Saturday, November 22, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not: Thrifty Nifty Napkins

Waste is worse than loss.
The scope of thrift is limitless.
-Thomas A. Edison

I ran out of napkins, paper towels and Kleenex the same day. It always happens that way, doesn't it? Later that evening, in our little local store's toiletry asile, my eyes bugged out of my head. Who pays $4 for a box of Kleenex? I wondered. Oh yeah. Me. I did. When I made $125,000 a year, I did.

But no more. Oh no. These are the days of layoffs and wipe-outs. These are the days of bail-outs and sell-offs. These are not the days of $4 Kleenex. I got so alarmed that a pack of paper towels, a sack of napkins and a box of Kleenex was going to run me almost $15 that I backed out of the aisle altogether. (I bought a Hershey's with almonds instead. The trip wasn't a total loss.)

Back home, I began rummaging through my bins of scrap material. I came upon my used-clothes stash. Oh yeah! I forgot about these pajama pants, I thought, as I pulled the baby-blue cowgirl print from the middle of the stack. They used to be some of my favorite pajamas before the spaghetti strings frayed on the top and the rear got stretched-out on the pants.

So you can guess what I did. I slit the pant legs up the side and undid the elastic and cut four pieces - each 13 inches square. Then I ironed them flat. Starting at the bottom right corner, I folded the bottom side up 1/2 inch and ironed it flat. I repeated this 'fold and iron' step all the way around the square. Now it measured 12 1/2 inches. So I turned the sides in again, 1/2 inch around, and ironed all the way around again. There. After I stitched the hem down - two with the sewing machine and two by hand, I had four perfect square feet of pajamas -turned - reusable Kleenex. And I still had fabric left over. Take that, expensive napkins and tissue!

I've only used them for a few days now, but I really love them. Toss in the wash and reuse. And reuse. And use again. My once-favorite pj's have a new life. It's strangely gratifying.

What's that old mantra my Grandma used to have? Oh. Of course: Use it up, Wear it out, Make it Do, or Do Without. I think Grandma Elizabeth would be proud.

So don't be surprised, family and friends, if you find a few handmade hankies tied in ribbon tucked in your stocking this year. I promise you'll love them, and I further promise they won't be made out of my old pajamas. (In case you were already worried.)

And if... by chance... anyone else is hung up over the $4 Kleenex thing, too, here's a great tutorial on how to make these.

Stay warm this weekend! -Brin

(By the way, I later broke down and cut up the top of that pajama set, too. And I cut up the pants below the knee. I got five more hankies of various sizes for a total of nine reusable hankies. Wow! The rest of the fabric went into my Postage Stamp Quilt basket so nothing went to waste. )


Adrienne said...

Hi Brin -
How many people would think to recycle their old PJ's into hanky? What a cute idea. They are just the sweetest. Could it be that the economy will bring the return of the old-fashioned, out-of-style hanky? I'm thinking I should dig through my stash of old linens and things and get out some of those gorgeous old ones I've put away. Thanks for sharing your 'new' ones. The Hershey's bar was a good choice!

GirlonTour said...

Awesome idea..and very green too!


Unknown said...

Tough times do bring out the best of ideas and leave it to you make hankies out of pj's, I love it! We've always lived on a tight budget, and shopping at dollar stores sure can save alot, like 250 napkins for $1, hope you have a store near you? But I know you already make your own napkins too! Looking forward to other new thrifty ideas now!

Harbor Hon said...

Those are lovely hankies. I think we all need to start making our own napkins and hankies from recycled fabric. It's cheaper than buying the high priced ones.

I am getting a lot of use out of the kitchen helpers I bought from you. I just love them! xxoo

Terri Steffes said...

If there is a silver lining to the economic mess we are in, it is this: humans tend to be very creative when times are tough. I can see it is holding true to you. Now to find a pair of Ashley's worn out pjs.

Unknown said...

Hi Brin,
I occasionaly read your blog, and had to comment on you cloth use.
I am so glad to see others making this step.
We have taken this a couple steps further.
I have the softest, most wonderful cloth pads that I use, rather than spending money on bleach/dioxin, etc. filled kotex.
They last at least 10 years, and mine, after four years still look almost new.
The next step can freak some people out, but we found it to be a wonderful change.
I sewed a stack of brushed flannel squares together, and keep them in a basket on the toilet tank.
There is a bucket of sudsy water right below.
FYI, we do not require company to use them. We do provide regular paper for them :o)
In the end, we save money, we are improving our health, and we are taking a burden off our septic.
And, I am not relying on some big company, who knows where, to provide my personal needs!

Deanna Caswell said...

These are SO adorable!

I'm glad to know that someone else hates buying paper towels and tissues as much as I do. But unlike you--I just went nuts and cut up a bunch of t-shirts. Nothing NEARLY this pretty. I don't hem...ever. HA!


Life is 5 Minutes Long said...

After our daughter now 2 was done with her cloth diapers I insisted that the rest of the family use them as kleenex. They were soft worn and ready to blow! Our family loves them. Our high schooler even takes them to school. Now that's amazing!

paisley penguin said...

Scarlet O'Hara has nothing in you! Absolutely love this idea!

Rebecca said...

Child, if you're not the most creative thing I've seen in a long time! What a great idea!

Rosa said...

That is the cutest fabric ever!
And I love the idea of the hanky. My grandpa was never without one!

Just A Girl said...

Hi Brin,
What darling fabric and an excellent way to not waste.
Have a fun weekend...what's left of it!

Cori G.

Sherry said...

I have a stack of left-over men's cotton hankerchiefs - I lined my nursing bra with them - OH MY! DS will be 25 Dec 27th. Now I use them for what they were meant for. After 25 years, you can imagine how soft they are!

As for paper towels...I use one roll maybe every 6 months. I had Sam install an oak towel bar on the outside of one of the oak cabinets in the kitchen...that's where the cloth hand towels go for drying hands...not dishes.

And, I've used cloth napkins probably for 15 years or so. Not from repurposed pjs though...

Kay said...

Add another frugal girl to the list.
Use hankies instead of tissues, kitchen towels and rags instead of paper towels, and cloth sanitary napkins for the less-heavy days.

We do have a box of tissues for guests, paper towels for draining bacon and paper pads for the heaviest day(s).
Probably won't give up toilet paper but that was a creative comment worth saving for "just in case" the economy goes even further south.

Michelle said...

How creative! Okay closet, here I come! :)

sister sheri said...

I love that you bought a hershey's bar with almonds... it was on sale, of course?

Mia said...

Love the hankies and i REALLY love that fabric :) If you have too many you could always send your leftovers here :)

I DO have a sewin' machine - and I really want to learn, bought that bad boy brand new, but I really never could get past figurin' out how to wind the stupid bobbin. ::sigh::

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! I think I'm going to try this.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time here, but I just have to say that I love this! I feel like I have had this exact same trip to the store. I love re-using fabric. So fun to find a kindred spirit!

shirleycox said...

love this only if i was that creativelol

mama sparkle 'n shine said...

Anytime I have a reasonable sized square of fabric I absolutely love I turn it into a hankie. I seen to be losing them somewhere though because I'm having to spend the day making more because three of us are sick and I can't wash then fast enough to keep up with demand!