Over the years, we have hosted quite a lot of events, parties and meals here at FrenchGardenHouse.

We’ve had birthday dinners for over 50, holiday brunches, lunches and dinners for our family, girlfriend get-togethers, cocktail affairs, wedding and baby showers, children’s parties and more.

For all of these, I’ve worked really hard on eliminating all plastic and paper from our entertaining arsenal.


Antique French Napkins


Cloth Napkins are one of the things that truly elevate your event. Your table setting always looks exquisite if there are “real” cloth napkins.  I know, paper is easy.

But I think you will agree that there is nothing that compares to how linen napkins feel.


Even when we have a large group of people over for a casual dinner in the garden, I choose cloth not paper. We’ve had sit-down dinners here for over 50 guests, family and friends, where each one had a beautiful cloth napkin.


Antique French Napkins | Antique Double Fan Napkin Ring


My trick for that? I use all white for large groups, so I can throw all of them in the washer and dryer, until next time.

The beauty of using all white napkins is a great trick, because you can happily mix and match napkin sets that are antique with new.

Sterling Silver Napkin Rings



As long as they are all white, they all will look uniform and delight your guests.  For smaller groups, there is such a range of luxurious, beautiful colored cloth napkins!


Blue Linen Napkins


I love cloth napkins so much, that I am an equal opportunity admirer of both antique napkins and new napkins.


These navy blue linen napkins were the star of last year’s Thanksgiving Dinner Setting >


Natural Linen Bee Striped Napkins


It’s just so much nicer for your guests to be able to use real dishes, forks, and napkins, they are more substantial, and say “you are special.”


Which brings me to another reason I prefer cloth napkins.


Antique Fern Napkin Ring


Napkins that are cloth can be washed, and you will find that your guests, who will think nothing of using 2-5 paper napkins for a meal, will be quite satisfied with just one cloth napkin.

Ultimately, a good quality cloth napkin is less expensive than paper, and of course there is our environment to consider.

Antique French Monogrammed Napkins


For your family table, you could adopt the “napkin ring system” used by my European Mom.  Each one of us had our own silver napkin ring, so that we always used our “own” napkin at the table until it was time to wash them and replace them with a freshly laundered one.


Antique Lace De Venise Napkins


Some of you have emailed and asked about the how to’s of using and cleaning cloth napkins, so here are a few tips.


{And yes, I know, most of you are probably thinking…no…duh. }  But hopefully there is some encouragement to be found in these easy “tips’ for serving up your table settings in luxurious style.



Ruffled Linen Napkins



1. I’ll admit, for the linen napkins I use, I don’t iron them. I take them out of the dryer right away, and fold, and store. that’s it.  I don’t mind if they are a little rumpled.

2. I set the table with one napkin per place setting. These days, napkins are so pretty, that it’s a shame to just fold them, I like them on top of the plate.

3. I put a few extra napkins on the table near me, because they can do more than wipe and cover.  I use napkins at the table to line the breadbasket, to use as potholders for a serving dish that is a little warmer than comfortable to hold, and I also dispense napkins as needed to guest who may want/need more than one. {as is often the case when my darling little people are over.}

4. After the party is over, I gather the napkins in a pile, and check if there are any big stains that need attention. I will spray or rub a stain remover on the spot {although this is almost never necessary} and either put the napkins in the laundry room in a bucket of water to soak, or directly into the washer.

That’s all there is to it!

I’m giving you a little preview peek at my latest napkin obsession: these gorgeous linen napkins embroidered in red for the holidays!



{Coming soon – I love these, and am very excited to be able to get them for our FrenchGardenHouse French Holiday Collection.}

I hope you will consider switching from paper to cloth… and enjoy the luxurious feeling of linen at the table.


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  1. Gorgeous!! Linen instead of paper napkins and using those lovely antique Silver napkin rings are an amazing idea for Christmas.
    Love Love Love ?

  2. We switched to all cloth, all the time about 5 years ago and never looked back. We use with every meal, and have a basket of napkins in the kitchen for informal eating as well. Easy, less expensive, and better for the earth!

  3. Thank you for sharing this age old idea of using cloth napkins daily. I started doing it 25 years ago and although some friends make fun of me, I love the habit. It’s easy, pretty and is environmentally friendly. A dear friend suggested collecting antique silver napkin rings, which I have done….also fun and pretty…adds charm to a simple table. So use them everyday…your napkins Will soften in time..adding to the ambience.

  4. I love this post on the napkins. Do you have any fix-it info’ on dealing with older linens that have established yellow stains? I’ve tried a lot of things, nothing has worked very well.

    Also, I’m entrenched in the idea that table linens need to be beautifully ironed, yet I see so many top-notch tablescape photos with wrinkles and creases. That bothers me, but maybe I need my thinking adjusted…? Thank you for your weekly efforts to share beauty with us!

  5. Cloth napkins add an air of sophistication to any occasion. It is like serving a Oreo cookies on a cake stand. They just seem to look and taste better.

  6. I have used cloth (linen) napkins for 40 years. They are so easy to do up & feel better to the touch. I even use them for everyday.

  7. Lidy, I love your 2016 Thanksgiving table. The tablecloth, plates and napkins are gorgeous. So French, so you.

  8. I whiten my linens after washing them by putting them out while still really wet , on my wet green grass directly in the sun. The chlorophyll and sun do the trick. My husband lived in Africa and learned this trick from the natives. You will need to launder them again as they have been on the ground. Hope you will try this Julie as it really works. You might need to do this several times but each time your lines will get whiter.

  9. Alice, my grandmother in Europe did this too, and you are right, it works a charm!

    Happy Monday, friend!

  10. Most always use cloth napkins. There is something so elegant about them. Thanks for the tips.

  11. I use both, paper for us everyday. I really have a stash of colors and patterns of cloth napkins when we all sit down to a family dinner. I have finally convinced my daughter that it is easier to use the cloth. I am sort of a recycle person too, to the cloth suits me better. Love the new read napkins you showed us. I have Corelle dishes that are white with just a red line around them so I am going to be on the lookout for some red napkins too.

  12. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, Elaine! I sometimes use paper too, mostly on holidays for drinks and appetizers or dessert,
    but love the linens. You are right, they are easier in many ways!

  13. Lidy, I always use cloth for guests too, but what do you do for lipstick stains? I Usually put a paper napkin under the cloth napkin for my women guests for that purpose. What is your solution?

  14. Pinky, I’ve found that for lipstick stains, if I gather the napkins after our guests have left, and soak them overnight in a bucket of warm water with Oxo-clean, then wash in the morning, come right out! You have to make sure the napkins won’t bleed (colorfast) but this really works.

  15. I LOVE the look of cloth napkins. I have several colors and prints, it adds so much to the tablescape. My trick – is to collect the napkins after the dinner party is over and soak them overnight in a bucket with water and a scoop of oxyclean. Dump the napkins and water/ oxyclean into the washer in the morning and wash as usual. Napkins come out clean and stain free! Check for color fastness, I’ve had one set of napkins bleed in the soaking solution

  16. Kathie, that’s a great trick, I use this when I know the napkins have been used after an Italian meal, for instance!

  17. Lidy, I agree with you! My mother and my mother-in-law say that you should always have cloth napkins when serving a meal. I have hosted Thanksgiving at my house for over 20 years and I always think of them when I pull out my napkins. Your napkins look beautiful!

  18. I must admit, I use paper when home by myself, but ALWAYS use linen when I have guests. I’m also concerned with lipstick stains. Pinky’s idea is a good one, but also wondering about your take on that problem.

  19. Ginger: I’ve found that for lipstick stains, if I gather the napkins after our guests have left, and soak them overnight in a bucket of warm water with Oxo-clean, then wash in the morning, they come right out! You have to make sure the napkins won’t bleed (colorfast) but this really works.

  20. Cloth all the way…fabrics and linens are my weakness and I’m always on the look out for runners and cloth napkins to use on my table as we entertain quite a bit. I find contentment in washing/ironing them and putting them away for the next time to use. =)

  21. Sue, I love that you find contentment in washing and ironing them, it’s a lost art! There is something peaceful about ironing, I think, don’t you?

  22. I’m one of the few people in my family who cannot stand plastic cups, and plastic utensils, and paper plates! And yes, I get laughed at, lol. I’ve been known to carry my own fork & spoon with me, haha! Paper plates are ok for sandwiches & chips, but real plates for everything else, haha!! And yes on the cloth napkins! And yes I get accused of being pretentious- but so be it!! Thanks for the timely post!

  23. Rhonda, so happy to meet a fellow “pretentious” friend…I am not a big fan of anything plastic.

    I actually asked for a “real” cup for my cappuccino in a breakfast restaurant here in Newport the other
    day, I figured if I’m paying 5.00 for a coffee I would like that to be in a real cup!

  24. Hi Lidy, I always use white cloth napkins and love the special look. (Confession: I do use paper napkins for things like pizza, spaghetti or chile.)
    Thanks for the tips. Hugs, Pat @ Bringing French Country Home

  25. Interesting post! I’ll tell you my cloth napkin story. The first time I had a dinner party, I had good friends over, and was excited to set a “real” table with real cloth napkins. In our family growing up, I don’t recall even having napkins to use, but we weren’t slobs, I promise. So my first party, I wanted to use cloth. My friend said, “oh I don’t want to use your nice cloth napkin…just give me a paper one.” That so deflated me & my efforts at a “perfect” table. I didn’t say anything…just gave her paper. All that to say, I rarely use cloth, but it’s not b/c of her. I just never go that formal.

  26. I have used cloth forever my kids and grandkids expect cloth. People have given me cocktail napkins so I use them also. For the 2 of us or 20!

  27. Lidy knows how much I love cloth napkins. I have purchased both vintage and new from her FrenchGardenHouse website. They complete the table. I usually iron them flat but do not iron the folds. That way I can fold them any way I want on the table. I occasionally do a creative napkin fold.
    I also use my old cloth napkins( tattered and worn) for clean up and around the kitchen. I have loved every set of napkins I obtained from FrenchgardenHouse. High quality items, I have never been disappointed. I do need to think about collecting napkin rings.

  28. Gloria, you are so sweet! Thank you for your kindest compliments about my napkins…I remember almost all the ones you bought from me, especially those
    golden ones with the cherubs..they were a favorite.

    Hope you are having a gorgeous autumn week over there in Raleigh!

  29. Hello Lidy! I LOVE cloth napkins for special occasions but often I do use them just when it is me. You are absolutely right ~ it is so easy to just pop them into the washer that it’s really not a chore. Lately I have been on an ironing kick but usually I do what you do and just fold them right out of the dryer to use another day. Even here in our little prairie “home” in our 5th wheel RV I have an entire storage box of linens. 🙂 I love your new napkins!!! I’ll have to browse your site for them. <3 And those engraved antique napkin rings?? I've wanted some for at least 20years… sigh! Happily sharing your post and pinned a bunch of pics.

  30. Thank you so much, it’s always a joy when you visit! Sometimes I love ironing, too, it’s so relaxing!

    Hope you are having a gorgeous week, friend,

  31. Absolutely love cloth napkins. I have several sets of white napkins. And a lot of colored napkins. When we entertained 66 people at our house last December, everyone had cloth napkins on Lenox China complete with stemware. It just makes a difference when you use the real thing. And your guest feel special that you made the extra effort to make them feel special. ??

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