Leading up to the holidays, I’m going to be sharing a few tutorials for sustainable and useful scrap busting projects that are perfect for gift giving. Today’s video tutorial is the first in the series and it’s probably the most simple and most useful of all the projects. In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to sew your own mitered corner napkins using scrap fabric. Using a cloth napkin instead of paper disposable napkins is a great way to reduce waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Plus, when you use scrap fabric, these napkins are basically free to make. Read on to watch the video and learn how to make these luxurious and earth friendly napkins.
Cloth napkins have a way of making any meal feel more luxurious and fancy, especially when they are finished with beautiful mitered corners. If you’ve never used cloth napkins before, it’s a pretty easy switch to make. You simply use your cloth napkin for a few meals and then throw it in the wash when it needs to be cleaned. (How often they need to be washed really depends on how messy your meals are.)
The only tricky thing is when you have a multi-person household and need to keep track of which napkin belongs to which person. Growing up, my family used a different napkin ring for each member to identify each person’s napkin. You could also add a monogram to your napkins or give each family member a certain color. Another way to easily “code” your napkins would be to sew a small loop of colored ribbon or bias tape in the folded edge of the napkin. If you’re making napkins as a gift, you could monogram the napkins using the recipients’ initials or embroider them a design that is personalized for them.
For my napkins, I used scraps of linen and cotton fabric. You’ll want to choose a fabric that is soft enough to be used to wipe your mouth comfortably. Because I was using scraps, I didn’t always have a piece fabric that was big enough for my desired size. To remedy that, I pieced together multiple pieces of fabric to create a new bigger fabric. To conceal the raw edges, I pieced the fabrics together using French seams. I have a video here that will show you how to sew French seams.
The only tricky thing with the French seams, is that my machine had a little trouble top stitching over the bumps in the hem edge. I’m not too worried about it but if imperfect topstitching will bother you, you can try trimming down the seam allowance that’s hidden by the hem. Or, you can even hammer those seams to get them really flat.
If the video above doesn’t work for some reason, you can watch it on YouTube here. To subscribe to my channel, click here. I post a new sewing video every 1 to 2 weeks.
How to sew cloth napkins with mitered corners
Universal machine needle
TOOLS: (affiliate links)
Tailor’s Point Press Clapper
Note: For a finished napkin size of 16” square, I cut my fabric 19” and am using a hem allowance of 1.5” on each side. You can make your napkin or tea towel any size you want.
Step 1: Fold and press all raw edges .5" to the wrong side. Fold and press again 1” to the wrong side.
Step 2: Unfold second fold only. Using a temporary fabric marking tool, mark 2" from each corner and draw connecting line. (IMPORTANT: If your second fold is not 1”, mark points that are 2 times the length of your second fold measurement.) Repeat for all four corners.
Step 3: Fold fabric right sides together and stitch across the corner, along the line you just drew. Repeat for all four corners.
Step 4: Trim the corners and press the seam open. If you have a tailor’s clapper with a pointy end, it works very well for helping press these tiny seams.
Step 5: Press the napkin and hold the hem in place with a few pins. Top stitch using a straight stitch or decorative stitch of your choice.
This tutorial is really adaptable and can be used to make napkins of any size or even tea towels, or table runners. To design your own, you’ll first need to decide on the finished size you want. Next, decide your hem allowance, which is the sum of the two folds that you’ll make to finish the raw edge. To find the dimensions you need to cut your fabric, add the finished size to the hem allowance times two. (You need to make sure to double the hem allowance because it needs to be added to each side of the napkin. For this tutorial, I’m making a standard 16” square napkin with a 1.5” hem allowance. So, I cut fabric that was 19” square because 16 + (1.5x2) = 19.
Ideas for personalizing your napkins
Use a special embroidery stitch to topstitch the hem. If your machine doesn’t have a lot of stitch options, try a zig zag stitch or two lines of parallel stitching.
Play with contrasting topstitch thread.
Hand or machine embroider a monogram or other design.
Sew on a trim, like rick rack for a fun and playful contrast.
Dip dye your napkins.
Add a ribbon hanging loop.
I love finding new ways to use my fabric scraps, especially when it’s for something that’s both useful and sustainable, like these napkins. I even have a list of 100 ways to use fabric scraps. If you are looking for even more ways to use your fabric scraps, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my sewing and sustainability newsletter. It’s just an occasional email to share tutorials like this one, and it will be the best way to find out when my new e-course launches. I’m currently working away on a new course that will teach you how to use your fabric scraps to make improvisational quilts. It’s my favorite way to use my scraps. Plus, it’s a really fun and creative process that gives you a completely unique (and useful!) quilt. You can sign up for that newsletter below or right here. Happy sewing!