The Best Kind Of Napkins {And A Tutorial}

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I don’t know about you, but I love cloth napkins.  I even like to use them for our every day meals.

But I get so frustrated buying them.  Have you bought any recently?  They are either very expensive or they are made with such inferior fabric that they don’t even feel comfortable on my lap!

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So I have taken to making my own cloth napkins.  I thought you might enjoy a simple tutorial so that you can make some for yourself!

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I buy quality cotton fabric.  I know it is expensive; it can be as much as $10 a yard but I have found that napkins made from quality fabric last for years.  Also since the napkins will get very soiled, a good cotton fabric is even more important as stains can be removed so much easier.

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I’ve been on the hunt for some fabric that would match my bright colored Fiestaware dishes that I use for every meal.  Recently I saw a new fabric line called All Weather Friend by April Rosenthal for MODA fabrics.  I absolutely adore this fabric!  It is all the right colors to go with my dishes.  And who can ignore fabric that has a darling message in the selvedge? Smile!

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So lets get started on how to make them!

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You will need 1 yard of fabric for each napkin.   I know that is a lot of fabric.  The thing is this.  I line my napkins.  I absolutely love how they feel when they are lined.  And I like to use two different fabrics so they are reversible.  Everything is more fun if its reversible right?!   So… I purchased 1/2 yard each of two different fabrics for each napkin.

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Iron your fabric and cut each piece into an 18 x 18 inch square.  I recommend using a rotary cutter, ruler and a cutting mat for this step.  You could certainly do it by using scissors and a measuring tape but it won’t be as accurate.

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Choose which contrasting fabrics you want for each napkin.

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Take the two fabrics and place them right sides together.  Pin them together every few inches.  You might feel it isn’t necessary to pin them, but it’s easy to get slippage and it only take a few minutes to pin.

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Place your presser foot down along the raw edge of your fabrics and begin sewing about mid-way down one side.

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Carefully sew all the way to the corner.  When you get to the corner, stop with your needle down, raise your presser foot and pivot your pinned fabric so that the next side is ready to sew.

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Lower your presser foot and sew the remaining sides the same way.  Continue all the way back to the side you started on and stop when you are about 4 inches from where you started.  Backstitch a few stitches.  Cut your thread and remove your fabric from the machine.

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Cut all four corners off, being careful not to cut into the sewn seam.  The purpose of this step is so that when we turn the rights sides out we can get sharper corners.

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Put your hand through the opening that you left on the one side and turn your fabrics right side out.

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Use a sharp object to push the corners out.  But be careful because you don’t want to use something that is so sharp it pokes a hole in the corners.  Push out all four corners.

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Take your napkin to the ironing board and carefully press all four sides.  I use my thumb and index finger to roll the edges flat.

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Iron as you go around all four sides.

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When you get to the opening that you left for turning, just roll in the raw edges.

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And then iron flat.

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Once you have the napkin fully ironed go back to your sewing machine and sew a top stitch all the way around.   I sew mine about 1/8 inch from the edge.

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Go all the way around, pivoting at your corners.

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Your opening will be closed by the top stitching.

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Iron your napkin flat, then fold and iron again until you get nice crisp edges!

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And you now have one lined cloth napkin of superior quality!  I made eight napkins and then went back and made a couple more.  I have ten place settings of my Fiestaware and sometimes I have enough company that I use them all so I wanted to have the same number of napkins.  I love how quick and easy they are to make.  You may feel that it is  too expensive to buy the 100% quilting cotton fabric that I used, but I calculated that I spent $8-10 per napkin.  The only cloth napkins I’ve found that have fabric that absorbs moisture, feels good on my lap and will last through many washings are some from Anthropologie that cost $48 for four napkins!  So I’m feeling pretty good about my $10 napkins that I made!  

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I think one of my favorite things is just how pretty they look with my dishes.  I like adding some of my other colorful dishes with them too; even if they don’t exactly match they just work!  I also love that they are reversible.

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I don’t know about you, friends, but I sure am looking forward to some spring weather and eating on the porch!  How about you?  Make some cloth napkins to go with your prettiest china and plan a spring garden party!

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I think that’s what I’m going to do!

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Until our gravel roads cross again… so long,

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Dori

Leave a comment 34 Comments

  1. Connie Hester says:

    Great idea! Will be doing this from now on. I too, love cloth napkins. I purchased some recently from a well known name brand store (online). They advertised them as 100% cotton, but they feel more like rayon. I returned them immediately. Looks like I will be heading to the fabric store tomorrow. :)

  2. Kim Rice says:

    As usual you make me want to run to my machine and make beautiful napkins!! And buy more Fiesta ware!!
    Your porch meals will be ones to remember!!
    Xoxo,
    Kim

  3. Cyndie Gray says:

    Your napkins are gorgeous!! I am going to have to try this after we get moved. My sewing craft stuff is all packed right now. You make it look so easy!!!

  4. Pat says:

    Dori do you make to sell. You made.me the potholders.and wash cloths. And if you do what is.the price. Thanks you are so talented. Pat Mitchell From Virgina

  5. Susan says:

    Love this idea! My sister has Fiesta Ware and I see a present coming up! Thx!
    I have mixed pottery I have collected so….Boy am I into this to come up with the ideas…
    I’m a Quilter and thinking of my “stash” as a source of awesome napkins…even if I pieced to get the 18 inch squares….(suggestion to sewers-shorten your stitch length on pieces to make them less inclined to come apart!)

  6. I have a few cotton napkins that I use everyday. You have a great idea to line them. I have yardage left from making quilts so that would be easy to come up with contrasting fabrics. I will certainly be making some of these

  7. Monica says:

    Love these- thankyou!!!

  8. Pamela Warren says:

    Fabulous job and great job on your instructions.
    A little tip to make the corners even sharper when turned is one extra stitch.
    Sew as illustrated to your corner. Instead of rotating the needle 90 degrees rotate 45 degrees and take one or even two small stitches. Then rotate needle 90degrees and take off for the next corner.
    This was taught to me years ago by national sewing educators. I
    try to pass the tip on when teaching. It works because it provides room for the fabric to spread out a bit. Give it a try!

  9. SUZANNE QUALLS says:

    Hi Dori,
    I too use cloth napkins for every meal. Many years ago, I made placemats and napkins to match and have been using them since then.
    I use 1 yard of main fabric and 1 yard of lining fabric and get 4 lined napkins. I cut them the same measurements and make them exactly like you do.
    It’s a joy to pass the shelf with napkins on it every time I go to the grocery store.
    Suzanne

  10. SUZANNE QUALLS says:

    Forgot to tell you, I have gathered up several new fabrics and am ready to make me some new ones. The old ones have been used so long, they are wearing pretty thin.

  11. MargaretMy Rohn says:

    I’ve been making cloth napkins for over 35 years now and still using some that long too. Batiks also make nice napkins with just a single ply and basic hem. I’ve never made 2 ply ones like this before but I think I will now. I raised my children with cloth napkins so they would always know how to handle formal situationa with ease. They still use them now in their homes. Plus they are so much fun to fold into fancy designs or into fans and put into glasses. Thanks for the additional ideas . Margaret

  12. Linda Kohn says:

    This is a great idea. Thanks for the how to!

  13. Lorita says:

    Hi Dori, well that’s funny. I don’t know what got into me but last week I made cloth napkins! Yup, it’s true. And then I cut up some old t-shirts for our two bathrooms for cleaning clothes that are absolutely dedicated to the bathrooms. Life is sometimes so serendipitous. Thank you for your post. Small changes by many to help the planet (therefore its inhabitants) equal big changes. Blessings to all, Lorita

  14. Maxine Schartner says:

    I love cloth napkins! I’ve made lots of them but never doubled ones like these. When winter is feeling long way up here in the north, this is northern Alberta I’m talking about, like close to the Northwest Territories border, then I like to sew some springy looking napkins and dream of meals outside on the deck! I’m going to try some like this!

  15. Marilyn says:

    The napkins are lovely. Thanks for the information.
    Marilyn

  16. Dianna Hauf says:

    Oh my heavens those are gorgeous!!! I totally agree with making your own and I can not wait to make me and several others a set for spring/summer!!! So inspirational and I am sure with a happy table setting the food sure goes down better too! Lol! Thank you Dori for sharing!!

  17. Mary Rauch says:

    Your articles are such a bright spot in my reading. Thanks for being “YOU”. It’s a treat to follow your ideas and listen to your dreams and creative endeavors.

  18. Kerrie H says:

    Hi Dori– Love to use cloth, too. Your first instruction says your purchased 1/4 yd of each fabric then cut them into 18″ squares…..did you purchase fat quarters? Just checking….. since you can’t an 18″ square out of a regular 1/4 yd. Your colors are fabulous. I am going to go to my stash right now !! Thanks.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I use feistaware dishes and use cloth napkins too so we are farmgirl sisters for sure! I have made some of mine but get many at thrift stores. I’m going to look for fabric to go with the dishes and make more,they will be perfect for summer. Thanks for the tutorial!

  20. Mary Jo Koca says:

    I’m a quilter and hoarder of fabric. I’ve been trying to clean out some of my stash and this is the perfect project for some of my fabric pieces that I don’t know what to do with.
    They will make wonderful gifts, too. Thank You.

  21. Rebecca West says:

    Love this, thanks for the tutorial. Very easy to make.

  22. Ann says:

    Your napkins are lovely. I store cloth napkins also and have been making them for years. I don’t line mine. I want mine to be oversized and have a variety for all seasons and for various types of dishes. And you’re right about the quality of fabric. I’ve had many of mine for 10 years or longer. Thanks, Dori, for sharing these lovely napkins.

  23. Cindi Johnson says:

    Funny how easy it is to forget that we don’t need to by buy everything. All of the things we now purchase ready made from stores were first created at home and are really so very simple to make ~ and they are so much nicer. Now I can’t wait for my machine to get out of the spa. I have some napkins to make!

  24. Wayve Dennison says:

    Thank you, Dori. Now I know how to sew one thing; your directions made it dound do-able, even for me. I did not inherit my Grandma Mildred’s sewing gene! I can just imagine happy ladies chasing lovely napkins down your hill in the spring breeze. New game! Tee hee.

  25. Suzanne Keefe says:

    Had never thought of lining a serviette. Love the linen ones I have as they are so much more absorbent. Will be adding these to my “Must make” list.
    Thank you

  26. Gail Foster says:

    These are beautiful and so easy to make. I’m going to look for fabric . Thank you

  27. Katherine says:

    This article could not have come at a better time.
    I had a dinner party for eight last night and went to great lengths to plan and cook the meal. When I went to set the table, I pulled out my well worn ‘go to’ napkins. They were clean and pressed but looked worn and lacked the appeal to go with the enthusiasm I had put into this meal.
    I am so excited about the possibilities of design and texture, I’m going to the fabric store Monday and shop for ‘good cotton’
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  28. Bonnie B says:

    Dori, I’m not seeing how you can purchase 1/4 yd (which is only 9 inches) of 2 different fabrics and be able to cut 18″ x 18″ square from each. If you purchased 1/2 yd of two different fabrics wouldn’t you be able to get 2 lined napkins from that?

  29. Sandi King says:

    Dori, i love this idea. I have some cloth napkins that I used once and had to throw away or put away and not use them. They bled colors when I washed them and shrunk also. So after I get my mini quilt done I will start making some napkins for my dinnerware. I also have Fiesta Ware dishes but have not used them on a daily basis, only for special meals and company. I love colors in my kitchen which is mostly black and white so I like my cookware in colors; bought the blue diamond pan set from Macy’s and I love them; they are blue. I also have Revere Ware cookware that have lasted for over 40 years and I will never get rid of them. Cloth napkins are so nice to use. Paper ones stick or fall apart and are a waste of money. So glad you posted this and I will be saving this post in a separate folder from my folder of MaryJane’s FarmGirl Bloggers so I can refer back to how you made yours. Thanks so much.

  30. Maureen says:

    Too fun!! Thanks Dori, awesome as always. A great and conscientious way to use some favorite fabrics.

  31. Mary Palmer Nowland says:

    Sewing is like cooking and baking; it is the way to show my love for family and friends. My mother was a seamstress as part of her many jobs on the homestead and she taught us girls how to create as well as mend. I made my sisters and daughters some table runners and napkins this past year. It made me immeasurably happy to make them happy.

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