A while back, when listing some ideas for homemade Christmas gifts, I posted a quick guide to making napkins. However, I was thinking that people might appreciate a slightly more in-depth tutorial.
1. Wash, dry, and press your fabric. You will obviously want a washable fabric, but besides that, pick something that will match your dishes and taste and preferably not an overly thin fabric. I used a brown 100% linen fabric, but you could use a cotton or a blend of some kind. Sometimes the clearance bins at fabric stores are good places to find fabric for napkins; even if they only have a yard or two left, that is plenty to make up a few napkins!
2. Decide on the finished dimensions of your napkins. Most dinner napkins are around 18-to 20-inches square, luncheon napkins are typically 12- to 14-inches, and a cocktail napkin would be much smaller (around 6 inches).
3. Measure and cut the napkin squares. You will want to add 1 1/2 inches on each side of the square to allow for the fabric you will lose for seams/turning under. Using a piece of chalk, a pencil, or a special pen for marking on fabric, outline the napkins onto your fabric using the dimensions you figured out. Cut out the napkins with a pair of sharp scissors or a rotary cutter and self-healing mat (if you have one of these, you can use a straight edge to get a nice, straight cut).
4. If your fabric has gotten wrinkly during the measuring and cutting process, pull out that iron again (you will use it often in this project!) and quickly press each fabric square.
5. Once you have all your fabric squares cut out and ironed, lay it right side down and fold the fabric up 1/2-inch on each side and press, then fold it over 1 inch and press again, as illustrated by the dotted (1/2-inch) and straight (1-inch) lines in this amazing illustration below:
6. Unfold the 1-inch crease and fold each corner in so that the visible creases line up; press all four corners to make little triangles.
7. Unfold your little triangle corners and this time fold the napkin diagonally, putting the right sides together. Pin, if necessary, and sew a straight stitch along the last crease you made by folding the corner. Stitch all four corners, then take a pair of scissors and cut the tip of the triangle off each corner, trimming so that there is only about 1/4-inch of fabric beyond the stitch. Grab that iron again, spread the napkin flat again, and press the seams open so that the corners are flat.
8. Turn the napkin inside out so that it (and the corners) are now right side out. Press the whole napkin flat since you are getting ready to do your final sewing and you want the edges to be straight. You should have a 1-inch flap folded under on the wrong side of the napkin.
9. Sew a straight line all the way around the napkin, about 1-inch in from the edges, so that you sew down the the edge of the flap. Take your time and try to get a really straight line of stitches. When you get to each corner, slow down as you get close to 1-inch away from the edge, then, with the needle inserted in the fabric, lift your presser foot and rotate the fabric. Then lower the presser foot again and continue sewing down the next side of the napkin until you finish all four sides.
When you're finished, the wrong side of the napkin should look like this:
The same corner on the right side should look like this (notice that the stitches are not that noticeable):
The final touch: use some napkin rings to draw some attention to the product of all your hard work! I love these cute little vintage ceramic owls I found. They are the perfect way to wrap up (literally, ha ha!) your project.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email at onehalfworld (at) gmail.com and I will get back to you as soon as I can!