Introduction: Sewing Napkins
Although store bought napkins are inexpensive and readily available, sewing your own is often the only way to get exactly the color you're looking for - AND it's super easy to do!
What you'll need to make 4 napkins:
- 1.5 yards of linen or cotton fabric (see next step for fabric breakdown)
- matching thread (or a fun contrast color - it's up to you!)
- fabric rotary cutter
- 2 long rulers (at least 20") - helpful if at least one is a thin metal one
- iron & ironing board
- fabric scissors
- large cutting surface (gridded cutting mat covered table is best!)
- basic sewing machine
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Step 1: Prepping Your Fabric: Part 1
Most fabric stores have a wide selection of cottons and linens to choose from (both are great for this purpose). I decided to go for linen because I found just the color I was looking for in the linen section. It is also a super classic napkin material. (= classy!)
Note: It's best to use 100% cotton or linen as they will be most absorbent, but a blend with at least 80% natural fiber will work too and will require less ironing.
Before doing anything else, wash and dry your chosen fabric on the settings you would normally use for linens.
Your fabric will come out in a wrinkly little bunch. Put your iron to the appropriate setting for your chosen fabric and iron your piece, being careful to keep it square and not to pull it (and heat set it) on the bias.
(I prepped some chambray fabric for another project along with my linen, so that is what the bottom two pieces are in the last photo of this step.)
Step 2: Prepping Your Fabric: Part 2
Lay your fabric out on a large cutting mat or cuttable surface. It will help if the surface has a grid so you can easily square the fabric up before cutting out your squares.*
*If you don't have a grid surface, I would suggest cutting out a 20" x 20" square of wood or card stock to use as a cutting template to ensure that your napkins are perfectly square.
Use your long ruler and rotary cutter to square up your piece of fabric (aka all the sides are perpendicular to each other).
Step 3: Cutting Your Napkin Squares
I used two rulers (plus my gridded work surface) to map and cut out my squares, which allowed me to avoid doing tons of measuring. But if you only have one ruler or just a soft measuring tape, measuring from the edges is cool too. Use whatever means makes the most sense to you based on the tools and work surface you have.
Like I mentioned in the previous step, if you don't have a large, flat surface to work on, ensuring that your squares do indeed end up square, I would suggest cutting out a 20" x 20" piece of wood or card stock to use as a cutting template to help with perfect squareness.
Once you have your four pieces cut, fold each one in half to make sure that everything is lining up. (aka square)
Step 4: Ironing Seam Fold No.1
Now you will be preparing the edges for sewing lovely, even seams by ironing two folds on each side of your napkins:
- a first initial fold over of 1/4" to 'tuck in' the raw edge
- followed by a wider finishing fold of 5/8"
Because my fabric had a bit of stretch to it and was finicky to keep the 1/4" first fold even, I used a thin metal ruler to iron over to help ensure an even fold - and to help keep my fingers away from the iron.
WARNING: If you chose to try this, make sure to cut a scrap piece of fabric to use to hold down the ruler as it gets hot from the heat of the iron.
You can also do this without the ruler, just make sure the steam is OFF on your iron so you don't burn your fingers working on such a small fold so close to the iron.
Do this on all four sides of each napkin. The last photo for this step illustrates what your corners will look like at this stage.
Step 5: Ironing & Trimming Seam Fold No.2
Now, without using the ruler (with the steam setting still OFF), iron a 5/8" fold on two opposite edges of your first napkin.
Take your fabric scissors and trim the four corners of those two 5/8" folds as illustrated in the images above.
Step 6: The Final Ironing
Fold and iron the other two sides down at the same 5/8" width.
Repeat steps 5 & 6 for the remaining three napkins.
Step 7: Thread Times
I chose to match my thread to my fabric, but this would also be a great opportunity to pick a fun accent color.
Step 8: Testing, Testing
Fill your bobbin and thread your sewing machine with your color of choice and using a scrap piece of your fabric, do a tri-fold (to recreate your edge folds) and test your stitch and thread tension until you are happy with the results. Because my linen was quite light weight, I chose to use a small stitch (2.5) and was super happy with how it came out.
Step 9: Sewing Your Seams
Keeping the outer folded edge of the napkin at the 4/8 line to the right of the foot, sew from the top of that side to the bottom, making sure to reverse 2 small times at each end.
TIP: As pictured, I kept my right hand stationary, allowing the fabric to slide through which offered a lot of control and an even seam. Another tip I have for achieving an even seam is to focus on the 4/8 line instead of the middle of the foot and the thread/needle. I find trying to focus on a moving point in the middle, vs. an edge, much more challenging and less visually clear.
Repeat this for all sides of all napkins.
Step 10: Ta Da!
Congratulations! You now have handmade napkins that perfectly match your placemats and/or dish ware!
Stay tuned for another, even easier, napkin making project AND an Instructable on how to customize your napkins, or any fabric, with bleached out patterns.
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