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Italiano Kitchen: Bistro Napkins

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My favorite part of Italian cooking is the sauces. Spicy red sauce with lots of chunky vegetables. Rich alfredo sauce with extra garlic and parmesan. They're all deliciously drippy. And, none can be properly eaten without a nice, big napkin. Our Bistro Napkins are generous at 20" x 20" and feature a fun border strip along the bottom of each. Cloth napkins are truly one of the very easiest projects for a beginner, and a great way to 'go green.'

All the projects in our Italanio Kitchen series use a wonderful new fabric collection from our friends at Michael Miller Fabrics: Alfabeto Italiano Collezione. You'll find it online and in stores now.

The yardage shown below is based on a finished napkin size of 20" x 20", standard for a dinner napkin. You can certainly cut smaller or larger squares to best fit your table (and the relative messiness of its inhabitants).

To further confound your brain, we used three different fabrics to create our four napkins. At our imaginary table, Mom's and Dad's napkins match in Black Numeri Piccolo. Then, there is a slightly different design for each of our imaginary kids: two in Cream Numeri Piccolo and two in Cream Alfabeto Piccolo. Each napkin has the same coordinating stripe so they all go together beautifully. We are lucky enough to have lots of fabric to work with and so love to mix and match. If you want to conserve fabric, the easiest thing to remember is: ¾ of a yard will make two 20" x 20" finished napkins. Increase to 1¼ yards to make a matching set of four napkins.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • ¾ yard of 44- 45" wide fabric: we used Alfabeto Italiano Collezione from Michael Miller Fabrics in Black Numeri Piccolo
  • ¾ yard of 44- 45" wide fabric: we used Alfabeto Italiano Collezione from Michael Miller Fabrics in Cream Alfabeto Piccolo
  • ¾ yard of 44- 45" wide fabric: we used Alfabeto Italiano Collezione from Michael Miller Fabrics in Cream Numeri Piccolo
  • ¼ yard of 44- 45" wide fabric: we used Alfabeto Italiano Collezione from Michael Miller Fabrics in Mustard Cha Cha Stripe
  • All purpose thread to match or contrast with your fabric: we used red thread to contrast with our fabric
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Fabric pen, pencil or chalk
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Ironing board and iron

Getting Started

  1. Use your see-through ruler and pencil to draw six 21" x 21" squares onto each fabric you are using for a napkin. Cut along the drawn lines.
  2. From the fabric for the contrasting stripe (Cha Cha Stripe in our sample), cut TWO strips 3" x Width of Fabric (WOF). Cut each strip in half, then trim about 1" from the selvedge ends to create four pieces 3" x 21".
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At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. On each of the four 3" x 21" contrasting strips, press under ½" along both 21" sides.
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  2. Place a folded strip 3" from one raw edge of the right side of a napkin square. Pin in place.
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    NOTE: If you choose a directional-print fabric as we did, you should pin the strip 3" from the bottom edge.
  3. Repeat for each napkin.
  4. Create a narrow ½" double-turn hem around all four edges of the napkin. To do this fold the raw edge of the fabric under ¼" along all four sides and press. Fold under another ¼" and press again.
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    NOTE: If you are new to hemming, read our tutorial: How to Make a Simple Hem.
  5. Topstitch around all four sides in matching or contrasting thread (we used a contrasting thread). Stay just under ¼" from your folded edge. Sew slowly. To keep your corners sharp, work with your needle in the down position and pivot. When you get to a corner and are about to turn to topstitch the next edge, stop with the needle down through the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the napkin to line up the next edge, using the needle as a pivot point.
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  6. For super neat corners like ours, read our tutorial:

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Project Concept: Alicia Thommas

Sample Creation: Michele Mishler



Comments (9)

Sandie said:
Sandie's picture

Love your tutorials! I've been making quilts for years but just started sewing other things thanks to blogs like yours...thanks for sharing!

alicia.thommas said:
Hi lovethe530 - That's not a silly question. A double-sided napkin is best made by placing right side of fabric together. Then, sew all the way around leaving a small opening (2" should be big enough). Backstitch on either side of the opening so it doesn't open the seam as you turn it right side out. Turn your napkin right side out through the opening using a knitting needle or chopstick to gently make nice sharp corners. Press carefully. You can then topstitch or edge stitch all the way around and in the process you'll close up your opening.
lovethe530 said:
lovethe530's picture
How about a double sided napkin, would you just connect the two in the hemming stage? I am a beginner sewer so bare with me my silly questions.
nenuphar said:
nenuphar's picture
These are so lovely!
I love the brightly coloured fabric and the contrasting band. A big thank you!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Jamie Lynn -- a heavier weight cotton will be a better bet than a super light weight for a no-iron finish. Steer away from anything with a linen content. Today's designer cottons are usually very high quality fabric and so tend to be wrinkle resistant. The best bet for staying away from the iron is to wash, just lightly dry and then remove immediately from the dryer and fold right away. It's the long tumbling and sitting in the dryer tumbled with the other items that tends to set the wrinkles.
Jamie Lynn said:
Jamie Lynn's picture
What would be the best type of fabric to use if I don't want to have to iron the napkins after washing them?
jodieth said:
jodieth's picture
This is such a cute idea adding the fabric on top of napkins. Really jazzes up plain old square. Thanks for idea.
blackheart1 said:
blackheart1's picture