How to Make Cloth Napkins

How to Make Cloth Napkins

The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 30 mins - 2 hrs
  • Yield: 4 Napkins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

Cloth napkins are easy to make and a great way to spruce up your table while using fewer paper goods. If you can sew a straight line, you can make these fabric napkins for your next dinner party or family meal.

You can use special fabrics to dress up your dinnertime, but those do often require a bit more care, both while sewing and laundering the napkins. Linen or woven cotton work well and are easier to sew. Plus, with all the different designs available for quilting cotton, you can choose a material that you truly love. You could even select several designs from a fabric line so all your napkins are unique but still coordinate.

In addition to customizing the style of the napkins, you can also make them whatever size you want, from large dinner napkins to small cocktail napkins. Why not make some that are kid-sized to tuck in a school lunch or sew rectangles that lay nicely in your lap? It's up to you and what you need.

Anytime you can reuse something, it's better for the environment and cloth napkins are no exception. In fact, these napkins include colorful tabs that work like nametags so you can even use them more than once between washings so you save water and trees! Go one step further and choose an organic fabric for this project.

And if you're intimidated by sewing machines, you can sew these entirely by hand. It takes a little longer than using a machine, but it's still easy. You can use running stitch and perle cotton so the stitches show, or try blind stitch with matching sewing thread if you want to keep the stitches hidden.

Sew a stack of napkins so they are always handy for everyday use, or make a matching tablecloth to use for special occasions!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cutting mat
  • Cutting ruler
  • Rotary cutter
  • Iron and ironing boar
  • Sewing machine


  • 1 yard fabric
  • Short pieces of ribbon in different colors
  • Thread


  1. Cut the Fabric

    Decide what size you want your napkins to be. Add 1-1/2 inches to the final dimensions. For example, if you want 16-inch square napkins, you will need to cut the fabric to 17-1/2 inches square.

    Use a ruler and rotary cutter to quickly and easily cut the fabric pieces. You can also mark the fabric with a ruler and pencil and then cut the pieces with scissors.

    Note: The materials listed are for making four 16-inch napkins. For different sizes or quantities, you will need to work out how much fabric you will need.

    Cut Squares of Fabric 1-1/2 Larger Than the Desired Napkin Size
    Mollie Johanson
  2. Press the Hem

    Fold and press the first edge of the fabric to the wrong side with a 1/2-inch hem. Fold and press the hem again so the raw edge of the fabric is turned under.


    To prevent fraying, even with the raw edges enclosed in the hem, you may want to sew the fabric with an edge finish.

    Press a Double-Fold Hem
    Mollie Johanson
  3. Create the Hems

    Press the hem on all four sides. Fold each corner as you go. When you reach the last corner, unfold the first side, then refold and press so all the corners match.

    This is a simple way to form the hem and the corners.

    Fold Over Each Napkin Corner
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Sew Around the Napkin

    Sew the hem of the napkin, stitching 1/8" from the inside folded edge.

    Pause as you approach one of the corners. Fold a piece of ribbon in half and slide it under the folded hem. Continue sewing to secure it in place.


    If your ribbon frays easily, seal the ends before adding it to the napkin hem.

    Sew the Hem and Add a Ribbon Loop
    Mollie Johanson
  5. Enjoy Your Napkins

    Use a different color piece of ribbon for each napkin you make so that each person can tell which one is theirs.

    If you're using these for everyday family meals, the color-coded tabs make it possible to reuse the napkins between washings (if they aren't messy!). Have everyone choose their favorite color! You can also use the loops of ribbon to hang the napkins if you want.

    Because one reason to use cloth napkins is to use fewer environmental resources, try to avoid washing these in their own laundry load. The napkins are small so you can toss them in with other laundry, such as towels. While it's not necessary for every day, a quick press with an iron will really keep your table linens looking fresh after a wash.

    Now, go look through your fabric stash and see what kind of napkins you can sew today!

    Add Color-Coded Ribbons to Each Cloth Napkin
    Mollie Johanson