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A New Life—Eternal!—For the Last Potatoes in Your Pantry

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I hope I am not alone in admitting that before some dinner parties, I can be seen folding or ripping paper towels in half—insta-napkins as a solution to my lack of grown up (non-paper product) napkins. No more! There’s nothing prettier than a cloth napkin—one you made, to boot!—gracing your holiday table.

Potato printing has spent a long time on the DIY circuit, but when done simply it has a very minimal and beautiful result (a la Ellsworth Kelly’s “Blue and Yellow and Red-Orange”). It’s also a fantastic assembly line project for kids: Adults should do the slicing, kids the stamping.

Just add dinner.
Just add dinner. Photo by Rocky Luten

What you'll need:

  • Potatoes: Carry home from the grocery store a mix of Yukon Gold and some smaller Bliss potatoes (it's fun to mix big and little!). You’ll want something with a smooth, waxy exterior that slices smoothly.
  • A sharp knife
  • Plain linen napkins
  • Fabric paint in whatever color(s) you desire
  • A paper plate
Potatoes, paint, and a simple linen to print on.
Potatoes, paint, and a simple linen to print on. Photo by Mark Weinberg

How to potato-print them:

  • Make your potato stamps! Slice potatoes cleanly in half so the ‘stamp’ (or potato half) is as flat as possible. You want to make sure there aren’t irregular bumps or potato hairs on the stamp to muck up your shapes!
All the pink potato prints, please.
All the pink potato prints, please. Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Lay unadorned napkins on a flat surface with newsprint or kraft paper underneath. Place a healthy dollop of paint onto a paper plate (or multiple colors on multiple plates). Dip flat end of potato half into paint, scraping off any gloppiness onto the edge of the plate.
  • Stamp potato onto napkin, pressing firmly for a few seconds before lifting carefully. Repeat stamping as desired on napkin until complete. Let dry 2 hours.
Photo by Rocky Luten

What other fruits and vegetables have you printed with? Tell us in the comments.