Need a last minute gift? How about a super simple project for a beginning sewer? This kitchen linens classic gives you two projects in one: a set of napkins and a matching half apron in 100% cotton toweling. Pretty and popular! Toweling is a vintage style fabric that is usually pre-hemmed along the selvedge, so two of your seams are already done. That’s a darn good start to “super simple.”
Pre-hemmed toweling is normally found in standard 16” widths. However, the width of the toweling may vary somewhat. Prior to making your cuts, double check the dimensions to confirm. Our selected fabrics ranged from 16” – 17”.
Since napkins are traditionally square, confirming the width before starting is particularly important. In all instances, just ⅝ yard makes a generously-sized napkin.
Create all your napkins from the same toweling design or mix and match as we did. The soft colors and simple patterns are a snap to blend.
We used two different corner options to finish the napkins, and show you steps for both below, including a link to our full tutorial on the diagonal clean corners. This quick corner technique is perfect for all kinds of applications.
Our coordinating apron is made in essentially the same manner as the napkins and is just as easy. We added pleats along the top to taper the shape for a sleek fit. The twill tape waist ties are long enough to wrap around “server style.”
A half apron is a favorite of many professional cooks. It’s quick to wrap and tie, is less bulky than a full-bib style, and sits at just the right position to wipe your hands as you work. Cotton toweling is meant to be used and washed, so it’s spot-on for kitchen linens.
Natural cotton twill tape is lightweight and a perfect blend with the texture of the toweling. We used it for our waist ties as well as to bundle our napkins into gift sets.
A collection of napkins with a matching apron would make a lovely housewarming or wedding shower gift. The selection of available colors and patterns makes it fun to customize each set to match a kitchen’s décor.
Each napkin finishes at 16½” – 17” square. The apron finishes at approximately 24” wide across the top x 29” across the bottom x 17” high with two 35” wraparound ties.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ⅝ yard of 16-17” wide pre-hemmed Toweling for each napkin
- 1 yard of 16-17” pre-hemmed Toweling for each apron
- 2 yards of 1” twill tape for each apron’s ties
NOTE: We used matching ½” twill tape to bundle the napkins for gift-giving. A half yard per napkin is a good estimate for a nice wrap with a bow.
- Scraps of mid-weight fusible interfacing; you need just two 1” squares for each apron
- All-purpose thread to match fabric; we made sure our thread matched the thread used for the toweling’s pre-sewn hems
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
NOTE: As mentioned above, the width of the toweling may vary somewhat from the stated 16” width on the bolt. Since it’s important each napkin is a true square when finished, we list our specific width measurements and cuts. Measure your toweling to confirm.
- For each napkin with a diagonal clean corner, measure the true width of the toweling (ours was 17”) and add 1” to each side to create a ½” double-turn hem. Our square cut was 19”.
- For each napkin with a standard overlap corner, measure the true width of the toweling (ours was 16½”) and add ⅝” for each side to create a ¼” + ⅜” hem. Our square cut was 17¾”.
- For each apron, cut a 31” length.
NOTE: See above for the finished dimensions of our apron. If possible, we suggest testing these dimensions on the person for whom the apron is being made. You may want to start with a shorter or longer length based on that person’s waist size.
- Cut the 1” twill tape into two 36” lengths.
- Cut TWO 1” squares from the mid-weight interfacing.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create a napkin with a diagonal clean corner
- Press in an even double turn hem along each raw side edge. To do this, fold back the raw edge ½” and press well to set a crease. Then, fold back an additional ½” and press again, firmly enough to set another crease line.
- Unfold the hem so its crease lines are visible.
- Using a seam ripper, take out about 3-4” of the pre-sewn hem at each of the four corners.
- The visible crease lines become the guide lines for folding the pretty diagonal corner.
- Fold down the point of the corner to the intersection of the crease lines.
- Fold again an equal amount.
- Double-turn each side into position, following your crease lines. After the two folds, the sides should meet at the center of the corner to form a diagonal line. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch close to the inner fold along the new side hem.
- Pivot at the corner and re-stitch the slightly opened hem along the top and bottom. Be careful to keep your new seam exactly in line with the original hem.
- Press well.
NOTE: If you are new to making this type of corner, you’ll find it be a great finish for a lot of projects. We have a full tutorial with additional illustrations. The tutorial shows a narrow ¼” hem, but the finish can be used with any width as long as the hems of the intersecting sides are equal.
Create a napkin with a standard overlap corner
- A diagonal clean corner requires two folds of equal distance along each side. But, our solid toweling’s pre-sewn hems were made with a staggered ¼” + ⅜” hem. In this situation, we opted to simply match the hem and overlap at each corner. The staggered hem also reduces bulk at each corner.
- Press in a the staggered double fold hem along each raw side edge. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼” and press well. Then, fold back an additional ⅜” and press again.
- Your new hem is folding over the existing pre-sewn top and bottom hems, securing the cut edge of the top and bottom within the new hem.
- As above, edgestitch close to the inner fold along the new side hem.
- Press well.
- Form the sides of the apron in the same manner as for the diagonal clean corner napkin above.
- Using a seam ripper or small sharp scissors, take out about 3-4” of the pre-sewn hem at each of the four corners.
- Fold to form the neat diagonal corners and edgestitch to finish, remembering to keep your new seam exactly in line with the original seam.
NOTE: Remember to review our corner tutorial if you are new to this technique.
- Find the exact center along the top finished edge of the apron. From the center measure 5” to the right and mark this point with a pin. Measure 1¼” to the right from this first pin and place a second pin. Measure 1¼” to the right from this second pin and place a third pin.
- Repeat to make the same marks to the left of center. The illustration below will further help you visualize these marks and the resulting pleats
- At each set of pins, fold the third pin back to meet the first, forming a 1¼” pleat.
- Flatten the pleat and pin in place. Measuring from the outer edges of each pleat, the new center span of the apron top is 10”. The entire top edge of the apron is 24”.
- Secure each pleat in place with a 1” X Box stitch.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full tutorial: How to Sew an X Box to Secure Straps and More.
- Find the two one yard lengths of twill tape and the two squares of interfacing.
- Make a tiny hem at one end of each tie. This hem is optional. The apron has a soft, rustic look and you could simply leave the ends of the ties raw and allow them to gently fray.
- Fold back the opposite end of each tie 1” and fuse a square of interfacing over the folded-back end.
- Place a tie at each top outside corner. Pin in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the twill tape in the top and to best match the toweling the bobbin.
- Secure each tie in place with a 1” X Box stitch.
- The apron is design to wrap around and tie in the front as shown in the photos above.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild