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Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Make Cloth Napkins from Scrap Fabric for Free!

How to Make Cloth Napkins from Scrap Fabric

Wanna save some $$$ and the environment at the same time?  A switch from paper to cloth napkins is a great way to save a few bucks, and reduce waste. 

Making your own napkins from scrap fabric is even cheaper and more eco-friendly than buying them.  And it's super easy.

If you can sew a reasonably straight line and have some extra fabric laying around - an old pillowcase, t-shirt, skirt, or project scraps you can make some super classy cloth napkins for free!

Last month Tiffany from Don't Waste the Crumbs wrote a great post on how and why she switched her family from paper to cloth napkins.  She bought a ton of cheap white dishcloths and hid the paper napkins.  This is a wonderful, cheap option if you don't have the time, energy, or know-how to make your own.

In the spirit of my new link exchange, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, I'm here to provide you with the know-how. The little bit of extra time and energy are up to you :)

I grew up in a family where both my prairie grandmothers served cloth napkins with every meal.  I have always been an advocate of cloth over paper, for many of the same reasons Tiffany switched her family to them.  My two main reasons are: 

1. Cloth napkins are eco-friendly.  Using scrap fabric means that less waste has gone into the production of creating fibers just for paper napkins that are thrown away. Less trees are destroyed as a result.  

Since fabric napkins can be washed and reused a million times, so less waste goes into landfills.

2. Cloth napkins are cheaper.  Buying paper napkins is a constant and continual thing.  Cloth napkins, if you buy them, are a one time thing purchase that lasts for years.  If you use scrap fabric, they don't cost anything. 

Also, cloth napkins are classier.   Imagine a fine dining restaurant serving a 4 course meal with paper napkins?!  Ugh.  Cloth napkins can make even leftovers look classy.

So here we go.  For this tutorial, I'm using a pillowcase for the scrap fabric.  This pillowcase might look funny to some of you as it comes from a set I bought in Egypt, where they often have extra long, narrow pillows.  Since I don't have an extra long pillow, these pillowcases have been sitting in my closet for the last few years.  They are a beautiful colour, with something like a 400 thread count Egyptian cotton fabric. 

I got 3 napkins out of each pillowcase, but a regular sized pillow case would probably make 2 napkins. 

What You'll Need:

Scrap fabric, at least 18x17" long, ideally in cotton or linen (remember this will be rubbing against your face and you want it to be durable, yet comfortable)

Sewing machine or serger

Matching or contrasting thread

Scissors or rotary cutter

Measuring tape or self-healing mat

What to do:

1. Lay out your fabric (in this case an extra long pillowcase)

2. If using a pillowcase, cut out the seams

3. Iron your fabric flat so you can cut your edges straight.

4. Cut your fabric into a square at least 18x17"

5. Turn down the edges 1/2" all around and iron.  Turn over edges again and iron to make a smooth edge.  If using a serger, skip this step and all the next ones and simply serge your edges neatly with a rolled hem stitch and be done!

6. Clip the corners, about 1/2 " to reduce bulk (optional, but easier to get the sewing machine to run through it)

7. Fold your edges back down and prepare to sew.

8. Sew along the edge of the fold using a plain ol' straight stitch.

9. If you're a little neurotic like me and want to make this super pro-looking, you can fold your napkin and press it as you go.

Now you can stop here, or you can embellish your classy napkins in a few different ways.

* If your sewing machine has pretty embroidery stitches you can run a pretty border along the edges of your napkins in a contrasting fabric.

* If you're super crafty, you can print out pictures on iron on transfer paper and decorate your napkins. 

I think a set of these would make great gifts, too!  They're a perfect way to nudge friends in an eco-friendly direction, and get rid of scrap fabric.

Do you use cloth napkins?  If so, what kind do you use and why?

Scrap Fabric Napkins, with both folded and serged edges

This post was shared on the following great link-ups: Waste Not Want Not,  Monday Mania, Make Your Own Monday, Natural Living Mondays, Traditional Tuesdays, Tasteful Tuesdays, Fat Tuesday,
Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Whole Foods Wednesday, Eat Make Grow, Keep it Real Thursday,
Simple Lives Thursdays,Farm Girl Blog Fest, Freaky Friday,Small footprint Friday,


  1. Great idea. We have used cloth napkins for several years. You can refold them to another side to get several days' use out of them.

  2. Your pillowcase fabric is perfect for posh-looking napkins! :)

  3. Rebecca, that's a great idea. I confess I don't always wash my own napkin if I know I haven't really gotten it dirty ;p

    Natalia, thanks! I'm lucky I had these beautiful Egyptian cotton pillowcases kicking around waiting to be made into something, and it was time for new napkins :)

  4. Hi Danielle! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I don't have any of this material on hand, but I do have a lot of old work shirts that I think will do! They just won't be that pretty! I hope to try this soon, as the garden has stopped producing now! Blessings from Bama!

  5. Great idea! We love using cloth and this would be such an easy (and free!) way to increase our stash.

    see what I'm up to at:

  6. Bama, old shirts would work great, too. They don't always have to be pretty (I have some pretty fugly old napkins kicking around for everyday use! The nice ones come out when company's over ;)

    Kai, I hope you try them and let me know how they turn out :)

  7. Your napkins turned out beautiful! I'm visting from Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways link up! I made my own napkins awhile back but I must say that I love your white fabric much better!

    Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

    P.S. If you want to see my napkins you can find them here:

    1. Aw, thanks Helen. Just stopped by your site and it's great! I love all your tutorials and upcycled fashion :)

  8. Great and simple idea! I have a few sheets and pillow cases that may make it into napkins soon :) Thank you for sharing on Natural Living Mondays! I am excited to see what you have to share this week.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Amanda, and for hosting Natural Living Mondays!

  9. Thanks for linking up to Tasteful Tuesdays at Nap-Time Creations. This is being featured at the new party. Come over and check it out and grab a featured button!

    1. Thanks so much, Emily! That's great news and thanks for hosting Tasteful Tuesdays :)

  10. I absolutely love this idea. I have recently purchased cloth napkins and they are insanely expensive. This is really wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Linda! They're very easy - all you need is to be able to sew a straight line ;) It's much cheaper to use old fabric, or even buy a little bit, than to buy them.

  11. Such a really nice and great informative post and It's really helpful with us for fabric!!

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