Still riding that zero-waste wave, I decided to lean into my kitchen since that seems to be where the bulk of our waste comes from. I made the decision to ditch paper towels and switch over to cloth napkins about a year ago, but it turns out – my family is messy as hell. We were using a small set of 6 I purchased from Anthropologie years ago, and I’ve been getting pretty tired of having to waste the energy (the machine’s and my own) and water required to wash them as frequently as I have been. So, I decided to kill a couple birds with one stone and level my ever growing fabric scrap pile to whip up a few napkins to hold us over between washings.
Cloth napkins are a simple way to add a little personality to your dining table and support a zero-waste lifestyle since you’ll no longer need to use disposable ones, paper towels, or wipes to keep clean during dinner. The best part about this project is that you can use almost any scrap of fabric (think old bedsheets or towels) and they’re a great beginner project if you’re new to sewing. Not to mention how easily you could customize these napkins through your fabric choices or by adding embroidery or fabric paint with a cute stamp. The possibilities are truly endless, people!
I made mine using some scrap linen from an old sewing project. If you don’t have scraps available, I recommend using 100% cotton from the fabric store due to it’s durability and how easy it is to sew with. Plus, you can find it in almost any color or pattern to suit your personal style and hide stains. Other great materials would be linen, flower sack, or muslin.
- Enough fabric for the size and quantity of napkins you wish to make (or, piece together a few different scraps and use embroidery or stamping to make them a cohesive set)
- Thread to match your fabric
- Scissors or rotary cutter (and cutting mat if using rotary cutter)
- Sewing machine
- Pins or clips
- Iron & ironing board (to press)
- Tailor’s chalk or any fabric marking tool
- *optional* embroidery thread, fabric paint, iron-on transfers, etc.
Step 1: Prepare your fabric (pre-wash, dry, and press if needed).
Step 2: Use your ruler and tailor’s chalk to measure and mark the size you want your napkin to be on your fabric and cut. I cut my fabric 17.5″ x 17.5″ to get a 17″ x 17″ napkin with a 1/4″ seam allowance (folded twice, 1/2″ total). You can also use a rotary cutter to cut along the ruler, but be sure to use a cutting mat under your fabric to protect the surface you’re working on.
Step 3: *optional* Add any embellishments. I chose to do some quick and easy embroidery using different pretty colored thread and a running stitch on the top and bottom of the napkin.
Step 4: Fold the edges of your fabric over 1/4″ and press. Fold over 1/4″ again and press.
Step 5: Unfold your edges and trim your corners a bit to remove any bulk. To do a mitered corner, cut the corners from second crease line to second crease line. Fold the corner down 1/4″. Then, refold the edges of the fabric 1/4″ and press, then fold 1/4″ again. Press and pin in place.
Step 6: Sew along the edge of the fold around all 4 sides of the napkin. If your fabric needs a final pressing, do so now. After that, you’re good to go!
That’s it! These napkins rock as a first sewing project. They rock as a first zero-waste project. They rock even harder as both.
Now go forth and enjoy feeling like you’re forever dining at a fancy-ass restaurant with your adorable new napkins! These would also make a wonderful hostess or holiday gift, especially if you added an extra special monogram detail! Make a whole set or do like me and just whip up a couple any time you just happen to have a few too many scraps laying around. You can never have too many napkins, amiright?!?