DIYdiy projects

diy project: vintage sheet cocktail napkins

by Kate Pruitt

September is my favorite month in northern California; the weather gets warm and sunny (no fog!), and we actually get to experience a taste of summer before heading into rainy season :( These adorable cocktail napkins from Kirsten Gentry at Kojo Designs remind me of the best part of late summer: squeezing every last minute out of outdoor fun by throwing a few more evening barbecues while the corn is still available and the sun sets after 7 pm. Labor Day may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean we have to head inside just yet. So grab some fun fabrics or cheap vintage linens and get sewing. Thanks for sharing, Kirsten! — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump!

If you need a pitch for the usefulness of cloth cocktail napkins, I’m your girl! They’re perfect for everything from dinner parties to backyard barbeques, good for the environment, easy to make and just pretty. So when we decided to throw a retro garden baby shower for our friend Liz, I knew what one of my contributions would be: cocktail napkins made from vintage sheets! — Kirsten Gentry, Kojo Designs


  • pre-washed vintage sheets (or vintage sheet scraps) cut into 12.5″ x 6.5″ rectangles
  • iron
  • sewing supplies (pins, thread, pinking shears)
  • sewing machine


1. Fold the rectangles in half (with the right sides facing each other) and sew up the two sides. Then cut the two sides with pinking shears.

2. Fold over a cuff on the open edge and press in place. Turn right side in.

3. Top stitch around the perimeter of the square. Add another row of stitching (zigzag this time) about an inch in from the edge.

4. Stack and tie up with baker’s twine — what a pretty present!


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  • I love collecting vintage sheets in pretty patterns. I’ve accumulated so many and it’s always kind of terrifying to make the first scissor cut into them. These little cocktail napkins are so cute and adorable I will have no trouble at all giving them a new life! Thanks for the wonderful project!

  • Great way to use up left over quilting squares or go buy a stack of fat quarters at a store like Vogue Fabrics. A rotary cutter isn’t mentioned in the supply list, but it makes cutting go much faster!

  • We also did this for our wedding! But not as napkins. We cut big squares and placed them over the center of the tables with the center pieces on top of them. LOVE old vintage sheet patterns :)

  • such a fun project! I’m a sucker for buying tons of ‘flour sack’ type dishtowels in awesome prints, but never want to use them for dishes… this would be a good life for them!

  • Wait, so which two sides do you sew after you fold the fabric in half? Aren’t there three edges after it’s folded?

    Also, do you mean right side out in step 2?

    These are super cute, and I have just the fabric to use for them, but I think I need a little help!

  • I could definitely do this with some of my college sheets (I just don’t need XL twin sheets anymore). They’re in decent condition, and I could mix it up very easily!

  • Thanks for the sweet comments!
    Steph, you fold the rectangle with the right sides of the sheet facing each other, then sew along the two vertical sides, leaving the edge opposite the fold open. After you fold over a cuff (to conceal the raw edge of fabric for your last unsewn side), you turn it right side in. Now you’re looking at an almost finished cocktail napkin- with the fabric showing the right side and only one edge open. As you top stitch around the entire napkin, that edge is sewn up and you’re done! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. :)

  • Thank goodness for this post! I cannot resist the pretty – and dirt cheap – linens at my local Goodwill. It’s amazing what I find there! And now I finally have a use for them. Thank you!

  • such a satisfying project on SO many levels….super quick, easy , uses up alot of my scrap textiles that I can’t bear to throw away AND it makes a great gift for housewarmings, etc

  • Great idea for a starter sewer like myself. I would imagine if I used larger measurements that I could make some dinner napkins, or just all-purpose cloths. Thanks for the idea!

  • Love this post, I am always looking for ways to up-cycle vintage that can not be used as intended. I too want to hang on to summer just a little bit more, great idea thanks for sharing. Vintage is the new Green! I love to say!

  • What a neat idea I have loads of vintage fabrics & cut offs. I always find most napkins in stores are kind of run of the mill, this is definately my kind of project now off to sew!!

  • I had the yellow sheets pictured here as a little girl on my yellow canopy bed, so I love this post in more ways than you can imagine! Thanks for a simple but beautiful project, as well as a trip down memory lane.

  • Awesome idea! I will have to go through my linen closet and raid my mother’s house. What a great way to reuse fabrics that might have childhood memories. I also think that it is always wonderful to look at everyday things around the house through a different perspective-how else could I use this?

  • Thank you so much for this idea. I needed a gift for a gift exchange. What I did was I had “Tea” in my mind. So I hit GoodWill for a beautiful vintage tea cup and saucer, picked up some white table cloth, ran home and made 6 white cocktail sized napkins with the same color stitching as the cup and saucer. I also wrapped up some Peppermint Tea and put a bow on the little bundle. Next, I baked some Tea cookies to fill the cup. I am so excited to give this away. I hope they like it as much as I do. Thanks for your inspiration to create all this.

  • I love this idea! I have been collecting sheets, thinking about making pillowcase dresses for little girls, and trying to putsets together, but this is a fine idea for unmatched pieces and less than perfect sheets! Thank you for this great tutorial! Linda

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