diy: confessions of a napkin addict

pile of napkins

I have amassed an embarrassing number of paper napkins. A whole mountain of them, all with a different theme: holiday napkins, striped ones, napkins featuring cartoonish slices of watermelon. My collection once fit in a large bowl in our pantry, and having outgrown that container, they’re now overflowing from an extra-large shopping bag in our living room closet. (The above photo represents only a fraction of them.)

I know that my love of napkins, like so many of my home-making tendencies, comes from my mother. Over the years, she has proven to be a magnificent hostess and table artiste – she was crafting great “table-scapes” long before the phrase was coined. Her own napkin cache takes up an entire, overstuffed kitchen cupboard. Well-organized as this cupboard is, it’s a good thing napkins are light and soft, because when you open this door (looking, perhaps, for some honey or salt) a few packages are bound to topple onto your head. So it of course shocked me, when, a few years ago, she politely requested that I stop giving her napkins for Christmas and her birthday. She asked, in other words, that I stop enabling her. And I respectfully complied. For the most part.

I’m not sure that I have the strength to kick the napkin habit like she did. In fact, I suspect that I am becoming a napkin hoarder, and not just because I buy new ones but mostly because I don’t want to use up the old ones. Here’s a weird confession very similar to the throw pillow confession I made a few months ago: if you come over to my house, I will secretly hope that you don’t have the good manners to use, or even touch the napkin I put at your place setting. Why? So that I can re-use it! So that I never run out of that specific pattern.

I’d hate, for example, to run out of the ones depicting a map of Cape Cod we got on a trip there:

Cape Cod napkins

Or the napkins with the hula dancer I used a lot leading up to our wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Hawaii:

hula napkins

Someone gave us an adorable set of napkins for our housewarming party featuring a house with flowers coming out of the chimney:

Housewarming napkins

Likewise, I love the bright green ones I purchased for my book launch party this past summer — they match the cover perfectly:

green polka dotted napkins

Oh, the sentimental pull of material objects.

This is the point where you might understandably wonder, why not just use cloth or linen napkins, since they last longer? I do also have a lot of these in my collection – but they require laundering, de-staining, and ironing, all skills I did not inherit from my mother. (Details on my ironing deficiency here.)

The good news is that I know I have a problem. And I believe that even the silliest of problems have solutions. The even better news is that I recently came up with a way to save and covet my beloved paper napkins – behind glass and encased in a frame as a piece of colorful kitchen art. We had a new IKEA frame in our basement that we never ended up using after we first moved into our house.  I dusted that off recently and pulled out some of my favorite napkins. I arranged and re-arranged until I had the napkins configured the way I wanted then attached them to the paper backing that came with the frame with some double-sided tape.  Voila:

napkin art

The whole process took less than 40 minutes. I think we are going to hang it in the tiny apartment attached to our house. It will hopefully cheer up the woefully un-renovated kitchen in there.

napkin art close up

Now, I think I can more freely use these beauties without worrying about them running out. After all, they’re preserved; this collage, of sorts, turned out to be an easy nod to parties gone by (and parties yet to come.) Hopefully, when I offer napkins to my guests it will now come from a more genuine place, in other words without a cringe. If you have any of these same “unique” concerns or pseudo-problems surrounding paper napkins, consider whipping up some quick kitchen art with them. As a matter of fact, even if you don’t have any quirky issues in this area, it’s a fun project to try.


Thank you to The Huffington Post for posting a version of this installment.

Thanks also to The Rock and Roll Yogi for the recent shout-out. And a big welcome to wordpress for this new friend. Woo! Check out her blog here.

Categories: Cookin', Design, DIY

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24 replies

  1. I totally get this, Jocelyn! I have stacks of napkins hidden in my pantry that I LOVE. I get out 5 or 6 at a time and leave them by the coffee pot or put a few on the table…just so I can enjoy how pretty they are and NOT have my husband use the entire pack to wipe up something he spilled. I gasp at the thought of him using my black and white diamond napkins to mop up!

    I love the idea of framing them! I get a certainly amount of anxiety when I think I’ll use the last one. WILL I EVER FIND SOMETHING THIS PRETTY AGAIN? Ha Ha! Of course I always do.
    Those Marimekko napkins are so fab. Love your collection and they look so good framed. Great idea. Glad I’m not the only crazy napkin lady around. 🙂

    • ha ha! Glad you can relate to this odd fixation! I “sit a few out” as well on our high bistro table – right now we’re on black and orange polka dots for obvious reasons. Have they been touched? Hell no!

      “Crazy napkin ladies” – we should join forces with crazy cat ladies – oh what a party that would be 🙂

      Of course, after I whipped this little DIY together, I realized that we really hate having too much stuff hanging on the walls in our house…It did look kind of cute in our kitchen but…alas, we prefer the plain wall instead.

  2. Framing them was such a great idea! I’m not even into napkins, but you picked some pretty ones; I’d have a hard time using them too. Have fun entertaining with your new stash.

  3. Um? Hello? Matchbook collection? You’ve been languishing in a shoebox. But now? Your covers from Graceland. And the Harley Davidson shop and a Paris coffee shop will all now be displayed! No more dark scary unhappy storage!!

    Your idea is genius. But it also made me happy to know there are other people who guard random possessions like they’re gold. I do it with stuff that isn’t even really sentimental. It’s just “too good” to use. Something that makes me nuts about myself.

    p.s.—the Cape Cod ones are really too cute to use.

    • Yes, display! Display! Those things we covet must not be stored but displayed! Love the matchbook idea 🙂 For a long time I saved movie stubs with the idea that I’d frame them like this…but no idea where all those are now!

      Yup, glad we got 2 packages of those CC napkins – we used them a lot this summer, perfect for bbq’s 🙂

  4. This blog explains perfectly why I receive napkins from you every xmas, among other very cute festive goodies(namely shortbread:-)) I have noted…no using napkins at Joc’s home. My napkin manners were probably never that good to begin with…xoxo

  5. I was about to say…then I got to the end of the post and that’s a perfect solution. Frame it! That looks amazing! And now no one will ever go near the ‘last napkin’ possible. I think you are the first person I have ever known with a napkin collection and that is pretty damn cool.

    • Well, my appreciation for a stylish napkin started a long time ago…before I knew it, I had a bona fide collection. These quirks sneak up on you, you know? 🙂 BTW, I think IKEA has some great ones…

  6. jocelyn the paper napkin hoarder! that has a nice ring to it 😀 great collection of patterns and what a great way to keep those memories alive! you could even do a whole line of frames on a wall. i mean, don’t do your whole house or anything… 😉
    very creative.

    • Ha! “I hoard and I’m proud.” “If you hoard and you know it raise your hand!” I feel a bumper sticker coming on…

      That would be pretty cool – napkin wallpaper throughout a whole house or at lease a whole kitchen, anyone? That’s just weird enough to work 🙂

      I’m just thinking…if only I had a fab vintage table with a secret drawer I could hoard even MORE napkins! 🙂

      • oh yes you could!!! but i have a feeling you’d need a bigger drawer 😉
        have a good rest of your weekend, j!

  7. Awesome collection! I have never really understood the allure though.. as far as function goes, it seems like the prettier a napkin is, the less absorbent.. which puts me firmly in the fan club for your new wall art- looks great! 🙂

  8. out loud and proud! literally- out of the closet! my partner has a similar (affliction) fondness for serviettes (what we call ’em because the old french word sounds chic.) she will be pleased to hear she is not alone.

    • I like that – “serviettes” – it does sound far more sophisticated!

      Tell your partner that I am considering starting a serviette club (or shall I say support group?). 🙂

  9. Oh no! They are so lovely. Its a whole other design element I’ve never thought about. Pleases don’t get me started, too many collections to enable already, but I do understand. I have one Cath Kidston red spot one I squirrelled home from a vip night somewhere and its been used quite a few times in my photos and really should have gone in the bin after the first use. Nice one Jocelyn.

    • ha ha – I certainly don’t want to be an enabler – this post/project is all about healing 🙂 And btw, I think napkin as photo backdrop/still-life accoutrement is a PERFECT reason to keep a napkin around!

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