Home Hacks

A Simple French Tradition for Ditching Paper Napkins

The latest from Five Two is the eco-friendly accompaniment to every meal.

June 16, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Wave hello to the brand-new Five Two Everyday Napkins!

Five Two director Kristina Wasserman was struck by inspiration for these cotton beauties in none other than...you guessed it, France. While in the French town of Cholet—historically, a center for textiles, dish towels, and napkins—she came upon an interesting dining tradition. "Members of a family each had their own cloth napkin assigned to them for meals through the day, or even across a few days," she says. Well, she brought the idea home, and soon began developing, along with our community, the latest in Five Two's line of eco-friendly home goods.

When we surveyed 1,379 of our favorite tabletop linen enthusiasts (you, of course), we learned that you already use cloth napkins on the regular (bravo!), and that you prefer soft, lived-in fabrics (us, too). We loved hearing that you’re just as passionate about reducing waste as we are; and when we polled on colors, you suggested we ditch plain white for a mix of happy hues.

We listened.

A special quality of these napkins is indeed their French influence. Our shop buyers and product developers can’t help but be inspired by the effortlessness of French style and its focus on quality and longevity, and we think these napkins hit the mark with the right mix of elegance and practicality.

That practicality comes from the “old reliable” of the textile world: 100 percent cotton. However, we’ve updated the classic, giving it a special enzyme wash that results in a super-soft feel and the look of linen, minus the heavy creases. The napkins come in six match-everything colors—take note of that vintage-inspired hem detail—from dreamy pink to natural flax, so coordinating with existing linens (and each other!) is a no-brainer.

Photo by Rocky Luten

Naturally, the napkins are generously sized, so they protect your lap from soup dribbles and sauce drips. When the dribbles do happen though, just throw ‘em in the wash. They’re durable enough to withstand the washing machine—using a cool-to-warm setting, like always—and they breeze through a tumble-dry low cycle like nobody’s business.

So, how does one use these, comme les Français? Our Test Kitchen Director, Allison Buford has the right ideas. She uses a different color napkin for each family member (much like how they do in Cholet) with casual dinners every night, meaning each person is responsible for running theirs through the wash when soiled. "They’re elegant enough for a place setting, but not too fancy for a picnic table," she adds. As for the choice of colors, she says, "they will only get better with age."

Have you made the switch from paper to cloth napkins? Tell us in the comments below!

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Caroline Mullen

Written by: Caroline Mullen

4 Comments

janet T. June 29, 2020
When I went to France years ago at the age of 20, I stayed with a family near Lyon. Each member had his/her own napkin rolled into a silver napkin ring engraved with his or her name. We used the same napkin over a few days’ time (unless, of course, they had become badly soiled.)
 
Anne F. June 25, 2020
Or just use all the same color napkins and each person then uses their own napkin ring to identify “their” napkin from meal to meal.
 
Diane June 16, 2020
Yes, for at least 15 or more years we use nothing but cloth napkins. The only exception is two huge parties we had (75plus people) and we bought paper napkins. I even give them as hostess gifts so people use them instead of paper.
 
Diane June 16, 2020
Yes, for at least 15 or more years we use nothing but cloth napkins. The only exception is two huge parties we had (75+ people) and we bought paper napkins. I even give them as hostess gifts so people use them instead of paper.