin out so you’re looking at the pretty sides. Use a pointer to get those corners nice and square.
- Sew the outside all the way around to close the opening–sew as close to the edge as you can.
- Now go back around and sew a little less than a quarter inch inside your first first sewing line. This second line gives your napkins a professional, polished look.
- Voila! You’re done and ready to serve up some sweet napkin snobbery. 😊