These napkins are ones we use everyday in our house. The directions for them are all here in this post, but also, part of Sugar and Salt: The Orange Book, one of my three cookbooks. Feel free to pop on over the to the store and check out all three. We wrap them here at our little shop and can personalize them for you as well.
As for the napkins themselves, they mean something deeper than just the usefulness of them. The making of a daily meal together with plates, cloth napkins, a full set of silverware, and a simple candle. The moment of rest or prayer or grace – that pause when everyone is sitting at the table and we give thanks for those who are with us and those who are not, for the food we have in front of us. The babble of conversation, the telling of a day, the connecting over opinions. The arguing over opinions. The bickering, the laughing, the time together. Each day.
Daily moments like these are ones that build bonds and connections in our families. I would suggest that the event of setting the table, sitting down to face each other, and lingering for even a few minutes is a worthwhile endeavor. I would suggest that we be purposeful about dinnertime.
When I was a child, my mom made a point of eating dinner as a family. We were a busy brood with three kids, all of whom became three teenagers with sports and afterschool/evening events that bumped up against a regular meal time. Instead of abandoning family dinner completely, my mom just shifted the time of dinner to when the greatest number of us could be in the same room together. It wasn’t until those scheduling decisions fell to me in my own household that I realized how much intention this habit required.
It was only one, maybe two generations ago, depending on how old you are, that everyone in the neighborhood sat down to eat dinner between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Now we’re lucky if everyone is even home by 7 p.m., much less eating dinner together. While there are many things about the 50’s that I’d be willing to leave behind, our cultural lack of a family dinnertime is not one of them. It’s not so much the specific time of evening – who cares if dinner is at 5:30 or 6:30 p.m.? It’s that for many of us, dinnertime is not happening at all. We have so many more choices now than we did culturally 50 or 60 years ago. Our families have more diversity. But with more choices comes the responsibility of greater intention or purposefulness.
I felt strongly about dinnertime when our girls were little because I witnessed how calm they could be when we gave them that daily rhythm. Conversely, we had to the live with tear-stained faces and tantrums when we, as parents, neglected to create balance in our home. Even with balance, the tears and tantrums emerged, of course, just with less frequency.
When our daughters became teenagers, we found that they still needed the balance and rhythm, only in different ways. We also needed a way to connect with them without directly questioning them. The details of their day came out sideways and indirectly in moments when we were driving or sitting at the dinner table. Somehow it’s safer to unpack the day when the microscopic focus of parental scrutiny is muted.
And so we sit, we give thanks, we eat – together. We set the table, use cloth napkins, light a candle and mark the end our day – with each other.
Mitered Corner Napkins
Makes 4 dinner napkins
Fabric – 1 yard, 44-inch wide Essex Yarn Dyed Linen/Cotton in Denim Blue
Thread – matching or contrasting cotton thread
Tools – garment scissors (or rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, and ruler), erasable fabric pen, pins
- Prepare – Wash, dry, and iron fabric before beginning.
- Cut Fabric – Lay the fabric out onto a self-healing cutting mat and cut 4 equal squares, 17 by 17 inches each. There will be enough fabric left over to also make 4 smaller cocktail or child napkins.
- First Fold – Lay each square onto an ironing board right side down and press a 1/2-inch hem on each of the 4 edges toward the wrong side.
- Second Fold – Repeat the hem process by folding and pressing the 1/2-inch hem again toward the wrong side of the fabric.
- Marking Mitered Corners – Unfold the Second Fold and bring the tip of each corner toward the center to create a triangle with 1-inch sides. Press all 4 corners, unfold, and trace the interior fold line with an erasable fabric marker.
- Sewing Mitered Corners – Meet the 2 sides of a corner and precisely match the marker line with right sides matching and wrong side out. Pin and sew the corner together along the marker lines, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam. Snip the corner fabric off, leaving a scant 1/8-inch seam allowance. Repeat with the other 3 corners.
- Turning Mitered Corners – Now refold the Second Fold, tucking the mitered corners up under themselves so that the napkins lay flat. Press and pin.
- Final Stitching – Using either matching or contrasting thread, edgestitch with a scant 1/2-inch seam allowance all the way around the napkin, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam. Repeat with the other 3 napkins. Makes 4 napkins 15 by 15 inches.