Why cloth napkins (linen preferred)? Why not? They are not just for white table clothe restaurants, weddings or special occasions. Cloth napkins are practical and even environmentally good to use (think diapers, though kind of gross when imagining dinner). What ever happened to giving table linens as gifts or registering for them when you get married? I believe that every one should have formal, informal, seasonal, as well as lunch and dinner linens. From table clothes, to napkins to runners. But that is for another discussion. I have at least 12 white linen napkins at all times. They are pretty inexpensive and because they are white, they are bleach-able!!! Also, they are the easiest to iron.
If you have dinner at the table, (as all families and adults should. Except for Friday night pizza in front of the TV), so why not use the same napkin a few nights a week? Unless you are sick of course. Dinner napkins are typically 22″x 22″or 24″x 24″. If you are that much of a slob, and use the whole thing in one sitting, than you may need a troth not a plate with a fork, spoon and knife. Which brings me to the proper steps of using a clothe napkin (even paper for that matter, especially when it comes to using it to clean your mouth).
1)Place Napkin immediately in your lap upon sitting at the table. However, if there is a host/hostess wait for them to sit and place their napkins on lap. If at a buffet meal, unfold when you start eating. Example: A) At a restaurant, or large function like a luncheon or wedding (or other social event) upon taking your seat immediately place your napkin in your lap. B) When attending a smaller more intimate lunch/dinner that is being hosted with one table, wait for the host/hostess to take their napkin first. Think Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.
2)Unfolding the napkin. DO NOT SHAKE OR SNAP OUT THE NAPKIN. Yes, size matters when it come to napkin unfolding. A) Large 22″ x 22″ or 24″x 24″ typical dinner napkin size, unfold half way. B) Smaller luncheon napkins 13″x 13″ unfold completely and cover lap fully.
3) For my not so fancy friends and people who try to be funny at dinner (y’all are thinking about crazy Uncle Howard right now) DO NOT TUCK NAPKIN INTO COLLAR!!! Between buttons on shirt or belt or under skirt/shorts
4) Use the napkin frequently during the meal to blot or pat, NOT WIPE your lips and corners of mouth. Blot your lips before taking a sip (not gloup) of your beverage.
5)Napkin Rings-A favorite for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter and formal occasions. After you have removed your napkin from the ring (or ribbon, band, ect.) place the ring at the top left corner of the place setting (across from the beverage glasses on the upper right). At the end of the meal, take the napkin through in the middle and pull back through the ring and place to the left of the place setting with the point towards the center of the table.
6) If you have to leave the table, neatly fold and place the napkin on your chair with the soiled/used part facing up. Especially if the chair is upholstered.
7) At the end of the meal, if there is napkin ring, loosely fold the napkin and place to the left of the plate on table. If the plate has been cleared place the folded napkin in the center of place setting. Leave the napkin loose with soiled parts hidden or folded inside so the host/server does not put their hands in food/beverage when clearing.