Cloth Table Napkins

Handmade gold cloth napkins in a pile.

I have often found myself relying on paper napkins when we serve afternoon tea.

They are fun, with all their different colour options. And they are easy - no need to deal with stains!

But cloth table napkins feel nicer, and they fold more prettily into soft shapes. And they're better for the environment too...

More expensive though! And limited in choice. Or so I thought! A whole new door has just been opened for me as I discovered how to make my own cloth table napkins.

Just to be clear, I am a sew-in-a-straight-line (ish) kind of girl with limited patience - so this really is something that is doable.

  • Yes, I waited for a day when I felt blessed with patience.
  • Yes, I made time that wasn't pressured to do the job.
  • Yes, I gathered all the materials I needed together before I started.
  • And yes, they turned out beautifully. :-)

I found this superb tutorial by Megan Wenger. Her photos are clear and easy to follow.

Megan has reduced the amount of pressing needed in the Martha Stewart tutorial, and I found her directions simple and clear to follow.

How to make your own cloth table napkins in brief:

Cut a piece of cloth into a square. For small tea napkins, cut 15 inches square.

Fold the sides down by 1/2 inch and press into place.

Fold the napkin with the right sides together and pull out the corner so that it looks like the picture above.

Turn the napkin round and measure from the folded edge as shown. Move the ruler until the measurement is 1 inch from edge to edge.

Mark a line with a pencil.

Sew along the line. Reverse stitch at the beginning and end of the stitching to keep it firm - or it can come apart in the next stage.

Cut the corner so that it is just 1/4 inch, and then make a diagonal cut as shown to end just before the stitches.

Press the flap open and lightly press the seams as shown.

Turn the napkin the right way round and press the seams the other way. Sew around the edges.

Press to cloth table napkin to finish. If you are a neat straight line sewer, you could do a second row for a really neat finish.

My tips for making it work:

Take your time. Have the computer where you can see it, and just go slowly. It took me a few minutes to figure out which way up to hold the cloth when I was measuring the corners - but I got there in the end. And I am delighted with the results.

Gold cloth napkins wrapped with gold beads on a plate with a cup of tea

Follow each step one by one. When I tried to hurry it, I missed the step where you press the flaps and the seams flat, and that napkin wasn't as well made as the others.

In particular, it's worth taking the time to measure when you press down the original seam to 1/2 inch. When I did it by eye (lazy.... :-)) the corners were not as neat as the one I photographed.

I think it's preferable to have smaller napkins for afternoon tea than for dinner. So whilst Megan suggested a 17" square, I made mine with a 15" square and I think they're perfect. It looks much better on the smaller tea plates.

I made these beautiful gold napkins which are perfect for a Christmas afternoon tea with gold teacups.

The napkin is simply held in the centre and allowed to drape down. Re-arrange the folds to be pretty and wrap a string of beads around it for a simple, but very festive look.

I'm going to make a trip down to the thrift store some time soon and see if I can get some white sheets to make a set of napkins. And I'm going to have a go at dying them too! Watch this space!