Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Making Your Own Linen Napkins

          ~ and mitering corners

[This is a stack I made about ten years ago.  Some are wearing out,
hence today's tutorial.]

Innkeepers need a lot of things, and linen napkins is one of them.  Buying ready made can get expensive when you have 16 people for breakfast every morning. Fortunately, making your own is a breeze....really.

First, find the linen.  Lots of places sell it online and, if you live in a place like Dallas, there are great fabric outlets to wander through.  You should be able to find a nice medium weight linen for $15 a yard or less (unless you want the very best Irish linen). 

Take the width of the fabric (usually about 54-56") and divide that in thirds (unless you are wanting very large dinner napkins - half it, or cocktail napkins - quarter it) and then figure out how many napkins you want to make.  For one dozen, you will take 18" (one third the width of 54") and multiply it by 4 (the number of rows of three you will cut out) = 72"  Divide that by 36" (inches in a yard) and you get 2.  You need two yards of fabric to make 12 napkins = less than $30 or $2.50 per napkin.

 Now cut your fabric  If you have exactly 2 yards, straighten fabric with selvages together and cut in half and then cut those two pieces in half...which leaves you with 4 - 8" pieces.  Now cut each of those pieces into thirds.  Folding the fabric in a triangle guarantees you a perfect square (or almost). The same quality that makes linen wrinkle also make it very easy to iron in nice straight hems. And the open weave makes it easy to cut the fabric evenly.

I fold it over once more so all four sides line up an trim anything that is a bit off kilter.

Next, with a hot iron, fold over a nice, straight 1/2" hem on all four sides.

I am making a one inch hem.  If you want a deeper hem, adjust accordingly. Fold right sides together at the corner. This will create a triangle with the point at the bottom. With a ruler, go down from the tip so that there is 1 1/2" in a straight line and mark off a triangle with washable marker (I just used soft lead pencil).

Next, disect that triangle with another mark (which should be about one inch long).

It should look like this.

Sew down the middle line...

Snip off the excess...and do the other three corners the same.


And press, keeping the finished hem as straight as you can.

At this point, you have a pretty nice looking napkin.  You just need to decide how you want to finish it.  You could just machine or hand stitch a hem stitch in white for a nice elegant look.  Or, you could embroider on all kinds of fun borders.

I just sew a long running stitch in the color of our blue tablecloths.  This not only adds a nice touch but also prevents me from having to hem stitch to finish. (I know, my stitches aren't even...such is life!)

One hint for hand sewing:  When you thread your needle, do so BEFORE you cut the thread from the spool.  This guarantees less twisting and knotting.

Note: All of our tablecloths and most of our napkins are made this way (linen and cotton).  It is easy to do and makes for a nice finished product.

Don't hesitate to let me know if these instructions are not clear.


  1. Thanks, this is great. Ruth Lane

  2. Thank you Ruth - this was just what I needed to complete a table runner. The corners were so confusing to me - but not any more. Thank you again!

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