Cloth Napkins





Introduction: Cloth Napkins

About: I am boring. Fear my powerful powers of boredom!

I am really trying not to buy disposable products. It also occurred to me when I was looking for cloth napkins that they were ridiculously expensive. This is how I made my new cloth napkins.

You will need:
Cloth of some sort. I used a black twin sized 100% cotton sheet.
I also used some iron on stars for decorations. You could skip that part, or do something else.

Disclaimer: I am using a really old digital camera, so all the red tones are insane when compared to the reality I normally view.

Step 1: Cut Fabric to Size

When I looked up sites that offered cloth napkins, the sizes ranged from 16 to 20 inches square. Since I am using a flat sheet, I found I could fold the sheet in half length wise, and get two 15 inch squares out of that. So that's four across, and however many down I want.

It's your napkin, so make it as big or as small as you need. My whim was motivated by my fabric size.

I just used my rotary cutter, a yardstick, and a cutting mat on the floor. I suppose you could cut or tear the fabric in any fashion. That almost frightens me, as on this site it's not hard to imagine that someone could be using all manner of insane devices to cut the fabric. Experimental use of cutting torches, high power water jets, and whatnot could be employed, and probably are no more dangerous than a rotary cutter in my clumsy hands.

Step 2: Deal With the Cat

You might be able to skip this step if you either a) don't have a cat, or b) have one that is less of an impediment to your projects. I have yet to find a fool proof way to keep him out of what I am doing short of locking him in another room. Unfortunately, he is around fifteen pounds giving him an ungodly ability to howl when locked up which is more distracting than just petting him.

Step 3: Ironing the Edges

When deciding how to do the edges of the napkins I had three options.

The first was to just iron the edges over by a quarter of an inch, and then iron them over a second time by a quarter of an inch, then sew a zig zag stitch.

The second was to use a little roll over seam foot for my sewing machine that a friend of mine (Hi Ashcake!) lent me. I tested it, and found it was fiddly, and irritating. More irritating than ironing.

The third option was to get the husband to agree that I needed a serger, and serge the edges.

It turns out the husband was not quite enamored of a new sewing machine quite yet, and the borrowed foot was more irritating than the cat. That leaves me with my first option of ironing. I am still working on the serger, but the husband has to graduate from his university first. I have made a note to try and get rid of that nagging bit of common sense, so as to get a new serger faster.

Step 4: Sewing the Edges

This step is pretty easily done. You could use a straight stitch or a zig zag stitch. I chose a zig zag stitch.

You could conceivably hand sew these, but for someone that is as impatient as I am couldn't possibly give up that much video game time to do that.

Step 5: Iron on Stars

I thought the black napkins were rather plain, and decided on iron on stars.

A note on the stars:
I got my iron on stars from two brands. The 'Wrights' brand, and the 'Patch Ems' brand. They are iron on appliqué's. The Patch Ems say to just iron on, and the Wright's says for a permanent placement you need to sew them after ironing them down.

My personal feeling is that the entire iron on patch industry feeds on the hopes of those that are trying to avoid sewing. It's a deceptive game, and leads to frustration as the ironed appliqué's eventually peal off in the wash. If they say you only need to iron them on, then they are dirty filthy liars. I no longer listen to the silver tongued directions that promise me iron on bliss. I just sew the nasty little things down regardless. Just remember that they lie, and you will be okay.

Anyways, I digress. Just iron the stars on per the directions. I ironed mine on from the front to stick it a little, then really pressed and ironed them on from the back.

Step 6: Sew Down the Deceptive Stars.

I then sewed on the stars. You might want to take your machine into account. I have owned an awful lot of machines, and some of the cheaper ones are not very happy to sew through iron on appliqué. This is why I bought the Husqvarna Viking. Part of the demo was that the sales lady sewed straight through a yardstick, and the machine was fine. Of course, this means it can sew through my finger and keep tension, as well, but with the kinds of hell I put my machine through, it only seems fair.

I also used a heavy duty denim needle for this. You may break the lighter ones if you don't. Nothing says fun like flying needle shards.

The machine is threaded with red top thread, to match the stars, and black bottom thread to match the napkins.

Just go slow, and zig zag around the star. It's a lot of stop and go, raising the presser foot, turning, and going again.

Step 7: Finished Napkins

Now you have nice finished napkins to replace those disposable one. I made up 16 of this kind. We have two humanoids in our household, and I like to have enough on hand so they go in the wash loads with everything else. I figure they don't add much to my laundry, that I do once a week.

They were so nice, I think I am going to make up another set.



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    29 Discussions

    Thanks for the Instructable! I made some mine from a charity shop pillowcase. Handstitched because I've yet to invest in a sewing machine. :)

    1 reply

    How did you do the corners? Did you do a cut at each corner or overlap?

    1 reply

    here is my question about cloth napkins: don't they get totally stained right away and then if you want to actually get stains off, you'd have to be treating them all the time and have it be a big pain? I've always wanted to make them (and also make nice tablecloths!) but it seems like they would end up being dirty.

    5 replies

    Mine are black, so I would never see a stain if there is one. I just toss them right in the wash. Others that I know that have them, don't worry about it either, no matter what color they make them. Just in the wash. I am not the type of person that pre-treats my laundry. My clothes are lucky to even get sorted. No stains, dinginess, or any of that other hoopla despite that.

    This is a great demo, and besides it's witty and amusing. You had me in stitches (pun intented). I especially like the advice on the cat, as mine seems to be related to yours! Thanks!

    Well put, wendyb3b - worth reading if for no other reason than the Sneetches reference. Iron-on patches seem to have been put through Sylvester McMonkey McBean's machine - star on, star off.

    Thanks for the kind words. I am glad my instructable was worth reading. I have a going hypothesis that all cats are insane at this point, but I haven't sorted out why.

    I have cloth napkins that I bought from Goodwill (cheap, but nice!). And yes, they do get stained - more from grease than anything else. I don't pretreat them, though, because they're only for my household and I know they're clean when I wash them.

    Hey, I used to have a cat that wieghed fourteen pounds in pure muscle. Too bad he ran away... ;(

    These are soo cute! I love them! What a great idea!

    See here is where I'd be handsewing the little things on. I think it would drive me nuts to be so fiddly with machine-sewing the wee little stars.

    1 reply

    I am simply much faster on my machine. If I could approach that speed by hand I would have.

    Cloth napkins make great gifts too! I once made some with some Christmas themed fabric scraps and gave them to family members as gifts. They were very well received! And I always like to encourage people to practice anti-disposable behavior : )

    1 reply

    That was my aim, too. I am trying to get away from 'disposable behavior' as well. I think I am going to make them as part of the Xmas packages next year, and no one will know I am using fun happy gift time to help leverage towards less waste.

    My christmas present this year is going to be my Mom's 1967 Kenmore sewing machine. I can't think of a better project to practice straight lines on! And what a great gift idea for next year.

    1 reply

    That is a really cool gift. Some of those older machines are much better than the newer ones!