The Joy of Making Colorful Cloth Napkins the Easy Way

If you have ever attempted to make cloth napkins for each place setting at your dining table by creating a double turned hem on fabric and mitering the corners, you know the process can be tedious and time consuming.

I have a better way to make cloth napkins that is fast, easy and best of all the napkins don’t have a wrong side, only two colorful and coordinated sides.

I recently was reminded of making cloth napkins after reading a post on Molly In Maine where she shared a few new items she sewed for her home. One of the items were colorful, two-sided cloth napkins.

4 two-ply cloth napkins hanging over the back of a dining chair.

She made her napkins a bit differently than the way I learned how to make double-sided napkins.

As with many things there can be many ways or techniques to make something. I thought I would share my production-line pretty cloth napkin method with you.

Where I Learned To Make 2-Sided Napkins

My first full-time job right after college was working in retail display. One of my favorite tasks I had to do each week in the department store I worked in was to set the dining tables in the housewares and furniture departments to promote the tableware the store sold.

To make the items look different one week to the next, I was allowed to do my own thing and when it came to table settings, I used to sew different patterns and colors of the napkins that the store sold together.

blue and green patterned napkin knotted on a dinner plate

I did it to add more color and interest to the tables. The manager of the store loved when I did this as the store ended up selling more napkins as many shoppers liked the look and wanted to create the same in their homes.

Bottom painted glass vase filled with purple, hydrangeas, white and green flowers. Placed on a wood bowl with handmade cloth napkins folded along the edge.

I like to think that using cloth napkins is kind of like using the good china every day, not only for special occasions.

Seeing a colorful napkin in a cheery print or color is like eye candy and makes any meal, even when you are sitting down alone to a meal of soup and a piece of crusty bread. A pretty cloth napkin can make time spent eating feel extra special.

Why Not Just Buy Cloth Napkins?

Whenever I am at HomeGoods, I always look to see what napkins they have in attractive patterns. Most of the time I can get a set of four I like for under $12 and I do have quite a few sets.

Lately though, I have been looking for blue and green napkins, but have been coming up empty handed.

I have also looked online at popular retailers like Serena & Lily and Pottery Barn for sets of green and blue napkins. I like many of the cloth napkins they sell, but not the $48 – $150 price tag for a set of four.

When I can’t find what I am looking for, I know it is time to go into DIY mode. For a fraction of high end retail prices I can design and make my own.

4 blue, white and green patterned napkins folded on a plate with bamboo utensils.

This is what I did to make a set of blue and green napkins in a mix and match set. I think the mix looks more interesting on a table then napkins in all the same color or print.

What Type of Fabric Makes the Nicest Napkins?

The best fabric to make cloth napkins is either cotton or linen. I went to my fabric stash and found enough leftover cotton fabric yardage from previous decorating projects to make my green and blue set.

blue/white pattern fabric made into a luncheon sized napkin. Fork on top of napkin.

The colors are the current color I am accenting my white/neutral kitchen with. One reason I like having mostly neutral decor in my home is that I can add any color I want and it goes.

I also had a stack of fat quarters used to make quilts. Each is a 1/4 of a yard (approx 18″ x 21″) and are big enough to make a luncheon size napkin. You can buy them anywhere fabric is sold.

Another place to find fabric yardage when you want to make larger 20″ x 20″ napkins is in the quilting aisle and in the clearance aisle at craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics for bargain fabric yardage.

Way to fold a napkin for impact on a dining table. Rolled into bunny ears to place in a stemmed drinking glass.

Once the napkins are made, I have fun rolling and folding them in many different ways the way I did back in my retail display days.

2 sided cloth napkin gathered together with a plain napkin ring on a dinner plate.

Since the napkins are two-ply they have a heavier weight to them that is great for keeping a folded napkin in the shape you folded it. Often with thinner cloth napkins they don’t stand up and just go limp.

Blue and white cloth napkin folded in a triangle shape next to a dinner plate.
A paisley blue and white cloth napkin folded into a rectangle shape placed on a dinner plate.

How Much Fabric Will I Need to Make Cloth Napkins?

Here is a handy Cloth Napkin Yardage Chart that will help you calculate the fabric needed to make one cloth napkin in the size you want. IMPORTANT: If using this chart and making double sided napkins, double the amount stated in the chart.

If using pre-cut fat quarters sold where fabric yardage is sold. You will need 2 fat quarters for each napkin.

Cloth Napkin Size Chart


Purchased cloth napkin sizes vary, but the sizes tend to stay in the ranges listed below. Know that you can make napkins any size you want. That is one of the great things about making your own napkins from fabric – you are the designer.

As a guide, most cloth napkins that are sold at popular retailers are a standard 20″ x 20″ square size.

  • COCKTAIL – 6″- 9″ square
  • LUNCHEON – 16″ – 18″ square
  • DINNER – 18″ – 20″ square

Also keep in mind that once the napkins are sewn, the finished dimension may be slightly less because of seam allowance. If you want the finished napkin to be 20″ x 20″ then make your pattern 21″ x 21″ to allow for 1/2″ seams.

Blogger of DIY Decorating blog Diane Henkler of In My Own Style

Helpful Tip Before Starting:

To speed the process of cutting out the fabric for your set of napkins, make a rigid template out of a piece of scrap cardboard or foam board sold at the dollar store.

Making a rigid template cut to the size napkin you want will make fabric cutting for napkins easier as you can simply trace around the template with a marking pen, then cut two or more identical pieces with scissors.

Even easier would be using a rotary cutter with a sharp blade to run around the template placed on a few pieces of fabric to cut them all out at once to the same size squares.

How to Make Cloth Napkins With Two Coordinating Colors or Prints

What I like best about making double-sided cloth napkins is that you can make them any size you desire, mix and match colors and prints to create stylish napkins that look exactly the way you envision.

supplies needed to make cloth napkins that are 2 ply - fabric, thread, straight pins, scissors, rotary cutter and a cardboard template

supplies needed:

  • Fabric – (see below for amount needed)
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter or scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Iron & ironing board
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • 1 piece of foam board from the dollar store

Time needed: 15 minutes

Step-by-step tutorial showing how to make double sided reversible print cloth napkins in any size you want.

  1. Figure Out Fabric Yardage Needed


    See the fabric yardage chart linked above to figure out how much fabric yardage you will need to make one napkin in the size you want. Double this yardage to make a double-sided napkin.

  2. Wash Fabric


    Before cutting and sewing your napkins, wash and dry the fabric to allow for shrinkage.

  3. Make a Pattern/Template


    While fabric is in the wash, use a rotary cutter, craft knife or a pair of scissors to cut a square template pattern in cardboard or foam board in the size napkin you want.

  4. Press Fabric


    When napkins have been washed and dried, using an iron and ironing board, press the fabric to remove any wrinkles.

    an iron pressing fabric that is being made into a cloth napkin

  5. Cut Fabric


    Lay two coordinating pieces of fabric right sides together on your work table. Make sure the pieces are lined up evenly all around.

    Place your cutting template over the fabric and make sure it is straight and square on the printed design on the fabric.

    Using a rotary cutter, cut the square of fabric out.

    Set cutting template aside.

    (Note: If making more than one napkin, once you get the hang of using the template and rotary cutter, you can layer more than two pieces under the template to speed up the cutting process.)

    Cutting out 2 pieces of fabric using a foam board template and a rotary cutter.

  6. Pin the Fabric Squares


    Using straight pins, place a pin in each corner to hold the two pieces of fabric together.

  7. Sew the Fabric Square


    Sew the two pieces of fabric together using 1/2″ seam, leave a small opening on one side so you can turn the fabric right side out.

    Snip corners as shown close to the stitching.

    snip corner of sewn fabric with scissors

  8. Turn Fabric and Press


    Using your hands, turn the fabric right side out.

    To get the corners of the fabric out, place your hand with a small closed pair of scissors inside the fabric. Use the tip of the blades pair to push the corners out.

    Use an iron to press the two pieces of fabrics together.

  9. Top Stitch


    If you have two colors of fabric on your napkin you may want to use two colors of thread so that it matches the two different fabrics. To to this – on the sewing machine, fill the bobbin with one color of thread and the top thread with the other color.

    Place the fabric side with the color that matches the bobbin thread face down on the machine. This will ensure that the thread will match up with the fabric when you finish the napkin with top stitching.

    To close the opening in the napkin, fold over the raw edges of the opening to line up with sewn edge of the sewn part of the edge. Press.

    Once opening fabric edges are turned under and fabric is pressed, sew a 1/4″ top stitch around the edge of the sewn together pieces of fabric to create a finished napkin.

    If needed, press each napkin to flatten.

    4 finished blue, green and white napkins folded and lined up on a table with a fork on each.

Another 2- Sided Napkin Idea: A reader left a comment in this post sharing an idea that you may like. She wrote that if you cut one of the napkin squares smaller than the other, then line up the edges as if they’re the same size, when it is turned, and pressed, it will look banded with the contrasting color! Thanks Robin.

Making your own colorful cloth napkins will not only save you money and reduce paper waste, but more importantly they will add a personal touch to special occasion meals or to fit a dinner party theme. Meal time will be elevated into a stylish event every day.

Pretty Cloth Napkins I Like

how to make reversible cloth napkins. Finished green and blue print napkins rolled into a bunny ears napkin fold and placed in a stemmed glad

Napkin Folding Ideas to Try

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31 Comments

  1. Hi Diane,
    Thanks for the great idea of adding a punch of color to the table setting. In the past, I’ve sewn cloth napkins for our home and family members. Loving the colors/patterns you chose. Think it’s time for an upgrade to my table!

  2. Lynne Randall says:

    Thanks for the idea love sewing . Always have a fabric stash you just gave me great ideas for holidays

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lynne – I am enjoying getting a few sewing projects done. I usually put them off, but now that I have my machine out, I am enjoying making items that fit my style and not having to settle on buying decor that doesn’t quite line up with what I envision. :-)

      Great idea about making napkins for the holidays. I will have to start looking for just the right fabric/patterns to use as I love setting my holiday tables in different ways.

  3. Linda thomas says:

    These make awesome gifts for hostess or anyone that likes doing parties awesome idea tip ideas is great to

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Linda – Excellent idea about making a set of napkins to give as hostess gifts. Even a better gift when you know their decorating color scheme. Thanks for sharing the idea.

  4. That Crafty Cara says:

    Gorgeous! I will definitely need to give this a try! Thank you for this post!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Cara – I am such a fabric junkie and finding ways to use and enjoy the fabric I have collected over the years makes me happy.

  5. Jaye Brown says:

    Ya did it again! You came up with another brilliant idea. Love this idea and Iook forward to creating some of my own. Thanks again for adding to my ‘”WISH TO DO” list in 2024.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jaye – Thanks XOXOX! A colorful set would be perfect for your getaway place on the water. Cocktail sized one too for the bar area. :-)

  6. I love this idea!! What a great way to use up extra fabric. These would make lovely gifts for newlyweds too. Either purchase or diy some cute napkin rings and you’ve got a sweet, personal gift. Thank you for the great tutorial, too!

  7. Beautiful Diane – you have such great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Jane :-)

  8. I love this idea! A perfect project for using up fabric stashes! Thank you for the detailed instructions!

  9. Also, if you cut one of the napkin squares smaller than the other, then line up the edges as if they’re the same size, when it is turned, it will look banded with the contrasting color!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Robin – That is a great idea. I am not that great of a sewer so I would have never thought of cutting one of the squares smaller. Thanks for sharing the idea. I will add it to the post. :-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Diane – You are so talented. These napkins are beautiful!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thank you. :-)

  11. Thank you so much for this great idea. I have also been looking for blue and green napkins. I have many blue ones but no greens. Can’t wait to go purchase fabric. Thanks for the easy instructions also!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Deb – So happy that my post has inspired you. Enjoy shopping for just the right green fabric to fit your vision.

  12. Barbara Pilcher says:

    Great post, Diane. Love this idea and the directions. Your photos are beautiful, as usual. Thanks for encouraging me to dig through my fabric stash to see what I can “pair up.”

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Barbara – Digging through your fabric stash is half the fun in making and coming up with fabric combos for your napkins. I have learned so much about photography in my 15 years of blogging and have to credit my 24-70mm lens that I bought about 12 years ago. It was my go to lens until it wouldn’t work on my camera about a year ago. An error message came up and I had to send it to get fixed. Cha-ching, but it was worth it now that I have it back and have been using it again. Enjoy searching for fabric combos. :-)

  13. Thank you Diane, for always giving us easy, economical and great ideas! You’re my first go-to DIY gal.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Deb – :-)

  14. I love this! I have always liked the idea of cloth napkins but typically only use for special holidays. Thanks for all the special tips too! Curious, I am thinking of making quilts for each of my sons. I need to learn how first🤣. Do you think it is best to purchase fabrics for something like this at a quilt shop or a store like Joann’s? We are in Minnesota so I was going to use flannel squares. Your thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi June – As far as where to buy fabric to make a quilt, fabric and quilt shops would be the best as they have a wide variety of fabrics made for traditional quilting. This doesn’t mean they are the only places. Quilts can be made from any fabric, flannel would look and feel wonderful, especially in cold Minnesota :-). Flannel is sold by the yard and fabric stores have a nice variety of colors and prints of flannel fabric. So I would check out all the fabric stores around you to find a fabric(s) you like.
      I have seen many quilts made from T-shirts, old clothes, curtains and tablecloths. You could even cut up flannel shirts bought at a thrift store to make the quilts. I am in the process of making a quilt myself in my free time. It may take me years, but I am determined to get it done.

  15. I love this idea. We started using cloth napkins every day during the pandemic when paper supplies were limited at the market. Some of my solid napkins have stains and though they are clean, they are not suitable for guests. I’m going to make some following your directions. Thanks for the idea and how-to.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Patti – I haven’t bought paper napkins in a long time either. I still have some in a drawer in my kitchen from a project I did, but I know I have no need to buy any more. I do still have a few fun cocktail size paper napkins that friends and family bring to us as gifts when we invite them for dinner or a day on the lake. I even have a woven holder for them and do use them when we have guests and serve appetizers and drinks before dinner. Enjoy picking out the fabric and making your napkins.

  16. Love this!!!!! Beautiful fabric pattern and colors you used!!! I will definitely be making some myself…..thank you for all the detailed photos and instructions!!💕

    1. Great idea, especially for beginner sewing skills.

      1. Diane Henkler says:

        Hi Nancy – Thanks. Yes a good project for beginners and anyone who wants to chase the winter blues away by adding some cheerful color to their days.

    2. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Monica – Thanks – Enjoy picking out the fabrics to use, that is half the fun and then making them and using what you designed.