How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (2022)

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In this post: Pretty cotton or linen napkins can be such a stunning addition to a table setting. Here’s how to sew cloth napkins in 5 easy steps, plus a handy list of standard napkin sizes.

Homemade cotton or linen napkins are a beautiful addition to any dining room or kitchentable. They’re also eco-friendly and completely customizable to your decor. And they are super easy to make, even for beginners!

I love to use cloth napkins for holidays, hostingcompany, and for our own family’s Sunday Suppers.

After searching for napkins I love over the years – at a decent price point – I decided that I would find fabric I love and try my hand at making my own cloth napkins. I’ve don’t this a few times now, with different fabrics.

I still pick up napkins from time to time when I find some I love on sale too. This means I now have a lovely collection of cloth napkins, both homemade and store-bought, sitting in my buffetready to use.

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (1)

Table of Contents

What size should my napkins be?

Before I get to the how to sew cloth napkins tutorial, is anyone else confused by napkin dimensions?

I mean, I didn’t grow up in a fancy sort of house, so learning about the appropriate sizes for dinner napkins vs. lunch & cocktail napkins wasn’t part of my life lessons.

But when I googled napkin size as an adult, I found many different answers. So I tried to simplify and use average sizes for my homemade napkins.

Here are the approximate standard napkin sizes, in inches:

  • Formal: 22-26 inches square
  • Dinner: 18-20 inches square
  • Lunch: 14 inches square
  • Tea or Kids: 12 inches square
  • Cocktail: 6-9 inches square
How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (2)

Can you make no-sew cloth napkins?

Technically, yes, you could.

You could try a non-fraying fabric and leave the edges raw or with a natural fringe. I have store-bought lovely burnt orange napkins with a raw edge that I love (photo above). They do however come out of the dryer with a mess of threads every time. This means I’m spending time trimming the threads before I put the napkins away again.

You could also try to make napkins with iron-on hem fuse tape. However, the hem fuse tape may or may not hold up to the vigorous washing that reusable napkins require.

So personally, I think that sewing napkins is the best option in the long run.

(Video) How to Sew Fabric Napkins (Tutorial)

What material should you use for sewing cloth napkins?

The best fabrics for making cloth napkins are cotton, linen, and sometimes polyester. Each has its plusses and minuses.

Fabrics

I prefer to use either linen or cotton fabrics for my DIY napkins.

Cotton. Fat quarters (often used to make quilts) are a fun and easy fabric for making napkins. They’re already almost the right size for smaller lunch napkins or smaller if you’re using “proper” napkin sizes. If you’re just using your napkins for casual family meals, then the fat quarters are great. The typical cotton of fat quarters also absorbs well.

Linen. Like cotton, linen is very absorbent and gets softer with each washing. Linen is also surprisingly good at resisting stains. Linen is a touch harder to work with when sewing your own napkins though, so I may not be the best choice for your first go at making napkins.

Polyester. You could use a polyester or polyester blend for making your napkins. These don’t absorb as well, but they are more wrinkle-resistant than cotton and linen.

Sewing Thread

You’ll want to choose a coordinating thread for whatever fabric you choose.

You can choose a contrasting color if you’d like. But this will amplify any stitching mistakes you make rather than hide them.

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (3)

How to get the fabric you love for less

I purchased some white cotton napkins recently, but really wanted a linen fabric look for Easter/Spring.

Fortunately, I had about 3-4 meters of summer linen blendin my fabric stash (which I must say is TINY compared to some peoples’!).

I had paid $3 a meter for it last fall at Fabricland becausethey don’t tend to stock much of it in the winter months and they really wanted to get rid of it.

So, if you want to make cloth napkins, look for beautiful fabric at the end-of-season sales…like linen in the fall! Or shop around for it online. 🙂

(Video) DIY Fabric Napkins | Holiday Fabric Napkins | The Sewing Room Channel

How to sew cloth napkins with mitered corners

Before you begin to create your cloth napkins, you need to wash, dry, and iron your fabric.

  • Throwing your fabric in the washing machine and drying it will help to reduce future shrinkage, prevent colors from bleeding, and to remove chemicals.
  • Ironing your washed and dried fabric will make it much easier to work with while sewing.

This process is something you should do before any sewing project.

Materials

  • 2-6 meters fabric of choice
  • thread of choice

Tools

Directions for DIY Cloth Napkins

Cut your fabric

Decide on the size of napkin you want to make. Next measure your napkins and mark them on the fabric with a pencil, including a 2-inch hem allowance. Then you can use either scissors or a rotary cutter (with a ruler and self-healing mat) to cut out your napkins.

Tip: I found that using a straight edge helped me to get square cuts.

How many napkins you can make from each yard/meter of fabric depends on the width of your bolt of fabric and the size napkin you choose to make. For example, if you have one yard/meter of fabric (about 36 inches long) and the bolt is 42 inches wide, you can make only two smaller dinner napkins from a yard/meter of fabric. But if you make 14-inch square lunch napkins you can make four.

(Video) How to Make Cloth Napkins | A Shabby Fabrics Sewing Tutorial

(I made our napkins in the smaller dinner napkin size, so the finished size is 18×18 inches, with a half-inch double folded hem.This means that I cut each raw napkin to 20×20 inches.)

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (4)

Fold and iron the hems

Fold over edges 1/4 to 1/2 inch. If your fabric has a “right” and “wrong” side fold the edges towards the back of the fabric so the hem will be on the “wrong” side. Then fold over again. Iron as you fold.

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (5)

Cut the mitered corners

Open the corners on each napkin. See the 4 square fold lines? Trim from corner to corner. This removes the bulk in each corner of the napkin when you’re sewing. Refold.

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (6)

Sew the hems

Pin all four corners of your napkin.

Then using a sewing machine, sew around the napkin near the outside edge and then again near the inside edge of the hem.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. And repeat some more if you’re making a lot of napkins – I made 12! Then you’re done!

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (7)

That’s it! Easy peasy! Now go set a pretty table!

More home craft ideas

  • Make Your Own No-Sew Drop Cloth Curtains
  • DIY No Sew Floor Pillows

How to sew cloth napkins video tutorial

Step-by-step printable DIY napkin tutorial

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (8)

How To Sew Cloth Napkins

Yield: 8-12 napkins

(Video) How to Sew Napkins with Mitered Corners - Learn to Sew Series

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Homemade cotton or linen napkins are a beautiful addition to any dining room or kitchen table. They’re also eco-friendly and completely customizable to your decor. And they are super easy to make, even for beginners!

Materials

  • 2-6 yards/meters of cotton fabric - washed, dried, and ironed
  • Sewing thread

Tools

  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors OR a rotary cutter, mat and ruler
  • Straight pins
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Straight edge (optional)

Instructions

  1. Decide on the size of napkin you want to make. Next measure your napkins and mark them on the fabric with a pencil, including a 2-inch hem allowance. Then you can use either scissors or a rotary cutter (with a ruler and self-healing mat) to cut out your napkins.
  2. Fold over edges 1/4 to 1/2 inch. If your fabric has a “right” and “wrong” side fold the edges towards the back of the fabric so the hem will be on the “wrong” side. Then fold over again. Iron as you fold.
  3. Open the corners on each napkin. See the 4 square fold lines? Trim from corner to corner. This removes the bulk in each corner of the napkin when you’re sewing. Refold.
  4. Pin all four corners of your napkin.
  5. Then using a sewing machine, sew around the napkin near the outside edge and then again near the inside edge of the hem. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And repeat some more if you’re making a lot of napkins – I made 12! Then you’re done!

Notes

How many napkins you can make from each yard/meter of fabric depends on the width of your bolt of fabric and the size napkin you choose to make. For example, if you have one yard/meter of fabric (about 36 inches long) and the bolt is 42 inches wide, you can make only two smaller dinner napkins from a yard/meter of fabric. But if you make 14-inch square lunch napkins you can make four.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Do you prefer paper or cloth napkins? Have you ever made your own cloth napkins? Do you have a favorite spot to purchase pretty napkins – cloth or paper?

How To Sew Cloth Napkins in 5 Steps + Standard Napkin Sizes (9)

FAQs

What is the standard size for cloth napkins? ›

The best known and probably most popular size are the classic and proven 45x45cm cloth napkins. Neither too small nor too large, cloth napkins in this size can be folded into almost any shape.

How much fabric do I need to make 6 napkins? ›

Calculate yardage required: Napkins range in size with dinner 16"-18" square and luncheon 12"-14" square. One yard of 45" fabric will yield 4 dinner or 6 luncheon napkins.

What fabric is best for cloth napkins? ›

Note: It's best to use 100% cotton or linen as they will be most absorbent, but a blend with at least 80% natural fiber will work too and will require less ironing.

What size are homemade napkins? ›

Usually, diy cloth napkins are simple squares, and they come in a number of standard sizes: most popular are 16", 18", 20" or even 22" square.

How do you use fabric napkins? ›

It's not necessary to fully open a large napkin; just fold it in half. The napkin should stay on your lap throughout the entire meal. When you wipe your mouth, do this gently – just dab your lips. If you need to leave the table, place your loosely folded linen napkin on your seat or to the left of your plate.

Can you make your own napkins? ›

You can sew your very own DIY cloth napkins in this simple sewing project for beginners. You get to pick the fabric color, style, size, etc. to make these napkins totally customized to your table and your space!

How do I calculate how much fabric I need? ›

Figure out how much fabric you need with this formula:
  1. Width of fabric divided by width of one piece equals the number of pieces that fit into width (rounded down to the whole number).
  2. Total number of pieces divided by number of pieces that fit into width equals number of rows you need.
13 Feb 2011

How much fabric do I need for a dinner napkin? ›

You'll need about 16.5-inches square for each napkin. Most lighter-weight fabrics like cotton are 44- or 45-inches wide, which would only accommodate two rows of napkins. If you were making 12-inch napkins you could get three rows.

How many napkins do I need for 60 people? ›

If you aren't using cloth napkins at your meal tables, plan for 1.5 dinner or luncheon napkins per person. So if you have 100 guests, plan for 150 dinner napkins.

What is small size napkin called? ›

Shape and Size

Unlike dinner napkins, cocktail napkins are very small and typically measure 5” x 5” inches.

What size is small napkin? ›

Tea - small napkins (12 inches square); and.

What size are everyday napkins? ›

A: The napkins are 2-ply and measure 6.25" x 6.5" folded.

Is it cheaper to make or buy cloth napkins? ›

The cost per year of making your own cloth napkins and washing them with your regular laundry is essentially zero, whereas purchasing nicer cloth napkins and rags, and washing them separately, is comparable to purchasing paper products over the long term. The longer you use them, the lower the overall cost.

What is the best ply for napkins? ›

We find that 2-ply napkins are the most popular type of napkin because they provide good value for money and suit a wide variety of settings. 3-ply napkins are full dinner plate sized napkins, larger than 2-ply napkins.

Is cotton or linen better for napkins? ›

Cotton napkins, she adds, are typically less fussy (i.e., wrinkly) than linen ones, making the material a better choice for those who want cloth napkins that are easier to maintain.

What are the 5 standard of table setting? ›

What are the Table Setting Rules?
  • Cutlery is set in the order of use, working outside-in. ...
  • Forks always go on the left of the setting. ...
  • Knives always go to the right of the setting. ...
  • Glassware is set above the knives. ...
  • If serving dessert, the dessert spoon and fork should be placed above the plate.
18 Jan 2021

What are the 5 basic table set up? ›

What are the 5 types of table setting? The five most common table settings are formal, informal, Basic, Buffet and five-course.

Do cloth napkins have to be square? ›

Do napkins have to be square? No! While they are often square you can make whatever you would like. Their purpose is to mop up spills and save your clothing from marks so you can make a square, rectangle or even circular if you like.

What is the proper placement of a napkin? ›

The napkin goes either to the left of the fork, or on the very outside. If you have three forks in a formal table setting, put the napkin on the plate. When you sit down, unfold the napkin, and put it in your lap. If you get up, put it on your chair.

How do you put designs on napkins? ›

How to make custom napkins
  1. First, create your design. In order to transfer a design onto napkins, you'll need a digital version of your preferred design. ...
  2. Next, gather your materials. ...
  3. Cut the freezer paper. ...
  4. Iron a napkin onto a cut piece of freezer paper. ...
  5. Print your design. ...
  6. Remove the napkin from the freezer paper.
16 Oct 2018

Can you make your own cloth napkins? ›

Instructions
  • Cut the Fabric. Decide what size you want your napkins to be. ...
  • Press the Hem. Fold and press the first edge of the fabric to the wrong side with a 1/2-inch hem. ...
  • Create the Hems. Press the hem on all four sides. ...
  • Sew Around the Napkin. ...
  • Enjoy Your Napkins.
31 Dec 2020

What fabric are napkins made of? ›

Cloth napkins can be made from many different materials, but you'll usually see them made from cotton, polyester, or linen. All three materials are great, but they tend to feel a little different. (Cotton may feel soft, whereas polyester may feel smooth.)

Is it hard to make napkins? ›

It is a very easy project that can be pulled off in an afternoon** — the only skills required are cutting fabric into squares and sewing in straight lines — and seven months later my heart still skips a beat when I consider my pile of colorful napkins.

What is a fabric calculator? ›

The Fabric Calculator by Sailrite is a fabric estimator tool designed to quickly estimate how many yards of fabric you need for your cushion, throw pillow, rectangular tarp and sail shade projects.

What is fabric calculation? ›

As per above formula consumption of fabric for this style is. = {(L*C) + (B*SL)}*2*GSM/10000 grams. = [{(33*25) + (10*2*27.5)}*2*(2.54*2.54)*200]/10000 grams (Note: 2.54 is inch to cm conversion factor) = [{825+550}*400*6.45]/10000 grams. = 354.83 grams.

How do you calculate area of fabric? ›

Start with your desired total width and divide by the width of the fabric. Round up to the next whole number. This is how many widths of fabric you need. Then take the total desired length and multiply by the number of widths you just calculated.

How many napkins do I need for 50 people? ›

For the meal, normally cloth napkins are provided by the venue or you might want to order guest towels or dinner napkins, about 1 per person is sufficient.

What is a 1/8 Fold napkin? ›

A 1/8 fold napkin saves table space, as it is folded to 1/8 of its original flat size. In contrast, flat pack napkins do not come pre-folded, but their wrinkle-free flat surface is easy to fold and roll around flatware for a clean presentation.

How many napkins do I need for a party of 40? ›

If you are serving a sit down meal, plan on 1-2 luncheon napkins for a daytime event or 1-2 dinner napkins for an evening affair per guest.

What is the average size of a napkin at a wedding? ›

The size that is most commonly used for dinner table napkins at weddings is 17x17", 24''Lx19"W, or 20x20'', but one can choose between 20'' napkins and 17''napkins if the size of their dinner plates and chargers are different for the standard one.

What is the best size for a dinner napkin? ›

For Buffets or Place Settings we recommend the Dinner-sized napkins, which measure a generous 8 by 8 inches approximately and are available in many styles.

What is the size of 80 napkin? ›

Amazon.com: 80th Birthday Paper Napkins (6.5 x 6.5 In, 100 Pack) : Home & Kitchen.

How long is the average napkins? ›

NAPKINSIZE
Lunch20" x 20"
Dinner22" x 22"
Dinner24" x 24"
Buffet (to use on lap)27" x 27"
4 more rows

How many napkins does the average person use? ›

On average, each person in America uses 2,200 two-ply napkins every year, as Business Insider reports. They get thrown away and that's a lot of waste ending up in landfills that can be avoided with a sustainable cloth napkin. Cloth napkins have more than one use.

Videos

1. Sewing Basics : How to Make fabric napkins
(eHowArtsAndCrafts)
2. Measuring, Marking, Cutting and Pinning of fabric for Table Napkin
(Miss Ysabel)
3. How to Sew Fabric Napkins- Perfectly mitered corners!
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4. 3 Ways to Make Linen Napkins
(OnlineFabricStore)
5. Cloth Napkins with Easy Mitered Corners | Beginner Sewing Project
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6. Best Cloth Napkins For Everyday Use 2022
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