Hello there!  The inspiration for today’s post is to make a quick and possibly last minute gift. The gift that I was inspired to share about today are a set of 16 cloth napkins with four fat quarters of fabric.

When I was growing up, we used cloth napkins only a few times a year during special occasions (such as Thanksgiving or Christmas meals).  I have enjoyed slowly moving to a more paperless kitchen and we use cloth napkins on a regular basis now in our home.

I previously purchased the following cloth napkins from a local thrift store (photos below). The edge finishing on these napkins are served, rolled hem edges. I’m guessing that these napkins had a life before I purchased them, so normal wear and tear is to be expected. Some of the hemmed edges are coming off from the fabric. I decided that I did not want to approach these gift napkins with a serged rolled hem edge finish.

The fabric base in the cloth napkins shown above are a polyester blend. I can understand there being some various needs for polyester napkins but for me, I have not enjoyed this fabric base as they don’t absorb well during use. I find I would rather have a natural cotton fabric that wrinkles but absorbs food and liquids well.

I found these fun Cotton Fabrics at Minerva and I thought they would make fun cloth napkins.  I decided to think about choosing prints that would hide stains that may occur over time.  I intentionally picked fat quarter quantities with the thought of using a variety of colors and prints with this gift (instead of purchasing 1 yard of one fabric print).

I intentionally picked four different color schemes with this project.  This gift will be for a family of four. The color schemes that I selected are for each of the four family members: pink, purple, blue (or turquoise), and burgundy.  The colors represent each of the family member’s favorite colors. By intentionally picking this color approach to cloth napkins, each family member knows which cloth napkin is “theirs.” This offers the option for the napkins to be reused a few times before they are washed (assuming they won’t get heavily soiled during the first use).  Having set color schemes like this helps each family member not share germs with each other via the napkins, as they are reused.

I thought I would try some of the Klasse Sewing Machine Needles for this project.  I haven’t used their needles before so I wasn’t familiar with their various types of needles (Type A, Type B, etc.).  I found the following link to share.  The link includes a reference section to match the Klasse needle type to sewing machines (to note which Klasse needle matches your sewing machine).

Materials:

- 4 fat quarters of fabric

- Navy thread

- Klasse 90/14 universel machine needles

- Village scene ribbon

- Fabric shears

- Iron

My approach to this project will be focused on a speedy sew for this to be a last minute gift idea.  I’ve enjoyed taking a few different approaches to sewing cloth napkins, over the years. I love trying many different construction methods with sewing, to see which approach I like best for different applications.  

I decided to use only a standard sewing machine for this project (not using a serger or coverstitch machine this time around).  I think most people that sew have a standard machine and not switching between more than one machine helps save on time as well.

Dimensions:

In case you’re not familiar with them, there are various dimensions suggested for cloth napkins, depending on their application.  I wanted to share this helpful graphic from Homemade Lovely for a nice visual of standard cloth napkin dimensions:

For this application, I decided not to worry about the standard formal cloth napkin dimensions for the lunch or dinner applications.  I thought I would go more for quantity with this gift set (selecting smaller napkin sizes). My experience has been that the larger more traditional dinner sized cloth napkins don’t get fully used (surface area wise) before they are washed.  This note felt a little wasteful to me, having a large napkin that barely gets used before its washed. A smaller, more lunch style napkin is a fun option to use for lunch and dinner in non-formal settings.

Starting the project:

I washed each of the fat quarters first before starting this project.  I then ironed them and layed them out on my cutting table. I trimmed off the selvedge first and then trimmed the four edges to straighten them.

I then used a pair of fabric shears to quickly fold the fabric in half once and quickly cut the fabric in half with shears.  I then folded the fabric in half again and cut the fabric a third and fourth time with fabric shears. I wanted to continue to choose approaches to this project that are quick.  I repeated this process for the remaining three fabric prints.

Rolled hem foot:

I thought I would first try using a rolled hem foot for this project.  I have a rolled hem foot for my sewing machine but I’ve not yet tried working with it (so this project was a fun excuse to jump in, experimenting with this foot).  There are different sizes of rolled hem feet available (the dimension of the hem varying).

This is what the bottom of the rolled hem foot looks like, for reference.

I looked online for some tips on how to approach using a rolled hem foot.  I found that starting the edge of the rolled hem into the foot tends to be the trickiest part.  I referenced this video for some helpful tips.  

I found this image to reference some of the various sizes that are available for rolled hem feet.  This image was chosen from this link, to share for a visual reference.

To start the fabric edge into the rolled hem foot, I first tried sewing a short, straight stitch along the edge and then placing this sewn edge into the foot.  This approach wasn’t a quick and easy method for me.

I then switched to ironing the hem doubled to start the edge into the foot (folding under once and then again).  I then used the rolled hem foot to sew along one of the edges. I found that the hem dimension of the foot that I own is on the smaller end of hems.  

Upon testing this seam, I found that the hem was not double rolled throughout the seam.  This means that the raw edge was not folded under throughout this seam for a nice finish.  Having the edge rolled helps to hide the raw edge, enclosing it in the seam to prevent fraying over time (as the napkins are washed and used over and over again).

This error is definitely user error on my part.  This learning helped me see that I would enjoy purchasing a wider rolled hem foot for this type of application, to use in the future.  I abandoned this rolled hem foot as it was not turning out to be a quick option.

I decided instead to iron the hems rolled and sew them with a standard sewing machine foot.  I folded the edge under once, around all four edges and then folded each edge under a second time (ironing after each fold).

I like to batch sew (to save time).  For this project, I completed each individual step with all of the 16 napkins before moving on to the next step.  I’ve heard this batch sewing tip recommended from the commercial sewing industry.  

With this tip in mind, I took a picture of how I layed each of the 16 napkins on top of each other after the sewing was complete (and the beginning and end threads needed trimming).  By keeping each napkin oriented in the same direction, I was able to quickly zoom through trimming the threads in all of the 16 napkins very quickly.

Final cloth napkins:

I enjoyed seeing each of the cloth napkins finished together for this fun and very quick gift set.  

Ribbon:

I wanted to include this Cute Ribbon to tie the napkins together for the gift.  I just loved the little house scenes printed on the ribbon (which can be reused by the recipient).  Although I’m sharing this post as an idea for a last minute holiday gift, this ribbon would be a fun option to tie around a House Warming gift as well (for those that have purchased a new home).

One of the jobs that I had in high school included gift wrapping for customers (which I quite enjoyed).  From this previous job I picked up this bow tieing technique that I thought I’d share, for tieing symmetrical bows.  It’s a little touch that you can add to your own bow tieing adventures (if you’re not already familiar with it) to boost up the wow factor with your gifts.

I really enjoyed the finished product.  This project offers a nice and economical gift set, squeezing out 16 napkins from only four fat quarters of fabric.

I did want to share a note on the thread color.  I intentionally picked a dark navy color to use one thread for the entire project, to save time.  I also thought dark navy is a nice option to hide food stains as well (versus using a lighter colored sewing thread).

I wish you all a very happy time with your own Christmas/Holiday sewing adventures, no matter how last minute you are making them!

Rachel @oakbluedesigns

www.oakbluedesigns.com