Napkin Rings and Cloth Napkins

Thrift Store Napkin Rings

What can you do with an assortment of thrift store napkin rings? Especially when:

  1. You don’t use napkin rings (well, very often)
  2. They don’t go with your decor
  3. You already have a couple of sets moldering in a closet somewhere

I actually thought all these things about napkin rings not so long ago – and passed them by without a thought in stores, flea markets, or wherever I’d see them.

And then we started using cloth napkins at all our meals. And the way to make using cloth napkins work in a real family is to have each family member use a different, unique napkin ring to identify their napkin to reuse it for a couple of meals.

Because, really – most of the time very little of the napkin is used (and if it is, like with BBQ chicken or something, wash it).

I wrote all about using family napkin rings with cloth napkins a few years ago and how it can save money and lessen waste.

We now have a collection of rings so that guests who stay for more than one meal with us can have their own ring, too. And I’ve had enough comments from friends and family (“where do you find all your different rings?”) to know that others would appreciate a gift of mismatched napkin rings.

So that’s were the thrift store transformation comes in:
Basket of Cloth Family Napkins

Make your own set of family cloth napkins with mismatched napkin rings
  • Be on the look out for napkin rings and sets in thrift stores and flea markets. They can be had for .99 to 1.99 for a set of four to six. Coordinating with decor is not as important, because everyone will just pick one they like (though I try to make sure they all aren’t floral, for example, to appeal to the men in the families)
  • Take them apart and group them in sets of 4 to 6 mismatched rings.
  • Package a set of mismatched napkin rings and patterned napkins (the better to hide stains) in a basket (to keep near the table). Oooh – and if you made the napkins from cotton sheets bought at the thrift store? Double awesome!

The ring sets are now ready to give to families who don’t have the time to hunt down individual rings and would appreciate this type of gift.

Because I’m aware that not everybody would appreciate it. But those that get it, do. As I wrote previously, when I sold fabric items at barn sales and such, sets of these napkins were one of my most popular items, selling out all the time.

So napkin rings can have a new life and be used daily instead of once a year – in your own house or someone else’s.

In this case the transformation is from something unused into something useable. Which is always my top criteria for a good transformation.

Do you use cloth napkins?

31-days of Thrift Store TransformationsThis is day 7 in our series (you can click on the button to see all the posts in the category). If you’re wondering what’s up, you can read the introduction to 31 Days of Thrift Store Transformations here. I’m taking a little liberty and using the term “thrift store” to stand for anything you buy used (and cheap!), be it from a store, garage/estate sale, flea market…whatever.


  1. says

    We use them all the time! I have three little kids and cloth is so much better and easier than paper. They can really wipe their hands and not end up with a shredded mess. I don’t iron them and we reuse them if they’re not a mess. We would go through multiple paper ones for each kid each meal before. Ours are mostly antique embroidered ones. :) A few are homemade and a few are leftover from when I had new ones that we only used on special occasions. Now, everyday is special!

    • Jami says

      I love your comment: “now everyday is special” and to that I whole heartedly agree! This goes for using the “good” china and grandma’s decorative platter – not only does it make the day special, but I remember the people who are associated with them. :)

  2. Alicia says

    Great idea for the napkin rings! We’ve used everyday cloth napkins for some time and they are easy to track between two adults for a few meals, but its trickier when our family visits.

    I have made a couple sets of 6-8 napkins, one from an old tablecloth of my grandma’s and one from a long skirt I found at a rummage sale. Both had the perfect cotton feel I was looking for (which I didn’t find with be quilting cotton) plus a carefree pattern.

    • Jami says

      What a great way to be able to use your grandma’s tablecloth more often – and finding material for the napkins in something like a skirt is exactly what I’m talkin’ about in this thrift store series: think outside the original use. Good for you!!

  3. Cheryl says

    We use cloth napkins, as well. Over the years we have different personalized napkin rings. First ones were needleworked with initials on that plastic mesh stuff. Now I have one bought in Mexico, DH uses a silver one that was his GGfathers, DS has a leaf shaped one. Personally selected ones make good stocking stuffers.

  4. Cheryl says

    Instead of cloth napkins, we use washcloths! I bought a stack of them at WalMart for about $5 years ago when our son still lived at home. Reusable and washable and you can get them in so many colors.
    Thank you for your great hints! I enjoy your blog.

  5. Lisa says

    A great idea! What fabric would you suggest to make napkins? I’ve used cloth napkins in the past for holidays, but some seemed so stiff that I didn’t really like using them. Maybe they just had not been used and laundered enough? I think they were linen. I like this idea so much, I would “Pin” it, but I don’t want my daughter to see it because guess what she and her little family of four are getting for Christmas?! :) Thanks for the idea!

    • Jami says

      ALways 100% cotton for everyday use (though linen does soften over time and some love it – it’s more expensive and usually a solid color, though). Some cotton is thicker than others, though, so you’ll need to feel it to decide – and always prewash before making the napkins.

      Or you could do like Alicia suggested above and use an old tablecloth or even an old skirt!

      • Lisa says

        Thanks for the advice. I think I will take a hint from Alicia and checkout my neighborhood Goodwill and see what they have in stock. (Going to the fabric store is always dangerous….haha) Thanks!

  6. Susan says

    Love this idea!!! I have a couple sets of cloth napkins we use (usually when we run out of paper napkins or if I want to be “fancy” for a special meal) and have always wanted to incorporate napkin holders but didn’t quite know how with my family of all boys and lots of different interests. Something about thinking they HAD to match. Silly me! Your idea of personalized/especially chosen rings for each family member is genius! Thank you!!!

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