Sassafras Sarah’s Cloth Napkins, Tea Towels and Pillowcases
I love cloth napkins, I mean, I really love them. Growing up each of us kids had our own personal napkin ring. Each week a new, freshly laundered cloth napkin would greet me at Monday’s dinner — always a highlight of the start of the week. Really!
But cloth napkins have to be absolutely perfect for me use. They have to have the right feel and, of course, also be beautiful. I bought some in Santa Fe a few years ago that were quite pretty, but no matter how often I have washed them they never folded properly and were always stiff. For nearly ten years we have used a jacquard set from Anthropologie that are lovely, but getting awfully worn and faded. About two months ago I noticed that my old friend Sarah Grandy started populating her Instagram (@sassafras.sarah) with the most colorful, captivating napkins that she hand sews in her studio at the Main Street Makery in Durham, NH. Sarah owns and operates the The Makery, which been around since 2014 and represents about 30 artists.
Sarah’s napkins are made with fabrics she sources for their color, intricate patterns and durability. Her cotton-linen napkins are all 9×9, requiring only a simple fold down the middle to have them lay flat. Each napkin is two-sided with complimentary designs. You can either choose one of her whimsical creations or custom pick your own two sides from a dizzying array of fabrics. She also sells mixed sets of four packaged in a berry pint box allowing you to assign napkins at the table (no napkin ring needed!) or lunchbox so each person has their own pattern “The designers I follow are from Japan, Sweden and the United States. I have always been drawn to color and pattern so I was not interested in solids. It was all about rich color and busy patterns (aka stain hiders) cuz I’m practical like that!,” said Sarah in recent email to me.
She sells tea towels that are hand-sewn in the same way, with a heft to them that will last a lifetime. How does she know they will last that long? “Back when I was in the product development stage I knew that rugged, long wearing goods were an important component for me philosophically. I would make something and send it to the best test kitchen I could think of, Meadowlark Farm! They have a busy full kitchen that could put my products to the test. I figured if my napkins and tea towels could survive farm life that they would be cut out for any kitchen.” Meadowlark Farm, located just outside of Traverse City is one of the very first Community Supported (CSA) farms in the country. For 26 years, Jenny (Sarah’s sister) and her husband Jon have not only had a robust farm, but a farm kitchen that is constantly full of family and farm workers. (Side note: One Meadowlark Farm’s first claim to fame was a visit by Alice Waters back in the late 1990s!)
Sarah has also created a line of “Dreamy Pillowcases” that combine enchanting combinations, colorful fabrics and patterns made out of 100% cotton. She told me, “Basically I started doing this because I have always loved working with fiber. I wanted something that I could do from home while the kids were small. I also saw a gap in the availability of handmade kitchen linens that suited my eclectic style and colorful palette.”
Since March 2020 I haven’t bought much, not even a “Zoom shirt,” so I didn’t mind splurging on buying a full set of Sarah’s hand-sewn wares. And now I’m so smitten with them that I’m already lining up a new order for the upcoming round of fall birthdays and holidays.