25 inventive ways to use a dinner napkin

Who uses linen dinner napkins these days? I thought I had removed them all from the market since I own about 30,000 of them. I’ve been secretly buying them up – at garage sales – for the past 30 years. I started buying them about the same time as I stopped cooking dinner. (Also about the same time as I stopped going to any party where dinner napkins were transformed into swans.)

I started stockpiling them when I heard about the Shroud of Turin and – coincidentally – the connections between plastic wrap and breast cancer. I figured if linen could keep images of Christ fresh for thousands of years, maybe it could save my bacon and my breast.

So I decided to take on the challenge issued in an article I read on 50Plus: Come up with 25 creative uses for a dinner napkin. But since I find “creative” thinking hard – things like “dip napkins in starch and build a tent” or “pull out the threads to use as dental floss” or “cut into tiny strips to smoke when you run out of cigarettes” (which I’ve done, by the way) – all these ideas hold no interest for me. I have a more practical nature.

So here’s what I really have used my (large, linen) dinner napkins for:

1. I wrap my bread with them. Bread stays much fresher and longer this way.

2. I use them to cover leftovers in the fridge.

3. As a way to cover food in the microwave to avoid splatters.

4. I wrap presents in them. (I use lace-edged or embroidered ones for this.)

5. I use them instead of tissue, and my nose never gets red or sore.

6. They also make wonderful tea towels. Linen is amazingly absorbent.

7. I have draped them over wire and created a lampshade.

8. Use them to shine shoes.

9. I’m an artist, so I’ve found them to come in handy as paint rags

10. My father taught me how to knot each corner and use a napkin as a sun hat, just like he used to do as a young man in Malaya. (The knots weigh it down in the wind.)

11. Create your own puppets: Use an elastic band to encase an old sponge inside the napkin and you can wriggle your finger up into it.

12. Fill one with lavender, tie a ribbon and presto! You have a sachet.

13. Tie one around your neck to catch sweat when you’re playing tennis.

14. Tie one around your dog’s neck as a fashionable bandana.

15. Cover strawberries with them in the summer to keep out the fruit flies.

16. I stuff the toes of my shoes with them to maintain their shape.

17. Keep one in the car to wipe the windows on cold snowy mornings.

18. Use it as a backing for a lace pillow.

19. It can also be used in an embroidery hoop to practice stitches.

20. Cut it in strips and curl your hair with them, like my mother used to do.

21. Tape one on a board and paint a picture on it.

22. Cut them up to make patches for sheets.

23. Ummm… uh–oh, looks like I need those first three after all!

Have you any creative or unusual uses for a dinner napkin? Post it in the comments below.