How to Make Cloth Napkins

Hi, everybody! I'm Paige from Little Nostalgia (blog no longer active) and it's the mooooost wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeeeeeear! I've been clocking a lot of time making gifts and getting the house all gussied up before we host our families later in the month. One thing I've become more aware of over the last couple of years is how many paper goods (napkins, gift bags, tissue paper, etc.) one family can burn through during the holidays. Instead of getting disposable everything because it's "easy," which we all do sometimes, I'm switching to fabric. I whipped up some pretty cloth napkins for a party last year and they were a big hit--not to mention quick to make and machine-washable--so I'm here with the tutorial. Even if you're a beginner, all you need to do today is use an iron and sew in a straight line. You got this.

How to make cloth napkins - an easy sewing tutorial from Creative Green Living



Step 1: Cut
Let's cut that fabric to the appropriate size. You may have noticed that this plain white fabric is different from the glittery dots in the main image above. That's because I made those napkins last year and thought I had more fabric with which to demonstrate, yet I did not. Sad face. But it's the same process, pinky swear.

Use your straight edge and rotary cutter to cut one 18"x18" square per napkin. I made six, but you do you.

Step 2: Fold
The meat of this project is folding and pressing. Turn the edges of the fabric under about 1/4". You'll actually do this on your ironing board (and then press them flat) but I'm showing you on my cutting mat to give you a sense of scale. Each wee little square is 1/4" and so is my fold.

Crank up your iron to the cotton setting and press those edges. Your corners might pop up a little like this, which is fine. As long as you have a clear crease on the perimeter, you can move on.

Step 3: Fold again!
Fold and press again! This is what will give the back of your napkin a finished edge and keep the fabric from fraying after a wash. The sides should be easy for you to press flat, but if the corners give you any sass, use the steam setting on your iron to make them cooperate.

Step 4: Stitch 
And now you're ready to sew! I like to line the edge of my napkin up with the foot of my sewing machine just to make it easy. Depending on where you prefer to put your seam, you may want to adjust your needle so it's all the way to the left. I did that below and used red thread to make it easier to see. (But leaving your needle in the middle will also look great. I've done it both ways.)

Start in a corner and sew a straight line all the way around each napkin, pivoting at each corner so it's one continuous seam. (Never done that? Leave the needle in the fabric but lift the foot so you can rotate the material 90 degrees. Easy.)

Here's a look at one of these bad boys, all pretty on the table. The edges are nice and crisp, which is what you want.

The beauty of this project is that because you can use any quilt-weight cotton fabric, it's extremely easy to customize them for your holiday table. You can also repeat the same steps on a smaller piece of fabric for cocktail napkins if you're going more of a mix-and-mingle instead of a sit down meal. No need for paper anymore!

We're hosting Christmas this year (aaaaah!) and I've already been fiddling around with how each place setting will look. 

I think we're ready.

Do you have any tips for staying green during the holidays? Are you making any Christmas decor? What fabric would you use to make these napkins?

About the Author: 
Paige Ronchetti is an interior decorator and blogger who writes about DIY projects, decor inspiration, and personal style over at Little Nostalgia (blog no longer active) When she's not blogging, she's working with local clients through The Room Kit, her budget-friendly interior design business. Her favorite books are Harry Potter. Follow along on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

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  1. Cute and easy! I've never actually made my own napkins, though I've made plenty of kerchiefs and bandanas for living history applications and the process is pretty similar.

  2. I'm not much of a seamstress, but I think I can do this! Thank you. One question: do you recommend pre-washing the fabric?

    1. You will always get the best results on any sewing project if you prewash the fabric. This assures that the fabric won't shrink and pull agains the stitches after you've sewn it.

      Hope that helps!


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