diy wednesdays: cloth napkins

by Grace Bonney

in coming up with a project for this week, we decided to make something that we’ve been desperately needing around the house. for a while now we’ve been trying to cut down on our use of paper, so we decided to whip up a set of custom cloth napkins. they couldn’t be simpler to make, they’ll save some trees, and we’ll be glad to have them for our weekly dinner parties. plus, since it only takes 1 yard to make a set of 4, it was the perfect excuse to raid our “cute fabric scraps” stash. click here for the full post and instructions, or just click “read more” below.

have fun!
derek & lauren

here’s what you’ll need:

-1 yard cotton or linen fabric (you can find the pear print we used here)
-pencil or tailor’s chalk
-sewing machine

1. wash and press your fabric.
2. measure, mark and cut out four 18″ squares.
3. press down a 1/4″ rolled hem on the top and bottom, pinning in place if necessary.
4. stitch with your sewing machine.
5. repeat with side seams.

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  • I agree – what a great way to use fabric scraps! I have a suggestion based on years of using cloth napkins at every meal. If you plan on using them regularly, choose a 100% cotton or linen fabric that can disguise hard-to-remove stains. Lipstick and oil can send a pretty napkin to the rag bag in no time.

  • I really love this print…perfect for right now! So happy to see this idea promoted. Cloth napkins make every meal feel special. I’ve made large sets for wedding gifts and made sure they matched the couples aesthetic and whatever dishes had registered for.

  • If anyone lives in Boston, the Crate&Barrel on Brattle Street in Cambridge is currently selling loads of Marimekko fabric off at a really great price per yard. Their fabrics make fun napkins (I have made many myself!). Also, I have gotten some really nice, simple patterns from Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing book. In addition to napkins, she has instructions for many other useful household items that help us all in the quest to reduce our consumption and recycle materials. Yay!

  • My husband wanted to switch to switch to cloth napkins but I found it too expensive. I’ll give this a try and finally make him happy (table-napkin-wise).

  • Beautiful and simple idea. It’s just to easy to grab a paper towel or napkin to clean even the smallest drop of water, then you just get waste after waste. Cloth napkins would make me think twice.

  • jenrc – i just ordered that same lotta jansdotter simple sewing book on tuesday! you should also check out (if you haven’t already) lotta prints, filled with simple and fun printing projects.
    alana – you are right this is a great xmas gift idea. if you had the time and extra fabric you could make a whole matching set – napkins, placematts, drink coasters, and table runner.
    lovelovelove the pear print. THANK YOU DEREK & LAUREN FOR BEING SO AWESOME!

  • Thanks, this is fantastic! It would also be very easy to make with upcycled fabric. I have bought more vintage table cloths than I can possibly use & I’m thinking one or two of them could be sacrificed into napkins. Great gifts!

  • I usually buy my fabric for napkins at the upscale quilt shops but bought some on sale at Walmart the other day and they wash and dry without pressing. It’s awesome. I love to mix and match napkins – it’s like a little surprise for each of my friends as they compare napkins.

  • I live in Oklahoma and there is only one or two material stores in OK left. I needed some grosgrain ribbon the other day and Wal Mart stopped stockiing material and dry goods. I had to improvise. What do you suggest?

  • Hi:

    I’m new to sewing, sort of, and I love all the possibilities, and bought a pfaff. I’m stunned by how straight these seams are on these napkin pictures! I don’t know if my mind wanders or what, but how do you keep the seams so straight?

  • Did anyone pick a thicker cotton. I went to wal-mart and looked at their 100% cotton and it seemed really thin. Any suggestions. I am making them for my wedding so I want them to look good.

  • What a great idea! I have tons of scrap material I was recently given – in the form of large cotton shirts and skirts. It was given to me because the person thought I would like it for quilting, but the print is too large for my tastes. This would be a great way to use all that up – AND save garbage space AND stop throwing away money on paper napkins. I’m sure that the energy spent washing and drying is negligible because they’re so small.

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