Sunday, 6 April 2008

Napkin set tutorial

Drumroll please! I proudly (actually a little nervously) present my napkin set tutorial! I hope someone finds it useful. I had it in mind to write this when making the original set, and I’ve been spurred on by the very timely Sew Mama Sew tutorial contest.

Okay, a quick disclaimer here: I am not a seasoned tutorial writer – this is my very first attempt at a tutorial, so please do point out if you see any glaring mistakes or omissions.

Right then - best make a start!


This tutorial is for a set of 6 napkins with a matching linen pouch to store them in. They would make a lovely wedding, engagement, housewarming or hostess gift. The napkins are double-sided and rectangular in shape and they fit neatly into the soft linen pouch when folded into quarters.

* 1.5 yards of cotton fabric for the right side of the napkins
* 1.5 yards of co-ordinating cotton fabric for the reverse
* a spool of thread to match the napkin fabrics
* a small remnant of natural linen fabric for the pouch, 22 inches x 8 inches
* a spool of thread to match the linen for the pouch

note - you will have some of the cotton fabrics left over for other small projects
I used 100% cotton quilting fabric (from the Blossom line by Moda) for the napkins and made them double-sided, as this gives them a nice weight and a feeling of quality.

Equipment (none of these are essential, though they will help if you have them to hand)
*rotary cutter and cutting mat
*pinking shears


PART 1 - napkins

STEP 1: Cut out the following pieces
6 panels measuring 16 inches by 13 inches from the fabric for the right side of the napkins
6 panels measuring 16 inches by 13 inches from the fabric for the reverse of the napkins

tip: using a rotary cutter and mat is ideal for this project and has increased my cutting accuracy 100%. However, a note of caution - do check and recheck your measurements before making that final cut - these napkins were originally meant to be 14 inches by 16 inches, but I cut the final panel 1 inch too small. Cue shaving 1 inch off each of the 11 panels I'd already cut!

*The following steps should be repeated for each of the 6 napkins*

Take one piece of the right side fabric and one piece of the reverse side fabric and place together, right sides facing and pin.

Using a matching spool of thread, sew a 5/8 inch seam around the edge of the napkin leaving a gap of approximately 4 inches open. Be sure to sew to sew a few stitches backwards at each end so that the seam doesn't unravel.

tip: if you click on the picture above to enlarge it, you'll see two sets of double pins on the bottom edge of the napkins - this is to mark the opening through which you'll turn the napkins right side out after stitching them. I find that often if I don't mark this gap I will often lose concentration and sew all the way round, then have to go back and unpick.

Remove the pins and trim the seam using pinking shears, if you have them (as the napkins are likely to be washed frequently, this will prevent the fabric from fraying so quickly over time), and clip the corners.

Turn the napkin right side out and press, taking particular care with those few inches where you left the turning gap to press the edges in line with the seam.

Using the matching thread, topstitch the napkin approximately 1/4 inch from the edge (I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide). This will close the turning gap you left open in step 3.

tip: as you stop your machine to turn the first corner, snip away the ends of the thread at the beginning of the line of stitching so that they don't become tangled in your machine when you meet the first stitches after sewing all the way round your napkin.


Ta da! You have a set of 6 napkins, so now on to the pouch ... (this follows in my next post)


  1. Pinking shears are a really good idea for the inner edges as they would be a bit like snipping the seams and will give a little. Thanks.

  2. LOVE this idea! And what a great first-time tutorial : ) Thank you!

  3. Great tutorial. I have made a number of fabric napkins for my family but have never thought of making them double-sided. And the pouch would make it such a quick, cute gift!
    Thanks for sharing this! :)

  4. Thanks for the tutorial! It was very understandable and you did a great job.

  5. So great minds think alike! I just wrote my first ever tutorials and posted them on my blog. Guess what my tutorial was? Did you guess reversible napkin and a reusable snack pouch? Well that's what I did. So apparently we think alike. Your pictures for your tutorial looked good. I'd say your first tutorials are a success. Congratulations!

  6. Thanks very much for the kind comments, everyone! It's great to have such lovely feedback on my first tutorial.

  7. I love the tutorial. I have been wanting to make napkins that had fabric on both sides and your napkins are exactly what I was picturing in my head. Thanks for the fabulous tutorial. - found your tutorial via the sew mama sew tutorial contest page -

  8. Fabric napkins are my new obsession. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  9. This is a GREAT tutorial! And good timing since we all need to be using less paper. Plus, fabric napkins just FEEL so much nicer.

    I love the bird fabric!

  10. As a total beginner this is about my speed and seems very clear and doable. Thank you for these instructions!! I'm excited now.

  11. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  12. Great tut. and good color combo. I think i found my next project.

  13. I will totally be making these for presents.

    Lovely, top to bottom and congratulations on your win!

  14. These are wonderful! I think I will make some of these for a gift, too.

  15. OK, this is a great tutorial, and I have no trouble sewing these napkins. My only question is did you really mean to say to cut the pieces 16x13, or 16x15? Thanks!

  16. This is great. I may try this sewing by hand, as I don't have a sewing machine. Thanks!

  17. great post thanks for the information. I was not sure what size I wanted to make mine. That answered my question.

  18. I love your profile! the tutorial was good too but your profile cracked me up! it's so true, I'd rather be creating something than doing anything else ... of course, children are important. Love your honesty!

  19. Thanks for this! I made a set of 16 napkins for my sister's wedding present using these instructions and they were straightforward to make and look lovely.

  20. I loved this napkins! I haven't made the pouch yet, but thought you may want to know what you inspired.

    I posted pictures on my blog.

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. Hi! it is really 1.5 yards??? Because by my counts it would be 2,5 yards (but I am portugueses so here we use other measures like "metros" for yards" and with all this conversions I might got wrong....) Please someone help me at the measures....

  23. Hi Filipa!
    You need 2 different pieces of fabric, each measuring 1.5 yards, one for the front of the napkin and one for the back. You should cut the napkin pieces so that the 16 inch side is along the cut edge of the fabric and the 13 inch side runs vertically along the selvedge. You will then be able to cut 6 napkins from 1.5 yards of the main fabric.

    Hope that helps! Let me know how you get on.

    Helen x

  24. I am really enjoying this project and the pouch will make it a great holiday gift. I am wondering about the measurements however, mine are so rectangular at 16x13?

  25. So nice to see lots of people still making these napkins and the pouch! Please do come back and post a link to your blog/photographs if you do make some as I'd love to see your finished projects!

    Aschler: The napkins are cut to 16 inches by 13 inches and are rectangular when finished. This is the size the pouch is designed to fit. You could easily make them square if you wanted to though, you'd just need to make sure you adjusted the dimensions of the pouch accordingly.

  26. I loved this blog. I'm following you from Brazil. Kisses.

  27. I made these today for a Mother's Day gift! This tutorial was great for me and I am a beginner. Thank you so much. I love the way it turned out! I hope this link works...I took some pictures to show you.

    If it doesn't I think you could copy and paste it in the URL bar. Thanks again!!

    1. Thanks for posting your photos, Rebecca - I love the willow pattern fabric, they're perfect!

  28. Oi, Helen! Gostei do seu blog e do seu tutorial também. Eu também tenho dificuldades em fazer o tutorial, mas depois de pronto sinto um orgulho gostoso de poder ensinar o que a gente sabe para as outras pessoas. Você pediu uma foto, mas deixo aqui o endereço do meu blog com um tutorial de um guardanapo de jogo americano, espero que goste.
    Um abraço, Claudia.


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