[this post was originally posted for Feelin’ Feminine’s   A Chest of Hope column.]

A couple of years ago, I was horrified that the price of the cheap paper napkins at the store had gone from $1 to almost $2!  Maybe not such a big deal, but considering that we went through 500-paper-napkin-package in 2 weeks, that would be approximately $100 a year just in napkins!

So partly for fun, and partly to save money, we had a napkin making party!  We pulled out our scrap material stash (which was, and still is, very large!) and everyone could pick whatever print or fabric they wanted and cut them out.  Some of the fabrics we liked weren’t big enough for a regular sized cloth napkin, so not only do we have quite the assortment of colors, but also of  sizes!  I think we sewed around 60 napkins that day, and they are still being put to good use.  We’ve been using cloth napkins for so long, that when we go back to a regular paper one, it seems so small…and so…puny!


They are very easy to manage, as you can just drop them into the laundry with your other dishcloths and towels, and they take up hardly any room at all in the washer.  Our laundry room happens to be beside the kitchen, so after a meal we gather up the napkins and drop them into a small plastic basket on the washing machine just for that purpose.  Then when we do laundry, we  dump the basket of napkins into the wash.  The hardest part of taking care of them is when you have a lot of them to fold at once, but even that is not so bad!

To begin with, choose fabrics that you would be willing to wipe your face with!  We have some favorite napkins and not-so-favorite ones for the simple reason that we did not quite think that through!



The ‘ideal’ size is 16 inches by 16 inches.  But you may make them slightly smaller, or larger, if you like.


Fold and press the edges over 1/4 of an inch, and then press them over again, so that the raw edge is inside.



Then, to make the corners, open up the corners of the hem you just pressed.


See the little square from your pressing in the picture above? Make your fold all the way to the top point of that square, or to the line shown.



Then fold the hem back over to the press marks you made before. Press with an iron to keep into place, or if you are brave, get each corner ready as you are sewing towards it. Stitch all the way around the napkin, as close to the edge as you can, like the black marks below.


Rolled Hem (Serger)

This is the faster way to do it, that is, once you figure out how to set up the serger for it!  This is especially faster if you are doing several napkins. I would encourage you to consult the manual that came with your serger as it will have all the specifics.  It really isn’t that scary–it just takes a few minutes of thought to figure out how to do it!

-After you’ve cut out your napkins, move the blade out of the way.  Some need unscrewed, but a lot of the newer sergers can be easily moved.



-Remove the stitch finger


-Thread the machine. You only thread the right needle for a rolled hem, so you can take out the left needle.

-Set your tensions: Right needle at 5, upper looper at 2, and lower looper at 1.  Sometimes there is a knob on the side of the machine that has an “R” on it for “rolled hem”.  If there is, turn that dial also (to “R”).

-Test on a scrap of fabric-it should leave a nice edge that is small and tight together (see one of the pictures)

-Begin sewing on your napkins.  When you get to a corner, slow down and serge just off of  the edge as shown below.



Lift the presser foot, carefully turn the fabric so that the needle is right beside the previously made hem, put the presser foot back down, and begin sewing again.


When you come to the place where you started, stitch over the beginning a little, and then sew off of the fabric, leaving a tail.  You don’t need the tail, but it helps you be able to trim it nicely and easier.


Add a dab of Fray Check to where you trimmed the tail to keep the thread from unravelling.



Enjoy your napkins!  They are so much fun!  As you can see in the top photo, we have some pretty wild ones (my brothers love their tractor napkins)!








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Cloth Napkins {Tutorial}
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5 thoughts on “Cloth Napkins {Tutorial}

  • April 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    That Fray Check is very good.
    I Love my cloth napkins.

  • April 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Oh I can’t wait to try this out! Thanks Jessica for posting! ~ Sarah

  • June 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks, I’m making some right now!


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