In my family we use cloth napkins at meals. I grew up using cloth napkins, and having my parents remind me and my siblings, to fold and put away our napkins at the end of each meal, each inside its own little "napkin case" - which were envelopes crocheted by my grandmother. My parents still use those crocheted cases, and neatly fold and stow away their napkins after at each meal. My mother even irons them, as she always has. How did my mother find the time to raise four children, have a part-time job and iron napkins? I honestly don't know, and in my own family, we skip several steps when it comes to napkins: no ironing, and no napkin cases. Instead, we simply use cloth napkins of different colors.
However, recently I made a batch of new ones, using a piece of old sheet which was white. So color-coding was impossible and I didn't want to make crochet cases either (which I really don't have any room for). Instead, I decided to personalize the napkins with some simple free hand embroidery. My kids loved this idea, and each came up with grand plans for their own napkin, some of which I promptly scaled back to realm of reality - embroidering on a napkin "Viva Roger Federer!", for instance, was not on the cards.
Once I embroidered the decorations, I used this excellent tutorial published last week by Design Sponge, to make nice metered corners. So easy to do, once you know how! The tutorial also explains that - unlike what I did - you first make the hems, and then you embroider, which makes total sense. Ahem!
And the best part? My daughter embroidered her own napkin. I was a little skeptical at first, I'd pictured a very simple and quick napkin project, and having already managed to escape embroidering "Viva Roger Federer!", I wasn't too sure I wanted to teach my not-quite-4-year-old the art of embroidery. But she amazed me, and with very little guidance she embroidered a flower (you can see the napkins I embroidered here).
Watching her confidently holding the embroidery hoop with her little hands, and stitch through the fabric, I realized that she knew already the basics from watching me embroider - just as I learned from watching my own mother. She's very proud of her embroidered napkin these days, and whereas I don't know whether she and her brothers will skip some steps in their own families when it comes to using napkins at meals, I believe they'll continue the fundamentals: they've watched us.