How to sew napkins

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Looking for loads of personality in a fast sew project? Let’s talk about how YOU can learn how to sew napkins…the easy way!

Napkins are something we use every day. Paper napkins have been the norm for quite some time, but a lovely fabric napkin, neatly hemmed and presented in a cheerful fabric is a huge step up. Not to mention, a cloth napkin is reusable and easily washed. Join me in today’s tutorial wherein I’ll demonstrate how to sew napkins.

What fabric is best for napkins?

  • Quilting cotton: inexpensive and colorful, quilting cottons provide whimsy and variety
  • Linens: more expensive, but classy. Use linens for special occasions.

Ultimately, I recommend a stable, fabric in a cotton for sewing fabric napkins. Stable fabric means it’s not stretchy, and it’s easier to sew. Especially for a beginner. One of my favorite things to use as cotton napkins are fat quarters.

What’s a fat quarter? It’s a quarter yard of fabric cut “fat” rather than in a 1/4 yard or 9″ strip on the width of fabric. There are four fat quarters in one yard of fabric. A fat quarter measures roughly 18×21 inches. They are often sold in bundles, which is one of my favorite ways to purchase fabric collections. But if you have a Joann Fabric nearby, they have a pretty big selection of single fat quarters along the back wall of the quilting cottons.

Today’s tutorial for how to sew a napkin assumes we are using fat quarters. You can cut your own, or buy several different ones in the fat quarter bins from Joann, or buy a gorgeous fat quarter bundle. (affiliate link)

Supplies to sew a fabric Napkin:

  • Fabric: pressed and starched in a fat quarter size
  • Thread: A good 50 weight cotton thread is my go to. You can use a matching or a coordinating color.


a pile of 3 neatly folded cloth napkins. The one on top is a zebra print

Sewing fabric napkins from fat quarters is a fun way to play with colorful, bold fabric (affiliate link) you might otherwise shy away from.

The spunkiness of using mix and match patterns will liven up your weeknight meals and make those Wednesday night leftovers a little more fun.

Directions on how to sew fabric napkins:

Square up freshly pressed and lightly starched fat quarters.

Trim fabric to 18×21 inches.

trimming fabric on a cutting mat with a rotary cutter
using a seam gauge to roll hems

Using a seam gauge, roll the fabric over 3/8″ and steam press into place. Then roll the edge again. This will roll the raw edge inside the hem. Steam press into place.

Take the napkin with the hem held in place with clips to the sewing machine. Using a straight stitch, set the length to 3.0mm and edge stitch the entire length of the fabric. Do the same operation to the OPPOSITE edge on the napkin.

view of the first hem stitched into place
closeup of clips holding a pressed hem in place

Once the first two OPPOSING edges are hemmed, do the remaining two the same way. Fold the raw edge at 3/8″, press into place, and fold the fabric again to encase the raw edge. Press into place. Clip in place. Return to sewing machine and edge stitch. This time, backstitch to secure the seam at the beginning AND end of the stitch line.

Back stitching at the beginning and end of the stitch line will secure the napkin and give a beautiful finish. Use the thread snips to closely clip any thread tails.

As before, you are always sewing the opposite sides of the fabric.

close up of criss crossed seams

To finish up your napkins, give them another good steam press, and they are ready to go! Use them and enjoy!

close look at a seam gauge

Here’s a close look at a seam gauge. Using one makes sure your keep your hem or seam straight. The red stopper slides back and forth to measurement you need.

How do I take care of my fabric napkins?

I like to use the items I make. I’m not precious about them, and I use them until they are worn out. That way, I get to make more! Unless we eat something particularly messy, I use the same napkin all week. Then I throw it in the washing machine with the sheets and towels. The napkins go through the dryer with everything else, too. I repress them and put them in the drawer until time to use them again.

Have fun with your thread color! Especially if you pick a bold fabric like the ones I selected for making today’s tutorial. Black or white thread would have worked well, but I liked the surprise of hot pink!

Enjoy this video tutorial that will walk you through the process of sewing hemmed fabric napkins.

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