Super-simple DIY cloth napkins.

Super-simple DIY cloth napkins.

I love using cloth napkins for daily use. Not fussy fancy linen ones, but simple cotton calicos that wash easily, hide staining, and look adorable on the table or just tucked under a teacup.

I made myself a half dozen a few winters ago and have wanted to make more ever since.

A few weeks ago, 9-year-old Sarah and I got out the sewing machine and turned my office into a little napkin factory. We cranked out a dozen or so, even though we had more important things to do: seeing our cheerful pile of cloth napkins growing larger was so satisfying we didn’t want to stop.

(I helped Sarah with the ironing, but she could sew them by herself.)

How to make super-simple DIY cloth napkins. These easy-to-make napkins wash easily, hide staining, and look adorable on the table or just tucked under a teacup.

It was a good choice.

I shared a photo of our handiwork on instagram and got some requests for a tutorial, although “tutorial” might be overstating it a bit. These couldn’t be simpler.

DIY cloth napkins

• Prep fabric by washing, drying, and cutting to desired size. I cut 14 x 10 inch rectangles from quilting cotton.

How to make super-simple DIY cloth napkins. These easy-to-make napkins wash easily, hide staining, and look adorable on the table or just tucked under a teacup.

• Start with fabric right-side-down. Turn down one side 1/4 inch and give it a quick iron. Fold the same side down another 1/4 inch, concealing the rough edge, and give it a thoroughly steamy iron to set the fold.

• Repeat on all sides.

How to make super-simple DIY cloth napkins. These easy-to-make napkins wash easily, hide staining, and look adorable on the table or just tucked under a teacup.

• Stitch in place. I prefer to stitch with the folded seams underneath, because then I can be lazy about the bobbin thread color. (Expect things to get a little bumpy at the corners, but if you ironed well you’ll be fine.)

• Snip loose threads.

• To use: fold in half, then in half again.

How to make super-simple DIY cloth napkins. These easy-to-make napkins wash easily, hide staining, and look adorable on the table or just tucked under a teacup.

Note: if you have a serger, you can cut the fabric, serge the edges, and be done with it. You’ll get a different look but it goes a lot faster.

That’s it. Happy sewing! I’d love to hear if you give these a try.

Share your tips, tricks, and creative uses for cute little napkins in comments. 

18 comments | Comment

18 comments

  1. Hayley says:

    I love cloth napkins.

    This is the tutorial I use to get nice mitred corners, it only takes a couple of minutes more and looks very professional:
    http://sewbon.com/2013/05/12/tutorial-mitered-corner-napkins/

    I also do the same thing with dressmaking scraps to make handkerchiefs. Easily washed cotton ones being preferable to tissues, in my opinion.

    Both really satisfying things to make from small amounts of fabric!

  2. Ellen says:

    I make equally simple ones, but I like to use a double thickness. They absorb so nicely and with little ones at the table, that’s a plus. The favourite part of our system is that each person has their own napkin ring (painted wood ones). That way, if someone didn’t use their napkin much, it gets saved for the next meal.

  3. Anne says:

    These are darling. I’d get a little thrill every time I used them. And I see your point about stains….I bought white cloth napkins, thinking I could bleach them, but I dunno….pretty stained. I don’t like to put them out. These would be better!

  4. Karlyne says:

    I do have a serger, and, oh, yes, it makes these kinds of things very quick and simple. (Placemats, anyone?) The funny thing is that years ago I bought it so that I could make ballet costumes (anything but simple), leotards, skirts (ok, those are simple with a serger, too!) We just about always use cloth napkins, and I just launder them with the towels!

  5. Emily says:

    I have some old ripped pillowcases that I was thinking about making into cloth napkins. Do you think that’d be the right material? I guess if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be out anything since I have no other use for them. 🙂

  6. Betty says:

    I had a girlfriend make me a dozen Christmas ones at least 30 years ago. Use them to line bread basket for Christmas dinner. Have couple that the two of us use with Christmas corelle ware. This adds Christmas to daily meals from Thanksgiving to New Years.
    Check out the clearance on fabric after Christmas and have them for next year.
    Do this in any seasonal fabric to add to your table.

  7. 'Becca says:

    Very nice! There’s something about fabric items in an array of colorful prints that just delights my soul. You can see an example in my article on cloth wipes for bedroom and bath. Perhaps that will be your next project? I use knit fabric for those, so they don’t even need hemming, just cutting.

    We’ve been using cloth napkins for years, but there are only a few that we made; most are napkins my mother-out-law wasn’t using and gave to us. We keep them on our placemats rather than take a clean one for each meal.

  8. Rachael says:

    I prefer square napkins, and before I got a rotary cutter, I used a spare sheet of 12×12 scrapbook paper as pattern to cut straight lines. After hemming, they’re about 11 inches square, which is just right for a cookie or lunch. Now that I do have a rotary cutter for straight line cutting, I do about 22 inches square, so I can get about 4 from a yard and a half of quilting cotton.

    I also play with fabric. I use scraps and odds and ends for everyday napkins. I’m severely allergic to strawberries, so when I was given a bundle of hand-me-down fabric that included a couple yards of a strawberry printed fabric, I made it up into napkins. It makes me giggle every time I use them because that’s about as close to a strawberry as I ever get.

  9. Anna says:

    I love cloth napkins. 🙂 They always remind me of my grandmother’s house, because it’s what she uses. Now I can’t buy paper napkins or paper towels, so cloth napkins are my only choice. I double layer them (sew the seams together with wrong sides facing, leaving a little space. Turn right side out, and run another stitch along the edges. They last a bit longer- after repeated washings & hanging in the sun. We have lots of different colors and patterns of fun African fabric. 🙂

  10. Katie says:

    I sew in a little hanging loop on each napkin – just tuck the ends over the seam and go back and forth over it a couple of times. Then inbetween meals the napkins hang on the sides of our chairs rather than staying on the table. And everyone has their own fabric so we know whose napkin is whose 🙂

  11. Sonja says:

    I have a question about the fabrics. I see in your article you say “quilting cotton.” By that do you mean the calico you find at your local fabric store that is all lined up against one wall?

    Thanks.

  12. Teresa says:

    Just found this post. Will be making some asap. I just made a table runner for my new farmhouse table. I’m going to go back and get more matching fabric to make these. Thx for sharing

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