Napkins are a great project for beginning sewers and an excellent way for anyone to practice hemming. Adding a simple fabric border kicks them up a notch. We used the same trim on all our napkins, but it would make a fun mix-and-match table setting to use a different, coordinating trim on each person’s napkin. Our wide fabric napkin ties are a cute alternative to place cards with letter beads spelling out each guest’s name. At the end of the meal, everyone can detach their beads and use them as bookmarks, bracelets or hang them from a keychain.
Because the napkins are square and banded along just one side, you can fold them for a horizontal or vertical reveal.
The ties can be knotted at the back for a classic cinch or simply loop the tie around for a flatter finish.
Our napkins finish at 20″ x 20″, which makes good use of the standard 44″ width of most quilting cottons. But did you know there is a wide range of napkin sizing for a variety of dining options? Dinner napkins traditionally measure either 22” square or 24” square, and luncheon napkins are usually either 18” or 20”. However, if you’re setting up for a buffet, those napkins are often as large as 27” x 27” as they are meant to be folded when placed on your lap. On the small end of the scale are the hors d’oeuvres napkins at 12” – 13” square and the cocktail napkins at just 6” x 6”. Kind of makes you wonder who the Head Napkin Measurer is who came up with all these sizes!
Traditional quilting cotton is a great fabric for napkins. It’s absorbent and launders easily. However, we like just a bit more heft for our napkins and so went with a sateen. You could also choose a linen or linen blend.
The ties are designed for a quilting cotton as well but you could substitute a wide ribbon. Of course, the letter beads are optional, but are a sure conversation starter. Extra points to anyone who can figure out which holiday classic movie are sample names are from.
Make these for your own table or create a set as a gift. This would be especially creative if you know the names of all the family members and could add the custom letter beads for everyone. Or, you could spell out dining themed words instead, such as: Enjoy, Wine, Dine, Tasty, Delish, Seconds, etc.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: The supplies listed below will yield SIX 20″ x 20″ napkins and up to TEN ties.
- Fabric for SIX napkins: 1¾ yards of 44″+ wide fabric: we used a cream colored cotton sateen fabric – standard quilting cotton would also work well
- Fabric for SIX napkin trim pieces: ½ yard of 44″+ wide fabric: we used a quilting weight cotton from our stash: Heather Bailey’s Bijoux in Tiled Primrose Pink, but any favorite cotton print would work well
NOTE: As shown in the cutting diagram below, you could squeak by with ¼ yard, but you’d have to cut very carefully. Having a ½ yard gives you a little breathing room; plus, many online fabric sources have a ½ yard minimum cut.
- Fabric for up to TEN ties: ½ yard (you need exactly 18 inches) of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton; we used solid red
- One skein of embroidery floss to match tie fabric; we used red
- One ⅝” white button PER TIE
- Letter beads; make a list of names and count the number of each letter that you need. Count them again, just to be sure. You can find loose beads as well as bags of letter beads containing several full alphabets at most craft stores.
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Contrasting color thread for topstitching the hem on the napkins, slightly darker than napkin color; we used yellow
- One skein of embroidery floss to match tie fabric to string and attach letter beads; we used red
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Beading needle
- Hand sewing needle
- Straight pins
Getting Started – Napkins
- Use your see-through ruler and fabric pen or pencil to draw six 21″ x 21″ squares onto the fabric you are using for the napkin. Cut along drawn lines.
NOTE: You could simply measure and cut the squares without drawing out the full measurements (same with the band rectangles below). Drawing helps confirm you’re getting the most accurate use of your fabric cut.
- Use your see-through ruler and fabric pen or pencil to draw six rectangles 21″ long and 3″ wide onto the fabric you are using for the napkin trim. Cut along drawn lines.
Getting Started and Pattern Download – Ties
- Download and print the Napkin Tie Pattern PDF.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SHRINK to fit the page. There is a guide square on the page to confirm your printout is to scale.
- Cut the desired number of ties by pinning your Napkin Tie Pattern onto your folded fabric. The pattern is designed to be cut on the fold as shown below on the cutting guide. We made 6 ties, but you can make up to 10 with the fabric specified.
- Cut 2 tiny notches on one layer of the fabric where indicated by dots on the seam line.
- Remove the pattern and open your tie. It will look like this:
Make the Letter Bead Ties
- Thread your beading needle with embroidery floss and tie a knot in the floss about ¾” inch from the end of the floss.
- For each name, string your letter beads onto your floss starting with the last letter of the name and working forward to the first letter. It’s easier if you have them all written down to look at.
- Tie another knot above the last letter bead you added to the floss. Before tightening the knot, slip your needle into the knot and gently slide the knot down towards the bead so the beads are contained nicely (not too tight) between the two knots.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Along ONE of the 21″ lengthwise edges on EACH of the napkin trim pieces, fold back ½” and press.
- Pin this trim piece to the bottom of the napkin square, so the side and bottom raw edges are flush and the folded edge lays across the face of the napkin.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the accent fabric in the top and to best match the napkin fabric in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch around all four edges of the rectangular trim piece. This adheres the finished folded edge to the napkin’s face and secures the raw edges so they will be easier to hem.
- Create a hem around all four edges of the napkin. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼” along all four sides, press well. Fold back an additional ¼” along all four sides, press well and pin in place. This makes a clean, double-turn hem with square corners. For more information on hemming, take a look at our tutorial: How to Make a Simple Hem.
- Change your thread to the contrasting color and topstitch around all four sides. Stay just under ¼” from your folded edge. Sew slowly, making sure you catch the folded hem on the back. To keep your corners sharp, remember to stop with your needle in the down position and pivot at the point of each corner.
- You can make a simple square corner as we did or for fancier finish, check out our tutorial on how to make a narrow hem with clean, diagonal point corners.
- The finished napkin will be 20″ x 20″ square.
- Fold your tie in half lengthwise, right sides together. Pin.
- Stitch, using a ¼” seam allowance, from dot to dot, leaving the space between the dots open. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the opening.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn the tie right side out through the small opening. Use a long blunt tool, like a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner to help you gently push out the corners to a nice point.
- Press the tie flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Using the hand sewing needle, slip stitch the small opening closed.
- Fold the tie in half to find the exact center. Mark this center point with a pin.
- Sew on the button through both layers at the center point.
- Tie the floss around the base of the button and trim off any excess. You want the ends to disappear under the button.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation & Instructions: Gregory Dickson and Alicia Thommas