We use a wide range of cloths-- some of them down cycled from other uses-- in order to reduce consumption of natural resources.I have found that it does not increase the amount of laundry that I am doing, and, if it did, we could adjust by not washing our outer garments as often. When the cloth is totally worn out, it is often tossed into the bottom of the compost ring, returning it to the earth.
A few nights ago, I spilled most of a cup of tea on the floor. No big deal, really. I went to the back hall to fetch the Floor Towel and the mess was quickly mopped up. We love the two old bath towels hanging in the back hall, next to the jackets, hats, and boots. One is bright orange, the other a deep rusty brown. They are both clearly from the 1970s. We use them constantly. In the summer, one is always tucked next to the stove during canning season and near the sink when we are pouring dishwater into a five gallon bucket to water the gooseberry plants. In the winter, they mop up the mud and water we track in from the back yard, capture the rainwater that leaks in where the garage meets the house, and remove cat prints in the dining room. Big towels work better than small rags for large wet messes. We use them for weeks, drying them on the pegs, and then throw them into the laundry with the small rugs.
We also have a huge bag of rags, which we use for house cleaning. Old t-shirts and dishcloths, as well as sheets worn thin by years of wear, become cleaning rags with a ceremonial ripping of the seams. When it is time to clean the bathroom or kitchen, paint trim, or wash the floor, we reach for the cloth rags. Once a month, we wash them with bleach and hot water and hang them in the sun to dry. When they are totally dead, after years of use, they are tossed on the compost pile.
Years ago, I created several salad bags by sewing together scraps of cotton about two feet wide and one foot long, folding over the top, and running ribbons through the channel. We could then wash our greens, step outside, and swing the bag in a circle, forcing the water off of the leaves. If we did not use all of the greens, they were then stored in a damp cotton bag in the fridge. The bags were so useful for all sorts of things, including backpacking, that I made five or six more. They are wearing out now, and I plan on sewing another round, using old dish towels.
Napkins, tablecloths, and cloth dish towels:
Years ago, my mother decided to be elegant and no longer use paper napkins. She bought a set of eight solid colored cotton napkins, four napkin rings (we each had our own), and established the rule—the napkins lasts for a week. Cloth napkins quickly became the norm. Now, I have a huge collection of napkins, different patterns to reflect the seasons. And when I grow bored with them, I can make a few more by hemming fat quarters purchased from the quilt store. When we have company, I pull out the stack and toss them into the laundry when everyone goes home. Dish towels work the same way; nothing chirks up the kitchen more than a few bright new towels. Both make excellent presents as well, useful, inexpensive, and durable. I also have a collection of old tablecloths—the gold and white ovals from my mother, seven or eight floral patterns from the 1950s from my partner’sv mother and thrift shops, and a few cheery ones I bought new. They cover the old, in need of refinishing, dining room table all winter and make the back yard look festive for summer parties.
Lemon Fennel Pasta
Trim the fronds off of your fennel bulb and chop up finely with two or three garlic cloves and the rind of one lemon. Mix with a large handful of grated parmesan cheese.
Slice an onion and a fennel bulb and sauté in olive oil until golden. Add the juice of the lemon, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until soft and juicy.
Cook a handful of whole wheat spaghetti. Drain, mix with lemon and fennel veggies, and the garlic/frond/cheese mixture.