Finder’s Fi

Mix and match vin­tage nap­kins for a stylish ta­ble set­ting

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Fiona Ralph. Il­lus­tra­tion by Eve Kennedy.

As sin­gle-use items fall out of favour, there’s one sus­tain­able switch that we’re find­ing easy to make. Swap­ping pa­per nap­kins for linen or cot­ton ones makes sense on a visual and tac­tile level. While there will be ex­tra wash­ing to be done, there is a feel­ing of lux­ury pro­vided by a fab­ric nap­kin which can’t be matched in pa­per.

Nap­kins haven’t al­ways been de rigueur, of course. The an­cient Greeks were said to have used small pieces of dough to wipe their hands. Large com­mu­nal cloths were also com­mon in an­cient times.

It was Louis XV of France who in­tro­duced in­di­vid­ual ta­ble nap­kins at the Palace of Ver­sailles. How­ever, they were a lot larger than to­day’s in­car­na­tions.

Foodref­er­ence.com states that in 1774 a French trea­tise de­clared, “the nap­kin cov­ered the front of the body down to the knees, start­ing from be­low the col­lar and not tucked into said col­lar.”

Pa­per nap­kins, known as chih pha, have long been used in China for the serv­ing of tea. When pa­per nap­kins be­came avail­able in other parts of the world in the late 19th

“Vin­tage nap­kins can be bought as sets or mixed and matched for a mod­ern look”

cen­tury, ini­tially peo­ple were hes­i­tant to adopt the trend. How­ever, the humble pa­per servi­ette – and even pa­per towel – has now vir­tu­ally re­placed fab­ric nap­kins.

While com­pli­cated rules in­volv­ing nap­kin size and style are still cus­tom­ary for for­mal events, these don’t need to ap­ply in day-to-day life. Any piece of cloth which can be used to pro­tect cloth­ing and wipe your hands will work. You could even make your own nap­kins from sec­ond­hand fab­ric.

There are also many gor­geous vin­tage op­tions which can be bought as sets or mixed and matched for a mod­ern look.

Hunt for on-trend colour­ways and nap­kins with cute de­tails such as em­broi­dery, cutouts or unique trims.

Here, we’ve com­bined three vin­tage nap­kins with a mix of sec­ond­hand table­ware in yel­low and gold tones. Ev­ery­thing was col­lected from op-shops, Trade Me, vin­tage stores and mar­kets, with a few pieces in­her­ited from fam­ily.

You don’t need to worry about iron­ing for the ef­fect we have cre­ated here.

You can also skip elab­o­rate fold­ing or rolling tech­niques. To achieve this loose, ef­fort­less look, pinch a piece of fab­ric from the mid­dle of the nap­kin and pull it loosely through a nap­kin ring. Fan out the edges to cre­ate a slightly more struc­tured look. It could take a cou­ple of tries be­fore achiev­ing the right ef­fect.

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