How to Make Cloth Napkins

How to Make Cloth Napkins

maureen wise headshotPosted by Maureen Wise, guest blogger

I collect cloth napkins; it’s a functional hobby. These reusable napkins keep trees from being cut down and our landfills a little emptier, and they can be so pretty, too!

Making your own napkins from scraps of extra fabric or old clothing you have on hand is a great way of reducing the waste your household produces. I like to make my napkins from leftover shirt material—you know, the shirts you don’t want anymore or have holes and rips that make them unwearable. Instead of using them as polishing rags or sending them to the thrift store, upcycle and turn them into napkins for your kitchen.

Go from an old shirt in your closet to a new stack of cloth napkins on your table.

Leftover fabric and old shirts can make a pretty stack of cloth napkins. Follow these DIY steps to sew your own.

Two Sew or Not Two Sew?

There are a few approaches to DIY napkins. If you have a lot of fabric, you can pursue the two-sided method, wherein you sew two same-sized pieces of cloth together. They look very nice and it’s easy to embellish the edges. I’m a lazy seamstress, though, and go for the “hem a square of fabric” method. It couldn’t be easier.

Step 1: Shirt Shape

using a marker to trace a cloth napkin

Your first step is to figure out where to cut the shirt. On a larger shirt, a sleeve can sometimes be divided at the seam, unrolled, and sewn together into a napkin by itself. You can use the front and have its cuff holes line an edge.

The backs of button-up shirts are the best cloth napkin real estate because they’re usually quite firm. Lay one of your current napkins on the shirt for guidance and do some tracing. I’ve used a washable marker instead of the traditional colored pencil as it’s much easier to see. If you have room on the shirt, leave about a half-inch on each side larger than your example napkin.

Step 2: Cutting Corners

cutting corner of cloth napkin in progress

The most important step is to iron really well. Fold the napkin edge over about a quarter of an inch and iron it out. Then fold it over again and iron a second time, pinning as you go. I’ve found it helps to cut triangles out of each corner this time around to minimize bulky corners. You may also fold over the squares of each corner into a triangle after you’re done ironing the second time for a flatter finish.

Folding corner of cloth napkin in progress

Sew4Home has wonderful perfect corner tutorial that I plan to follow next time I’m sewing.

Step 3: Straighten Up

sewing cloth napkins

Next, sew the edges with a straight line, picking up the foot at each corner for a crisp intersection. You’re done! Fold it up and pamper yourself with a tasty treat to try out your new cloth napkin.

cloth napkinsAre there any shirts in your closet slated to become cloth napkins? What else have you made from Tom’s of Maine’s DIY community? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Image sources: Flickr | Maureen Wise

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