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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Time needed: 15 minutes
Step-by-step tutorial showing how to make double sided reversible print cloth napkins in any size you want.
- 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.
- Wash Fabric
Before cutting and sewing your napkins, wash and dry the fabric to allow for shrinkage.
- 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.
- Press Fabric
When napkins have been washed and dried, using an iron and ironing board, press the fabric to remove any wrinkles.
- 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.)
- Pin the Fabric Squares
Using straight pins, place a pin in each corner to hold the two pieces of fabric together.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.