Cloth Napkin Tutorial
I know we are celebrating Thanksgiving this week in the States, but it’s almost gifting season and I am bubbling over with so many ideas! One of the things I’ve always purchased but never made were cloth dinner napkins and table runners. Silly, right? Silly because they are easy to make if you know a few shortcuts. Join us for a wickedly simple cloth napkin tutorial that will be sure to get smiles from your favorite hostess-with-the-mostest!
This gift is for those people who love having a coordinated table. It is for the aunt, sister, mother or friend who loves hosting people for any dinner, but who becomes ecstatic when they get to host a big family get together. And we all have the friend who loves anything monogrammed, do we not? Help each of them expand their table linens with customized dinner napkins.
If you are a sewing beginner, do this project. You will get such a rush from delivering a project with straight hems and wonderfully pointy corners. Do this to get a boost that will keep you inspired and sewing. Trust me – just do this one. Can you tell I’m still kind of riding the high here?
What if you don’t sew? Yeah, you’ll be done in about 10 minutes. Go buy some cloth dinner napkins and add a monogram or a design using a stencil. A small bottle of fabric paint and a little love make them just as handmade as if you sewed them.
A Word About Fabric
Obviously you can purchase any type of fabric for this cloth napkin tutorial, but let me offer a word of caution: although it might look great in your photos or on Pinterest, no one likes wiping their face with burlap, ya’ll.
There are blends that will work, but stick to woven and relatively soft fabrics unless you’re just setting up a photo shoot. If you want to bring working fabrics like burlap into your table (or to coordinate with a gift recipient’s table), here are a few ideas:
- adding handmade burlap napkin rings.
- gifting your cotton napkins wrapped up with a working fabric collar (stack flat-folded napkins and secure with a thick swatch of your desired fabric).
- create a wrap with your working fabric for the bottle of wine you’re bringing along with your handmade cloth napkins.
- 1.5 yards fabric – I purchased a nice, thick 100% cotton home decor weight fabric. You can go the simple route and get white or go bold and get a pattern you think your recipient would like.
- sewing machine and supplies, iron
- fabric paint or fabric markers, optional – I use Tulip Fabric Paint in Metallic Black and Tulip Fabric Markers Fine Tip (affliate links)
Wash and dry fabric per instructions for the material, but skip any fabric softener.
Get out your iron. Don’t run away! Listen, I know ironing sucks. But when you make gifts for people and it calls for ironing, just do like I do and pretend you’re Donna Reed (donning pearls is optional, but makes it sooooo much more fun). You could also pretend all that steam is really a spa day by slipping into a robe and applying a cleansing charcoal mask. I’ve done that, too. Either way, just find a happy place while you whip these suckers out.
So set up that ironing board in front of the television after the little ones have gone to bed and iron your little heart out. You will thank me for it, I promise. Not only does it make the sewing part of this project fly by – think Top Gun fast, folks – but it also makes for a professional-looking end result. Swanky cloth napkins? Yes, please.
Cut squares of fabric at 20.5 inches, but don’t put the iron away just yet.
Once you have all squares cut, fold over all edges a half inch and iron. Then fold them over another half inch and iron. You are hiding the raw edge of the fabric with this to prevent fraying. Here’s a photo because too many words in a row is hard on the eyes.
Corners. Tricky sometimes, yes, but not for these cloth napkins. You can either do a full mitered corner or what I call tuck-and-fold corners. I’m sure there’s a real name out there somewhere, I just don’t know what it is. The difference between the two methods is that the tuck-and-fold method does not remove the fabric in the corners. I have commercially-made linens that have both, so I really think it’s your preference.
The tuck and fold and mitered methods both use the creases you just made by ironing the 1/2 inch hems, so do that first if you ignored my whole bit of awesome ironing advice up there…
You know who you are.
Here’s a good mitered corner video tutorial if you need it. I used this to learn how to do mitered corners, so I know it’s easy to follow. The tuck and fold method is easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy though, and you don’t have to worry about cutting fabric incorrectly. If you want to do the tuck and fold, here it is:
- Leaving all other hems intact, unfold your hem completely on one side of the napkin – you should have two crease lines.
- Fold up the corner to the 2nd hem line (from the edge).
- Fold up the hem twice and iron. Pin in place until sewn. Repeat on the other end (of the same side).
Repeat all ironing and pinning for the rest of your napkins. Take it to the machine and stitch at the inner edge of the hem (not the outside edge of the napkin). If you’re using the tuck-and-fold method, go ahead and stitch down the folded corner, too. I like to make sure it’s not going anywhere.
Voilà! You’re done making the cloth napkins and you’re awesome.
If you are not painting the napkins, go ahead and give them another iron before wrapping them up. You should also think about running a lint brush over them.
If you are painting them, after they’ve been painted and the paint has cured, give ’em a wash followed by an ironing. I think it’s good to include a small card that details washing instructions if you paint the fabric. Or you could opt to launder them after every use, you wonderful friend, you. If you offer that with your gift, let’s be friends. I have some laundry you should meet.
Speaking of being friends: are we friends on Pinterest yet? If you’d like, go ahead and Pin the photo below to share it with your friends and followers.
Others think this is a great project: it was featured by Bree at bumbreeblog’s Party in Your PJ‘s party and by Kathy at A Delightsome Life! And color me surprised when Christina with I Gotta Create chose it as a feature. If you’re looking for a wonderful home decor and projects blog, visit Aimee at It’s Overflowing. We are grateful she chose this project as a feature, too! If you’re looking for some other handmade gift ideas, here are a few to check out:
A beginner sewing tutorial (with an easy, knit applique) for burp cloths for baby and new mom gifts.
An easy beginner sewing tutorial to make a simple drawstring bag.