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Cloth Napkins Tutorial

One of my favorite sewing projects is making cloth napkins.  Cloth napkins are an eco-friendly alternative to paper napkins and all the fabrics at Going Coastal Fabrics are free from toxins so you can feel good about wiping your mouth and hands on these once they're made.  These are a fun and quick project and good for beginners, too.

In my family, we use cloth napkins for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...and snacks (how many snacks a day is too many?)  We keep them in a basket on the counter so they are easily accessible.  Since I have young kids, I've found that small sizes work best for our family.  They usually only wipe their hands or mouths once per meal so they don't need a large surface and the smaller sizes take up less room in the laundry.  After the meal we just toss the used napkins into a laundry basket in our downstairs bathroom (which is next to the kitchen).  I do a load of laundry every day or at least every other day and I just wash the napkins with our regular laundry.  I usually fold my laundry at the table and my kids like to help fold the napkins and put them in the napkin bin on the counter.  It's really nice for them to have a chore to help with.  

I would say we have about 40 cloth napkins in rotation.  I do keep some paper napkins on hand for random occasions, or spaghetti night with my youngest, but it takes a while for us to go through a pack of paper napkins.  

Here's a tutorial so you can try them out:

1. Select two 1-yard pieces of GOTS Organic or OEKO-TEX certified cotton fabrics.  1 yard of two different fabrics will make 12 cloth napkins.  I chose this ice cream cone print called I Scream, You Scream from Art Gallery Fabrics for the outside and the inside is an organic fabric called Rain from the Cirrus Solids collection by Cloud 9 Fabrics.  Pre-wash your fabrics!  This will ensure your finished product looks great because the fabrics do shrink.

Cut fabric pieces

2. Cut each fabric into 10" squares.  This is a great size for everyday use and it maximizes the quantity of napkins you can make with 1 yard of each fabric.

3. Put the fabrics RST (right sides together) and pin if desired.  I found that if I smooth the fabrics along the edge where I will sew the fabrics stick together without needing to pin.  But, do what works best for you.

Sew leaving opening

4. Sew all the way around, leaving a 3-4" opening.

5. Snip the corners to reduce bulk and snip any long threads.

Cut corners

6. Turn right side out, poking out the corners as much as you can (I use my fingers to do this but many people use a special turning tool).  Ensure your edges pressed against the seam.


7. Press.  Use your finger to tuck under the opening to create a smooth line and press.


8. Topstitch around the whole napkins and back stitch to secure the thread.

Finished Cloth Napkins

9. Trim any loose threads and admire your work. 

Update: 12/15/20

Cloth Napkin Tutorial

Here's a photo of some Christmas napkins I made for my kids.  I had a fat quarter bundle of fabrics that I loved and ended up making the napkins a little smaller in order to maximize the quantity of napkins I could make with each fat quarter.  After pre-washing there is a little shrinkage, but I was able to get 4 napkins out of two fat quarters when I cut them 8.5" x 8.5".  This resulted in an 8" napkins which is perfect for lunches and snacks.  This fabric is Santa Claus Lane by Melissa Mortenson from Polka Dot Chair for Riley Blake Designs.