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Cloth Napkins – A Great Sewing Project for Beginners

Cloth Napkins – A Great Sewing Project for Beginners

In my house, we use a lot of napkins. We’ve always used paper, and sometimes even resort to a select-a-size paper towel. However, it dawned on me recently that we could save a tree or two by using cloth napkins. It’s an easy sewing project, even for a beginner, and is a great way to use up small pieces of fabric. If I use the right print, I might even get my teenager to switch from the pant leg-and-shirt sleeve method he currently uses.

Choosing the Right Fabric

This is a project where the fiber content of your fabric matters. Have you ever used a cloth napkin at a restaurant or event and found it won’t absorb anything? You try to wipe your hands or mouth on it, only to realize that whatever you were trying to remove is still stuck to you? Those napkins are usually made from synthetic fibers like polyester.

To make reliably absorbent napkins, I recommend cotton. Some cotton and polyester blends will work as well, but pure cotton is your best bet. You could also recycle cotton clothing or sheets for this project.

Remember when you’re preparing your fabric for your project that cotton will shrink when it’s washed. If you’re concerned about the size of your napkins, I’d recommend washing and drying your fabric before you do any cutting.

Cutting Out Your Napkins

The beauty of these cloth napkins is that you can make them any size you’d like. Do you have a house full of messy eaters? Go big. Just need to dab a little at the corner of your mouth? Something smaller will do. The only thing you need to remember when cutting is to make it one inch bigger than you want the finished napkin.

14″ napkin = cut 15″ square
12″ napkin = cut 13″ square
10″ napkin = cut 11″ square

For my own napkins, I wanted 10 inches, so I cut 11 inch squares.

You can certainly cut these with scissors, but for a straighter cut, I recommend investing in a rotary cutter, mat and ruler.

Rotary Cutter, Mat and Ruler Set

This rotary cutter, mat and ruler set is an excellent investment if you plan to do any sewing that involves cutting straight lines. It’s an absolute necessity when making quilts. To use it, lay the fabric on the mat, line the ruler up with the marks and roll the cutter next to it to make the cut. I have an older version of this exact set and I use it daily.

Creating Mitered Corners

A mitered corner is not an absolute necessity when sewing napkins, but it gives a professional, finished look without a lot of extra effort.

  1. To miter your corners, lay your napkin wrong side up on your ironing board. Turn one edge to the inside 1/2″ and press. Turn and do the same with the next side, turning the corner in and well. Repeat with the remaining two sides. All four sides should be folded in 1/2″.
  2. Turn one corner toward you and unfold it.
  3. Fold the corner up from the bottom corner of the square that was created by pressing.
  4. Clip the top of the square off, corner to corner.
  5. Fold both sides back up 1/2″ and press again.
  6. Turn the raw edge under 1/4″, to the inside of the 1/2″ you pressed previously, creating a rolled hem.
  7. The corner should line up nicely into a point.

Finishing the Cloth Napkin Edges

Now that your corners are ready, to finish the rest of the edges just continue to turn the raw edge to the inside of the fold you created at the beginning. This will leave you with a 1/4″ hem.

Stitch all the way around the napkin, just under 1/8″ from the inner fold. Pivot at the corners.

Press one more time and they’re ready to use.

Have you sewn cloth napkins before?

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