Purge the Paper, Cut the Shirt: DIY Cloth Napkins

Before we sing the virtues of using cloth napkins again, let’s get the facts straight. According to the EPA, the U.S. generates approximately 3,430,000 tons of tissue, napkins and paper towels of waste. That’s a lot of trees…all non-recyclable. It’s enough to make you go on a paper purge.

So once again, let’s toast to the eco-friendly cloth napkin:

• Cloth napkins can be used and reused over and over again.
• Cloth napkins dress up your table.
• Cloth napkins help with spills.
• Cloth napkins take up less wash (in cold water) than a bulky tablecloth.
• Cloth napkins are classy and chic.
• Cloth napkins feel good.

Want to save some trees? Here’s a no cost, quick, DIY project inspired by a Martha Stewart, project that you won’t lose your shirt on.

What you need:

Shirts-men’s oxford or flannel shirts work well. Mix and match napkins for an eclectic table or find some similar shirts (blue oxfords are easy to come by).
Ruler or tape measure
Sewing machine (optional)

What to do:

1. Measure the size of the napkin you want. I measured two different sizes. One napkin from Crate and Barrel and one vintage napkin. The vintage napkin was 4 inches smaller. Who knows, maybe there’s a correlation between napkin size and super-sized portions? Here’s my measurements:
Large napkin–18” square.
Small napkin–14” square.

2. Lay the shirt flat and cut a square piece of the shirt.

For a no-sew fringe edge, pull the threads off evenly on each side. Or, with a sewing machine, hem stitch the four sides.

4. Iron.

Place mats can be made using the same method.

Really, at the end of a meal would you rather wipe your face with paper or cloth?


Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

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Val M.
Val M6 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago


Tanya W.
Tanya W6 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se6 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se6 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Bon L.
Bon L8 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Eva Orta
Eva O8 years ago

Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing!

Julie F.
Julie F8 years ago

super cool, great idea! thanks!