Making cloth napkins

We have lots of July birthdays around here, and as we were gearing up for the July 4th party (the first of our July birthdays, as well as the country’s birthday!) I realized that our cloth napkins were looking pretty sad these days.

My mom had made us some for our wedding, but it occurred to me that that was almost 14 years ago! No wonder they look so crummy.  So, up to the sewing room I went.

I have saved over the years lots of samples of fabrics, and these are great sized swatches for napkins.  Some were on the small size, but some of us have little hands and cheeks, so that’s ok.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Cut rectangles of fabric of any size (100% cotton).

2.  Sit down with your serger.  Set your machine on the rolled hem setting.  With mine, a Bernette for Bernina home machine that I bought in 1994 and is still my favorite machine (better even than my industrial serger), this is only a few steps.  I do it with only 3 needles, so I take out the 4th, and change the tension, etc (check your manual).  If you have wooley nylon thread, that gives a great smooth hem, but I didn’t have enough, so I just used all purpose white serger thread.

3. Run the machine around all 4 sides! A little production trick I learned when I worked in a handbag workroom is to keep all the napkins attached as you hem – so sew one side, then put the next napkin on and sew that side, etc, until you have a whole train of napkins with one side serged, then turn the whole string and do it on the other side, etc. until all 4 sides are serged.  This just increases your speed a lot because you aren’t stopping and starting and clipping.

4.  Of course the girls wanted to help, so then I threw the whole mess across the room to Ryland, who cut the little thread tails off, then she threw them to Holt who folded them and Voila! 30 new cloth napkins.  Many colors, many sizes, lots less dead trees! Here’s some photos:

Holt laid them all out in a circle

Holt laid them all out in a circle

lots of colors

lots of colors

Here's my favorite picture - so summery

Here's my favorite picture - so summery

The whole project didn’t take much more than an hour, and now I can get rid of the grungy old napkins.

Go for it yourself! It’s a simple, green and rewarding project.


1 Response to “Making cloth napkins”

  1. 1 annaelizc July 7, 2009 at 11:12 am

    What a fab idea! I have been going mad on collecting small bits of fabric for my patchwork, there is loads I won’t use (couldn’t commit myself to a colour scheme straight away!) so this is a great idea for the left over pieces! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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