Learn how to sew a napkin in this beginner-friendly DIY cloth napkins tutorial! This fat quarter friendly sewing tutorial is incredibly fast and easy. With the holidays coming up all you need to do is reach into your stash, pull out some of your favorite fat quarters, and follow along with these easy peasy instructions!
I have been meaning to make myself some cloth napkins for a while, mostly so we could be a little more green at home and use fewer paper products. Finding these beautiful fabrics was the final kick in the pants I needed to make them happen! And don't worry, I'll share the info on the fabric. 😉
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Cloth Napkins Supplies
For this cloth napkins tutorial you only need the most basic sewing supplies. One thing I will add, because it really will make your life easier and these napkins more polished, is glue. There's nothing fancy about this glue, any kind of water-based glue will work. You don't even need it to be liquid. If a glue stick is all you can find in your 3rd grader's backpack, that will be perfect.
- Basic sewing machine
- Thread - I suggest matching your thread to your fabric so it blends well (this will also hide any stitching flubs or mistakes – not that you make those.)
- Fabric - Fat quarters (18" x 21" pre-cut), 1/2 yd cuts or yardage is perfect. You will be trimming each napkin down to 17" x 17", so a fat quarter is a great size.
- Cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter OR a ruler and scissors
- Iron and ironing surface - I'm using this wool pressing mat.
Cloth Napkins Tutorial
Are you ready for a fun gift you can make in an hour or two? Let's jump in!
Step 1: Trim fabric to 17" squares.
If you are starting with fat quarters I suggest stacking 4 on top of each other and trimming that way to save time. Don't pre-wash them because you might lose too much fabric to fraying.
If you are using 1/2 yd. cuts, consider pre-washing the fabric. This way they are pre-shrunk and you know how they are going to look after many washes. Once washed and ironed, fold them in half and stack 2 on top of each other for cutting.
The fabric used in this tutorial is from the Sashiko collection by Windham Fabrics. Isn't it pretty?
If you're pulling out the yardage for this project, go ahead and cut it into 4 fat quarters to make future cutting a little easier. To do that, measure the halfway point of your yardage (18"), make a snip through the selvage, and rip it. Since fabric rips on grain this will give you 2 - 1/2 yd. of fabric. With each half yard, line up the selvages and cut along the bottom fold. You now have 4 fat quarters!
Lay your fabric on a cutting mat and trim the bottoms and the sides. Rotate the stack of fabric 180-degrees, line it up on the cutting mat, and trim the other two sides so that you have 17" squares of fabric.
Step 2: Press the edges.
It's time to fire up the iron! If you're unfamiliar with what a 1/4" looks like, take a minute to measure and mark a 1/4" and a 1/2" from the edges of a napkin.
Fold in all four edges, first a 1/4" and then a 1/4" again (this will hit that 1/2" guidemark you made if you did that.) I folded the corners too, but they don't stay folded very well. Don't worry, we'll fix those pesky corners...
Step 3: Trim the corners.
Unfold each corner and trim the tip to the first 1/4" crease. Use a ruler and rotary cutter here if you aren't sure about estimating and using scissors; however, I bet once you finish one or two of these cloth napkins, you'll be so good at eyeing the right measurements you won't need a ruler anymore.
Step 4: Glue baste the corner.
Place a small amount of glue on the wrong side of the fabric, right by the corner edge. Fold over the edge about a 1/4" and heat set the glue with your iron. NOTE: Glue basting does not work unless you heat set the glue.
Step 5: Miter the corners.
The mitered corners on these napkins is what will give them a finished "professional" look. Fold in both sides a 1/4" twice so that the tips meet in the middle like the picture below. I find it's easiest to fiddle with both edges at the same time and get them just right before glue basting them in place.
Step 6: Glue baste the napkin hem.
Now that our corners are beautifully mitered and in place we can use little dabs of glue around the edges to keep our cloth napkin hem in place. Don't forget to heat set!
Step 7: Sew around the hem.
What I love most about glue basting is that once it's finished, and you're ready to sew, the hard part is over. There are no pins to remove, or fabric puckers to mess with. No, ma'am! If our glue basting was done properly, this last sewing step is a cakewalk.
To sew the hem, I like to flip the cloth napkin so the wrong side of the fabric is facing up and sew as closely to the edge of the hem as possible. Since the bobbin thread is what will be visible on the front of the napkin, I put this really pretty 12 wt. 712 variegated Sulky thread in my bobbin and used a simple 50 wt. white thread on top. I love how well variegated thread blends and the higher weight gave these cloth napkins some fun added texture.
Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. Pivot at the corners by keeping your needle down, lifting up on the presser foot, and rotating the napkin.
Ta-da! Wasn't that the easiest cloth napkins tutorial? You are now ready for a festive dinner party, or at the very least, doing your part to be more green and use fewer paper products. Mother Earth and Martha Stewart commend you!
If you end up making some of these cloth napkins, please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear what about fat quarters you'll be mixing into your next soirée! Cheers!