As the air conditioning blows softly on the back of your neck, let us be among the first to remind you that Summer is sneaking away and Fall and Winter will be here soon, bringing with them holiday celebrations. These pretty napkins are a fast and easy way to add a bit of sparkle to your table. We used a mid-weight metallic linen blend, which is not only lovely but is also a perfect weight for a more formal napkin. A wide band of continuous decorative stitching along one side adds a lovely finishing touch. We also give you a list of the various napkin sizing options. Who knew there were so many?!
Napkins are traditionally square, and just ⅝ yard (at 44” widths) can make two generously-sized napkins. However, 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!
Once you choose your size, the next step is to chose your stitching. Nearly every machine has at least a few decorative stitch options. The Janome Skyline S7 we used has dozens. We selected two different satin stitches: a tiled zig zag and an open weave oval. Test, test, test to find the best look, size, and spacing for your project.
The linen blend fabric we pulled from our stash can be machine washed on cold and tumble dried on low so they are indeed meant to be used. The Aurifil cotton thread used for the decorative stitching is also washable and color fast.
We do recommend just one continuous border of stitching. It creates more of a distinct feature and leaves the largest area of the napkin free to do its job of wiping mouths and hands. The stitching is certainly soft enough to wipe across, but it’s nice to have a wide open space for the real dirty work.
Create all your napkins from the same design or mix and match. By keeping the stitching itself as well as one of the colors consistent on our two differently sized samples, the napkins work together beautifully as a coordinated set.
We include a link below to our full tutorial on the pretty diagonal point clean corners. This quick corner technique is perfect for all kinds of applications and can use used with different narrow hem widths.
Our Sew4Home Fast Fridays series brings you pretty and popular projects guaranteed to be super simple. They’re great for last-minute gifts or anytime you feel like whippin’ up something wonderful in no time at all. Of course they’d be perfect for beginning sewers, but we all love an easy project!
A collection of napkins would make a lovely holiday or hostess gift. Your selection of colors and stitches makes it fun to customize the set to match décor, a wedding theme, or simply a favorite color.
Our hors d’oeuvres napkins finished at approximately 12” square. Our luncheon napkins finished at approximately 20“ square.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Open Toe Satin Stitch foot; optional, but our choice for the decorative stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Scrap(s) or yardage of linen blend fabric or similar to best match the size and number of napkins you wish to make, you need a square approximately 1” larger than your finished size for each napkin; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic Linen by Robert Kaufman in Copper and Dusty Pink
- Sewing thread to match fabric; we used Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in Café au Lait (2340) and Pale Pink (2437)
- Sewing thread to compliment with yet still contrast against the fabric for decorative stitching; we used Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in Medium Bark (1285), Pale Pink (2437), and Salmon (2225)
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
NOTE: Steps shown below are for the small hors d’oeuvres napkin. The process is the same for any size although you may wish to add or remove lines of decorative stitching for your favorite look.
- For each napkin, cut a square 1” larger than your finished size; this accounts for a narrow hem all around (¼” + ¼”) with diagonal point clean corners. Our squares were cut at 13” x 13” for the hors d’oeuvres napkins and 21” x 21” for the luncheon napkins.
- Keep all your scraps for decorative stitch testing.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Hem each napkin
- Press in an even double turn hem along each raw side edge. We chose a ¼” width.
- To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼” and press well to set a crease.
- Then, fold back an additional ¼” and press again, firmly enough to set another crease line. We used our Hot Hemmer to help keep the folds precise.
- Unfold the hem at one corner so its crease lines are visible.
- 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 so the outer edges of this second fold line up with your first set of crease lines. Press.
- Double-turn each side into position, following your crease lines.
- The two sides should meet at the center of the corner to form a diagonal point. Pin in place. Repeat at the remaining three corners.
- Slightly lengthen your stitch.
- Edgestitch close to the inner fold along the new side hem.
- Remember to sharply pivot at each corner
- 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.
Add the decorative stitching
- As mentioned above, we recommend setting the lines of stitching not on the hem itself but rather slightly to the inside of the hem along one side. This allows you to fold the napkin to position the border of stitching along either the side or the bottom edge.
- As with all decorative stitching, test your colors as well as the stitch width and length to determine the look you like best. We used two satin stitches on our Janome Skyline S7 (No.2 and No.3) with the width of each stitch at 9mm and the length at .40. As you can see in the photo below, we really do take our own advice; you can see all the different things we tired on our test napkin.
- For the best look, we recommend keeping a matching thread in the bobbin, using the contrasting thread just in the top. The Aurifil 50wt produced a lovely stitch and is soft to the touch on both sides.
- Set up your machine for your chosen decorative stitch. Thread the machine with your first thread color.
- The decorative stitch border is meant to look continuous so you want to start stitching as close to the hemmed edge of the napkin as possible. Thanks to the Janome superior feeding system, we literally started at the very edge.
- Stitch the length of the napkin, stitching off the end and knotting to secure.
- We used the guide lines on our machine’s throat plate. If you don not have appropriate guides, you can draw in lines with a fabric pen or pencil.
- If possible, we recommend using your machine’s start/stop bottom to control the speed of the the stitching. Although not mandatory by any means, it does allow for very even stitch formation.
- Press the napkin to make sure it remains flat for the next line of stitching.
- Re-set for your second outer stitch line (remember, our two outer stitch lines were the same color; your color selections may vary).
- Our two outer stitch lines were 1¾” on-center from the hemmed edge and 2¾” on-center from the hemmed edge.
- Stitch your second line, keeping your spacing even from top to bottom.
- Again, press the napkin before starting the next stitching.
- Re-thread the machine with the next decorative stitch color, keeping the bobbin thread the same (matching the fabric).
- Run the final line of stitching down the center of the two outer lines. Again, you can use guidelines on your machine's throat plate, or as you can see we did in the phone below, add a line to follow with a piece of low-tack tape.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson