Fabric Napkins—two ways!

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Dinner is a great time to showcase some fun fabric napkins—they’re so easy, even a beginner can make them. Whether you make them on a conventional machine or on a serger, they’re a quick table accent sure to please. And, they make a great housewarming gift.

Conventional Machine Hem

Conventional Machine Hem

Rolled Hem using Serger

Rolled Hem using Serger

Napkins can be any size from 12″ square (cocktail size) up to 22″ square (dinner size), depending on their use. Cutting them 18″ square is common, as you can get four per yard of fabric.


Supplies (for four napkins):

1 yard fabric

Thread (seeTip below)

Fray protector (for serger construction)

1/4″-wide fusible web tape (for conventional construction)

Spray starch or Mary Ellen’s Best Press (optional)D75_97


Thread TIP:

Coats Trilobal Embroidery Thread creates a lustrous rolled hem edge, and it’s polyester for durability. The thread is not harmed by bleaching, so if soup spills necessitate it, you’re napkin edges are safe. For a matte finish rolled hem, try Coats Surelock, Dual Duty XP Fine or Dual Duty XP All-purpose thread. Any thread can be used for the conventional construction method.


Rolled hem using SureLock thread

Rolled hem using SureLock thread

Rolled Hem using Tri-lobal Polyester Embroidery thread on Serger

Rolled Hem using Tri-lobal Polyester Embroidery thread on Serger

SureLock thread for sergers

SureLock thread for sergers


Cut four 18″ squares. If your fabric needs a little extra body to hold its shape as a napkin, particularly if you’re doing a fancy fold, spray it with starch or starch alternative before sewing.


Serger construction:

Set your machine for a rolled hem setting (consult your owner’s manual for adjustments) and practice on a fabric scrap to adjust tensions and stitch width for a good roll.

Serge each napkin edge with a rolled hem, trimming off 1/16″ of fabric as you stitch.


TIP: For quicker stitching, chain-sew. As one napkin edge is completed, feed in the next one and continue with that process until all edges are stitched.


Leave thread tails on the last edges. Apply fray protector to each corner on both the napkin front and back; allow to dry thoroughly, and clip the thread tails close to the corners.


Conventional construction:

Press under a double 1/4″ hem on each napkin edge. Fuse the hem in place using fusible web tape to create a firmer edge for stitching.

Topstitch each napkin 1/8″ from the outer edge on all sides.

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About the Author

Linda Griepentrog is a writer, editor and designer who lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband (a long arm quilter) and dog, Frank. She loves all things fabric! Linda also leads fabric shopping tours to Hong Kong. Contact her at gwizdesigns@aol.com.

17 Responses to 2 Ways to Sew Napkins
  1. I always make my own napkins. I use two pieces of fabric measuring 13″ x 17″ sewing them rights sides together leaving a hole for turning, press and edge stitch all around and press again. They are super durable this way and last much longer then single ply. I like this size as finished measurements are 12″ x 16″ and I fold it in half height wise and then in thirds width wise for a folded napkin measuring 4″w x 8″h. For children’s napkins I take one piece measuring 13×17 and sew right sides together, turn, press, top stitch and press again for a finished size of 12″w x 8″h and simply for in thirds. I haven’t used paper napkins in years!

  2. These are really neat. I could do some for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanks so much for the directions.

  3. Love this idea, especially for a gifting. These look like fast projects and a confidence builder for a beginner like me. Thanks for the idea.

  4. I have made and used cloth napkins when first married, over 35yrs. So personal and environment ly friend ly!. Love this!

  5. Love your bunny napkins – my daughter has 3 year old triplet girls, and we are getting them to use cloth napkins now – these are just perfect!!! Thank you for sharing!!! Is the bunny material MODA? I’d like to get some. Thanks again, Holly K.

  6. Natalie, I make napkins as you described but use different dimensions: 18″ x 18″. These double -layer napkins are not flimsy feeling and launder beautifully with few if any wrinkles so do not need ironing,

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this pattern for napkins. Looks great and can’t wait to get started making them!!

  8. What fabric is best for napkins so they don’t come out all wrinkle from the dryer?

  9. I have made cloth napkins in the past and I don’t like the stiffness of regular fabric napkins. Is there any products or ideas on how to make them a softer and more absorbent napkin?

  10. are the cotton and polyester napkins absorbent? If they are doubled, do they get out of shape?

    • This will vary with the fabric, but a cotton and polyester blend will be absorbent. A double layer of fabric would require a different method of construction.

  11. I have a basic Brother sewing machine. Can a simple sewing machine do this stitch? What is the correct setting.

    • Two methods of hemming the napkins are shown. The straight stitch finish can be done with any sewing machine. The rolled hem method requires a serger or overlock machine.

  12. Making cute printed cotton napkins for my daughter but didn’t like the reverse side. Never thought of making them double sided — Just like I make placemats only without the padding. Simple. Elegant. Thanks for all the great hints.

    I too still use the same [solid color cotton blend] napkins which I made 45 years ago.


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