Reusable Napkins and Tablecloths: Save Money, Gain Style

dogwood & hastings

So much of home design these days is all about short-term, wasteful and disposable stuff.  How many times have you seen half-falling apart Ikea products on the curb, waiting to be tossed? Piles of paper napkins after a BBQ? Reusable napkins and tablecloths don’t just have to be found in fine dining restaurants.

In creating Dogwood & Hastings, I looked to solve the problem of boring (and disposable or near-disposable) home wares; the reusable napkins and tablecloths are durable and made to last for years, sewn in the USA to withstand wear and tear, and printed with original nature images that aren’t like anything you’ve seen before.

For some reason, the vast majority of cloth tablecloths and napkins are either made of nice material and are very plain, or are ultra-trendy prints made from crummy fabrics and sewn by children in China—meant to last as long as a party and that’s it. Neither of those are my style, and the latter are definitely not my ethics.

It’s not just waste I’m preventing with Dogwood & Hastings: According to the Ocean Conservancy’s blog, disposable napkins are a money-suck too: “ If you bought disposable paper napkins for a family of four for five years, however, it could cost you anywhere from $322.64 to $2,635.60 depending on the type of napkins you buy and whether you buy them in bulk.” Even if you bought two sets of four napkins, it would still be much less expensive than disposable—and fabric napkins soak up a lot more than even large paper ones do (and they do it with style!).

Dogwood & Hastings is made from a tough-but-soft GOTS-certified organic cotton sateen that’s printed with nontoxic dyes and cut and sewn by exacting seamstress Betty Collins in Oregon, who is fairly paid. It was all designed in Oregon too; and it’s a zero-waste line (I use the fabric scraps to make labels, tie bundles together, etc.), and 10 percent of the profits go to nonprofits I know, love, and trust, including Riverkeeper (NYC prints); Oregon Wild (Oregon prints); Wildlife in Distress (New England prints); and Grupo Ecologica de la Costa Verde (Mexico prints).

Oregon Coast Range Set

I collaborated with jewelry-maker Natalie Frigo who I’ve become friends with over the last three years (upon meeting her the first time, I made a video of how she creates her designs for my website…and ended up staying and talking with her for hours). Natalie designs her pieces on the Lower East Side of NYC and produces them in NYC too, all from recycled metals. I thought having table jewelry to complement my textiles would be pretty damn cool, and Natalie like the idea too. I sent her samples of the prints, and she designed napkin rings, low-profile candlesticks, and tablecloth weights (traditionally used for al fresco dining to keep the wind from blowing things around; but I think they look lovely indoors too). Called Fortess, the pieces work with—but aren’t at all derivative of—the linens. And they dress up a table for special occasions (sometimes that can just be a Wednesday-night dinner!).

I used photographs of natural ephemera—I love to capture the details of the ecosystems I travel to with my camera—as the basis for the patterns. The final prints are my photographs with minimal manipulation; nature’s colors and complexities don’t really need to be added to, and with each print, I really wanted to capture reality. From the bright pink of a sea urchin’s spine contrasted against a grey-glistening cobblestone, to that particular moment of tonal perfection in a Mexican sunset or sun through autumnal leaves, to the lavender-pink velvety mushrooms of a wet Oregonian November. Nature’s details are so beautiful!

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that “I’m not the only one” —if I’m seeking more nature in my life, more interesting design in my home, and reusable, long-lasting materials, then other people probably are too.

Dogwood & Hastings is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

Related on EcoSalon

13 Quirky Kitchen Hacks to Make Your Life Easier

9 Wonderfully Practical Repurposing Ideas For the Kitchen

Cloth Napkins for a Green Tabletop

Images via Starre Vartan


Starre Vartan

Starre Vartan has been covering eco fashion, natural beauty, ethical travel, and sustainable design for over a decade. She's written for magazines (Whole Living, Metropolis) and online (Huffington Post, MNN,, Inhabitat) and she has been honored as a thought leader by Glamour and Self magazines, as well as quoted in the New York Times (thrice). She's the author of "The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green" (St. Martin's Press) which was based on her longrunning blog, Starre was born Down Under in Sydney, Australia and has dual citizenship with the United States, as she grew up and was educated in the Hudson Valley of New York. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Geology from Syracuse University and a Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction writing from Columbia University. She splits her time between the Connecticut coast and Manhattan and loves to read, hike, snowboard, horseback ride, travel, and she will swim in almost anything (from lake to sea, cenote to mountain swimming hole).