Hello friends! I’m sharing with you a tutorial for DIY cocktail napkins or any kind of napkin for that matter. But first, the backstory.
My grandmother moved in with my family when I was about 4 years old and spent the last 12 years of her life traveling the world with our Navy family. To say we were spoiled by having Grandma live with us is an understatement. Her never-ending passion was baking…enough said. It wasn’t until after her death, when I was 16, that we had store-bought bread in our home. Her pies, cookies, and baklava were legendary. The fierce combo of my mom and grandma ensured we had a kitchen devoid of processed foods.
Grandma’s other passion was embroidery and crochet. I filled my belly with her handmade goodies and laid my head down each night on pillowcases that she embroidered and sewed her crocheted lace on. We were a paperless kitchen well before it was an environmental issue. Grandma and Mom outfitted each kitchen with coordinating fabric napkins, and Grandma made and embroidered several of our tablecloths. Now that I think of it, they were Martha before Martha was Martha!
I am the logical extension of my mom and grandma. They instilled in me an appreciation of homemade, from food to linens, that whole functional aesthetics thing.
I have a great collection of cloth and linen napkins that we use instead of paper. Some I’ve bought locally, others I’ve picked up on our travels. I love sitting down to dinner with the napkins I bought at the Louvre Museum Shop, in a little village I passed through when hiking through Alsace-Lorraine, or at World Market, for that matter.
My fabric cocktail napkins stash has been looking a bit tired, so I decided to get busy and make some fabric napkins, including these DIY cocktail napkins. I found a nice neutral linen at my local JoAnn’s Fabric Store and went to work.
I’m not even close to a seamstress; if I can do this, so can you. I’m also working on my other Grandma’s 40+-year-old sewing machine, so while you do need a sewing machine, you don’t need a fancy one. And, since I’m still in my ‘put a crochet border on it’ phase, I did add a very simple border.
After figuring out the process, I spent some time cutting, ironing, and sewing the cocktail napkins, and then my napkin stash was portable, so I could do the hand-sewing and crochet anywhere. I timed the process, and you can produce a napkin from start to finish in about 2 and 1/2 hours.
How to DIY Cocktail Napkins:
What you need to make 4 10″ square linen/fabric cocktail napkins:
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- 1/2 yard of washable linen (you will be able to get 6 napkins from the 1/2 yard)
- 1 spool of pearl cotton. I used DMC Ecru Pearl Cotton #8.
- 1 skein Coats Crochet Aunt Lydia’s Fashion Crochet, Cotton Size 3, Natural
- 2.75mm crochet hook, Susan Bates 5-1/2-Inch Silvalume Aluminum Crochet Hook, 2.75mm
- Disappearing Ink Pen
- Sewing Machine. As I said, I’m using a 40+-year-old hand-me-down from my Grandma, and many of the features don’t work (luckily, sewing a straight seam does!)
For the body of the napkins:
- Cut your fabric into 11.5″ squares. I don’t have a cutting board with gridlines, but I wish I had something like this after doing this little project. Straight lines make everything so much easier! I made a little gauge to help me fold down 1/4″ and 1/2″. It’s a simple thin piece of cardboard with markings where I need them. Here’s an image of one I’ve used for another project.
- Turn over 1/4 inch on each side and iron down. Using spray starch helps keep the fold pressed.
- Then turn over 1/2 inch on each side, pressing down with starch.
- Unfold your 1/2 seam and, using your disappearing ink pen, mark at the point of the fold.
- For each corner, fold your fabric with the right sides together, matching the folds made with your 1/2″ turn.
- Using your disappearing ink, mark along a fold line from the dot. Then measure 1/2″ from where the line meets the edge of your fabric and put a dot there. Draw a line connecting the 2 dots.
- Pin the fabric down and sew along the diagonal line, ensuring you reverse at each end to keep it secure.
- Starting at your original dot, cut your fabric as shown (sorry it’s a little blurry)
- Repeat for each corner. Unfold your corners. I use a letter opener to push my corner points out to make them crisp and sharp.
- For my first try at this, I sewed the folded edges down very nicely. DON’T DO THAT. I found that it was best to wait until you’ve put your backstitch in so that you can hide all your loose threads.
Add a backstitch to your napkins:
- Using your disappearing ink mark, mark every 1/2″ along one side of your fabric. This ink disappears quickly, so you can only do one side at a time.
- Thread your needle with about 2 3/4 to 3 yards of pearl cotton. You will want the thread to be double, so tie the 2 ends together. This thread length will allow you to put your backstitch along 2 of the edges. You’ll repeat for the other 2 edges, but the thread was too long to have just one piece.
- I put a backstitch along the folded edge of my napkin, but you could use a blanket stitch if you’d prefer that look.
- If you aren’t familiar with the backstitch, it’s very simple.
- Come up from the back of your fabric and out point number 1.
- Then go in point number 2 and out point number 3.
- You will then go back in point number 1 and out of point number 4.
- From point 4, you’ll go in at 3 and out at 5.
- When you reach the end of the thread, tie it off and start again until you’ve gone completely around the napkin.
- The only stitch you’ll need to know for the edge I did is the single crochet.
- Work 5 single crochets (sc) in each 1/2″ section of your backstitch. By jamming the 5th one in there, you create a little scallop. My original plan was to work something a bit more detailed, but in figuring it out, I liked the look of the very simple scallop.
- If you’d prefer something other than this simple border, there are many variations of crochet edging out there and no rules, so get creative!
Finish your napkin with a crochet edge:
- Once done with your crochet edge, tie off and trim all your loose edges.
- Press the seam down and stitch a top stitch all the way around.
- Grab your prettiest tumbler and pour yourself a scotch, even if you don’t drink it, to see how pretty it looks!
- Embroidering an initial in the corner would be a great touch, especially if given as a gift.
I’m thinking of spending some time at my sewing machine and whipping up a bunch of these DIY cocktail napkins as gifts this year. We’ll be traveling overseas this summer, and doing the edge work will be a great way to spend the time on the long plane and train trips. So family…guess what you’re getting this year!
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